Saturday 3rd Week Be Attentive

Hosea tells the people:

“Let us know, let us strive to know the LORD;
as certain as the dawn is his coming,
and his judgment shines forth like the light of day!
He will come to us like the rain,
like spring rain that waters the earth.”

After two days of constant torrential rains, this really resonated with me. We had three inches of rain two days in a row. The earth could not absorb its abundance. Puddles and pools of rain are standing everywhere. Rain is abundance and gift from God. When it rains, we have to let it rain. We know we are not in control.

Rain played a large role in Merton’s life. As his mother lay dying in the hospital when he was only six years old, Merton waited outside the hospital in a car in the rain. Later in Raids on the Unspeakable, Merton, having such a sense of oneness with nature, wrote:

The night became very dark. The rain surrounded the whole cabin with its virginal myth, a whole world of meaning, of secrecy, of silence, of rumor. Think of it: all that speech pouring down, selling nothing, judging nobody, drenching the think mulch of dead leaves, soaking the trees, filling the gullies and crannies of the wood with water, washing out to places where men have stripped the hillside! What a thing to sit in it absolutely alone, in the forest, at night, cherished by this wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech, the most comforting speech in the world, the talk that rain makes itself. . . . ( 89)

Rain is speech that soaks and comforts. This reminds me of healing ministry. We speak of soaking prayer. Prayer that soaks to the core and heals. Rain reminds us of baptism and coming to new life in Jesus the Christ.

The Pharisee in today’s Gospel—proud as he was—could never appreciate the beauty of nature and the rain. Being at one with nature requires humility. Humus is “of the earth.” We have to be grounded in nature, be of the earth. We approach nature not to dominate but to be grounded in being.

Listen again to the voice of Merton:

Here is an unspeakable secret: paradise is all around us and we do not understand. It is wide open. The sword is taken away, but we do not know it: we are off “one to his farm and another to his merchandise.” Lights on. Clocks ticking. Thermostats working. Stoves cooking. Electric shavers filling radios with static. “Wisdom,” cries the dawn deacon, but we do not attend. (CJB, 131-132)

We are stewards of creation. Too often we take the Genesis command to mean that we must dominate nature. This a patriarchal domination at its worst. Rather than dominate and subdue, we have to live in harmony with nature.

After two dark rainy and windy days the sun is rising in the east. It is brilliant, almost incandescent. It is rising to warm the earth. It will bound across the clear blue sky, rejoicing in the Creator who causes life to flare forth.

We have to cultivate a sense of oneness—with ourselves, with the Divine, with others, and with the universe. We live in the web of life.

Merton can help us develop oneness with nature. In Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, he wrote:

Today, Father, this blue sky lauds you. The delicate green and orange flowers of the tulip poplar tree praise you. The distant blue hills praise you, together with the sweet-smelling air that is full of brilliant light. The bickering flycatchers praise you too with the lowing cattle and the quails that whistle over there. I too, Father, praise you, with all these my brothers, and they give voice to my own heart and to my own silence. We are all one silence. (177)

Attentiveness (mindfulness) comes leads to contemplation. We need to be present to the presence. We need to hone our skills at observation as Merton does in this piece.

I reading Merton’s poetry and Mary Oliver’s poetry. Oliver writes beautiful poetry because she is attentive. Savor the words and images in “Wild Geese”:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Be attentive. Savor life today. Enjoy whatever flares forth from the Creator. It is what is. If we are not attentive, our piety toward the Divine will be “like a morning cloud, like the dew that early passes away.”

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