[This is an expanded version of my soaking prayer meditation for Tuesday night, January 3.]
I recently saw the movie, The Way, staring Martin Sheen and directed by his son, Emilio Estavez. It is the story of Tom, an affluent dentist from California, whose son, Daniel, abandoned graduate school and set out to walk the 500 mile El Camino de Santiago across Northern Spain. The end point of the pilgrimage is the cathedral of St. James, the Apostle. Having gone to France to identify and claim the remains of his son, the father decides to walk El Camino and scatter his son’s ashes as he goes. For Sheen “It is also the tale of a literal journey that leads to a spiritual, personal transformation, and that is territory that Sheen — survivor of both addiction and heart disease, parent of a wayward son, devout Catholic — knows well.” He wants to go it alone; however, he attracts three erstwhile companions along the way. It is a story of pilgrimage that soon becomes, as do all pilgrimages, an interior journey into self. “Along the way to Santiago, [Tom] meets a trio of pilgrims — Sarah, an angry divorcee from Canada (Deborah Kara Unger); Jack, a frustrated writer from Ireland (James Nesbitt); and Joost, a hilarious gastronome from Holland (Yorick van Wageningen) — and comes to know himself, through them.” (http://www.aarp.org/entertainment/movies-for-grownups/info-10-2011/the-way-movie-review.html)
Jesus turned and saw [John’s disciples] following him and said to them,
“What are you looking for?”
They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher),
“where are you staying?”
He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” (Jn 1:38-39)
Is this not a wonderful invitation to pilgrimage? “Come, walk with me.” It is an open invitation to walk with Jesus the Christ who is the way, the truth and the light.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (Jn 14:1-6)
In the movie, strangers walking El Camino gradually came to breathe renewed life breath into one another as they plodded their way along the path. Jesus assures us on our pilgrimage. The Risen Christ is the way, the truth, and the light. The original Aramaic for these words spoken by Jesus often have multiple meanings that are lost in translation according to Neil Douglas-Klotz.
The Christ teaches us about the WAY as we come to know the Living God:
I am the WAY. I am the Path. I am the presence that illumines the path. I am the One who shows you hidden possibilities. I am the One who reveals practical ways previously unknown.
I am the TRUTH. I give you a sense of right direction. I am the true north on your compass. I am the One who frees up your choices. I am the solution or the liberation. I am the One who sets you free. I am the opening of a circle. I am the One who gives you the sense of right direction in harmony with the universe.
I am the LIFE. I am the life force that enables you to travel the path. I am the One who connects you to the power and force of the cosmos. I am the primal energy that pervades all of nature and the universe.
I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE. I am the one who brings you into the rhythm of life. I am the One who unites you with the breathing of all. I am the breath of Life who leads you where you do not want to go. Surrender to my presence. Breathe in my life. Fear not. I will show you the path. I will give you a sense of right direction. I will be your life force as you walk the way. I will send others to breathe my new life into you.
In the words of Neil-Dougla Klotz, Aramaic scholar:
No one comes into rhythm with the breathing life of all,
The sound and the atmosphere
That created the cosmos,
Except through the
Breathing, sound, and atmosphere,
Of another embodied “I.”
The other embodied “I’s” helped each person struggle through the internal pilgrimage into self and then outward to others.
Joan and I have been on a different kind of journey the last few weeks as she found out that she needs hip replacement surgery. As we walked this path, we, well I will just speak for myself, I was in denial. Let’s see we have plans that we have made—note the plans we have made. We have a trip to Florida for a warmer winter, a rare but expensive already paid for opportunity to take photos of raptors at the birding festival, a mid-winter Caribbean cruise, and a weekend retreat with John Dominic Crossan all paid for and scheduled. Maybe we can fit all these in, come back and have the surgery in time to go on our cruise to the Greek islands in August. I was tuning out the doctors who were advising surgery now. I was being led where I did not want to go and I was not a happy pilgrim.
Jesus told Peter that he would be led where he did not want to go in his golden years. When I finally listened and let go and surrendered to reality, I felt a sense of peace. I was walking the way and the Living God was showing me the path. As old opportunities and plan faded into oblivion, the Christ was opening new vistas for me—hidden possibilities were unveiled, practical ways previously unknown opened before us. We will be able to be at Good Shepherd through the end of Fr. John’s tenure, a real blessing indeed! We will be here for the bishop’s visit when we will be received into the Episcopal Church. We will be here for healing ministry and the Tuesday night soaking prayer service. We will even be here for snow and sub-freezing temperatures! (15 ° last night—ugh!!!)
As we make our pilgrimages and seek healing, wholeness, and peace, let us pray:
God, the I Am, Alaha,* the Breath of Life, show us the path. Open up new vistas and hidden possibilities. Help us to keep our eyes on the prize. Give us a sense of right direction. Help us to find true north on our compasses. Gives us the grace and life-force to travel where you are leading us as we journey through the cosmos.
You are the Breath that gives life to our journey. We in turn are the breath that gives life to one another as we pray for healing along the way. In-spire us—breathe your life into us. Send forth the Spirit of the Risen Christ. Come, Holy Spirit of the Risen Christ. Breathe you peace upon us.
*Aramaic for “God”