I LOVE THE COLOUR in this clematis, captured against – for a brief moment – a suddenly cornflower blue sky. The heavy black cloud banked behind me as I captured this shot added atmosphere and particularly distinctive colour to the scene in Greystoke village centre.
Orthopraxy in much of Buddhism and Hinduism
Orthopraxy is usually distinguished from orthodoxy. Orthodoxy refers to doctrinal correctness, whereas orthopraxy refers to right practice. What we see in many of the Eastern religions is not an emphasis upon verbal orthodoxy, but instead upon practices and lifestyles that, if you do them (not think about them, but do them), end up changing your consciousness.
This was summed up in the Eighth Core Principle of the Center for Action and Contemplation: We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into a new way of thinking. I hope that can be a central building block of the Living School.
And – joyfully – today I’ve been chestily croaking ALLELUIA! upon reading today’s thoughts about the witness of art
Unique witness of mythology, poetry, and art
My earliest recordings often included mythological stories, poetry, or art to make the point. Many people are more right-brained learners than left-brained. When you bring in a story, or a poem, or refer to a piece of art, you can see people’s interest triple: “Wow, I’m with you!” Whereas, if you stay on the verbal level all the time, their eyes glaze over, they lose interest, they lose fascination and identification with the message.
I don’t think Western preachers and teachers have really understood the importance of art in general. Until people can “catch” the message with an inner image, it usually does not go deep. We’ve also been afraid of myths that weren’t Christian. In fact, we were afraid of the very word “myth.” We thought it meant something that wasn’t true when, in fact, it’s something that’s always true—if it’s a true myth. This will be a very important substratum of the Living School curriculum.
One of the things I most love and admire about Richard Rohr is his generosity of heart, mind, soul and body. He’s open to seeing the Divine all around us, open to contemplation and to receiving the Wisdom from traditions other – though as he shows us, not always so very “other” – from his own. I love that Fr Richard balances the importance of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy; that he both thinks deeply and feels profoundly. That, it seems to me, is what the call of Jesus Christ – and of other great spiritual masters and teachers – is really all about. As Richard has it, “living ourselves into a new way of thinking”. That’s something all of us can do, all of the time, with or without particular religious frameworks – though many, in the living, will thrive in the kind of religious environment that seeks – as the word religion intends (from Latin religare - ”to reconnect, to bind together”) – to bind up the whole.
My friend Mimi is a generous contemplative - Between Night And Day; as is the marvellous Rebecca Koo - Heads or Tails; and Bill Wooten’s - The Present Moment brings a wonderful word from Thomas Merton – and a stunning photo; Francesca Zelnick is as special as her Today’s Special; David Herbert is one of my diocesan friends and I love his latest post (and we share affection for Parker Palmer); and Rachael Elizabeth’s been having a good time doing Christology and incense-sampling ( ! ) in Durham; James Fielden – always showing us “The Way Home” – meditates exquisitely upon Time; Ginny at “Chasing the Perfect Moment” writes about Re-creation; Ria Gandhi has been wondering about who and what’s Beautiful and has flagged up one answer here; Jenni has been Watching the Symphony here.
What are we looking at in all these human “works of art”. What do I see as I reflect upon the colours, upon the wide spectrum that arches over the whole of my life?
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus
Holy, Holy, Holy
Multi-coloured and blessed sanctity – God’s art: whether we’re always aware of it – or not …
PAUL DEAKIN (vested, left) preached an encouraging and challenging sermon this morning, attired for a few brief moments in a too short preaching scarf – because it’s more ordinarily employed at Stockport County FC! It’s great having Paul home on leave from his studies at Mirfield. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” – Nathaniel asked of Philip. Well, of course, someone could and did! And Paul Deakin’s one of the many good things to “come out of” Bramhall.
DAVID TAYLOR (robed, right) served the dual offices of assistant verger and altar server, at short notice, in the midst of one of those whirlwind sort of mornings that Sundays at St Michael’s often look like. With consecutive celebrations of the Eucharist at 8, 9 and 10.45am there’s a lot to be done behind the scenes to make sure there’s a smooth flow. With David and other willing souls like him we’re able to sing: “we get by with a little help from our friends …”
AND ANDY BROWN put imagination into gear and was quick to snap the moments when some of my wonderful young friends here got stuck into “the priesthood of all believers” liturgically. Literally “active angels”, we encouraged each other to pray according to the style and practice of ancient tradition, standing, and with arms raised in a posture of praise, thanksgiving and receptivity. And we all shared in times of silence and stillness too. It all made for a holy communion. Eucharistic. Something accomplished. Religio - a binding together. And I recall that the great son of man who came out of Nazareth once said: I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends – John 15.15-17
IMAGINING. I think that’s one of our chief works as humans. It’s how we co-create with the Source of all life. And imagining is what I’ve been doing all day. First in a fairly routine sort of early morning meeting, later in a scintillating encounter between an artist, Stephen Raw, an architect, John Prichard, two churchwardens, Ralph Luxon and Sue Taylor, and a photographing priest who thought he was in photographic heaven, moi …
I took many dozens of photos. Mindful of my manners though I will check with the artist before sharing too many more than the one above. This is a little trio of beautiful articles in a Stephen shaped cave. Not the work of the artist, but absolutely the work of the artist, if you know what I mean? Stephen’s studio feels like a coloured X-ray of his heart and soul and mind and body; a statement of faith and an act of imagination and creation. We came away energised at some profound level. We’d been standing on holy ground. I shall hope to stand there again. And there was good coffee! And cookies.
Later in the day I imagined a lovely local man being now in the nearer presence of God. I was deeply moved by his wife Sheila’s beautiful reading of Psalm 121 during a memorial service at nearby All Saints’ where Harry had been the organist until his sudden and unexpected death. The music, sung, played and listened to, together with Fr David’s quite simply superb shepherding of the service, and a fine address, made for one of the very finest funeral thanksgivings I’ve ever experienced. I’m deeply grateful for that and know that Harry’s family must surely be yet more thankful. Harry was an artist in his own distinctive and giving way. Perhaps all of us, in early morning meetings, artist’s studio, thanksgiving service in Church, or wheresoever we may be, are, each and every one of us, artists in our own distinctive ways.
How did God bring about such an extraordinary work, I wonder? And I only come near being able to approach an answer when I make time in my life to imagine ….
Update: with Stephen Raw’s kind permission: my photos are here
GUESSED? Oranges and lemons! Well, could be, but not actually. This is a Christmas tree, captured by my Nikon D90, with AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G lens, at f/1.4, at 0.0125s (1/80), manually unfocused. And here’s a thing about playing with light like this: it’s good for the imagination. And imagination is good for prayer. And prayer is good for faith. And faith gives substance and depth to life. Oranges and lemons, or planets, or sweets, or orbs. And look at the depth. And coloured hues, touching and glancing off one another. Whence the ovals, the occasional horizontal, the overlap, the bounce, the dark, the amber, the light? A mystery. A Christmas tree? – well, may retort a commentator, you could have fooled me! Here’s what I see … and something develops: life; story.
It’s like prayer, isn’t it? Mystery, depth, layers, surprise, unfocused colour and object, call, attraction, an invitation to be. I hope there’ll be times in 2012 when I’m manually unfocused, for to be so is an essential part of the call and invitation of the Divine to me. (And maybe, should anyone read this, to thee!)
WHEN I’M NOT ABSORBED in conversation, or revelling in silence, or enchanted by poetry, or novels, or the papers, or theology, or writing letters and emails, I’m often to be found playing or writing with light. Photography is a great passion. It’s one that can be put down and taken up again just when it’s convenient or there’s a thrilling subject at hand. Wendy Rudd’s Windsails have kept me – and many others – enthralled for a while …
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