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 …
BANK HOLIDAY weekend affords a happy extension to “left brain time.” There are always more books I want to read, more paintings I want to paint, more photographs I want to make, more writing to be done, more poems to unfold, more prayer to be celebrated, more people to share some time and stories with, more songs to be sung, more colours to be marvelled at, more silence to be revelled in – than time ordinarily allows. And that very fact is cause for thanksgiving! Life is indeed a rich tapestry. The signs of the reign, the joy of God, are all around me. And I’m immensely thankful for the connections that blogging makes possible with people all around the world.
Today’s artwork is inspired, in Eastertide, by Mary Magdalene, beloved apostle of Jesus, first witness to new life in the Resurrection, loyal provider of intimate and loving support and sustenance, someone generous, open-hearted and giving, someone who just “knew” instinctively, what Jesus’ mission on earth was about, someone released, by God’s goodness, from the kind of prison every one of us finds ourselves in from time to time.
All human persons are “bedevilled” by “Legion” the perpetually underlying and taunting belief that somehow we’re failing to make the grade, we’re unlovable, bigger and better “failures” than anyone else, destined to be “alone”, faithless, heartbroken, misunderstood, wretched. All human persons yearn for the kind of release that Jesus’ love and acceptance brought about in Mary’s life; for the kind of release that she brought about in his.
Mary Magdalene: someone cruelly maligned and abused by religious patriarchy and misogyny across the centuries, but all the while someone I’ve admired and looked to as an icon of life’s richness and fullness, of life’s goodness and generosity, of life’s being – under the vivifying reign of God – a beautifully, colourfully, gorgeously dressed dance with our Creator.
Sydney Carter described Jesus as The Lord of the Dance. In my heart I think of Mary of Magdala as Jesus’ dance-partner and she is clothed, dressed, like the environment all around and about her, in colour and glory. And theirs is a partnership, theirs is a dance that, far from being exclusive and excluding, invites you and I to join. “Shall we dance?”, Mary asks. “And shall we sing?”, asks the Lord of the Dance. And sometimes the colours blur a little in the swirling. And sometimes they’re blended by our tears …
Have you seen the wonder of it? Have you seen Mary’s dress?
please click image to enlarge
THERE’S AN ENCOUNTER with Heaven in William P Young’s The Shack that has left an indelible mark on me. It’s a vivid, vital vision of colour-expressed emotions
a wash of ruby and vermillion, magenta and violet, as the light and color whirled around and embraced him …
Countless connections. Whirling. Swirling. Shimmering. Glowing. Loving. Forgiving. Embracing. Changing. And – ever since I read the book – gifts of daily such “visions” have delighted me.
The artist Wendy Rudd recently encouraged me, and a group of friends, to let go of “right brain” connection sometimes and let “left brain” make itself heard. I’ve blessed her many times for that encouragement. I let go of mental overload, on a fairly regular basis, by listening / looking instead to “left brain”, allowing wordiness to become colour and image. And colours – perpetually glancing, gently bumping and bouncing into and through one another, make connections and communion …
YOU KNOW people there. Their faces are photographs on the wrong side of your eyes
Carol Ann Duffy, In Your Mind
MESSY MOSES reminded me today of a couple of things: that we’ve got a wonderful bunch of people at St Michael & All Angels Bramhall. And that Messy Church – albeit Messy – needs all the marvellous and extraordinary organisational skills of a Messy Moses! There has to be some order and some organisation to keep the Messy afloat! And our needs were well supplied.
Let my people go! said Moses to Pharaoh. Let people go to Messy Church was the cry donkeys year later in Bramhall. Major adventures involving patience, perseverance, pragmatism and prayer got underway in both cases. Manna from heaven was supplied to the wandering Israelites. Chicken noodle soup and apple pie was supplied to the happy assembly gathered to hear about the basket and the bulrushes, the burning bush, the encounters with power, the people who consistently moaned like drains, and the vision of better times, better places and higher things.
Messy and magnificent: both the Exodus and a richly laid Saturday afternoon in Bramhall. Congratulations to all involved, then, now, and in the future.
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
WRITING ABOUT stained glass fragments “blown apart in wars” and haphazardly reassembled later, the priest poet David Scott, in the second stanza of his A Window in Ely Cathedral, tells of
A leering bit of face with twisted lips,
a bit of beard, and letters almost spelling ‘holy’,
a sheaf of corn, a leaf, and then the sun dips,
lighting Mary in her simple glory.
A Window in Ely Cathedral,
stanza 2 of 3, page 29
In the economy of God there’s something afoot. I can feel it in my bones. The downtrodden, the dispossessed, the shattered, the fragmented and the forgotten, wherever they are in the world, are raising their voices. They cry for the reconciliation, resurrection and restoration of a humane humanity – for people of every race and nation, and of every creed (or lack thereof), or “class”, or colour. Too much has been blown apart by wars and for too long. But days wear on, the sun dips in her course, illuminating that which speaks of life’s real glory, and is thereby truly holy.
This is exciting. This is the stuff of the reign of the Source of all of our lives, to whom we have prayed, and with whom we have yearned, in every time and place, in every political and religious tradition, for so very long. Whether we’re speaking of ordinary Libyans standing up to be counted, intent on “occupying” their own entitlement to a bit of their own space as human beings; whether we’re speaking of Occupy New York, or Occupy London, or occupy-a-space-in-the-queue for fresh air, or clean water, or a bowl of rice, something is most assuredly afoot. The sun dips, lighting Mary in her simple glory, and because at evensong we’re rather quieter than usual we may hear her softly say and pray
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble and meek
Come Christ-Mass this year the stable and the tent will not be featured only in hand-picked and glossy Christmas cards. Tents and stables are being raised up alongside cathedrals and churches. Tents and stables are being raised up in our dreams and in our slowly-awakening hearts. Here are opportunities to catch real glimpses for the possibilities of life’s glory, opportunities that are thereby truly holy. Some amongst us, nonetheless, will not look any more kindly upon such fragmented opportunities than they would ever have looked upon the teenage mother in the stable of Bethlehem.
But something of and from the divine is afoot. The leering bit of face with twisted lips, a bit of beard, and letters almost spelling ‘holy’, must give way to the sun’s dipping
lighting Mary in her simple glory.
Your visible world is a sea-cave,
samphire, pale marshland jewelled with salt,
fog denying distance;
in solitude you watch icy rain
sieving away dead weeds,
wait for clouds to rise
from vast inner horizons
& green truths of faith
to grow on the rock.
Crossing earth’s last river
will bring you no terror -
fear is already emptied, and all
fantastic dimensions of the universe
merely a dilapidated hut.
Collected Poems, Anvil, 2002 page 179