…Even a proverb is not a proverb until your life has illustrated it. ~ J. Keats.
Over the summer I read a lovely book – Struggles to Love by Kathy Galloway – which explores the spirituality of the beatitudes (Matthew’s list)
Kathy was the leader of the Iona Community for several years and her stories and insights draw from her experiences and encounters in the poorest parts of Glasgow as well as from the pilgrims who visit the island abbey.
Spirituality seems to have become a nebulous term with overtones of ‘some optional extra, over and above normal life, desires and experience’, but Kathy takes a fully holistic approach to her reflections. Spirituality is about our physical instincts and desires, as well as the longings of heart and mind but it’s also about what we do – much more than it is about what we say or what we say we will do.
I felt inspired to do some exploring of my own to find ways to live and love the spirituality of the beatitudes….so I hope it’s also inspiring for you…
Drawing from the contemplative reading style in the first post, take some time to read through the beatitudes. Given how familiar they are to most of us, these two translations may help to keep you attentive to your heart’s response.
You may notice that one or more of these sayings catches your attention – perhaps because it strikes a fresh chord, or possibly because you are drawn back to the more familiar translation and whatever significance those words and concepts have for you.
As before, allow your response to the text to flow in the way that helps you reflect on your life and where the word or phrase that has caught your attention connects.
What is it that you need to hear?
What wisdom is being made available to you?
What question is being asked?
Give some time for your own processing by writing, talking out loud to God, finding a song to sing in response, taking the idea for a walk… then…
Moving in closer…
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heavenMatthew 5:3
Kathy Galloway points out the paradox of this beatitude: it is in learning to welcome emptiness, incompleteness and the pain of longing for that which is beyond our experience that we become open to and free to receive love and joy, to see beauty and to seek peace and reconciliation.
The unfulfilled longing is inspired by both pain and possibility. To hold the yearning requires accepting both pain and possibility.
What has this beatitude meant to me in the past?
How have I understood it?
How have I felt in response to it? How about now – has anything shifted or changed?
Where have I witnessed this attitude or quality in others? In myself?
Yearning draws out the mystic in us, so we’ll turn to the mystics for our practices this week:
Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello offers this intercessory prayer practice:
Prayers and holy desires
Place before God the desires you have for each one of the people you want to pray for…imagine each one of them having the things you desire for them…you do not need to put words to this, it’s enough to expose your holy desire in God’s presence…and to see those desires fulfilled.
You can do this same practice for families, communities and groups.
And you can do it for yourself, and your own holy desires.
It is easy for our courage to fail at this point, to feel defeated, even cynical about the outcome of your prayer. But the yearning is the prayer, so lean into the yearning, the desire for so much good to be found in us and among us.
Listen to Rumi’s poem and try attending to the very physical response this poem describes…. how does your yearning lead you to this kind of opening, blushing and unfolding of the heart?
Enter the secret place…
Carmelite nun Teresa of Avila assured her sisters: This Beloved of ours is merciful and good. Besides, he so deeply longs for our love that he keeps calling us to come closer.
There is a secret place. A radiant sanctuary. As real as your own kitchen. More real than that. Constructed of the purest elements. Overflowing with the ten thousand beautiful things…. This magnificent refuge is inside you. Enter. Shatter the darkness that shrouds the doorway… Believe the incredible truth that the Beloved has chosen for his dwelling place the core of your own being because that is the single most beautiful place in all of creation.
Find an image of your radiant sanctuary online and print it out, or in a magazine and cut it out or get creative and draw it. Stick it somewhere you will see often (the kitchen?) and let it prompt you to connect with the yearning to enter into that light filled, beautiful secret place where prayer is simply an act of love – a being-in-love.