The Deep Gaze, the Long Listen


READ:  Luke 10:21-25

“Filled with the joy of the Spirit, Jesus then said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these matters from the learned and the clever, revealing them instead to children.  Yes, for that is the way You so desired to do.  All has been entrusted to me by my Father.  No one knows the Son except the Father, and the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.’  Then turning to His disciples, Jesus spoke to them privately, ‘Bless are the eyes that see what you see’ for prophets and kings yearned to see what you see but saw not, to hear what you hear but heard not.'”  – Luke 10:21-25

In the winter, the cherry trees were little more than barren twigs, but there will come a time, not long away, when they will become festive celebrations of pink blossoms.  And even now, in this early spring, I can behold the cherry blossoms in the eyes of my soul.

Jesus uses the phrase quite often … “they have eyes but they cannot see, they have ears but cannot hear.”  But while some seem blind and deaf to the Presence of the Kingdom, there are a number of souls who somehow can see and hear what others cannot.  Somehow God reveals a certain dimension of Life to the senses of a certain blessed number, among them, the children.

As I have often mentioned, the Benedictine approach to Christian discipleship seeks to cultivate the “Deep Gaze” and the “Long Listen”.  The Deep Gaze and the Long Listen are spiritual practices that become, in time, spiritual qualities.  They are aspects of contemplative living; they are manners of prayer; they are gifts of grace bestowed by the presence of God’s Spirit.

The Deep Gaze is simply learning to look deeper for what is first unnoticed.  The Deep Gaze is to allow one’s eyes to search for what was missed in the first glance and in the superficial observation.  It is allowing the eyes to linger on certain moments and certain places in life, in hope that God will REVEAL the kingdom of God that has always been present there.  The Deep Gaze is looking into the reflection on the water until such time as the realm beneath the surface can be seen.  The Deep Gaze is looking into the face of a stranger until the soul of the stranger begins to become known, that latent inner soul where the image of God was first placed in all of God’s children.  So as Benedictines, we simply don’t glance at flowers blooming, we gaze into the flower until the flower becomes vivid in our memory.  So as Benedictines, we simply don’t read Scripture, we gaze into it until we can begin to see the Spirit revealed through the printed words.  So as Benedictines, we simply don’t recognize other people, we explore them, we welcome them into our moments.  So as Benedictines, we simply don’t consider the surface of an issue, we study the issue in both its breadth and its depth.  The Deep Gaze, it becomes a manner of our living life abundantly as we begin to behold the Something More.

The Long Listen is simply learning to listen with patient sensitivity, listening for that which is usually hidden behind the first words.  The Long Listen is learning to hear the thoughts that are struggling to be heard.  It involves slowing down, particularly one’s own hurried self, but also, slowing down the voices around you.  It involves listening with reflection, seeking more to understand than to argue.  It involves listening more than once, often, many times, until what was first unheard begins to resonate into earshot of the soul.  The Long Listen is taking the time, the long time necessary, to listen for the whispers of the wind as it passes through the pines, to listen for the laughter in the splashing of a brook, to listen for the accent present in a certain seagull’s call, or to listen for how an owl seems to call one’s name in the night.  The Long Listen is giving yourself enough time so that the clamor of the crowd becomes one certain conversation; it is staying with a thought until you can hear the further thought behind it.  So as Benedictines, we listen to Scripture, not only for the words but for the voice that first spoke those words.  So as Benedictines, we commit ourselves to be the listeners to those who are desperately needing a listener.  So as Benedictines, we don’t argue our case, we seek to understand more and more clearly Christ’s point of view.  The Long Listen, like the Deep Gaze, becomes a manner of our living life abundantly as we begin to hear the Something More.

In Christ and by way of Christ’s Spirit, we CAN see and hear the wonders of God …  and we can see and hear them everywhere.  But how can this be when we could not before?  Because God has blessed us with His grace, the grace of Christ being revealed in our lives.


Brother Anthony of the Cross
(jim mcwhinnie)

— Visit my poetry site, Willow Words, by clicking Now with audio versions.

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