IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT
READ: Psalm 116
“The Lord is kind and does what is right; our God is merciful. The Lord watches over the foolish; when I was helpless, God saved me. I said to myself, ‘Relax, because it is the Lord who takes care of you.’ Lord, you saved me from death. You stopped my eyes from crying; you kept me from being defeated. So I will walk with the Lord in the land of the living.'” – Psalm 116:5-9 NCV
“So I will walk with the Lord in the land of the living” … here and now. And if I might dare to paraphrase my own corollary …”So I will walk with the Lord in this earthly realm, now brought to life by way of a certain Divine Light!”
As I walked about the fields of the Abbey on a night with no moon, the farm lit only by starlight, I was struck by how different the place looked in this quality of time and light. The night was still, except for the sounds of the creatures of the night, the owls, the mice, the occasional firefly here and there. Gone were the daytime colors such as the deep red of the sheep barn, now turned to a soft grey, with an aura of faint gold as a solitary light bulb reflected its light off the straw dust floating in the air. As I stood there, the thought kept returning to me and eventually began lingering with me … “This place that I thought I knew so well, now seems so different in this moment. Somehow the same place has become a different place now that I see it in this different light.”
Those who long practice the discipline of contemplative prayer will speak of a phenomenon of perception that they experience. My Benedictine life of prayer includes two times of silent, quiet, centering prayer. These half-hour times of prayer involve no words – or few words – no reading, no music, only listening with eyes closed in a relaxed posture of prayer, simply seeking to sit in the Presence of God. One of these prayer times is in the midst of the sunshine day; the other, in the midst of the starlit night. A half hour of such focused listening is far more difficult than you might imagine. It took me a good six months of daily practice before I was able to establish that quiet place within my mind. The phenomenon to which I referred is the moment after one opens his or her eyes after the thirty minutes of contemplative prayer. I am quite sure that the phenomenon has much to do with the workings of the human eye, but I have come to believe that there is also an aspect of the experience which is of the Holy Spirit. At the close of my daylight time of contemplative prayer, when I open my eyes to the world about me, the world about me seems saturated with a glorious, radiant light. The colors are more vibrant;, the movement of the leaves and the creatures appear to be elegantly graced; the air itself seems to sparkle for want of a better word. The world seems to be then … so much more Alive. At the close of my starlit time of contemplative prayer, when I open my eyes to the world about me, the night itself seems to glow with a soft radiance it did not have before, so much of the before unseen in the night, now can be clearly seen. Somehow, after the half-hour of contemplative prayer, the same place has somehow become a different place … now that I see it in this prayerfully cultivated, different quality of light.
My Loved Ones, those who are deepened in their daily practices of spiritual formation, over time do notice how their perception of the world about them changes. I find with all maturing Christian disciples this takes place. And I believe it is because we begin to see this world more and more… in a Divine Light, a heavenly light to which we had grown unaccustomed and blind. I believe most young children … can see the Divine Light, but somehow we grow blind to it.
Make the time each day to sit slow and long in a prayerful place. And there, wait until you can behold … the Living Realm, the Realm of God … that is all about you in this place!
Brother Anthony of the Cross
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