THERE IS A RIVER WHICH FLOWS FROM THE HEART OF GOD
READ: Ezekiel 47:12
“By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month because their waters flow from the sanctuary and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.” – Ezekiel 47:12 (see also Revelation 22:1-2 for its New Testament echo.)
“Down by the river to pray.” That is a refrain from an old spiritual and its taps into something primordial in the human spirit, the beckoning to come to the river, the place where life is once more renewed. We find the rivers in the story of Eden and how the Garden was nourished by the four rivers. We find this river image in the people crossing the Jordan River to reach their Promised Land. We find this in the accounts of John the Baptist baptizing in the waters of the Jordan. We find this is in the story of the first apostles going down to pray by the river. We find it all through our faith history’s timeline even to the last chapter of the Revelation and its vision of the eternal realm. “Down to the river to pray”… it is something we do.
Flowing along and through Greyfriars’ Abbey is our little river, a river that is birthed in the far off foothills, from a spring that trickles out from an outcropping of granite rock. And the trickle becomes a brook, the brook becomes a stream, a stream become a river. By the time our river arrives at Greyfriars’ Abbey, it is near the end of its journey, as if we were its last stop for prayer before the river’s returning to the sea. I love to go and visit a spell with our river. And when I sit with the river, we begin by conversing about what’s on my mind, but then eventually we begin conversing about what’s NOT on my mind, and then further on we start conversing about what I sense is on the river’s mind and in the whispers of her waters And, in the end, we pray, first with words and then … with the thoughts that live beyond the words.
I always find my life renewed when I spend time with the river. Somehow the river brings me back to where I need to be, … and then, I suppose quite paradoxically, sends me off to where I need to be.
There is something timeless and eternal about the river. The river is ancient. She was here before I ever was. Yet the river is freshly new, the water that dances before my eyes is younger than me, born not that long ago out of fallen rain and melted snow. And here may be the divine mystery of our human need for rivers … the present moment of our living is always in need of being part of something very old. Somehow life is renewed when out of the old, the new emerges. We are in need, whether we claim it or not, of the stability and depth of the ancient river and yet, we are also in need of the freshness and the youthfulness of the just now passing waters. “Down by the river to pray!” Down by the bank of the ancient river that flows with newborn water … where souls are baptized in cool, fresh water, making old lives new, making used lives fresh, washing clean once more the dusty soul.
Somehow I sense our fast-paced modern life – both in the church and in the world about it – is in a desperate need for more “River-time”. Yes, I believe that is it, that is it precisely … our expressway world of Interstate Highways and Internet Byways is needing to remember that – our ancient human soul has always yearned for and still is yearning… for more “River-time”.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
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