This page contains a series of meditations and published articles which may be useful for devotional reading.


Five Meditations from the Rector:


Fear is one of those emotions we can spend a lifetime trying to avoid.  One of the most peculiar human fears is the fear of forgetting.  And people have tried all kinds of ways to keep remembering including carving on the trunks of trees.  Names, initials and records of past loves, have been etched into the memories of living bark. Basque shepherds who found themselves herding in the United States in the nineteenth century and later, passed their solitude by carving on aspen trees, often updating them when their grazing odyssey brought them back to the same spot again.

The soldiers of World Wars I and II also tried not to forget.  Trees close to the front line on the Western front hold memories of lives lost to conflict.  As American GIs passed through Normandy many carved their memories on over 2000 trees.  Names and dates, thoughts and feelings, recorded on fading timbers.

We are a remembering people. Our minds put flesh on the memories of the past which then often take on a life of their own.  At funerals, for example, there is always such a mix of emotions as loss takes such a variety of forms.  But at every funeral there is story-telling.  Funny stories, favourite holidays, past achievements are celebrated.

I wonder what life would be like if, whether leaving memories on tree trunks, or recollecting in spoken words, we spent more time making memories rather than fearing losing those we already have?



Love has stopped us all in our tracks at one time or another.  Last Summer was one of those times for me.  On one of those long balmy days I sat on a warm shuttle bus as it trundled down a valley in Connemara as we made our way to Kylemore Abbey Victorian Gardens.

I’d been there before many years ago when Sr. Benedict showed me around. Then the Victorian splendour had been mangled by nettle, brambles and time.  How things had changed since.  But back to the bus.

It was jammed with people from every place and the excited chatter of sight seers.  But what caught my attention was a big blue buggy.  In it a little girl covered in a light pink blanket gurgled and looked like she was playing for time before her afternoon nap.

But it was really her mother who stopped me in my tracks.  A sallow skinned woman in her thirties just sat and looked upon her child as if – it seemed to me – the way you look at someone for the first time.  ‘This must be what unconditional love looks like’, I thought.  No need for words; just silent contemplation on our way to an Abbey garden.

I wonder what life would be like if we allowed ourselves to be stopped in our tracks and to love deeply without the need for words?



The other day I sat in a large green velvet armchair in the middle of a busy auction room in the midlands.  Surrounded by hundreds of pieces, from as many lives, words like chiffonier, Georgian and taxidermy tripped off the tongue of the jolly sing-song auctioneer.  Lot after lot, the hammer went down to close a door on a past of dinner parties, soirées and other merry-making.  As a new future was forming in these fragments of the past I wondered about happiness.  It’s never the big obvious things that bring us things that last.  The newsfeed that really is our life’s blood is filled with the little fragments of happiness from friends and family, chance encounters, unexpected offers and gentle meandering off the beaten track.

‘Live in the present moment’ the lifestyle gurus tell us now, as if this is a new thing.  But what we don’t always hear is that we are the only ones who can gift ourselves the space to notice the small fragments.  How often do we gift ourselves the space to dream our happiness into reality?

Imagine a world where strangers would never ask: ‘So, what do you do for a living?’  Instead they’d say, ‘How much time do you spend dreaming?’

I wonder what life would be like if the world had more dedicated dreamers; people turning away from soul-wearying routines and instead cherishing the little fragments?



Trust is one of those things we often think about in the same way we think of speed limits.  It’s for other people.  Gardening is one of those activities that takes a huge amount of trust and an equal measure of imagination. As the little seed is popped into the cold, damp earth it would be easy to be cynical for its chances. Yet the earth is the very place it needs to thrive. Soon its tender radicle bursts into the soil heralding a fruitful future. Moisture and the warmth of the sun add to the mix of ingredients for success.

People who garden are very special people because they believe in things they can’t see.  In a sense they’re the opposite of blind, whatever that is.  But blindness comes in many forms and is hardly ever only about the lack of physical sight. Any sort of blindness which prevents trust can be like the bindweed that chokes the Summer rose. Slowly life is drained from an otherwise beautiful scene. Being able to trust in a future beyond the present takes patience and a small degree of divine recklessness.

It’s not about throwing caution to the wind but sinking deep into the soil where you’re standing and gently soaking up all that is around you, knowing that God’s hand is guiding all that’s unfolding.

I wonder what life would be like if we trusted that Harvest will come in its own time. And that we paid attention to the now; the time to till the ground and sow the seed, to water and gently weed, and trust that life sometimes unfurls in the most unlikely places?


Letting go

I’ve learned a lot from the Hawthorn tree in the corner of my garden as it thrives in every weather.  Laden with snow it shimmers in the morning East sunlight and drips thaw onto the patchy grass beneath.  In Spring the new freshness of green buds is quickly followed by flowers which celebrate a change in season.  Slowly in Autumn she sheds her leaves and letting go of what has past, she prepares for Winter.  And so it continues year after year.  It’s simply a miracle.

But we’re not that different to trees since we are a deciduous kind of people as we shed memories and experiences.  Every day our skins are refreshing and re-growing in the same way that our spirits are never static and staid.    Shedding is very much who we are.  But it’s not just our bodies that are deciduous.  Our spirits are continually letting go as we go deeper into life and the free ourselves from pain and hurt.  Letting go, we enjoy the freeing of the heart and enjoin our being with Nature as we root ourselves in our own blessed nature.

I wonder what life would be like if we intentionally let go all that holds us back and embraced life as if we experienced it for the first time?

The Heart of Pilgrimage

David White

Published: Spirituality Volume 27, Number 158 (September – October 2021) pp. 259-264


He made the storm be still

and the waves of the sea were calmed.

Then were they glad because they were at rest,

and he brought them to the haven they desired.

Psalm 107: 29-30 (NRSV)


When walking begins for most of us, it is accompanied by the excited gasps of our parents and family members.  In our first wobbly steps, we are minded and guided, as something new gradually becomes second nature.  As time passes, we walk alone as others trust us to make our way safely, as we independently navigate the obstacles of life.

Intuitively we later learn that there is more to walking than simply getting from one place to another.  In many faith traditions, pilgrimage became a way of using walking to give shape to the deep longings of the heart for answers to questions not yet formed.

Whether to the Holy Land, Rome, Croagh Patrick, Iona, Santiago de Compostela, or the more local holy place, walking the way has helped people express something which words could not adequately articulate.  At its heart, pilgrimage is also the place where we can open ourselves most fully to the love which God has for us.  Archbishop Simms shared this generous view, and in the context of the life of St. Brendan the Navigator of whom we will hear more later, wrote that,

… a journey can have several meanings. It may be an exile, an emigration, a pilgrimage, a mission, a spiritual experience with a vision of life’s progress through the years here on earth and beyond death, or a way of worship, a devotional journey, a liturgical movement through the festivals and fasts of the Christian calendar.[1]

The cliché goes that life is about the journey and not the destination.  Yet where we are headed is important as we set out.  With the imagination set upon the final point of arrival, the work is done with every step of the journey whether this is for a day, a week or a month.  There has been a significant interest in pilgrimage over these past years, with people from religious backgrounds and none seeing value in walking the way.  Each walker brings their own story with a myriad of motivations for setting out.  But all are seeking some kind of change, and even transformation, and all this begins and ends in the heart.


When we speak of the heart, we are entering the deepest waters of our being.  Plunging into the richest currents we are in touch with our life blood.  In this daring we get in touch with the warmest memories and the harshest suffering that makes us who we are.  We can never forget that the heart is the playground and also the battleground of so much.  Neglecting the heart would be like the gardener forgetting to water her garden and being surprised by all the wilting leaves and blossoms.  Attending to the heart and its movements is central to pilgrimage.

Often what happens at the start of pilgrimage is the release of lots of trapped experiences that suddenly have space to come to the surface.  This can be a little disturbing and even overwhelming.  But it’s part of the process of walking.  Michael Singer gives this advice to those who seek to release the heart from past pain,

Just open, relax your heart, forgive, laugh, or do anything you want. Just don’t push it back down. Of course it hurts when it comes up. It was stored with pain; it’s going to release with pain.[2]


After the initial rush, a quietness usually descends and our breath evens out, so that we can move from our heads down to the true centre of our being.  Our bodies hold the truth of ourselves and not the alluring thoughts that lead us down cul de sacs.  Allowing our hearts to lead, means that as pilgrims we are setting out to meet our truest self.


As a member of the dispersed community of Brendan the Navigator, I’m going to allow the saint’s life to guide my further reflections.  Brendan is an excellent exemplar of a pilgrim as he spent much of his 94 years on pilgrimage, mainly by the sea, while founding monasteries across Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany.  His most famous voyage was across the Atlantic in search of the Land of Promise of the Saints.  His travels have caught the imagination of many, some of whom have even tried to re-enact this courageous voyage.  But it is always the person of Brendan that draws me in, and Archbishop Simms suggests that the saint’s ‘gifts included his courage, his faith, his vision, his love of people, his inspired leadership, his skills in seamanship, his compassion, his cheerfulness and, we might add, his sense of humour.’[3]  All these traits would make great companions on any pilgrimage.

There are three things I’d like to share with you now.  These are drawn from the advice which St. Ita gave to her pupil St. Brendan (484-578) and to the many other saints who she nurtured in Killeedy.  She is sometimes referred to as the ‘Foster Mother of the Irish Saints’ and instilled in her pupils three maxims for the life of faith: True faith in God with purity of heart; Simplicity of life with religion, and Generosity with love.  How might these relate to pilgrimage?


Pilgrimage is firstly an attitude of indifferent openness which desires freedom.  Ignatius of Loyola speaks of ‘indifference’ as the possessing of inner freedom and intuitive balance.  The word ‘indifferent’ is a little troublesome today as it can make us think of lack of interest or being lethargic.  What he means is that we seek God’s will by being free to make choices according to divine guidance.  This kind of detachment means that we are both ‘free from’ and ‘free for’.  ‘Free from’ refers to all that holds us back whether these are addictions, self-limiting thoughts, entanglements of various sorts and all that keeps us from feeling whole.  ‘Freedom for’ is one of the exciting things about pilgrimage as we dream of what can be and who we can become.  We can wonder what God’s dream might be for me, or to what adventures I am being invited.

Essential to the embrace of freedom is to see our life as it really is.  Brendan and his companions on their voyage came across many fantastical creatures including large sheep, gryphons, dogs, birds, and of course, sea monsters.  In one episode they reach an island which had no grass on it and sand was not to be found on the shore.  They spent the night there and in the morning after mass and during the preparation of breakfast the island began to move, and they were terrified.  When they returned to the boat and the island disappeared off into the sea, Brendan explained,

“Fear not, my children,” said the Saint, “for God has last night revealed to me the mystery of all this; it was not an island you are on, but a fish, the largest of all that swim in the ocean, which is ever trying to make its head and tail meet, but cannot succeed, because of its great length.  Its name is Jasconius.”[4]

How often do we delude ourselves about things as they really are?  Reality is not as we wish it to be, so we choose not to see as we ought.  Like the whale we can also be chasing our tails leading to pointlessness and that circular thinking that never leads to insight.  Brendan’s companions were scared until their hearts were freed so that they could attain the unencumbered clarity which comes with purity of heart.


Pilgrimage is also the commitment to journey from fragmentation to integration, of simplifying what might at first seem complicated.  At the start of the journey, it can be helpful to set an intention.  This could be as simple as wishing to be fully present to the path, or focussing a little on some troubling relationship, or asking for guidance around a decision.  The desire for some kind of growth, and the seeking of God’s will, then blesses all that follows.  And this is done gently allowing the Spirit to inspire and animate.  We allow the disparate parts of ourselves to settle into some kind of pattern without forcing or pressure, for there is no deadline for this work.  All happens in God’s time.

Brendan and his companions when they came to each island on their voyage were anxious to find food and water.  One day as they made their way an enormous fish spouting foam from its nostrils appeared and terrified them.   After many prayers were said another sea monster came spouting fire from its mouth and killed the attacker and the men were saved.  Then the saint addresses his companions,

“Behold,” said St Brendan, “what sought to devour you. Now, you make your food of it, and fill yourselves abundantly with its flesh, for you will have a long delay upon this island. Draw the boat higher up on the land, and seek out a suitable place to fix our tent.”[5]

Slowly as we walk, we may realise that when we attend to some troubling thought or upsetting memory it can be released for healing.  That which we found troubling, now can nourish us as insight and growth lead our hearts into spaciousness.  This can only happen when we make enough space in our hearts, so that we can understand suffering as a normal part of the path of life.


Pilgrimage is thirdly a willingness to face the more shadowy parts of ourselves and our lives.  It is also an openness to bring back the treasures of our pilgrimage to our ordinary lives.  This means generously engaging deeply with our hearts in a loving way.  With wind on our faces, and rain on our backs, we can relax out of daily routines which keep us tight and taut.  We let the shoulders drop and can allow the inner movements of our heart whisper on their own terms.  As we walk there is a rhythm to our outer being that reverberates with all that happens within.  Our inner music slows down so that the heart may speak.  As the pilgrimage draws to an end, we might wonder at what lies ahead.

Near the end of his seven-year pilgrimage, Brendan and his companions finally reach the Land of Promise of the Saints and are greeted by an attractive stranger who speaks to them as friends.  He says,

“This is the land you have sought after for so long a time; but you could not find it until now, because Christ our Lord wished first to display to you His divers mysteries in this immense ocean. Return now to the land of your birth, bearing with you as much of those fruits and of those precious stones, as your boat can carry; for the days of your earthly pilgrimage must draw to a close, when you may rest in peace among your saintly brothers.”[6]

As any pilgrimage comes to an end, we are naturally drawn to reflect on all that has happened on the journey and what the path ahead might look like.  To follow Jesus along the path of life means that we discover what our personal calling is and then try to faithfully follow it.  The reassuring words of Jesus resonate with those seeking the freedom of being themselves,

Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7: 7-8 NRSV)


It has often struck me that pilgrimage is both a practice and an attitude.  Being a practice is what most of us think of first.  The physical exercise of walking a journey underpinned with the desire to nourish our souls and deepen our experience of faith or some kind of spirituality.  However, pilgrimage is most importantly an attitude which we take with us after we reach the end of the journey.  In a sense, pilgrimage means that we never really reach our destination, at least not until we take our last breath.  Coming to the end of every pilgrimage, the invitation is to continue to open our hearts, and to allow ourselves to fall more deeply in love with God, and to not obstruct God being radically present in every part of our lives.



David White is a trained spiritual director and horticulturist and currently is the Church of Ireland Rector of Carlow Union of Parishes. He is also a founding member of the Community of Brendan the Navigator (Cumann Breandán Naofa), an evolving dispersed community that seeks to promote the practices of pilgrimage, prayer, contemplation and retreat. (See


[1] George Otto Simms, Brendan the Navigator: Exploring the Ancient World (Dublin: The O’Brien Press, 2006) p. 81

[2] Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey beyond Yourself (California: New Harbringer/Noetic Books, 2007) p. 90

[3] Simms, op. cit., p. 8

[4] Gearóid Ó Donnchadha, St Brendan of Kerry, the Navigator: His Life and Voyages (Dublin: Open Air/Four Courts Press, 2004) p. 67

[5] Ó Donnchadha , op. cit., p. 77

[6] Ó Donnchadha , op. cit., p. 90

A Cascade of Marvels

Published: Spirituality Volume 28, Number 160 (January – February 2022) pp. 47-50

David White

The liturgical highlight for many Church of Ireland parishes in the approach to Christmas is the ‘Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols’.  While now being part of the familiar fabric of our tradition, it is far from being an ancient liturgy.  Introduced in 1918 at Cambridge’s King’s College Chapel, it was designed ‘to bring a more imaginative approach to worship’, was first broadcast in 1928 and now is broadcast to millions of people around the world, even defying the restricting effects of a global pandemic.  The then Dean, Eric Milner-White, while acknowledging the importance of the carols and other music, said that the pattern and strength of the service derives from the lessons. ‘The main theme is the development of the loving purposes of God …’ seen ‘through the windows and the words of the Bible’.

The high point of the service is when the Prologue to John’s Gospel is read in the candlelit church.  ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being…’ (Jn. 1: 1-3)

The reading is immediately followed by the extinguishing of the congregation’s hand-held candles and the raising of the lights.  The Word breaks through the darkness and enlightens the lived reality of all people.  The succeeding carol, ‘O come, all ye faithful’, stresses for a people seeking God, the importance of our identity as a people yearning to be, ‘joyful and triumphant.’

As we come to terms with recovering from the impact of COVID 19, and as we approach Christmas, I would like to suggest that as we ‘come and behold’ the mystery of the Word, that we are also alerted to God’s approach to ‘time’ and the need to relinquish our own grip on ‘imagination.’  In other words, I wonder would it be helpful – as we emerge and reorient – to think a little about companioning time and unbridling imagination as spiritual practices?

Companioning Time

The Prologue to John’s Gospel begins with an almost disorienting energy, as the ‘windows and words’ transform the norms of understanding the material world.  (Jn. 1:1-2)  Time is turned on its head, as one is drawn from the present, into an eternal reality which is beyond temporal and spatial norms as we understand them.  Through this mesmeric hymn, we encounter the enormity of ‘the vast timescale of God’s action from the eons before creation down to the coming of Jesus in human flesh.’[1]

The Word is introduced as a radical force in the world and has about it a sense of the transformative.  It is also paradoxically in another sense new, yet is has been for all time.  The Word is deliberately portrayed above all else, as alive, vibrant and eternal, through the use of the cadence of an early Church hymn rather than that of a narrative.  The danger is that we would get lost in its poetry, become daunted by the enormity of time itself, or discouraged by the vastness of its scale.  The temptation might be to fear it and see time as something to be avoided or even tamed.  The invitation may be to companion it, allowing time to be a natural and comfortable partner on your journey.

Our world has a myopic, linear and impatient approach to time, treating it as the earth’s scarcest resource.  This affects how we approach healing and growth and can misunderstand them as moments rather than processes.  Spiritual direction, and other healing spaces, allow room for God to work in God’s own time and promotes a more holistic approach to the human spirit and his/her relationship with God.

When we make time for God, we companion time, and allow space for God to be God and avoid trying to shackle God with our own limited generosity.   When we choose not to fight time or attempt to control it, we allow a richness of possibility to develop that can overflow into every part of life.  However, in companioning time, the transformative work of God’s loving purposes can sometimes turn our world upside down as unhelpful patterns and staid perceptions are challenged and transformed.  Yet in all this we know that disorientation gives way to being gifted the ‘power to become children of God’ (Jn. 1:12) and this in turn has the potential to unbridle our imagination.

Questions for exploration


  • Can I think of a time when I felt disorientated? Remember the details.  When was it?  Who else was involved?  What was I feeling?  What helped in the situation?  And what didn’t?
  • Did the notion of ‘time’ have any part to play? Was I worried about life slipping by?  Were there deadlines (real or imagined) that made me struggle with the enormity of my situation?
  • When do I resist the nature of time?
  • How easy is it to hear that God as a ‘radical force’ was at work?
  • When I look back can I see areas of my life in need of transformation and growth?
  • When I think of beginning new things, what feelings come to the fore?
  • How free am I to consider myself a ‘child of God’?
  • What would ‘companioning time’ look like in my life? And where would I start?


Unbridling Imagination

When we are free to consider how God sees the world, we begin to engage every part of ourselves in God’s loving purposes.  The imagination is all too often neglected when we seek God’s will.  Equally when we engage with texts like John’s gospel, we need to be imaginative.  Wolfgang Iser suggests that ‘imagination’ is the key to what he calls ‘the reading process’.  The imagination is the place within us all, he posits, where connections are made, synthesis happens and with the memory, provokes reaction.  He writes that ‘the reader will strive, even unconsciously, to fit everything together in a consistent pattern.’[2]

I wonder if the apostles who later confessed that Jesus was the Word and acclaimed him as ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Col. 1:15), and as the ‘radiance of the glory of God and the very stamp of his nature’ (Heb. 1:13), were using their imagination to make sense of the mysterious reality which they had encountered.[3]  They resisted fitting everything together into a cerebral, rational theology devoid of imagination and grace. In other words, they unbridled imagination from the effects of lack of vision and creativity.  The danger is always that we would not value our imagination as a creative space for God’s desire to manifest itself.  The temptation might be to become distracted by more worthy approaches which are devoid of vibrancy and emotion.  The invitation may be to unbridle imagination from all self-limiting thoughts and behaviours.  Allowing imagination to lead us in our journey, rather than the other way around.

Imagine in our own time, if we took this unrestrained imaginative approach to our spiritual lives.  I wonder what that would be like.  Iser encourages ‘an act of re-creation’ in order to mine the mysteries of the Prologue.  But what would it be like to take his words as a personal invitation for our own lives:

We look forward, we look back, we decide, we change our decisions, we form expectations, we are shocked by their non fulfilment, we question, we muse, we accept, we reject; this is the dynamic of recreation.[4]

This imaginative approach would embrace recreation and lead to a transforming of our experience of time and much more.  Our sense of God, sense of self and sense of our place in God’s world would inevitably deepen in freedom.  We would also be resisting the temptation to stifle the messiness and to tidy the loose edges.  The use of the imagination would allow space for the light to shine in the darkness so that truly this light would be for all people. (Jn. 1:4-5)   We then would be able to fully live out the loving purposes of God’s desire through each of our lives.  And all this would happen in God’s own time.

Questions for exploration


  • What’s it like to think of life as free and spontaneous?
  • When I seek God’s will how do I usually go about it?
  • How much space do I have in my life to make connections and explore where these might lead?
  • Do I typically react or respond to events in my life?
  • What’s it like for me when life seems to have no pattern?
  • Do I allow God’s unearned grace to play a part in my choices?
  • What is God’s desire for my life right now?
  • What would help me deepen my experience of God? Is there anything that is stifling this at the moment?
  • When I imagine what I would like my life to look like in a year’s time, what would be different?
  • What would ‘unbridling imagination’ look like in my life? And where would I start?


And so…

Reflecting as an adult on memories of childhood, Horatio Clarke blends a sense of time and imagination as he tells of his experience of Christmas,

‘Christmas! Was there ever such a magical word to a child?  A word with the world in it, a word containing a silver moon and the crackle of burning twigs, flying things and Kings led by stars, berries and golden pheasant feathers.  A word with the darkness of fir forests in it…But only once in four seasons did the adult world stoop to enter the one we lived in, and what a cascade of marvels there was then.’[5]

As we emerge and reorient from the testing time of so many lockdowns, and after the accompanying questioning of so much that we took as certain, we are called to choose how our own personal spirituality will be framed.  ‘A cascade of marvels’ sounds like the kind of spirituality I would want to texture how I live.  Shrugging off how we used to be, would allow us to have the freshness of vision that we so often associate with children.  And by companioning time and unbridling imagination, we may well be taking tentative steps towards cooperating with the loving purposes of God.



David White is a trained spiritual director and horticulturist and currently is the Church of Ireland Rector of Carlow Union of Parishes. He is also a founding member of the Community of Brendan the Navigator (Cumann Breandán Naofa), an evolving dispersed community that seeks to promote the practices of pilgrimage, prayer, contemplation and retreat. (See

[1] Sylvester O’ Flynn, Come and See: Lectio Divina with John’s Gospel (Dublin: Columba Press, 1999) p. 11

[2] Mark G. W. Stibbe, John’s Gospel (London & New York: Routledge, 1994) p. 8

[3] cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 241

[4] Wolfgang Iser cited in Stibbe, op. cit., p. 8

[5] Horatio Clare, The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal (London: Elliott & Thompson, 2018) pp. 53-54


Published: Search: A Church of Ireland Journal Volume 45.2, Summer 2022 p. 145

David White


God is remembered as the creator of all things when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist.  Bread and wine, the fruit of the earth, are taken and offered, in an act of praise, thanksgiving and memorial.  The elements represent all that God has made.  Wheat and grapes, gifts from God’s goodness and love, are made into bread and wine through human effort, and are given back to God, so that we can in turn be strengthened in our endeavours, to bring about the kind of world which God has in mind.

Some speak of a ‘double epiclesis’, as the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ, the gathered community is changed into Christ’s real presence in the world.  Consuming the elements, we embody the potentiality for real change, so that the earth can be liberated from all forms of injustice.  This seems to resonate with George Herbert’s poem ‘Holy Communion’, when he writes of the role of God’s grace at the sacrament, in ‘Opening the soul’s most subtle rooms.’

In an altogether different context, Paulo Freire developed the term ‘conscientisation’ to encourage ‘critical consciousness’ and ‘critical conscience’ which he explained is ‘learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions, and to take actions against the oppressive elements of reality.’  His hope was that a deepening awareness of injustice – and its causes – would bring about action and in turn the transformation of the earth.  Climate injustice is the defining tragedy of the current age.  As we take bread and wine in our hands, how aware are we of the threats to the earth we inhabit and our own complicity in its destruction?  We are sent out at the end of the liturgy with the words ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.’(BCP, p. 221)  But what does it mean to be Christ’s real presence on the earth?

Floating in the Sea of God

David White

‘The love of God is a magnet drawing us ever beyond our present situation. God is always just out of reach, far enough away so we can never settle down in comfortable complacency, and yet never so far that we can give up the quest as hopeless – once we can abandon our own expectations and let him truly be the Lord of the dance…’

Thomas Green in his book When the Well runs Dry challenges us to rethink our approach to faith, and in turn, to life. In order to grow and to flourish, we need to let go of our expectations and in a very real sense allow God to be in charge. This seems to go against the grain, since as adults we have been trained to be independent and to plot our own course. Yet if we claim to be people of faith, how do we draw on God’s inspiration and guidance?
The current pandemic starkly reminds us that our lives are fragile and everything we think of as important can be threatened almost overnight. These strange days have brought me back to ask really essential questions including, ‘What does it mean to be Church?’ and ‘What would it feel like to hand the reins over to God?’
When we encounter a situation over which we have no control, it is ironic that our first reaction is often to try to take control over it. We try to drown it in what we think is common sense and develop strategies to make the frayed edges straighter. Yet in all this bluster, we may make a bad situation worse and even obscure the most useful ways to proceed.
During this strange time, I have tried to sit and wonder where God is in all of this. I was really stopped in my tracks, by Green’s challenge in his book to be ‘floaters’ and not ‘swimmers’. He suggests that the Lord’s work is all directed to teaching us to float in the sea which is himself and it is really the ‘floaters’ and not the ‘swimmers’ who get to places and accomplish great things for the Kingdom of God. The question is then, ‘How can I float in the Sea of God?’
Again, this goes against the grain. Surely life must be lived purposefully and with vigour. I suppose we have to ask the question, ‘What does it mean to be a ‘floater’?’ Green explains that ‘floaters’ are not ‘drifters’. While they may appear very much the same from outward appearances, there are some significant differences. Drifting in the water will lead to one’s legs settling to the bottom and to balance being lost. The drifters are not responsive to the current and the waves; they have a will of their own – the will to be lazy – and are soon upended. Floaters, however, are intensely active but what is absent from their lives is blinding tension.
Then there are the ‘swimmers’. These strive to do their best but experience the tension between their own efforts and the contrary pull of the water. The swimmers have two wills pulling them – their own and God’s – and this is what makes swimming exhausting.
The invitation is to ‘float’ and to allow the will of the Lord to become our own will. This will mean not always being intensely active. We need to embrace the ‘God of Surprises’ and all that this relationship will bring us, which will allow the magnet of God’s love to draw us into freedom, leading to fruitful decision-making and better choices, and all this in God’s own time.
This current pandemic can be a time of opportunity if we allow the searching questions emerge – the ones that busyness and fear often prevent us from asking. It will mean sitting restlessly with unease and uncertainty. And when we ask these questions, what would it be like to wait for an answer to come from God, rather than frantically searching out the answers ourselves?
St. John of the Cross’ advice to those trying to make sense of life is ‘…to have attachment to nothing and desire for nothing, and to have a true and complete desire for him who is your proper guide, for to do otherwise would be not to desire a guide.’
The challenge for all of us now, is to float in the Sea of God and see where God’s current brings us. We must abandon our own expectations and let God truly be the Lord of the dance. In all that is happening, may we be courageous and free to allow God be God.