Spiritual Practice
June 28, 2018, 10:36 AM

This issue of the Epistle covers three weeks, as I will be away to attend General Convention until July 15.  That week, Karen Ricketts will be on vacation, plus we will have our annual Ulster Choral Evensong, so life is likely to be a bit chaotic when I get back.  Maybe chaos is good, yes?

So, what shall we talk about this week?

I’ve been poking around in a book on spiritual practice (Strength for the Journey, by Reneé Miller).  In the introductory section she writes about what spirituality is and is not.  So, she says, spirituality is not practice; that is, it is not what we do (although we may do any number of practices such as prayer or meditation, worship or study, ministry or movement).  She also says spirituality should not be confused with the fruits, such as peace, and inner calmness, an alertness, or a sense of connection with the universe.

Funny, I thought that was what spirituality is!

No, she says, spirituality is about relationship.   The practices and the fruits are the method and the byproduct, but the core of spirituality is to be in relationship with God.

If we look at the three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), we will see Jesus telling the disciples, “Come, follow me.  Come and see.”  Miller says, “He didn’t demand moral perfection or theological certainty.  He wanted people to be in relationship with him.  In relationship, they would hear him, watch him in action, be questioned by him, and come to know his love for them.”

Miller writes that we might “be in relationship … mystically, intellecturally, sacramentally, or companionably.”  We shouldn't expect that relationship to be static; we should expect change and growth.

When I was in seminary, we were taught that every time we worship, every time we do liturgy, even if all the words are the same, it will always be different.  That’s because we are not the same today as we were yesterday, and today we may hear something in the liturgy we have never heard in quite the same way before.

We all know that friendships we had as children may have been lost – people grow up, they change, they move, they switch jobs, they develop new interests, they marry and have kids or they become ill and struggle to survive.  But we also gain new friendships and relationships – with neighbors, co-workers, lovers, spouses, and children.  All these relationships undergo change, even massive changes.

Thus we can conclude that, despite appearances, even despite times of dullness and boredom, today is never quite the same as yesterday.  And the same is true of our relationship with God.

It is not a substitute.  Doing practice doesn’t automatically make us better Christians, any more than feeling that inner calm and sense of connection will. 

Spiritual practices, and even the fruits of those practices, help us to maintain our awareness of our always-evolving relationship with the Divine.

Living out that relationship is how we participate in the incarnation.

Mother Teresa once wrote:
  “I always begin my prayer in silence, for it is in the silence of the heart that God speaks. God is the friend of silence – we need to listen to God because it’s not what we say but what he says to us and through us that matters. Prayer feeds the soul – as blood is to the body, prayer is to the soul – and it brings you closer to God. It also gives you a clean and pure heart. A clean heart can see God, can speak to God, and can see the love of God in others.”

If you didn’t begin your day with prayer today, pray now.  Sit in silence for the space of a few minutes, breathe with attention, listen for the small sounds of life around you, give thanks for your presence on this good earth, and for the presence of those whom you love.  Then just let stillness be.   Just for this space of time.  Just for right now.


Blessings to all!                            Evelyn+