This chapter will begin with a prayer-Liturgy, entitled Desert Meditation, that I designed three years ago out of images arising spontaneously during prayer, and that spoke to me and brought me through a period of emergence from grief and reconciliation with change. In the remainder of the chapter we will look more closely, first, at the grieving process, and then at the images of the Desert Meditation from various perspectives (LeClerc-style): archetypal , personal and from the Christian tradition and organized under the headings of the Four Elements.
Readings: Luke 9:57-8: “As they were going along the road, a man said to him. ‘I’ll follow You wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him; “Foxes have ho1es, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.’”
Luke 6: 20-21: “And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: ‘blessed are you poor, for yours is the kindgom of God. Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.’”
Luke 6: 36 38: “‘Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not and ‘you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven, give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’”
(Speaker): “Hello, welcome (to all): I’d like to share with you this morning a kind of experience I’ve been waking up to in recent years. Maybe some of you have known this approach to life for years. But for me it’s still new. It has to do with openness, with giving and finding. It has to do with accepting our own poverty and letting that be transformed into a source of richness.
“Just now I’m not talking about poverty as it exists in the world as the fruit of injustice and oppression -but of our own experience of personal poverty: for example, in my own life my childlessness, the aging of my parents, my own aging, the way I see myself as lacking certain social skills, the changes in the way I understand my experience as a woman in our culture - we all have our own self-perceived poverties.
“I have a symbol of poverty here: it’s a bare branch. There are all kinds of poverty: they are united under one name because they all share something in common: viz., a lack of some kind. With the kinds of critical minds we humans have, we can always see what’s lacking: we can always see what might be, and then we’re disappointed with what is. That’s why this branch is a good symbol for poverty. It doesn’t have any leaves, yet I can easily imagine this branch joyfully bedecked with leaves. Instead, however, it’s quite bare; it’s lacking.
“The point I want to make about poverty is that it’s a rich ground for finding; it’s a rich mine of life; and out of this finding, we can give. But first we have to find. For example this branch has many subtly marked colors and details (name them); it’s got buds, and if it were put in water while still freshly cut, it might bloom. I’ll pass this branch around for you to examine its richness.
“While the branch is going around perhaps we could share with each other some experiences of richness in poverty that have enabled us to give. Or perhaps we could share whatever reflections the bare branch associates for us.
(When bare branch returns and is replaced):
“Another one of my favorite symbol s for poverty is water because it lacks nearly everything that constitutes form, yet it gives life. It is invisible, yet it is solid. But its solidity only serves to enable us to see through something clearly. Creation is like this. Prayer and meditation are like this. In silence and the stilling of the mind, we become aware of God’s presence.
“For me the prophets are good symbols for poverty too: in their way they are poor. As theologian Rosemary Haughton says, prophets are in-between people, marginal people. They lack the perspective and formation of the dominant consciousness, of the majority. They often live or spend time in the desert, as Jesus also did. In their personal poverty they are open to God, they listen to God and thus they hear God. They see clearly; they have insights; they notice things others may not, like noticing the details and beauty of the bare branch.
“And they are motivated by God: God is like a fire within them, or like a driving power, making them say or do things that at times they might rather not. For example, here are some of the words of Jeremiah the prophet:
‘O Lord thou hast deceived me;
and I was deceived; thou art stronger than I,
and thou hast prevailed.
I have become a laughing-stock all the day; everyonc mocks me.
For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, ‘violence and destruction!’
For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long.
If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak anymore his name’,
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones,
and I am weary- with holding it in, and I cannot.”
“We think of the prophets as living in the desert. I’d like to read now a guided meditation about the desert as a symbol for personal poverty, and about what we can find there that is freeing and life-giving. You can close your eyes if you like during this meditation.
(Read slowly, with pauses during the dotted spaces.)
“The desert is a simple landscape...at most a tall cactus, small low hills or a scrubby desert tree break the horizon. Most people think of the desert as being and, barren and sparse.. Yet when we look closely and attend with all our senses, we find that the desert is teemi ng with life...quietly... almost secretly...
“But there is something else about the desert...something that’s sometimes perceived as ominous, something heavy, quiet, present... it seems like a presence.. .but what is it?... is it the air-?... is it the desert heat?
“Yes, it is the air...the air so still, suddenly moves in a rush of power and impact Wind.. Sometimes gusting, at other times it gently flutters away over the desert brush...Large or small...powerful or gentle, Wind is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. . Wind is invisible; the perfect symbol for poverty because it possesses nothing; it lacks any form that we can discern... it lacks color, texture, interesting details... But it makes everything else come alive! The trees undulate and sway, the grasses bend and swirl round, leaves and bits of twigs and stones scatter and run across the earth. . . we only know the world is present by its effects.. and we know the wind is present because we can feel it
“Then there’s also a feeling of sleeping power in the desert.. And that’s the heat.. Heat gives life yet heat is also a destruct i ve force. The sun gives life. . . and it kills.. The sun is a burning passion.. .At the center of the earth too is a molten ball of fire.. a great passion burns in heaven. . - and in the earth -
‘I think that giving is motion like wind... it touches down here and over there... it doesn't tarry or stay, it deposits its gift and moves on. It can move quickly because it’s poor and unencumbered and transparent...
“Giving is also like heat; it springs from a fire of love the burning passion that is in the universe that was in Jesus and that is now in all his sisters and brothers, because - . . God is Love.
(Allow a time of Silence presumably everyone will eventually open their eyes when they are ready.)
“There’s only one thing we absolutely.- must have in the desert: and that’s water, wet, life-giving water. Let’s share the gift of water.
Instruct everyone to find a plast ic glass under their chairs. Wait until everyone has found their glass. Lift up a pitcher of water.
“Remember, in the desert we must be sparing with the water of life; a few sips must be enough.
(Pour for the first person saying: ‘I give you the gift of water - take it and drink. ‘Or personalize the gift, by inviting each person to offer the gift with a special designation, e.g. ‘living water from the well of Christ,’ ‘water of dreams’, or ‘from the fountain of the Holy Spirit’, etc. Wait until everyone has poured and drunk.
(Close by readiug together from the printed prayer, ‘The Invocation of the Holy Spirit.’ Invite all to join in.
“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in us the fire of your divine love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.”