Beginner's Mind... of Christ

Monday, April 13, 2015

Why so many words?

One day, after I had celebrated the Eucharist, a woman whom I had not seen before approached.  She told me that she had been moved to come to church during a meditation.  She had never spent any time in church before, and had been a practicing Buddhist up to that point, but that during a recent meditation a chalice had appeared in her mind, quite vividly.  She was gripped by a strong sense that she needed to start taking communion; and by an intuitive, very strong attraction, quite out of the blue and much to her surprise, to Jesus.  So she went online, started researching churches that celebrated the Eucharist, and ended up at mine.  

She said the Eucharist had been very meaningful to her - but she had one question: Why so many words?

Why, indeed?

I don't remember what I answered, but she became a very active member of the congregation and a faithful leader of our meditation small groups.  Her question, like the best of questions, stayed with me long after the answer faded from memory.

Why so many words?  Garrison Keillor, in yesterday's Writer's Almanac, talked about Mark Strand, the great poet who once served as Poet Laureat of the United States:

"Toward the end of his life, at the age of 77, he decided to quit writing poetry.... He fell in love with a Spanish woman, moved to Madrid, and began making art again. He said: 'I started collaging as an escape from making meaning. I got tired of writing poems, of trying to make sense - verbal sense. It is a relief to make a different kind of sense - visual sense. One must think, of course, but it is an entirely different kind of thinking, one in which language does not intrude.'"

As my meditation practice deepens, I grow less and less interested in the cascade of words flowing from the priest's mouth.  The living Christ, the undifferentiated Self of pure Awareness, whatever word we want to give It, is present and calls to me.  Like the Real Presence that we project onto the Eucharistic elements, it is simply and powerfully there, exercising its gravitational pull.  What else needs to be said?  

Here's a gorgeous poem by Anne Sexton that says it all - again, cribbed from Garrison's Writer's Almanac:

"From the Garden"

Come, my beloved,
consider the lilies.
We are of little faith.
We talk too much.
Put your mouthful of words away
and come with me to watch
the lilies open in such a field,
growing there like yachts,
slowly steering their petals
without nurses or clocks.
Let us consider the view:
a house where white clouds
decorate the muddy halls.
Oh, put away your good words
and your bad words. Spit out
your words like stones!
Come here! Come here!
Come eat my pleasant fruits.

"From the Garden" by Anne Sexton from The Complete Poems. © Houghton Mifflin, 1999. (buy now)

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