Note: This will be my last post as i take off for at least a 15-day hiatus from blogging. I just need to focus on something, dive deeper into Silence and an ancient practice called Lectio Divina plus other reading tasks. The internet abounds with introductory materials about the practice. For those who had glanced at some books about the practice but do not have access to it at the same time, Michael Casey, an Australian Trappist monk wrote an edifying and scholarly article you can download here.
I read both Catholic and non-Catholic books and other reading materials. It helps my soul. It expands my imagination and understanding over the religious landscape i engage with. Back in the US, i used to lead ecumenical worships as a layperson among Episcopalians, Disciples of Christs, Presbyterians, Baptists, Church of God, Quaker, Jewish and Catholic audience. It helped my soul. It enriched my love and understanding of the People of God. It’s one of America’s laudable subculture of personal creativity and freedom to explore with one’s faith, telling any serious faith-seeker that the language of liturgy, or one’s full participation with it, is too abundant and open as Nature to leave entirely and in a restrictive way to the few ordained. If you are closely in touched with Mother Nature and its landscape including the inner one, chances are you will find the liturgy either boring depending on certain conditions, or an event to look forward to. Rituals and liturgy, said scholar Lane Belden, are primarily not learned; they are Earth-taught. If, by being close-minded, i do not allow myself into awe by the grandeur of Mt. Makiling enough to thank God, then the problem is not the grandeur but the human ego, the closed mind. Same with the Bread and Wine, Nature’s son and daughter, Nature’s grandeur!
Right on my desk are 3 “American books”:
- The Fifties Spiritual Marketplace: American Religion in a Decade of Conflict which tells of the American religious landscape of the 50s largely occupied by “Beat” Zen, UFO, Thomas Merton, Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung and overflowing churches
- American History Before 1877
- and the famous Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Stowe
It helps my soul. It expands my imagination and understanding not only of the American religious landscape but also where i am. Consider this encounter:
Newly met friend: Hey Brother, how are you? How’s work?
Moi: I’m just happy biking my way to work everyday Brother, back and forth safely.
Friend: Alleluia! Praise the Lord! Amen! Alleluia! Looks like you got a new tire for your bike?
Moi: Yup. Just replaced it the other day.
Friend: Alleluia! Praise the Lord! Amen! Alleluia! Brother, can i ask you something?
Friend: Are you saved?
Long conversation followed.
Catholic as this country is, one only needs to tune in to GMA 7 at 6:30 AM and watch charismatic preacher Eddie Villanueva shouting with verses after verses to sense the growing diversity. We all know that Protestantism began with Martin Luther ages ago. Along with this information, Roman Catholics especially carry a lot of biases against this “other side” of Christianity – literalists, poor liturgies, less intellectual depth, too dispersed to look after the common good, etc. I grew up with some of these biases, largely due in my suspicion to the “Catholic rule” in this country. But now that i take solitude with some degree of seriousness, i have to re-assess my thinking for example over the Catholic timeless theme of community. I suspect Catholic believers in this country do not lack this sense of community. There is a profusion of this – in Simbang Gabi and Lenten observances, in fiestas and family celebrations. More so in liturgies, one could sense a repetitious uniformity bordering on conformism. Repetition itself is not the problem; it is perpetual subjection to it at the expense of self-exploration, creativity and active participation. As if by attending masses, all one has to do is delegate to the presider one’s inner, Nature-given, symbolic life made more visual by the presence of the Bread and Wine, by my own body.
I suspect it is this passive conformism that defies inner change, the basis of national transformation. An authentic liturgy is humbling (and therefore transforming) not in the Lenten self-flagellating manner but a kind of humility that brings one to awe almost similar but beyond a blossoming sunflower bringing one to some “wow” moments. I am learning that awe is experienced only alongside a growing time for solitude, in being alone with God even if it entails painfully groping in the dark with one’s wound or wounds. Solitude entails loneliness, the thing most of us would like to avoid. But it is a more meaningful loneliness sometimes. I give you an example of a life-changing solitude, one that has a more ecumenical appeal in it being perhaps the most popular religious song ever. If you are not familiar with the song Amazing Grace and its genesis, then, you will learn a lot from these couple of vids i am inserting. It was out of a life-changing solitary moment that a white slave trader named John Newton, while transporting slaves aboard a ship buffeted by a storm, came to know God whose name is Amazing Grace. I love these clips.
I cried with this preacher’s version of the song while learning a lot. You may also want to find out who is behind the title of this post, the Unknown.
One Amazing Grace. One true worship. One changed heart. Many blessed. It can begin with me, the change i so desire for this country. And it can begin in a true worship or liturgy that begins in solitude, in being honestly alone with God.