Have you ever felt angel wings?
Last week I made my full monastic profession with the Saint Brigid of Kildare Monastery, a dispersed ecumenical monastic community in the Methodist and Benedictine traditions. We gather three times a day for prayer by phone, and live our contemplative lives in the world following the Rule of Saint Benedict.
There’s much more to say about Saint Brigid’s Monastery, but I want to speak about angel wings!!
One part of our profession ceremony was the ritual of being covered in a pall while lying prostrate on the floor, signifying new birth as you are uncovered and rise up. I was a little worried about this as I can get claustrophobic, and I was one of the last to be uncovered, so would be down for a while. As I lay there, listening to the prayers spoken over us, I felt the weight of the pall, the chill of the stone floor, the oxygen levels dropping, and felt some fear arise. But then I began to feel the weight as hands of blessings holding me, filling me with light and love. And my breathing slowed as these blessings caressed me.
When it was time to rise, the pall was lifted off. The air rushed in, but then I felt the wings of angels fluttering around me, as though to give me one last blessing, touching me gently and reminding me of their presence, before they flew outward to those gathered, the blessings received returning to the world, the light pouring back out into the sanctuary, the love swirling and gathering momentum before flowing wide and far.
The beauty of this moment took my breath away in a whole new fashion! No longer feeling oppressed or stuck, but reminded of the healing and work it has taken to allow this love to soak into my being, and the promise I have made to continue to turn this healing and love back out into the world. For so often I would push the love away, not trusting it, or greedily cling to it for fear of it disappearing. So now, to allow it to saturate me and then have it turn around was, indeed, a thing of beauty.
It reminded me of this poem by the Sufi poet, Hafiz:
You have not danced so badly, my dear,
Trying to hold hands with the Beautiful One.
You have waltzed with great style,
My sweet, crushed angel,
To have ever neared God’s Heart at all.
For God will not be able to resist your longing
You have not danced so badly, my dear,
Trying to kiss the Beautiful One.
You have actually waltzed with tremendous style,
O my sweet,
Oh my sweet, crushed angel.
My prayer for us all is to remember that we have waltzed with great style, no matter how crushed we have been, and in this we have neared God’s heart! Let us share this with our broken world, bring more and more people to the Divine dance!
Apparently, after an unusual spring and winter we are having an unusual start to summer! More rain than normal, cooler temperatures, and the growing season for vegetables in the gardens moving slowly. I wonder if summer will be over before I get any tomatoes! I think that my not knowing what is ‘normal’ and what is ‘unusual’ in Minnesota helps this time, as I don’t know what to expect, so I just take it all in my stride!
I wish it were this easy in life!! So often we ‘know’ how things should go, and we try to make them happen in exactly this way. Control and expectation take over and we find ourselves disappointed by everything, rather than being able to live in gratitude for the gifts that are present right before us. Living into the unknown can be a challenge, and an uninvited one. Yet, if we can do this, our lives can be freed from what ‘should be’ and we can live with what is, allowing us to find gratitude in the small gifts each day brings.
One of my favorite quotes is from Rilke:
“I want to beg you, as much as I can to be patient toward all that is unsolved in
your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like
books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers,
which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it,
live along some distant day into the answer.”
Several of us in my monastic community have been living into the questions this year, and maybe into an unusual way of life. The question of what would it mean for us to make our solemn profession into the community, to dedicate ourselves to God and St. Brigid of Kildare Monastery for the rest of our lives. The discussions have lead, perhaps, to more questions than answers, and six of us feel called to take this step. Ask any of us what this calling is, and I think we would all struggle to find words for the call, and each answer would be different. But we are certain that this is a call on our lives! And I think it’s a beautiful, unusual, counter-cultural, question-filled step closer to God. While none of us know how it will change our lives and our world, we are all willing to live out the questions, saying yes to God, hearing God’s yes to us, and being filled with gratitude for what is each day.
One part of the profession ceremony that is particularly filling me with gratitude is a plea we make to God with the words, “Receive me, O God, as You have promised and I shall live. Do not disappoint me in my hope.” Sitting with this phrase has brought many tears of joy, and much awe, along with a deep, intuitive understanding of the many ways God has already received me, and will continue to receive me for eternity. It feels like a piece of this living into the questions, living into the yes, living into the promise and the call is not common for this time in our world. And it fills me with gratitude.
So while all this leaves me wondering if it is really so unusual, so far from normal, questioning what even is normal (is it normal for people to live so far removed from God that they are unmoved by the plight of children locked in cages, for example), I am living into the call, loving the questions that arise, and creating a new normal in this thing we call life. For life moves me closer to Love.
Carlo Carreto says,
“Love will make demands on us. It will question us from within. It will disturb us. Sadden us. Play havoc with our feelings. Harass us. Reveal our superficialities. But at last it will bring us to the light.“
Let the questions of your life live. Let them be. Live them. Allow them to move you to Love and Light. And don’t worry about being unusual… just live with gratitude for what is, and you will be received by Love itself!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.