I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Isaura Barrera's reflection on praying the hours to connect with Infinite Light and Love.
When I decided to explore submitting a guest blog, I looked up the word “monk” on Wikipedia and found the following quote from St. John Klimakos: “Angels are a light for monks, monks are a light for laymen.” These words echoed my belief that being a monk in the world is about light—finding it, reclaiming it, sustaining it, sharing it—not in contradiction to darkness but as a reality intimately intertwined with it.
I believe everyone receives Infinite Light and Love at conception, incarnate in the human light and love we are given to cultivate, safeguard, enjoy, and share. As a child, I had a strong sense of that light. That sense slowly lessened as I encountered “adult” reality I could not reconcile with it. About 10 years ago, haunted by memories of my childhood’s sure sense of Light and Love and inspired by a deep friendship that revived that sense, I started to journal my journey to reawaken it fully once again. It was a private search and a private journal, shared with only one or two close friends. Gradually, though, I’ve came to the realization that I need to share my journey more openly. The first step in that direction was the publication of my journal as an eBook. This blog submission is my second step. I’ve taken both steps with trepidation. Being a monk in the world when one is basically an introvert and private person is not easy. Even so, I keep feeling called to share my inner “monk self” more publically. My hope is that such sharing will help others and myself to trust the presence of Infinite Light and Love more consistently; that it will help me as well as others be more faithful through the ups and downs of our sensing of it.
For many years, I believed it was Infinite Light and Love itself rather than my sense of it that waxed and waned. Now I am learning differently. Inspired by Steinal-Rast and Lebell’s The Music of Silence and Wiederkehr’s Seven Sacred Pauses, I’ve started a simple practice.
Using the framework of the liturgical hours as a metaphor for the changing facets of my sense of Infinite Light and Love, I’ve developed a series of reflections in which each “hour” marks the degree to which I am sensing of Infinite Light and Love at a given time. It is a practice that helps me both attend to and cultivate the living out of Infinite Light and Love in my daily life. At times, it reminds me that when my sense of Infinite Light and Love is strong I should not cling to it, even as one cannot cling to the sun’s bright light at noon. At other times, it reminds me that I need not grieve its passing, for it will once again be strong and even darkness offers unexpected gifts.
Typically, after discerning which “hour” most closely corresponds to my sense of Infinite Light and Love at a given time, I reflect on that time—what it looks like, what feelings it evokes, its colors and sounds—and on discerning its invitation. If, for example, I do not fully sense Infinite Light and Love (a good time to turn to the reflections) yet I can intuit its presence “just around the corner,” I imagine a pre-dawn scene. If, on the other hand, my sense of Infinite Light and Love seems to be fading rather than emerging, I imagine a mid-afternoon scene.
Still-hidden Light (Pre-dawn)
Am I filled with a growing sense of Infinite Light and Love gently nudging my darkness aside, giving off glimmers that herald its coming fullness like early birdsong heralds a coming dawn? INVITATION: Go forth to the very edges of your longing to receive what waits, wrapped and hidden from sight.
Light on the Horizon (Dawn)
Is my sense of Infinite Light and Love breaking over the horizon of my longing, sending streams of forgotten colors to announce its reawakening? INVITATION: Attend to what is being revealed and released from shadow.
Full Light (Mid-morning)
Is my sense of Infinite Light and Love clear, clothing my world with bright colors and ringing sounds? INVITATION: Embrace and give thanks for miracles revealed, reclaimed, and re-membered.
Luminous Light (Noon)
Am I filled with a sense of the transcending presence and strength of Infinite Light and Love? (May be a time of wonder or, at times, one that overwhelms, challenging my sense of security and control.) INVITATION: Celebrate eternity palpable in finite time and space.
Waning Light and Growing Shadows (Mid-afternoon)
Is my sense of the strength and presence of Infinite Light and Love fading, invaded by growing shadows of shifting feelings, memories, perceptions, and experience? INVITATION: Listen intently to the continuation of Light’s inner music, which never stops even as it becomes less audible, and its dance, which never ends even as it becomes less visible.
Lamp-lighting Time (Evening)
Is my sense of the absence of Infinite Light and Love increasing, erasing the boundaries between light and dark while, paradoxically, simultaneously offering bright splashes of color that pierce the growing darkness? INVITATION: Fill your spirit with splashes of color, distilled like honey from the pollen of all that’s blossomed in the day.
Is my sense of Infinite Light and Love enveloped in darkness, challenged by the mystery of absence? INVITATION: Return the gift of presence to Presence, guided by “no other light than that which burns in your heart” (St. John of the Cross).
Vigil- Keeping Time (Midnight)
Has my sense of the absence of Infinite Light and Love deepened to where even heart’s light is having difficulty detecting piercing the darkness? INVITATION: Seek intimacy even in absence; tune in to the beloved melody of Infinite Light and Love, waiting like unsung notes to be given voice once again."
A lifelong spiritual explorer, Isaura Barrera lives in San Antonio, Texas. She has lived in Buffalo, NY, where she obtained her Ph.D. in Educational Research and Evaluation as well as in Albuquerque, NM where she spent 20 years as faculty in the Special Education department at the University of New Mexico. She recently retired as professor emerita from that university and is now following her bliss and pursuing a Master’s degree in Spirituality from the Oblate School of Theology. She has co-published three books focused on Skilled Dialogue, an approach she developed for crafting respectful, reciprocal and responsive interactions across diverse perspectives and values. Though these book indirectly reflected her spirituality it is only this year that she has published her first book with an explicitly spiritual focus, Beloved’s Gift: Reflections on Following Soul’s Song into Love, Hope and Faith.