Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
We are delighted to release the audio podcasts for Day 2 of the Birthing the Holy Prayer Cycle featuring the titles of Mary as Untier of Knots, and Mustafia. Mustafia is one of Mary’s Islamic names and means “She Who Is Chosen.” Here is the opening to evening prayer.
Mary, Mustafia, chosen by God to birth the holy, help us to answer our unique calling in the world. May your love heal divisions with those we “other” and reject based on culture, skin color or belief. Guide us this evening to a path of peace, kindness, and compassion.
This Saturday we are pleased to welcome back my dear friend Rabbi Zari Weiss to lead the mini-retreat Touching and Being Touched by the Ineffable: Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism. Zari led a retreat last fall on Shabbat/Sabbath which was so enthusiastically received. Read on for Zari’s reflection:
Many years ago, when I was in rabbinical school, I had an internship doing chaplaincy at a hospital. I was young and inexperienced, and so I often entered the room with a little bit of trepidation—I wondered how I could be present and perhaps helpful to someone else as they faced illness or death.
I recall one visit in particular. I poked my head in the doorway and saw an older man sitting next to his bed, staring off into the distance. I felt some trepidation inside as I introduced myself to him and asked him if I might visit. I soon learned that he was 77 years old—exactly 50 years older than me at the time—and indeed facing the end of his life. Inside I wondered if or what I might be able to offer that could be of help or support to him. Before I knew it, an hour had gone by. Somehow, in that time, a sacred space had been created between us. As our visit came to an end, he thanked me, and said that our conversation had been very helpful to him. I remember that after I made my way to the door, I looked back at him sitting there quietly by his bed. In that moment I realized that Something had been present in the room with us. At the time, I wouldn’t have known to call it God’s Presence. It was only later than I learned that the rabbis of old taught that the Shechina,God’s Divine Presence, is present in the room of one who is ill.
Those moments—the ones when I felt the presence of Something Other—have occurred only occasionally in my life, but they stand out, clear as a bell. I do not claim that I saw God “panim el panim”—“face to face, and yet, I do believe that I somehow I got a glimpse of “God’s back,” just as Moses did when God placed him in a cleft of a rock and caused God’s glory to pass by. My experiences are no less real than those of Moses or Ezekiel, even though they are certainly less dramatic!“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning
I know that throughout history there are some who have seen the bush afire with God, and others who have felt the soft touch of God’s Presence. For some, those moments have been intense and overwhelming; for others, gentle and comforting. I so want us to be able to share these stories with one another, instead of keeping them to ourselves out of fear that others will judge us as crazy or arrogant for daring to claim that we’ve touched or been touched by God. I want us to feel emboldened to proclaim, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” just like the prophet Isaiah did, and make our stories a part of the sacred texts that we pass on to the generations after us. Our experiences of the Ineffable are such precious and important parts of who we are and what has been most meaningful to us; they have impacted our lives and our spiritual journeys in sometimes profound, and sometimes subtle ways.
I so want to build a bridge between the mysticism of our ancestors and those moments in our own lives when we touch and are touched by the Ineffable.
Earth is crammed with heaven. Come, take off your shoes. Let’s sit by the fire and share our stories.
Please join us next Saturday, May 21 when Rabbi Zari will invite us into the gifts of Jewish mysticism.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Image © Kreg Yingst
Opening Prayer written by Christine Valters Paintner, arranged by Melinda Thomas
 “The Eternal would speak to Moses face to face, as one [man] speaks to another.” Ex. 33:11.
 He said, “Oh, let me behold Your Presence!” (19) And [God] answered, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim before you the name יהוה, and the grace that I grant and the compassion that I show,” (20) continuing, “But you cannot see My face, for a human being may not see Me and live.” (21) And יהוה said, “See, there is a place near Me. Station yourself on the rock (22) and, as My Presence passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and shield you with My hand until I have passed by. (23) Then I will take My hand away and you will see My back; but My face must not be seen.” (Exodus 33:18-23).