Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
We continue this week with an excerpt from Day 3 of our new Birthing the Holy prayer cycle exploring Mary as Star of the Sea and Vessel of Grace. Below is an excerpt of the Prayers of Concern from Morning Prayer.
O Creator of the Cosmos, thank you that you have placed a Star in the sky who remains a constant presence, ready to guide us no matter how perilous our journey, if only we look up. Forgive us when we focus on the waves and the force of the wind. Help us know that Stella Maris is there to help us navigate the storms that life brings.
We are thrilled to be hosting Mark Burrows for a retreat on the poet Rainer Maria Rilke June 4th. Mark is a dear friend and soulful scholar of mysticism and poetry. He has graciously shared these reflections with us:
“The path by which we come to discern the true value of a work of art passes through solitude. To devote oneself to a single book, painting, or song for two or three days, learning its habits and becoming familiar with its idiosyncrasies; confiding in it, earning its trust, and experiencing something with it: a grief, a dream, a yearning.” [an excerpt from one of Rilke’s journals]
How busy we often find ourselves, hurrying from this task to that appointment, too seldom taking stock of where we are—and who we are in the depths of our being. How difficult it is to interrupt this rush, to stand apart from the relentless tides that course through our lives. To pause and simply be. To linger and simply breathe. To open ourselves to this moment. To see our lives as part of the larger whole.
What is the solitude Rilke is here describing? Do you long to know it in your life? Is your heart ready for it?
Discovering solitude has nothing to do with your sense of urgency, though it is perhaps the most urgent thing you could attend to. It is not an experience you can manage. It is not a task to accomplish. It is not some “thing” among others in your life. It is your life. In the depth of your heart, with all its fullness. And it is always present in you. The question is, are you present to yourself? Are you open to the spaciousness of your own life? Are you ready to find that gift within yourself? And in others?
How could you consider giving yourself to this solitude? Rilke is writing here about how you might discover a piece of art. But this is metaphor. His intent reaches to something larger and deeper than a painting you might find yourself looking at—though it might begin with this. It is about finding yourself, in your heart’s depths. How might you do this? Practice an attentiveness to something in front of you. Open yourself to something particular and real in your life. It could be a given moment. A particular experience. A relationship.
How you find the value of what is depends upon opening yourself to the solitude that is always here, even when you don’t notice it. Even then, it is still here, within you. Opening yourself to it with devotion is what might bring you to find out who you are, with all your “habits” and “idiosyncrasies.” What will come when you open yourself to this solitude? A grief, a dream, a yearning? This is your heart-work to do, and only you can do it.
Try opening yourself to that spaciousness right now in your life. Start small. Keep at it. Devotion, after all, does not come quickly. Take a slow-walk in your neighborhood, or through a nearby park. Practice looking at what is to be seen. Trust entering the solitude that you might glimpse along the way. Patiently. Imaginatively. As your heart-work. Think of making yourself spacious enough to receive this given moment in your life, with all it promises. Call this “soul-hospitality.” Call it God. Call it home.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Image credit © Kreg Yingst
Prayers of Concern written by Polly Paton-Brown