Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
Some of you who have been following my work for many years know that honoring my ancestors and engaging in healing has been a central part of my spiritual practice. I recently completed the manuscript for a book that will be published Fall 2023 by Ave Maria Press tentatively titled The Love of Thousands: Honoring Angels, Saints, and Ancestors. I offered some of this material for our Lent retreat online this past spring and have since doubled the materials written.
Most religious traditions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and most indigenous traditions all have some kind of teaching and practice of conscious relationship with ancestors.
When engaging with the ancestors I believe along with the teaching of the Christian tradition that:
- There is some kind of consciousness or awareness that continues beyond death in this world.
- We can be in relationship with the ancestors.
- Not all of the dead are fully well (some are wise and well, some ancestors will die in a state of deep unresolved trauma and wounding that is then passed down the line).
- The dead can change and be impacted by our actions and the reverse is true.
St. Paul writes in his letter to the Hebrews about the great cloud of witnesses. They are the ones who inspire us to endure through life’s challenges and find joy, cultivate love, and discover purpose to our days.
There are two main parts to this work. One is to connect with those ancestors who are wise and well and seek their support for our own lives as well as for healing the ancestors who are not fully well. This is the second part of the work, working in various ways to bring healing to the family line.
In my own practice I draw upon the work of different streams of teaching including Jungian thought, family systems theory, epigenetics, Christian and Jewish traditions, and teachings from modern thinkers like Dr. Daniel Foor who has created a whole system of ancestral lineage healing that is not particular to one religious tradition.
Sandra Easter, a Jungian analyst and author of Jung and the Ancestors: Beyond Biography, Mending the Ancestral Web describes the process this way:
Coming into a more conscious relationship with the ancestors is a home coming, a return to origins, to a way of knowing, seeing, and being in relationship with the world that has been and is part of our collective inheritance.
Easter says that this is what Jung would have described as “archaic” knowing, drawing on our ancient roots from those for whom connecting to the ancestors would have been a natural and expected part of daily living bringing vibrancy and sense of purpose.
In the Lift Every Voice book for October, This Here Flesh, Cole Arthur Riley writes: “I believe in a spiritual realm that is so enmeshed with the physical that it is imperceptible. I believe in the mysterious nearness of my ancestors, but I believe they are located at the site of my own blood and bone.” The ancestors are already with us. Calling upon them simply opens our awareness to their presence. Prayer and ritual mean developing a relationship with them and listening for their wisdom in our lives.
There are many ways to engage with the wisdom of the ancestors and receive the blessings they have to offer to us. Writing is one portal into greater intimacy and healing for ourselves and those who have walked before us.
Join me for a 4-week series on Writing with the Ancestors (being hosted by the Rowe Center) in this month leading up to the Celtic feast of Samhain and All Saints/All Souls. We will draw on poetry, art, and music to deepen our awareness of kinship with those who reach to us from across the veil. (If you took the mini-retreat I led last year with this title, this is all new content).
New dancing monk icon: Archangels (Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel)
God will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. -Gospel of Matthew 13:41
Michael the warrior, Gabriel the messenger, Raphael the healer, and Uriel the wisdom-bearer are four archangels mentioned in the sacred text of the Abrahamic traditions. Archangels are one of several types or levels of angels, which are most simply described as divine messengers. A common role for these heavenly beings is to act as a go between for God and humans, delivering messages and blessings. Often times they appear to humans in disguise, only revealed once the message has been received.
In addition to the series on the ancestors starting tomorrow, Simon and I are also returning with our monthly contemplative prayer services. The theme for this month is on angels and archangels with the Feast of the Archangels on September 29th and the Feast of the Guardian Angels today (October 2nd). Whether you believe wholeheartedly in the presence of angels, are sceptical but curious, or are wondering how you might cultivate a relationship with these beings of light, please join us for a time of community prayer.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Dancing Monk Icon by Marcy Hall (Print available for purchase at this Etsy link)