I’m feeling a little concerned. With so much family activity going on at the moment, my prayer time is short changed and my routine fragmented: I get distracted. So today I’m appreciating those 3th century desert fathers and mothers who left the distractions of the city in search of solitude. But the religious and the curious followed them out into the Egyptian desert and so they had to learn to pray in community. That’s what happened to Jesus.
I am continually in awe when I visit the Convent of San Marco. My favorite place in all of Florence; an icon of 15th century Florentine Renaissance history, art and faith.
Sitting in the inviting cloister offers plenty of solace.
But then, there is the breath-taking approach at the head of the staircase leading to the Upper Floor. The Annunciation. An ‘aesthetic experience’, for sure.
I spent a long time in front of this fresco this morning. It’s always been a favorite because I can’t help but look at it and wonder what God is calling me to do. And then there is the humility that Mary exudes, which I can almost feel within my reach.
If this isn’t enough, walk down the corridors and peak into the dormitory cells, each with a fresco by Fra Angelico depicting a scene from the life of Christ.
If only I could live there, I would pick Cell 1--Noli me tangere, with Jesus telling Mary Magdalene, “Do not to touch me, for I am not yet ascended to the Father.” I love the colors and the composition, and I have always been mystified by Jesus’ comment, for I often feel an approach-avoidance with Jesus. But here is a direct rebuff. It is a seminal moment. Mary has to wait until Jesus ascends, and when he does, Mary becomes all of us, and Jesus becomes accessible to us all.
I’m at the Philly airport waiting for my flight to Boston. It’s been a day of sitting, which isn’t easy for me, so I’ve decided to get out my computer and see what prayer thoughts I’ve brought with me from Iona. Let’s see what appears.
I have to believe that everyone who visits Iona is a least open to experiencing God in some way. They come knowing that the island is a sacred place. They wander about with their feet a little off the ground, hoping, praying, anticipating that the ‘thin space’ will open up to them, that the veil between heaven and earth will be lifted for at least a moment. We are all there on common ground, which makes Iona a spiritually safe place. People smile (or not), say hello (or not); personal space is never invaded; self-consciousness doesn’t exist on the island.
Moving off-island and back into every day life is always a challenge, and on the plane today adjustment seems rather harsh. A few rows forward, two men and one woman talked the entire trip; their voices were loud and I got most of the bits of their conversation. I have to remember that they haven’t been to Iona, but that I have, and so I try not to judge them. I wanted them to quiet down and let me hear the hum of airplane silence. There I was, another opportunity to practice non reactive awareness.
Airports and air travel are excellent places and times for prayer. In fact, I’d venture to say that there is more prayer going on in airports and on airplanes than in churches. Everyone prays, even the people who don’t believe in God or in prayer. It just happens. That deep place that atheists and agnostics don’t acknowledge just takes over. God is deeper than the mind can know or imagine. So in spite of the intense and often stressful energy inherent in air travel, it is as safe a place as any for prayer.
If you follow my www.acottagebythesea.net blog you’ll know that I’m about to go on a pilgrimage to sacred sites in Ireland with some other women. I’ve written my top ten prayer list to take along on the journey. Oh, I’ll pray for others and for other situations, but I have chosen ten people to “pray without ceasing” for during the entire trip. It’s the way I always do it.
I don’t how consistent I’ll be about blogging but I’ll do my best.
Into the Realm of the Goddess:
A Women’s Pilgrimage
to Sacred Sites in Ireland
Counties Meath, Kildare and Limerick
April 11 - 17, 2011
LED BY JEAN BOLEN
A pilgrimage is an inner experience, an outer journey to another world. It is an Archetype symbolizing a search for spiritual centeredness and wholeness. It captures our imagination and unconsciously pulls us to separate ourselves from ordinary life and place for an encounter with the sacred. Read More