Dear Urban Abbey Members,
I travelled this weekend to Houston for a family reunion with my cousins. As my daughter slept soundly beside me, after a frantic and hectic departure, the plane provided a rare moment for me to sit and be. Feeling restless and fidgety, I decided I would take advantage of that moment to read a magazine I had brought along. The Sun is a literary magazine that I receive as a gift from a friend--but I have two years of these wonderful writings in box at home. I had thrown one in as a last minute gesture of hope that I would actually find time to read on the plane. And here was a moment!
After reading several short and long stories and essays, I came to an excerpt of a book called "Courage to Pray" by a Russian Orthodox Priest named Anthony Bloom. I thought to myself "This should be interesting." I was stunned by its clarity. I share this with you today because I think it helped summarize for me our purpose and reason for being as an Abbey.
"We must let our heart go its own way, towards its own deepest desire, which it knows is different from all others. This desire is different from all others not necessarily because it is more strongly felt, but because it comes from farther off, from what is deepest in us. It is not simply an act of our free will, but something which is in our deepest being and which involves all that we are. It is something quite simple but inseparable fundamentally from our self- awareness and open to a limitless beyond. God reveals himself to us in this awareness that we are essentially a cry for him.
Our inner atmosphere is not made up only of what we are clearly conscious of and can be precisely expressed. It is also composed of all that is living in our inmost depths. This is what makes us realize what we fundamentally are. It is always there.
Throughout the day we are a succession of social personalities, sometimes unrecognizable to others or even to ourselves. And when the time comes to pray and we want to present ourselves to God, we often feel lost because we don not know which of these social personalities is the true human person, and have not sense of our own true identity. The several successive persons that we present to God are not ourselves. There is something of us in each of them, but the whole person is missing. And that is why a prayer which could rise powerfully from the heart of the true person cannot find its way between the successive men of straw we offer to God....
It is extremely important that we find our unity, our fundamental identity. Otherwise we cannot encounter the Lord in truth. We should be on the watch all the time to see that none of our words and actions are incompatible with the fundamental integrity we are seeking. We must try to discover the real person we are, the secret person, the core of the person to come, and thee only eternal reality which is already in us.
This discovery is difficult because we have to cast aside all the mens of straw. From time to time something authentic shows through.... Our deep reality may take over in moments when we are so carried away by joy that we forget who might be looking at us,... or when we are unselfconscious in moments of extreme pain, moments when we have a deep sense of sadness or of wonder. At these moment we see something of the true person that we are. But no sooner have we seen, than we often turn away because we do not want to confront this person face to face . We are afraid of him; he puts us off. Nevertheless this is the only real person there is in us."
I can so relate to sitting down to pray and having various "social personalities parade before God". I do believe the Abbey is called to be a crucible to provide the space for people to journey towards discovering their most authentic self that God created them to to be. And I had to smile as I realized when I had a moment to simply be, God was the one who took advantage and showed up on the plane. I have been pondering this passage since that time. How are we providing those opportunities for people to show up and experience there most authentic self? How do you experience these moments in the Abbey? Please share.