Photo re-blogged  from Crashingly Beautiful

A few pickings today that arise from the ground of thinking about the church , the wider world in turmoil in so many ways and the need to not shy away from the pain of what is going on nor to defend the indefensible but also to try and gain some perspective.

"I have got, over the years, a sense of the immense sweep of creation, of the evolutionary process in everything, of how incomprehensible God must necessarily be to be the God of heaven and earth. You can’t fit the Almighty into your intellectual categories…. What kept me a skeptic of secularism in college was precisely my Christian faith. It always said: wait, don’t bite on this, get a wider picture, continue to read. If you want your faith, you have to work for it….
Even in the life of a Christian, faith rises and falls like the tides of an invisible sea. It’s there, even when he can’t see it or feel it, if he wants it to be there. You realize, I think, that it is more valuable, more mysterious, altogether more immense than anything you can learn or decide in college. Learn what you can, but cultivate Christian skepticism.” 
Flannery O' Connor

“You know what the fellow said: In Italy for thirty years, under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance.
In Switzerland, they had brotherly love - they had five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” 

That last quote is quite challenging and shocking in its awfulness because part of me knows well which option I probably value more and yet it revolts me that we humans have the ability and potential to create sublime beauty whilst simultaneously and wilfully stoking the fires of destruction and banal brutality. 
Our souls teeter on the brink of destruction and we have not yet found ways of resolving conflict peacefully and sustainably.

~ Lime, as portrayed by Orson Wells in The Third Man

There are many messages I can take a way from this powerful and moving video below:

Firstly it is simply a beautiful meditation on the day in - day out faith and hard labour of monastic living and the Rule of St Benedict but when combined with the song playing in the background by Emmy Lou Harris  it seems as if the lyrics are pointing to something else much deeper about the darkness and shadow of the human condition.

The text on the screen acts as an optimistic counterpoint to the song in some ways and I found myself playing it several times over to understand and reflect on its message of hope despite the underlying darkness of the theme. The quotes towards the end are full of meaning for reflection.

Reflecting on the meaning of  the first verse  :

I am forced to recognise my own culpability and responsibility for evil in the world and my sins of omission in letting evil things happen : scapegoating others is far too often an easy default place from where I can offload indiscriminately all my own failings onto any number of others,  but the song reminds me that many of the "shadows filling up this land are the ones I built with my own hand." 

but the song also tells me that we cannot change the past and it is about the role of trusting in taking one step at a time and to tirelessly try and persist , to foster faith  in the ultimate goodness of life in the midst of the immense suffering and pain going on in the church and the whole wide world.

This may sometimes have to be a solitary undertaking but it gives me comfort that there are many silent witnesses out there in community pursuing the same goal.

The last verse of the song ends with a sense of the wide sweep in vision we need to keep clinging to and the vital importance of expanding our hearts, not contracting them as it is so easy to do. 

The belief that Christ will bring us home, eventually is mirrored in the text on screen too.

Lyrics to Prayer in Open D

There's a valley of sorrow in my soul
Where every night I hear the thunder roll
Like the sound of a distant gun
Over all the damage I have done
And the shadows filling up this land
Are the ones I built with my own hand
There is no comfort from the cold
Of this valley of sorrow in my soul

There's a river of darkness in my blood
And through every vein I feel the flood
I can find no bridge for me to cross
No way to bring back what is lost
Into the night it soon will sweep
Down where all my grievances I keep
But it won't wash away the years
Or one single hard and bitter tear

And the rock of ages I have known
Is a weariness down in the bone
I use to ride it like a rolling stone
Now just carry it alone

There's a highway risin' from my dreams
Deep in the heart I know it gleams
For I have seen it stretching wide
Clear across to the other side
Beyond the river and the flood
And the valley where for so long I've stood
With the rock of ages in my bones
Someday I know it will lead me home

The second song was found by accident but seems to have a similar message to keep holding on to the baptismal faith despite fear of the future and also carries a prayer for renewal .

The Maker
(Daniel Lanois)

Oh, oh deep water,
black and cold like the night
I stand with arms wide open
I've run a twisted mile
I'm a stranger
in the eyes of the Maker
And I could not see
for the fog in my eyes
I could not feel
for the fear in my life

From across the great divide
In the distance I saw a light
John Baptist walking to me
with the Maker
My body is bent and broken
by long and dangerous sleep
I can't work the fields of Abraham
and turn my head away
I'm not a stranger
in the hands of the Maker

Brother John, have you seen
the homeless daughters
Standing there with broken wings
I have seen the flaming sword
There over east of Eden
Burning in the eyes of the Maker
Burning in the eyes of the Maker
Burning in the eyes of the Maker

Oh, river rise from your sleep
Oh, river rise from your sleep
Oh, river rise from your sleep 

Also a lovely reflection here "When in Doubt Go Higher." 

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