Cogitation 21 Friday 22 May 2020 This week I look to others for words of hope amidst the helpful and unhelpful responses to Covid-19. I glean words that calm and reassure me of God’s voice within and beyond the global coronavirus storm. Such as this prayer from an unnamed writer: “Lord, for tomorrow and its needs I do not pray, but keep me, guide me, love me, just for today.”
From Dublin Botanic Gardens I quote: “A friendly look and kindly smile / One good act and life’s worthwhile.”
I take a faith-based view that humans are entrusted with creation’s care and propagation. A great responsibility falls on humankind to care for the creation and for those who need care. In image-rich words, Old Testament prophet Amos speaks of the movement toward an ordered, flourishing, harmonious world: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” Amos 5:24.
The following three prayers are from The Complete Book of Christian Prayer (Continuum, New York, 1997). The section title is “Prayers for the World,” and subsection, “Reverence for creation.”
In a lengthy prayer, Dorothy McCrae-McMahon pleads with Creator God to “Break down our angry destruction / that our beaches and rivers / may speak again of your wonders.”
Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) wrote: “Lord, purge our eyes to see / Within the seed a tree, / Within the glowing egg a bird, / Within the shroud a butterfly. / Till, taught by such we see / Beyond all creatures, thee / And hearken to thy tender word / And hear its ‘Fear not; it is I’.”
I’m with Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) in his prayer for wild and domestic animals, apropos to today: “Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends the animals, especially for animals who are suffering; for any that are hunted or lost or deserted or frightened or hungry; for all that must be put to death. We entreat for them all thy mercy and pity and for those who deal with them we ask a heart of compassion, gentle hands and kindly words. Make us ourselves to be true friends to animals so to share the blessing of the merciful.”
Reverence for creation invests us in life-giving, nurturing acts, calling each and everyone to account. Even in the throes of a coronavirus pandemic we can be forces for good by also paying heed to wider systemic threats, including climate change and inequality. God, in unfathomed mercy, help us to be worthy to “share the blessing of the merciful.”
From our backyard to farther afield
I’ve selected photos from our walks this week to celebrate what is old, new, ordinary, abundant, nature-centered, a vital part of the world we inhabit.
Seeds for the soul
Thomas Merton, reflecting on his inner life as a monk in Seeds of Contemplation (1949), has these words to say in the chapter, “What is Liberty?”
“The mere ability to choose between good and evil is the lowest limit of freedom, and the only thing that is free about it is the fact that we can still choose good.
“To the extent that you are free to choose evil, you are not free. An evil choice destroys freedom.
“We can never choose evil as evil, only as an apparent good. But when you decide to do something that seems to you to be good when it is not really so, you are doing something that you do not really want to do, and therefore you are not really free.
“Perfect spiritual freedom is a total inability to make any evil choice. When everything you desire is truly good and every choice not only aspires to that good but attains it, then you are free because you do everything that you want, every act of your will ends in perfect fulfillment.
“Freedom therefore does not consist in an equal balance between good and evil choices but in the perfect love and acceptance of what is really good and the perfect hatred and rejection of what is evil, so that everything you do is good and makes you happy, and you refuse and deny and ignore every possibility that might lead to unhappiness and self-deception and grief . . . only the man who has rejected all evil so completely that he is unable to desire it at all, is truly free.”
Thomas Merton gives us plenty to chew on, to contemplate, to appropriate for oneself, not to foist as judgement on people we wish, really wish, would act differently. It’s a message directed to one’s own life, one’s inner discovery, in Merton’s words, “you have felt the doors fly open into infinite freedom, into a wealth which is perfect because none of it is yours, and yet it all belongs to you.”
Another season to flourish