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SPIRIT MATTERS: 'Everything is holy now'

Out on the deck this morning, with Zeke lying quietly in front of me, I sat with my eyes closed, attempting to focus on my sacred word for my typical 20-minute Centering Prayer Session.

It was a perfect morning. Ideal for prayer and, for a few moments, anyway, starting the day on a grounded note. The sun was shining. The world around me was rubbing its eyes, awakening to a brand new day.

No sooner had I sat down, however, then the trains in the distance continuously — and I do mean continuously — sounded their obnoxious horns, as their wheels railed against the tracks in every direction.

This kind of thing is the reason why I, and so many others practice Centering Prayer. To learn how to notice the noises within and without, acknowledge them, let them go, and return to the internal quiet, where the Divine Indwelling resides.

It is not always easy, which is why we call it a practice, that is ever new.

“Always we begin again,” St. Benedict famously wrote in his Rule, practiced and followed by Benedictine religious and lay people for centuries.

And yet, the fruit of this prayer, is that the more consistently you practice it, the more you are able to catch a glimpse of the Mysterious Presence that is everywhere, everywhere around us, and in everything, everything.

As the trains rolled by this morning, announcing their coming with their blasted horns, then rolling by full force, before fading into the distance, and another one came along, I tried as best I could to just let them be and to focus on my prayer within.

This is when I noticed something interesting. In the few “almost” quiet moments between each train traveling by, my ability to hear things around me sharpened. In that relative quiet, I could hear birdsong from every direction, I could hear Zeke resettling himself. I could feel the morning light and its unique presence wrapped around me like a comforting blanket.

All Creation was Alive.

Now, most (OK, not always) mornings — and evenings, I try to engage in this practice.

But, for some reason this morning — possibly because of the dichotomy between the roaring noise of the trains, and the quiet of Creation — I was able to hear the awakening world around me more intensely and in greater detail than usual.

This is how it is for all of us, I think, who “seek first the Presence of God.”

We go about our days, our eyes looking, our ears listening, our nose sniffing, our tongue tasting, our hands touching — our hearts opened — yearning for some connection to That Which Is. And every once in a while, the proverbial Burning Bush comes alive for us. We are allowed a brief encounter with a glimmer of the Magnificence that is far more intense and alive, than we could possibly experience in our finite humanness. Those brief encounters are what sustain us in the in-between times, when everything looks like it does the rest of the time.

As I sat on the deck this morning, I thought of one of my favorite spiritual writers, Macrina Wiederkehr, a Benedictine nun and modern mystic. Macrina died this past year, due to a brain tumor, but throughout her life, she saw things that most of us miss — not visions of the heavenly realms — but the Presence of the Divine in the world around us. And in her works, she taught us how to do the same.

I have read several of her books, and I recommend them to anyone interested in experiencing the Presence of the Divine in their own lives on a deeper, more intimate level.

“Abide” is grounded in Scripture and teaches the ancient practice of Lectio Divina. “Seven Sacred Pauses” allows us amateur monastics to practice the changing seasons of the day, every day, in our own lives, just as professed monastics do with The Liturgy of the Hours. “A Tree Full of Angels” helps us to look deeper, to listen more closely, to touch more softly, to taste more subtly — to experience what she did in her life — a world alive with Grace and Presence.

Her last work, and from some I hear, her best work, “The Flowing Grace of Now: Encountering Wisdom through the Weeks of the Year” still awaits the top of my mantle for me to be read. As with most of the books I buy, I begin reading when they are ready to be read, and when my soul is ready to receive them. I’m thinking it might be one of those books I cozy up with this autumn and winter, when the days get shorter and the nights get longer.

As I wind this week’s reflection down, I am reminded of a song a friend shared with me on social media recently from another everyday mystic, singer-songwriter Peter Mayer. Although Mayer is one of my favorite musicians, I had not heard this song my friend shared with me before, called Holy Now.

In fact, as I looked up the lyrics this morning and read them, I probably could have saved myself a lot of time explaining my experience this morning and just sharing his words with you here:

When I was a boy, each week
On Sunday, we would go to church
And pay attention to the priest
He would read the holy word
And consecrate the holy bread
And everyone would kneel and bow
Today the only difference is
Everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now

When I was in Sunday school
We would learn about the time
Moses split the sea in two
Jesus made the water wine
And I remember feeling sad
That miracles don t happen still
But now I can’t keep track
Cause everything’s a miracle
Everything, Everything
Everything’s a miracle

Wine from water is not so small
But an even better magic trick
Is that anything is here at all
So the challenging thing becomes
Not to look for miracles
But finding where there isn’t one

When holy water was rare at best
It barely wet my fingertips
But now I have to hold my breath
Like I’m swimming in a sea of it
It used to be a world half there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
Cause everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now

Read a questioning child’s face
And say it’s not a testament
That’d be very hard to say
See another new morning come
And say it’s not a sacrament
I tell you that it can’t be done

This morning, outside I stood
And saw a little red-winged bird
Shining like a burning bush
Singing like a scripture verse
It made me want to bow my head
I remember when church let out
How things have changed since then
Everything is holy now
It used to be a world half-there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
Cause everything is holy now

SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines spirituality in The Times' readership area. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at jzblue33@yahoo.com to share how you engage your spirit in your life and in your community.

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