contemplation

What I’ve Been Reading Online

Taking a mental break from NaNoWriMo

AUSTRALIAN CULTURE

  • These women had every right to be safe.’ – Short obituaries to some of the many Australian women murdered by their partners in 2015. Destroy The Joint keeps a tally on the violent deaths of women in Australia. It’s horrendously sad and, as an Aussie woman, bloody terrifying. If it were a virus killing off Australians at a rate of 1 or 2 every week there’d surely be money spent on research to combat it.

SCIENCE AND FAITH

  • A seminary student visits the Creation Museum. – I found this interesting for a variety of reasons. I am grateful for people who take the time to question the opinions of young earth creationism (YEC), not because they’re picking a fight (I hate conflict…) but because they’re raising really important questions. After I got married to a former-YEC true believer I was strongly discouraged from following my personal interests in science – particularly my fascination with astronomy and the evolution of dinosaurs – because it conflicted with his and his family’s views on Genesis. Fifteen years later I find myself trying to re-learn science, and deconstruct the worldview that so heavily influenced my understanding of science for a decade. This Petto and Godfrey book was a great overview of the issues involved and I found it really helpful.

RELIGIOUSLY MOTIVATED VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN

POSITIVE BITS ON RELIGION (Trying to balance it out because I don’t want this to always be a negative, angsty blog.)

  • The World Community for Christian Meditation – How grateful I am for encountering contemplative Christianity. What a lifesaver for my faith that has become.
  • I love this quote from Pope Francis: “The disease of a lugubrious face. Those glum and dour persons who think that to be serious
    we have to put on a face of melancholy and severity, and treat others – especially those we consider our inferiors – with rigour, brusqueness and arrogance. In fact, a show of severity and sterile pessimism are frequently symptoms of fear and insecurity. An apostle must make an effort to be courteous, serene, enthusiastic and joyful, a person who transmits joy everywhere he goes. A heart filled with God is a happy heart which radiates an infectious joy: it is immediately evident!” – I have brought these words to mind several times since I read them. I must meditate on them more deeply.

ART

Advertisements

Melbourne Taizé Pilgrimage Day – February 2015

In February 2015 I was very privileged to participate in the Melbourne Taizé Pilgrimage Day. Three of the monks from the Taizé community in France spent the whole day with a group of about 100-150 young adults. Taizé is an incredible ecumenical form of Christian prayer and worship, incorporating elements from a number of different liturgical traditions. We travelled to three churches – Uniting, Catholic and Anglican – as well as spending part of the day at a series of workshops at Melbourne University (I think it was Melbourne Uni, it was all a blur and I don’t quite recall!). My husband and I were probably the only representatives from a Pentecostal church – probably because Pentecostalism is a very far cry from the contemplative and meditative styles of Christianity that incorporate iconography and lectio divina. However for me, a Catholic for most of my life, it was a fantastic time of reconnecting with the faith tradition I was raised in.

There was a beautiful and strong emphasis on diversity of Christian tradition and ethnicity and culture. It was a very multicultural crowd. We were Welcomed to Country by an Australian Indigenous elder at the first service. The deliberate efforts towards peace and reconciliation between different people groups is so inspiring. In the morning Bible study session I found it fascinating that even though our group was so diverse in tradition and ethnic background, we were able to share freely from the common ground of our faith in Christ. When you spend such an intensive day with believers from very diverse traditions and language groups and eat together and read the Bible together, it’s a profound experience of realising that “Others” are really fellow pilgrims and travellers in this journey of life.

I attended a poetry reading and writing workshop, and a discerning God’s will through Bible study and prayer workshop, both run by the Taizé monks. What I learned there could last me a lifetime.

At times the day felt like being part of a Christian flashmob. We turned up at the Catholic Church, St Francis’s – the oldest Catholic Church in the state of Victoria – around the time of day that worshippers were spending time in quiet reflection before the Sacrament. I wish I knew what it must’ve looked like to the unsuspecting congregants when a large group of young adults swarmed in, seated ourselves at the front pews, and burst into song, singing the beautiful Taizé hymn “Bless the Lord.” Of course, it took us a while to get to our venue because in a group of Christians walking around the city together, where a number of the group members were monks, priests and nuns, the religious kept kneeling down to say hello to the homeless people we met along the way. It was a learning experience for me, to realise that I might have not noticed the homeless on the street in my rush to get to the next destination, but for the monks and nuns no schedule was more important than stopping to recognise the humanity of these men on the roadside.

This video shows some highlights from the component of the day spent at St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Melbourne, a wonderful iconic building across the road from the famous Flinders Street Station clocks and Federation Square, in the heart of our beautiful city. I appear briefly in the blurry background of the video – I was sitting on the floor near the altar. I remember that my voice was tired from a lot of hymn singing, I had a throbbing headache and my legs were sore from all the walking and kneeling. But when it was my turn to walk across to the icon of the Crucifixion and pray, using the art and symbolism to remind me of Jesus Himself, it was just an incredibly powerful spiritual moment, like water welling up from a deep spring – it’s something I will probably never be able to explain in a way that does it justice. As I walked out of the Cathedral that night, farewelling newly-made friends and watching the skies darken over the city, I was reminded of the beauty of the mystery of our faith. When I rediscover the sense of awe and mystery it’s no longer a faith to be deconstructed and proven in a catechismal apologetic; instead there’s a peace and joy from the sharing of faith community, as well as a strengthening of the inward self that has learned to be comfortable with the unexplainable beauty of silence and contemplation.

We have also attended a couple of the local Taizé-style worship services in the last year – one at a Lutheran Church and one at a Uniting Church – and we look forward to attending as many as we can before we reach the 35-year-old cut-off age (noooooo! Maybe I’ll just pretend I’m perpetually early-30s). For my lifelong Pentecostal husband it seems to have revealed to him new ways of praying and understanding the Bible. He was raised in a context where he was taught that liturgical Christians are not really Christian, and so it’s been helpful for him to break down some of those deeply ingrained prejudices and discover the faith he shares in common with different styles of Jesus following.

One of the many things I love about Taizé is that they practice times of silence during prayer meetings – actual silence that can last for 10 minutes. On the Pilgrimage day some sparrows flew into the sanctuary in the Uniting Church, and so the silence was filled with birdsong. There was something poetically beautiful about the sparrows flying and singing about our heads while in silent prayer. (It was a Matthew 10:29 kind of moment!)

In the silence I love watching the flickering flames, meditating on the iconography, contemplating the beauty of the different churches we sat in. I also love the way it provides a safe space for Christians from different traditions to acknowledge our shared faith as well as our differences. Possibly the most famous aspect of Taizé is their music, beautiful choral hymns reciting scripture passages. Often these are sung in Latin, or other languages. The group I have attended will find out in advance which language groups are represented so that they can incorporate scripture readings and songs for a diverse group. In Taizé I’ve heard the Bible read and sung in Latin, English, German, Chinese and numerous other languages as befitting our very multicultural city. Over the coming weeks I will try to share a few videos of Taizé music. I’ve heard there is also a Taizé podcast though I haven’t tracked that down yet.

If you haven’t heard of Taizé before but are curious to know more, you can visit their multilingual website taize.fr.

“If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.” – John 13:35 GNT

Here are some of the snap shots I took of the Pilgrimage Day on my mobile phone camera.

Taizé Pilgrimage Day, Melbourne - 7 February 2015

Taizé Pilgrimage Day, Melbourne – 7 February 2015

20150207-IMG_1079_11067

Taizé Pilgrimage Day, Melbourne – 7 February 2015

20150207-IMG_1084_11072

Taizé Pilgrimage Day, Melbourne – 7 February 2015 – Poetry Workshop

20150207-IMG_1093_11080

Taizé Pilgrimage Day, Melbourne – 7 February 2015 – My view from the front on the floor at St Paul’s Cathedral

20150207-IMG_1096_11083

Taizé Pilgrimage Day, Melbourne – 7 February 2015 – My view from the front on the floor at St Paul’s Cathedral

Video: The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton

This video was such a joy for me. I love what I have read of Thomas Merton’s works and it was fascinating to hear it interpreted by this academic. The discussion panel at the end was also brilliant – how wonderful it is to hear people of faith discuss ways their spirituality informs their environmentalist understandings.

https://youtu.be/qm-FNf_MIrg