I’m back from my retreat, back to the real world and – perhaps pertinently – here are two quotes I’ve brought back with me:
Teilhard de Chardin: “By virtue of the creation and still more of the incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see. On the contrary, everything is sacred.”
And Michael Mayne: “Prayer is a way of seeing my whole life as containing significance and beauty it would not otherwise have.”
It’s easy(ish) to find a space of quiet and stillness when you’re sitting on the edge of a lake, the sound of lorikeets in the trees above you and the closing evening welcomed by kookaburra calls; or when you’re sitting in a small, silent chapel in the retreat house; and when there’s no demands, no to-do-list, no conversation to have or problem to solve, nothing in that moment other than space, and God. It’s harder to find that quietude, that peace, in the day-to-day, in-your-face roar of a full-on job and the clamour of the office and the whirling mental map of all the places my day must take me.
But both Teilhard and Michael remind me: it’s not just the sacred space, created for prayer and quiet worship, that is in fact sacred. The pasta I inhaled while fighting with the computer rostering system – that’s sacred, and the body it nurtures and the biological processes it supports is sacred too. The people I deal with, both face-to-face and removed – they are sacred souls. My prayer is that my hands will be God’s hands, my words God’s words, and my heart God’s heart – and that is both so much more difficult, and so much more necessary, in the profane sacred of my day-to-day life.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire:
speak through the earthquake, wind and fire,
o still small voice of calm.
Sometimes it’s hard to hear that still, small voice of calm in the regular, mundane tumult of life. But it’s there – and sometimes I can hear it, and sometimes I can’t, but I’d really like to keep trying.
Still, if there’s an earthquake, then I quit.