A Grounding Place: An Online Class for Prayer and Practice (Summer Class 2020)

 

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A Grounding Place:

An Online Class for Prayer and Practice

Summer 2020

Lord, teach us to pray… 

                        Luke 11:1-13

But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

                         Matthew 6:6

The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.

Richard Foster, A Celebration of Discipline

Rationale:

The mystics and wisdom bearers of the Christian tradition have long spoken of le pointe vierge, this mysterious center of grounding within our spiritual heart.  Sebastian Moore speaks of it, as do many teachers through the centuries, each in their own way.  Thomas Merton’s description is especially powerful:

At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will.

This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is so to speak His name written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our sonship.

It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely.

Jesus’s own life was grounded in a prayer of awareness.  We see this throughout many of the Gospel accounts of His life and ministry.  From His time in the desert where He faced the core temptations of power and greed to His time in the Garden before His trial and crucifixion, from times of solitude and intentional conversation with those on the margins to moments of stillness, Jesus shows us what it looks like to be truly centered in prayer and thus embody compassion in the world.  He embodied le pointe vierge, and to pattern our life on His is to seek to embody this in our own lives as well.  

Within the Christian contemplative tradition, Matthew 6:6 has a particular resonance with our desire to cultivate this awareness of God’s indwelling presence:

But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

As a Christian community, we seek to ground ourselves in a posture of discernment and listening, and we are aware that this posture will foster a deeper trust in the Spirit’s movement in our common life.  

A Prayer of Visualization:

For a while at Grace Church, we have wondered about the development of a Center for the Practice of Prayer.  After reflection, we realized that the image of such a Center is actually a prayer of visualization rather than the development of another program space or activity.  If we do imagine it as a space, it is a space in our heart, a space in the midst of the gathered community.  So long as we imagine it as a program or structure to be managed, we will continue to silo it off from the core, the heart, of how the parish understands its mission.  When we actually explore it as a form of prayer, we are challenged to reorient or reframe the way we understand every aspect of our lives, from the personal spiritual work within our hearts to our institutional structures.

Perhaps the image of the five intersecting circles we use to imagine our shared ministry can be understood as a simple mandala, which, in Sanskrit, means “circle.”  A mandala is a visualization tool to help one in their meditation as they seek greater awareness of the interconnectedness of the universe–and in their own vocation as they ground their lives in this awareness.  As such, the image seeks to help us reorient ourselves toward our deeper, shared mission as a Christian community.  In the middle of this cluster of spheres is a point, perhaps the point from which “God disposes our lives,” as Merton describes.

The mission of the Church is to foster reconciliation of all people with Christ (Book of Common Prayer, 855), a reconciliation marked by an awareness of God’s indwelling presence in our lives that transforms the way we live.  As a congregation, we seek to cultivate the practice of prayer as the grounding of parish life and thus seek a transformation of heart, so that we live more fully as a conscious Christian community.  

By visualizing our community ministries in this way, we continue to wonder about our shared experience of a “contemplative reformation,” a reorientation of a congregation away from the fixation on a program-maintenance model toward a more intentional grounding in the movement of the living Spirit of Christ.  During these days of pandemic, with the stress and anxiety that rises within us, such a focused practice of prayer is essential.

We are claiming that the nurture of an intentional practice of prayer is the essential seed that can take root in our lives, leading to transformation of our spiritual hearts and the bearing of fruit in our world.  When we pray, we seek to attune our hearts to the indwelling presence of Christ; this awareness fosters our continual conversion and challenges us to live more fully into our own baptismal identity. Our prayer takes many mental, heart-centered, and embodied forms, each of which is grounded in our call to nurture our awareness of the presence of the Spirit of Christ.  Above all, the image of the spiritual heart holds special emphasis for us in our lives.

Our lives are anchored in the rich wisdom of the Christian contemplative tradition, nurtured through the centuries by women and men who sought to live their lives in a fuller attunement with Christ’s healing presence.  That tradition continues to bear fruit in our own day, with diverse voices speaking to the complex situations we face. We seek to honor our Christian contemplative identity, which also encourages us to celebrate our deepening interfaith relationships that recognize our common call to transformation and compassion as we experience anger, fear, anxiety, and confusion in so many aspects of our world.

Schedule:

Join us for the online class each Tuesday at 10 am, beginning June 2 as we explore this call to a deeper awareness of God’s indwelling presence in our hearts.  You can find the link at the Grace Episcopal Church website under the section “Grace@Home” that houses our web-based formation and worship opportunities.

Click HERE to be taken to that page for the Zoom link.

 

 

 

 

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