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Posts Tagged ‘Ash Wednesday’

Image by Abbess Christine Vaulters Paintner

 

Today is Ash Wednesday. I will honor this day with much reflection. I am blessed. I am mortal. I am dust and unto dust, I shall return. I am getting older. My bones have a sense of dust. But my spirit burns bright within me.

There is much I still want to do. Sometimes I want to do it in a hurry. Today is one of those days. Last night, I made a list of all the things I want to do today, a day of release from a focused pace of writing. Yet here I sit writing.

There are way to many things on this list; apartment cleaning that has been put off, calligraphy practice I want to do, watercolor play I haven’t taken time for, doing some low carb meal casseroles and snacks to have on hand, reading, praying; tend Tom’s surgery healing and my own sore body from a fall;  sending valentines to my beloveds; there is more. I just think of them right now because I didn’t write them down. They are in my head.

But the thing is, there are too many and I am too slow. I cant’ whisk through them. I must go slow; I must embrace slow. And I received my lesson from Abbess Christine when I opened my email. I have joined her tribe of contemplatives and journey-makers and art lovers many years ago. She lives in Galway, Ireland and it would be a great blessing if I could fulfill a burning desire to visit her there one day. We are bonded together by membership in the Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks.

Another tribe I belong to is Cat Carecelo’s Wisdom Gatherers through Collage and Process Art. We journeyed to find the Divine Spark within us. And that spark has led to the writing of a book, I have long yearned to write, with an image guide found within my 2017 art process.

 

Tom and I will spend this rainy day inside today. I will cross each of us on our foreheads with soothing moisture cream and essential oil…meant for the living…and we will live this day, in slowness, reflection and gratitude for the life and partnership given each of us on what has been a grace-filled long road of love and family, and tasks and missions well-done.

To Do List things will get done. This Lent, I will be mindful of embracing a spirituality of slowness and being ok with that.

Guest blog and photo below from Christine Valters Paintner.

 

Dearest monks and artists,
Modern life seems to move at full speed and many of us can hardly catch our breath between the demands of earning a living, nurturing family and friendships, and the hundreds of small daily details like paying our bills, cleaning, grocery shopping. More and more we feel stretched thin by commitments and lament our busyness, but without a clear sense of the alternative.

There is no space left to consider other options and the idea of heading off on a retreat to ponder new possibilities may be beyond our reach. But there are opportunities for breathing spaces within our days. The monastic tradition invites us into the practice of stopping one thing before beginning another. It is the acknowledgment that in the space of transition and threshold is a sacred dimension, a holy pause full of possibility.

What might it be like to allow just a ten-minute window to sit in silence between appointments? Or after finishing a phone call or checking your email to take just five long, slow, deep breaths before pushing on to the next thing?

 

Chi

 

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Ash Wednesday Card

Today’s Ash Wednesday’s 9:00 am Mass, scripture, liturgy and Father Jim’s reflection fed my soul. The selected hymns honed my attentiveness to the season…..and Jesus, the reason.

He came so that we may have life and have it more abundantly. He came and taught the largest lesson on love there has ever been. “Greater life no man hath but that he lay down his life.”  “Love one another as I have loved you.”  “I Am the Bread of Life.”

Tom and I were asked to bring up the gifts to the altar. We, parishioners, recited the Lord’s Prayer in unison…..”Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

And we took into our own bodies, the Presence, the Body and Blood of Christ, transformed from plain bread by the priest. We prayed for ourselves and our loved ones and the leaders of our world to be able to……do the next right thing, something Father Jim talked about.

I knew I was going to make a SoulCollage® card for this Ash Wednesday when I came home. One line  from the song Hosea stood out in my mind:

“The wilderness will lead you to your heart where I will speak.”

Over the past two weeks I’ve been reorganizing and harvesting (peeking into for themes, actions, guidance I’ve received) my journals and photographs from over at least the past twenty plus years and this line expresses perfectly the guidance I have received over and over again.

There were a great number of times in my life that I surely did not know where the path ahead would lead and I had to pick a thread of guidance to be able to do “that next right thing” or even have the courage to take the next step. There are many stories coming in Napkinwriter that will illustrate this point fairly dramatically.

So I thought my SoulCollage® card would look something like a wasteland background with some symbols of grace or “light” or something.

But the magic and beauty of SoulCollage® took over immediately and a whole new image emerged instantaneously from randomly selected stock in my materials.

It seems the grace of the Mass and the message of Lent was still in full effect when I sat down to make the card. I took to the table with me my scizzors, glue, card backing and one National Geographic magazine plus three packages of images I assembled some time in the last year.

In SoulCollage®, you don’t really “think” your way into the image. You let the image that wants to come forth do exactly that.

But I was thinking a little bit, I must admit. I thought, perhaps, the National Geographic magazine would give me a desert wilderness type background and I’d work from there.

The first thing I opened to in the National Geographic was the full card size crucified Christ image.  Not the first place I would choose to look for such an image. I knew that was my card; but what else to collage to it?

From one of the three packs of images I had with me, I chose one. On the very top of probably over one hundred images was the image of the inter-twining hands. I knew they went on the card; right below them were images of the loaf of bread and the wheat.  And right beneath those were the people walking on the beach.

All I had to do was sense where they were to be on my card. I composed it and it will be with me in all my Lenten reflections and prayer times.

It is not hard to fall in love with your own SoulCollage® cards. I am in deep, deep gratitude to founder  Seena Frost, and my teacher mentors and SoulCollage friends, Catherine Anderson, Karen Mann, Deborah Storts, Ginger,  Neltje Brawer, Kayle Rice, Dorothy, Mary Russell, and Sara Houseman for sharing and shining our souls.

Ash Wednesday CardI AM the Bread of Life.

IMG_3930I AM the One who is Sanctuary.

Souljourner at-Large“I AM the One who is Souljourner.

IAO Birth MotherI AM the One who is your birth mother.

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Ash Wed Image - Christine Valters PaintnerPhotograph by Christine Valters Paintner, copyright

Today’s blessed blog for Ash Wednesday is by Christine Valters Paintner, with whom I will one day travel in Ireland on pilgrimage. She is my Abbess of the Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks and she sings to my heart with her reflections, photography, expressions of the holiness of life and the paths of staying true to the inherent holiness within each and all.

IAO who is coming to IrelandI AM the One coming to Ireland, SoulCollage® by Susan Heffron Hajec

Having said that, here is Christine and her blog message of the day.

“Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,

Today we enter the long desert of the Lenten season. If you participate in a liturgical service, most likely you will be marked with the sign of ashes and the words “from dust you came and to dust you shall return” will echo through the sanctuary space again and again.

St. Benedict writes in his Rule to “keep death daily before your eyes” and Amma Sarah, one of the desert mothers said, “I put my foot out to ascend the ladder, and I place death before my eyes before going up it.”

The word for desert in Greek is eremos and literally means “abandonment” and is the term from which we derive the word “hermit.”  The desert was a place of coming face to face with loneliness and death.  Nothing grows in the desert. Your very existence is, therefore, threatened. In the desert, you can only face up to yourself and to your temptations in life which distract you from a wide-hearted focus on the presence of the sacred in the world.

Death of any kind is rarely a welcome experience.  Even when we witness the mysteries of nature year after year reveal the glories of springtime which emerge from winter’s fallow landscape.  We resist death, we try to numb ourselves from life’s inevitable stripping away of our “secure” frameworks.  We spend so much energy and money on staying young. But when we turn to face death wide-eyed and fully present, when we feel the fullness of the grief it brings, we also slowly begin to discover the new life awaiting us.

In the desert tradition, death is a friend and companion along the journey.  St Francis of Assisi referred to death as “sister” in his famous poem Canticle of Creation.  Rather than a presence only at the end of our lives, death can become a companion along each step, heightening our awareness of life’s beauty and calling us toward living more fully. Living with Sister Death calls us to greater freedom and responsibility.

Alan Jones describes the desert relationship to death in this way:  “Facing death gives our loving force, clarity, and focus. . . even our despair is to be given up and seen as the ego-grasping device that it really is.  Despair about ourselves and our world is, perhaps, the ego’s last and, therefore, greatest attachment.”

I have been sitting with Jones’ words and the invitation to fast during Lent, one of the central practices we are called to take on. The first reading today from the prophet Joel summons us to “return to God with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning.”

But the kind of fast drawing me this season isn’t leaving behind of treats like chocolate or other pleasures. This season I am being invited to fast from things like “ego-grasping” and noticing when I so desperately want to be in control, and then yielding myself to a greater wisdom than my own.

I am called to fast from being strong and always trying to hold it all together, and instead embrace the profound grace that comes through my vulnerability and tenderness, to allow a great softening this season.

I am called to fast from anxiety and the endless torrent of thoughts which rise up in my mind to paralyze me with fear of the future, and enter into the radical trust in the abundance at the heart of things, rather than scarcity.

I am called to fast from speed and rushing through my life, causing me to miss the grace shimmering right here in this holy pause.

I am called to fast from multitasking and the destructive energy of inattentiveness to any one thing, so that I get many things done, but none of them well, and none of them nourishing to me. Instead my practice will become a beholding of each thing, each person, each moment.

I am called to fast from endless list-making and too many deadlines, and enter into the quiet and listen for what is ripening and unfolding, what is ready to be born.

I am called to fast from certainty and trust in the great mystery of things.

And then perhaps, I will arrive at Easter and realize those things from which I have fasted I no longer need to take back on again. I will experience a different kind of rising.

My word for 2014 is “essence” and the question in my heart these days is “what is most essential?” I think this is the question death asks of us as well. The desert summons us to her fierce edges to strip away everything that gets in the way of deeply nourishing our hearts. The more we acknowledge our own bodily mortality, the more we might be inspired to release all those agendas, plans, anxieties, and commitments which drain us of the life we are here to embrace.

I wish you a most blessed Lent dear monks, no matter how you choose to enter into this season. May your fasting help you gain clarity around what is no longer necessary. May your practice become a portal to what is most essential.

If you would like to join in an intentional and soulful journey, please consider our online Lenten retreat on The Soul’s Journey, where we draw on the archetype and metaphor of pilgrimage for reflecting on the journey our deepest heart’s longings are calling us toward. There is a delightful caravan of fellow monks and pilgrims already gathering and there is still room for your beautiful presence with us.

We also have a Community Lectio Divina practice this week on the theme of “Return to me with your whole heart.” Stop by to pray with the text and share what shimmers for you.

With great and growing love,

Christine”

Photo by Christine received in London’s Regent Park, copyright.

Christine Valters Paintner  —    abbeyofthearts.com  —

Abbey of the Arts, Transformative Living through the Contemplative and Expressive Arts

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