In my last blog I wrote about how we all wander through this earth either in the wilderness or in civilized places. While I took the metaphor quite literally to explain how I see the world, I alluded to a figurative understanding of a wandering life. In this next installment in the idea of wandering, I want to illuminate its necessary counterpart, stability. Stability is not contradictory to our wanderings but rather paradoxical. It is like how a map and compass gives a sense of direction on unfamiliar trails and unpredictable weather on a mountain. For example, some friends and I got lost while on a backpacking trip on the Art Loeb trail. We were unfamiliar with the trails since we had gotten into a wilderness area. We finally sensed we were heading in the wrong direction so we pulled out the map and compass and found our way back to the right trail.
This idea of stability comes from the Benedictine Rule of monastic life, which is how I’ve come to know about and experience it in my own wanderings. I’ve come to understand that you don’t have to live in a monastery to be able to have this guiding light of stability in your life, in fact, you can work a 9-5 job and have the same sense of thrill and security. So how do you obtain this stability? You pray.
Life here at Nashotah House is centered around chapel where we pray the prayers of the church, and of course, our own. The prayers of the church are the prayers that have been passed down through every generation. The Phos Hilaron, a prayer that dates from the 3rd century, says “Now as we come to the setting of the sun, and our eyes behold the vesper light, we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” The faithful prayers of God’s people teach us the orthodox faith and connect us with Christians throughout the ages. These prayers then allow us to pray extemporaneously within the realm of orthodoxy, which are added to the prayers ascending to the heavens. Engaging in prayer requires discipline therefore creating in the foundation for stability.
There are many forms of prayer that we are able to practice. We have prayers from the Old Testament found in the Psalms, to the Lord’s prayer, to contemplative prayer, discursive prayer, and lectio divina… to name a few. These forms of prayer ebb and flow from season to season depending on our wanderings, giving us always a connection to the divine Father in heaven. The beauty of praying is that you can do it anywhere and at anytime, and some might say, at all time and in all places thus guiding us through the wilderness of life by connecting us to the Light.
There is a story of a desert father who was visited by a pupil of his and said, “Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; and according as I am able I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts; now what more should I do?” The monk rose from his seat and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: “Why not be totally changed into fire?” (Desert Fathers: LXXII). Making a habit out of prayer should not produce a sour old human bur rather a joy filled individual full of life and love for others. We become like the light of the world that shines in the darkness that is our world in the work of prayer. So, why not be utterly be consumed by Christ and be stability for others in the wilderness?
I’ve been praying in gratitude for feeling content in my present stage of life. I’ve been content being single, something I didn’t think could happen. Things that I would have never imagine to come in life has come through this time of being content. I’ve met some cool people in the little city of Delafield, done a lot of reading/studying, and completed another triathlon. These things seem like minor events, but they’re what have been occupying my time and giving me a lot of joy. So making prayer my practice has allowed me to being content which in turn has allowed me to be fully present with the people around me in the midst of what I perceive to be a wilderness.
Until next time.
Here I am after my triathlon.
It took 2 hours and 48 minutes