by Marjorie George
There is a phrase in the editing world known as “pull-out quotes.” You’ve seen them in printed magazine articles – a half-dozen or so words in larger type than the rest of the article and set off to the side of a column of print.
The words are meant to grab a nugget from the full article to pull the reader into it. A teaser. A pithy comment. The take-away.
Ah, the mountaintop – the “aha” moment of recognition of a greater truth or a comforting thought or a blessed remembrance. A pebble to put into one’s pocket to carry with for the rest of the day. A little confirmation that maybe we are on the right road after all.
Because God does no small acts, and probably so that we would not miss it (duh), we have the biblical story of Christ’s mountaintop experience – the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8; Luke 9:28-36). Now that was a pull-out: Jesus’ face shining like the sun, his clothes becoming dazzling white, and God’s own very audible voice saying, “This is my son.” Suddenly the sleepy disciples with Jesus were wide awake. Yeah, I guess they were.
Peter is ready to stay on the mountaintop forever – let’s build some houses and settle in, he suggests. Of course they can’t, and neither can we.
But here is a take-away to consider from the top of the mountain – What is the wisdom that brought you here? What is the accumulation that brings you to this single, seemingly isolated, moment? Thomas Merton suggests that it is more than our own private journey. Rather, we are formed by a lineage of wisdom that predates our birth and will continue long after our death. It is our life’s teachers who “connect us with the teachers of their teachers,” says Merton (from Bridges to Contemplative Living, book two).
I have, lined up on a bookcase shelf in my bedroom, photographs of my female ancestors of every generation all the way back to my grandmother’s grandmother. Sometimes I look at them and say, “I don’t know who you are, but I know that because you were, I am.”
Thus instructed, thus formed and informed, we all have a great responsibility to be “bearers of instruction and wisdom for those who are being entrusted to our mentoring,” says Merton. And whom do we mentor, you and I? Everyone who crosses our path in our ordinary lives. After the ecstasy, the laundry, said the mystics. After the mountaintop, the mundane. “Whatever you do, every act, however small, can teach you everything – provided you see who it is that is acting,” adds Merton. And every act we do can teach someone else, does teach someone else, provided we remember whose wisdom it is that we are passing along.
We are all students and we are all teachers. And what is our training for this task? Our own humility to go on learning. And then to understand that it is not our own wisdom we pass on. The pebble in my pocket is not of my own making; I just happened to find it on the top of a mountain. Let me tell you about it.
Marjorie George is editor of ReflectionsOnline and Reflections magazine. Leave a comment below or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Circling the World in Prayer
People in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and North America will join together in virtual prayer over the course of 40 hours, October 13-15, 2013. From 7 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Oct 13 through 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct 15, people will be at prayer around the world, and we are all invited to join them.
The live and virtual vigil is the inspiration of the DC-based Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation and the culmination of its 40th anniversary year. The vigil will span continents and time zones and is free and open to spiritual seekers and practitioners of all faiths who are inspired by this global call for contemplative prayer.
Joining the vigil is easy. Simply light a virtual candle on Shalem’s 40-Hour Contemplative Prayer Vigil map to indicate your presence. http://www.buildfaith.org/2013/09/21/circle-the-world-in-prayer/
A Walk in the Park
Two-hour “Nature as Spiritual Practice” mini-retreats take place at Cathedral Park at the Bishop Jones Center in San Antonio, 9 am to 11 am, Saturdays October 26, November 9, and December 14. Facilitator is Marjorie George and others. Email Marjorie at email@example.com with questions or to indicate your interest/attendance.
Listen In on C. S. Lewis
A nine-week course on C. S. Lewis, being presented by James R. Dennis, O.P. at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church, Dripping Springs TX, is now online. The online version includes a 30- to 40-minute audio recording of each session with accompanying PowerPoint presentation in PDF format. The first two weeks are now up; succeeding weeks will be posted as they occur. Click here.
Bible study for Groups and Individuals
The second of two diocesan-wide Bible studies for 2013 is now on the diocesan website. Every year the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas announces a scriptural theme for the year and creates a Bible study for the use of individuals and groups. The latest, a study of the Letter to the Colossians, gives us a glimpse into a narrow window of time in the history of the early church: a time when the leadership of the first apostles such as Peter and Paul was giving way to a new generation of church leaders. Colossians stands on the boundary line of this transition, reflecting the influence of both generations. The was study written by the Rev. Drs. Jane Patterson and John Lewis and produced by The Work+Shop in San Antonio, Texas. It is designed for groups that will meet regularly for eight sessions, and for individuals to engage in daily studies and reflection for seven days in each of the seven weeks. Find the study here http://www.dwtx.org/department-ministries/christian-education/bible-study/colossians/
For more events and opportunities, click here.