The Way, Given or Chosen
A curious thing happened the other day. Being liturgist I attempted to take a different approach to the liturgy of the day. As an opening refrain for Morning Praise, I chose the following: "Let us worship God and ask for the courage and joy to embrace the way chosen for us." For some, this was inspirational. Others were uncomfortable with it, saying that we choose our own path.
Surprised by the reactions, I was left with one convincing thought. I may, or may not, choose my own path. But, there is one thing I know for certain. Regarding purification along the way, this is something I certainly do not choose.
Where does the way end? Where are we going, anyway? Donald Nicholl, shortly before his death, recounted the following story: "It was one of those dreadful meetings where we all had to introduce ourselves. The others all introduced themselves by their jobs and professions. When it came to my turn, all I wanted to say was: 'My name is Donald. I am a unique manifestation of God.'"(1)
It seems like the purpose for walking the way, whether chosen by us or given by God, is to make this manifestation real. Although we probably would not want to admit it, the trials and troubles we would rather not have be ours, actually help make this manifestation come to be.
This belief has two parts to it. Most of us are familiar with the idea of seeing God in other people. It seems much more awesome, however, and equally hard to believe, that I, myself, am a unique manifestation of God, and not only a manifestation, but, in some incomprehensible way, a part of God. It would seem that such a belief could also affect the manner in which we pray.
There was once a hermit who went off to a hut, to pray and to be alone. There was a knock at the door. Who is it?" the hermit asked. "It is your friend," came the answer. "Please go away," replied the hermit, "I came here to pray and to be alone." The friend knocked a second time. "Who's there?" asked the hermit. "Someone who wishes to be with you," said the friend. "There is not enough room in here for both of us. Please go away," said the hermit. The friend came a third time. "Who is there?" asked the hermit. "It is Thou," said the friend. "Come in," said the hermit.
1. Quoted in Cistercian Studies Quarterly, Vol.35.2, 2000, "Atlas: Reawakened Memories And Present- Day Reflections," Peter Gilmore, p.237.
Sister Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D