Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

As many of you know, nighttime "sitting in the sacred space of my yard" is one of my favorite "winding down" pursuits on a regular basis. I so often find myself enjoying special serendipitous treats that allow me to gently re-visit my day, both the good parts and the tough parts. A couple of nights ago I was treated to my yard in the light of the full moon, and noticed that my yard looked just like the background art of my blog! What a treat!

It's getting cool enough at night that making a fire has ceased to be a "bonus" and has become a "necessity" in my nighttime sacred space sitting sessions. So I built a nice hot one that I knew would run me out and make me back up from it a bit, to take the chill off the night so I would only need a sweatshirt.

My spiritual director has me on a "30 day Ignatian retreat" that he stretches out over 90 days for busy working people. One of the things that is key to the exercises is to let one's spiritual imagination loose and examine one's consciousness on a regular basis. So, ok, there's the Ignatian sitting by the fire.

I have also taken up the discipline of trying to read aloud at least one of the services from the breviary of the Benedictine monastery that has become in some ways, my spiritual home. I usually end up doing Compline by the time my day settles down, or sometimes Vespers. Whichever one I try to do, I try to do it at the same exact time they are doing it at the monastery. Not that God really cares about the clock, but I guess I just like MY sense of "us all doing it at the same time."

So 8 p.m. rolls around and I'm outside. Rather than go inside, I decided to bring my breviary outside and do Compline by my fire in my chiminea.

One of the things that has popped up in my Ignatian retreat is that I recognize one particular "dark place" in my soul that I can actually point at and call by name. I think sometimes the dark places in our secret hearts are hard to name, and are more nebulous. But this one, I definitely recognize its taxonomic family. I'm rather uneasy with this place, because it's a place that I recognize others in my life have owned, and have used in the past to hurt me. Maybe I even have an attraction for that place in others b/c it is similar to my own. It is a place that perhaps was cultivated as a survival skill that I no longer need. I have been mentally wrestling with it, now that I can name it.

I started to read aloud the Compline service from the breviary. Now the Benedictine is sitting by the fire, too. As I read the chants and psalms aloud, in the dark night sky, I realize my fire in the chiminea is bright enough I don't even need the flashlight I brought out to help read. The words are visible, and their power as I chant them is palpable. My imagination could see the monks at the monastery, much as I see them in my visits, chanting, or maybe even at their desks in their rooms as they often do Compline on their own, depending on their schedules. But I definitely did not feel "alone" even though there was not another soul within hundreds of yards of me.

Then I just happened to glance up. The fire I built was so rip-roaring that sparks were going up the flue and out into the air. I kept glancing back and forth as I read aloud, thinking about each of those sparks...little bright fiery specks of prayer buoyed by the rising heat and smoke of the fire at the core of my chiminea.

What it made me realize is that even in our "dark places," light can intrude, and we do not control the intrusion of light, nor can this intrusion even be stopped. I thought about what I had said in an earlier post about that eternal core of heat and light that makes up Heaven--the souls of the departed making up part of the "engine of prayer." Trying to stop that engine would be like trying to stop a speeding train. Can't be done.

We have a natural fear of the dark. Little children cause their parents hours and hours of lost sleep because of it. Horror movies make great fodder for our entertainment with it. The Bible constantly runs back and forth from dark to light. The angels seem obsessed with two things--bringing light, and telling us not to be afraid at times we would naturally be QUITE afraid! But what I discovered, letting the Ignatian and the Benedictine sit together at my fire, was that we are powerless, not to the dark, but the intrusion of light.


Oh´re not ready to ¨name it¨...HOW do you expect a audience in Central America, mostly me I think, to dabble into and identify with your deepest darkest, spark seeing character defect if you don´t spell it out? At least portray it in someway that will be easier for me to misunderstand it (correctly).

You´re right about one thing...those sparks of enlightment never die.

Sweet mysteries of life?

I love the Benedictine divine office too. Compline is my favorite in part because I think it has the most distinctive Benedictine feel.

Leonardo, I'm using literary license. I deliberately did not name mine so you would think of your own and identify with it! But I'll tell you. It is that old ACOA thing of "keeping secrets in the family." It's too easy for me. I don't like how whatever I am defining as "family" it is such a knee jerk response when trouble is brewing. I am learning to reach out when my tendency is to back up. That's work!

John, I'd agree with you on Compline. I also like how the rhythm of it has a "winding down" effect on me for the day, and allows me to gently reflect rather than immediately kick my own rear end over things.

Ahhh... Compline.

This is a truly wonderful post. I want to come sit by the fire and pray, talk, ponder with you!

I must host a cyber folk retreat in the north woods - have a handful of y'all come for a visit and retreat.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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