Wednesday, November 19, 2014

O Lord, open my lips


"O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall proclaim your praise."  These are the first words I say when I come to the Liturgy of the Hours each day.  They come from Psalm 51, the Miserere.

They are said, too, before the first words of תפילת העמידה, Tefilat HaAmidah, the Standing Prayer, the keystone of the Jewish liturgy:  יז אֲדֹנָי, שְׂפָתַי תִּפְתָּח; וּפִי, יַגִּיד תְּהִלָּתֶךָ.

The prayer that should never be interruped, was interrupted on Tuesday in a synagogue in Jerusalem. And then seven people were dead.  Four rabbis, a police officer, two attackers.

This morning I prayed with this unsparing photo of the carnage up on my computer: the prayer book soaked in blood, the white and black stripes of a man's tallit stark against the crimson, the strands of the tallit tangled with the detritus of the emergency response.  I wanted to look unflinchingly into the horror, not to pretty it up for prayer, or to try to tuck it onto my list of terrors to pray never come close.  I thought many times about whether to use the photo to illustrate this post.  But for now, it is merely linked, and instead my prayer space is here, the red strands of the stole gently evocative of the scene in Jerusalem.  Perhaps too gently.

As I prayed, I was acutely aware that nearly every word coming from my mouth was sacred first to the Jewish tradition.  Psalm 36, Judith, Psalm 47, Tobit.  Our texts weave in and out of each other, the Benedictus and the Amidah.  May the dawn from on high break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness.... He who makes peace in His heavens, may He make peace for us...

We pray, and our prayers weave in and out of one another's sacred texts, criss-cross through one another's sacred spaces.  We cannot separate ourselves from this horror, say that what has happened has not happened to us, does not call us to wail aloud, to beg with the psalmist that the bones that have been crushed might be made whole.

We want to call the words our own, to possess them, yet we begin by acknowledging that we do not even hold the key.

Open our lips, O Lord, and guide our feet into the way of peace.  Make us whole.



Fran of There Will Be Bread pointed us to Alden Solovy's prayer for mothers at To Bend Light this morning.  The last line of the prayer kept winding me back to the Benedictus:  May the dawn from on high break upons us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and guide our feet into the way of peace.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Infusions of grace

I got my flu shot today, by dint of putting it on the shopping list.  The pharmacy at the huge and amazing grocery store offers flu shots.  Even better, there is no waiting around.  I did the paperwork, and while there was nominally a fifteen minute wait, I got one of those beepers they give you at a restaurant while you wait for a table, which went off while I was in the baking aisle (getting caraway seeds for my general chemistry class — and yes, that really has to do with chemistry).  I headed over, signed the paper, and in under 2 minutes was back to shopping. This is multi-tasking I could get behind.

I watered the plants, I got my haircut.  There is food in the 'fridge. I prayed.  And it is all grace, infusing the quotidian with the mystical.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Border crossing



This  video, whose title comes from Walter Burghardt SJ's definition of contemplation, was made by the delightful and talented Mariel Carr to go with a review of Addy Pross' What is Life? I wrote for the Chemical Heritage Magazine. I love the title the editor gave it, "Border Crossing" which certainly described not only the book, but in many ways my life.

Next Tuesday (Nov 18)  I'm giving a talk about living on this edge between science and religion for the Institute for Religion and Science at nearby Chestnut Hill College, but part of me wonders if I can do any better in 60 minutes than this 6 minute film!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Contemplating science


Sandwiched between a morning meeting and my noon class, I was trying hard to put the finishing touches on some visual materials for class.  But I couldn't resist watching the live stream of the Philae landing on the comet.  It brought back memories of watching the space launches when I was a kid, sprawled on a cushion on the floor of the cool basement where our black and white TV lived.  "T minus 10 and holding..."  Dreams of walking on other planets flitted through my head.
And as a scientist, I could imagine the tension in the room,  hoping that all these years of work by so many would be successful!  I loved the way people jumped for joy when it appeared it had landed, and the focus of one of the women on the team who even in that moment, was critically evaluating the data, "The altitude hasn't changed," she murmured to another team member.  (It turns out the lander may have bounced...)

Suddenly my research student was knocking briskly on the door, "Do you have a camera?  There's an osprey in the courtyard!" It wasn't an osprey, but a large red-tailed hawk perched on the light outside my office.  It seemed quite unperturbed by our presence, more intent on finding a snack in the leaves.

I love drinking deeply of the created world, I love the way science pulls me into wonder and joy.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tired Tuesday

Blessed Fran of the Many Consonants sent me this postcard a few days ago.  It's a portrait of St. Brigid painted by Bro. Mickey McGrath.  Fran thinks Brigid looks like me, I think my hair is much too gray.  But Brigid's prayer space does looks like mine (no tabernacle, but I sit on a small prayer bench, with lit candles, a sacred heart with streams of color fluttering under it,  a mosaic of the Spirit on the waters).

It's been a busy semester, and an exceptionally busy last week. Today was the first day I've had off the hamster wheel since we got back from visiting Crash across the sea.  A Tuesday for being tired, and for catching up.

The postcard has been propped up on my desk for the last week, inviting contemplation, inviting me into stillness. I love the image of the Holy Spirit resting in Brigid's arms. She and God, simply still. A dwelling place for God in the Spirit.

I long for that stillness, for that closeness to God.