Monday, December 26, 2011

Praying in/with pain

My prayer has been painfully inarticulate of late, particularly public prayer. The new translation of the Mass means that I muff the responses about one time in four at both Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours (where the Ordinary still says "And also with you." but the prior of the community I pray with has sensibly decided we should use the new response, "And with your spirit.") Add in that the prior has been in the hospital, so we've had a shifting set of presiders at Morning Prayer (including me), with varying styles and ability to stick to the rubrics.

And this last week prayer has become literally painful, as health issues have made it painful to bow, to kneel, even to sit. As the postures of my prayer have become more limited, my prayer, too, feels constricted. I've been reading "The Body's Poetic of Illness" in Thomas Moore's Care of the Soul. Moore notes that science demands a single reading of a phenomenon — we're pretty sure we know what's causing my myalgia, and it's self-limiting, so all will eventually be well — but that poetry acknowledges multiple layers of meaning. Why not seek multiple readings of the body's poetics when we are ill? Such an approach doesn't deny the physical causes and effects of a particular malady, but does give reality to its effects on the other aspects of our being.

The coincidence of my prayer feeling shoved into an uncomfortable position and the discomfort of the physical positions I prefer to assume in prayer are nudging me into reading these experiences on multiple levels — or as Moore says, to have a "willingness to let imagination keep moving into ever new and deeper insights." It feels very Ignatian.

"Science prefers interpretations that are univocal. One reading is all that is desired. Poetry, on the other, never wants to stop interpreting. It doesn't seek an end to meaning. A poetic response to disease may seem inadequate in the context of medical science, because science and art differ radically from the point of interpretation. Therefore, a poetic reading of the body as it expresses itself in illness calls for a new appreciation for the laws of imagination, in particular a willingness to let imagination keep moving into ever new and deeper insights." — from "The Body's Poetics of Illness" in Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore

Photo is of my feet, praying on the rocks at Eastern Point.


  1. After all the FB discussion, I realized that I still need to offer hope and prayer for your feeling better quickly!

  2. May I suggest a recliner with foot elevated, which as you know is my favored prayer position at Wernersville. Hope and Healing

  3. Thanks, Robin! The FB discussion is wonderfully distracting :)

    And Stratoz, a recliner would be a good idea. The next best thing is a warm comforter...