Tuesday, August 31, 2021 (Day 87)
Katie Snipes Lancaster
Psalm 87 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Splendid things are spoken of you, O town of God… singers and dancers alike: “All my wellsprings are in you.”
An Opening Word
Psalm 87 is specifically addressed, not to God, but to Zion. The word Zion is used interchangeably with Jerusalem, and can either mean the whole of the city, or more specifically the Temple Mount. It was considered the center of the world, the omphalos mundi, the source of life. In its own way it was. After the harrowing experience of slavery in Egypt and then wandering the desert, Jerusalem is where the Israelites finally found a “land of milk and honey,” a sustainable place to live, and move, and have their being. Here the Psalmist is gushing about Zion, praising the city, and honoring even the very gates of entry. The reverence edges toward worship, but because the Psalmist says that even “the Lord loves the gates of Zion,” it is paying homage to Zion without crossing over into impiety.
There’s something about the Psalms’ love-of-place that feels at least akin to the monastic life. Today’s mystic Thomas Keating, took his vows of stability in 1940, and (excluding a short stint living in Snowmass, Colorado helping to set up a new monastic community there) he lived most of his adult life at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. The more I read about mystics, the more I see emerging themes, and one of those is a period of long illness. Thomas Keating had a lung condition early in his monastic life that left him hospitalized for nine weeks and then in the monastery’s infirmary for a subsequent two years. If any of you have spent time bedridden maybe you have seen the spiritual potential of that kind of experience, both the struggle and pain, as well as the solitude, each offering a pathway to the divine. Thomas Keating along with a few friends, developed a kind of modern day contemplation called “Centering Prayer,” rooted in silence that seeks God as “Indwelling Presence.”
Thomas Keating says “The spiritual journey is a gradual process of enlarging our emotional, mental, and physical relationship with the divine reality that is present in us, but not ordinarily accessible to our emotions or rationalizations.” He insists, “God is present to us all of the time, but God is inaccessible as long as we have preconceived ideas and judgements based solely on the feedback provided by our senses and feelings.”
Prayer from the Mystics: Thomas Keating (1923–2018)
Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person, or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and
God’s action within. Amen.