Thursday, March 4, 2010

Prayer for the Fast, Part 3

Quite often when I read this prayer, I don't "get it". Oh, I understand the words, but when I'm actually reading it, my mind is sort of going "What does all this mean?"

This is the reason that I wanted to look at it a bit more closely.

So, you may be wondering, if I don't quite understand it, why do I read it?

That, dear Reader, is an excellent question. The reason I turn to this prayer so often is because my heart responds to it. I feel like I am soaring when I finish it. This is a prayer that just seems to draw down those energied from the unseen realms and allow them to carry me through the day, especially during these long days of the fast.

The last couple of postings were what I would call an intellectual study of this prayer, and today I just want to talk a bit about my heart-felt response. I am going to read it as I type and just pull out the phrases that leap out at me. This will be fairly stream of conscious, and I ask your forgiveness if it seems meandering, but I put a lot of importance on the movement of the heart, and this is what I shall follow this morning.

When I begin reading this prayer, the phrase "cast me not away" really speaks to my own low self-esteem. This is where I begin. I feel so unworthy, and often wonder at the fact that I am a Baha'i. What could I have possibly done in my life to have deserved such a bounty? Of course, the answer to that is that I do not deserve it, but have been granted this by God's bounty.

When I reach the phrase, "draw me ever nearer", my heart just sings out "yes, yes, that is what I want". I see my own lowly station and pray every day to be more worthy. It is just too evident to my eye that I am impatient, not caring enough, and I could go on and on, but then this would just seem like a poor form of a confession, which would, no doubt, weary you, dear Reader. But these daily reflections, this regular bringing myself to account, helps me improve a little bit every day. Oh sure, there are the days, well, way too many days to be sure, but there are the days when I feel I have improved just a bit over the past few days and that is when I know the Faith has come to my aid.

"The splendor of Thy luminous brow". Here my heart begins to turn upwards. I feel as if I have been in the dark and am now looking up towards the sun, blinded by its brightness. "Attract me... make me drink of the choice wine". My heart leaps at this thought, and then I realize that it is about attracting, not pushing. This concept resonates so well with me that I try and carry it into the teaching field. Our Faith, dear Reader, is not about trying to push people into "wearing the team jacket", but about being so loving and radiant and unified that people are impelled to join by their own hearts.

"By Thy hair which moveth across Thy face". I just smile in love at this phrase, for it speaks of a personality-type that has often been disregarded in my culture. For the hair to move across the face, it had to have been fairly long, and this has often been associated with hippies and people who are irresponsible.  Fortunately, these days those associations are mostly in the past. But not entirely. I do not know how often I have had elders in my community tell me to cut my hair because they feel that long hair is not appropriate. This has been such a bone of contention that I actually wrote an article about it. I point out to people the photos of 'Abdu'l-Baha in which you can see His long hair. The key here is not the length of hair, about which I doubt God could care, but whether or not it is kept clean and neat. So this phrase, in which His hairs moves across His face, speaks to me of a loving casualness, almost a familiarity. This is not some stuck-up stodgy religious do-gooder who feels they know better than everyone else. This is someone who really loves us all for who we are, and encourages us to try and become more.

"Shedding the musk of hidden meanings". In my many and varied careers, I was, at one point, a perfume blender. Scent is very important to me and makes up a huge part of my daily informational input. When I read the Writings and explore their depths, when I uncover a layer of meaning that I have never seen before, I truly feel as if I have just inhaled the most wonderful scent. My eyes go wide, my nostrils flare, a smile forms on my lips, and I feel a headrush.

"The loftiest summits... the highest hills". Oh, the joy of running on a lush hillside in the summer. This is one of my favorite things to do on a warm summer day. I love to run in the wide open spaces and occassionally stop and explore the growth of life under my feet. The insects, the grasses, the flowers: they are just so fascinating to watch. These simple phrases remind me of that joy.

"Shine forth above the horizon". One of my favorite memories is growing up on Lake Michigan and going down to the lake to watch the sunrise on those warm summer mornings. When I think back to those times in my life when I was enjoying a moment of contemplation and appreciation of the world around me, those quiet moments on that beach are the first ones that come to mind. I would watch the stars in the dark sky fade as the sky slowly brightened and turned to that light blue we take for granted durign the day. There was always a thrill of being as the sun finally broke over the horizon and blinded me with its shining glory.

"Soared aloft". Although there are many other phrases that caught my eye, or make my mind pause, this is the next one today that stopped my heart. I felt as if I were a bird flying in the air, with many other birds around me. This was not the feeling of flying supported in a geese V-formation, but instead the freedom of birds scattering in the air, darting here and there, flying where they will as they explore the joy of taking wing.

"Rustling of the ... tree...the murmur of the breezes". Now it is a pleasant autumn day. I don't know why I feel as if it is autumn, but it is, in my heart. A very pleasant time. Everything is getting ready to wind down, and all the leaves are whispering their appreciation for having been through such a beautiful and wonderful summer. They show their love in their sounds and in their colours.

"The oceans...the winds... the fruits... the trees". Oh, my heart just soars at all the mention of nature. Whether it is the beach behind my mother's place, or the breeze cooling my face on a hot summer's day, whether it is the pleasure of a fresh piece of fruit in the morning, or gathering that fruit off a tree in the wild, my heart calls out its thanks to God for creation.

"The fire of Thy love" calls to mind a campfire. Why? I don't know, but it does. Throughout this whole prayer, good memories are continually brought to mind. And such an array of good memories, too! This prayer is filled with good memories. This fire is filled with the spirit of friendship, as we sit around it, watching the spraks fly into the air, and sing loudly and off-key into the night.

And for me, this is where the prayer finishes in my heart. Oh, I know there are a few more paragraphs, and I love to read them, but this morning nothing else leaps out like those other phrases have. I am left with the multitude of pleasant times in my past, cherishing those memories of people and places long gone, having gained yet a greater appreciation of the richness of my life. And as I experience that little bit of thirstiness, or those slight pangs of hunger, throughout the day, I will remember each and every one of these thoughts again.

Now my heart is moved to say "Thank you" to both God, and all those people who have made these memories so dear to me. And thanks to you, dear Reader, for allowing me to share these few thoughts with you. Happy fasting.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this lovely personal response to what resonates with you in this prayer. It reminds me of my study groups, where we often read a section and, before moving on, respond with those phrases and lines that particularly resonate with each one of us. It is an intimate sort of sharing that inevitably deepens the friendships of people in the group.