Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Canon of the Heart

The Rev’d Sam Thomas, an Anglican priest of my acquaintance, recently coined the term ‘canon of the heart’ in a bible study I attended.  I understood him to be addressing the desire by some people – best represented by the Pharisees in Jesus’s time – who make the laws as a god rather than being a way to God.  He paused a bit and then came up with the term ‘canon of the heart’ to symbolize the approach that we are called to as Christians. 

The heart is the universal symbol of love and in that sense we need to make love the principle that we follow in all that we do and all that we understand in our relationship with God.  Richard Rohr has written extensively on love as the very structure of all of God’s creation:

The core belief of all the great world religions is that the underlying reality is love. Teilhard de Chardin says that “love is the very physical structure of the universe.” Everything is desiring union with everything in one sense or another. I actually believe that what it means to know and trust God is to trust that Love is the source, heart, engine, and goal of life. (Daily Meditation Nov. 23, 2014) 

I believe that we each are called to develop a canon of the heart.  It will to a certain extent be unique to each of us as we are each unique creations of God.  However, we do need to be guided by the principles that are found in God’s interaction with God’s people in the bible as well as the inspiration found in spiritual writing of the mystics and others who had a deep relationship with the source of all being.  The anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing addresses the power of divine love to know God:

Look.  Every rational creature, every person, and every angel has two main strengths: the power to know and the power to love.  God made both of these, but he’s not knowable through the first one.  To the power of love, however, he is entirely known, because a loving soul is open to receive God’s abundance. 

We are called to soul work in seeking the canon of the heart in becoming our ‘true selves’ that as Rohr and others have named.  Our egos, which are one of God’s greatest gifts to humankind and which resists change, is also one of the greatest barriers to experiencing the love of God and expressing that love in our lives.  I do believe that through continually seeking a closer relationship with God we can discover and develop the true canon of our hearts. 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

A Prayer for Al Who Have Exams at this Time

Celtic spirituality is a wonderful way of being in the world.    I do not know a great deal about Celtic Spirituality and Religion.  However, it was formative in the foundation of Huron Diocese.  A few years ago the clergy in the Diocese received a copy of The Celtic Way of Evangelism by George G. Hunter 111.  It is a good introduction into Celtic religious tradition and, as the title suggests, evangelism.  One of the things that stuck we when read in the book was the way there seems to be prayers for all aspects of life.  One which is particularly appropriate for you at this time of the end of term as assignments are due and exams loom is a prayer for exams:
I bless this exam
In the name of the Designer of truth.
I bless this exam
In the name of the Protector from ill.
I bless this exam
In the name of the Spirit who guides.
Open my eyes to see how this subject
reflects something of you.
Aid me in understanding this subject
With my heart as well as with my head.
Give me
Wisdom to know the nub of things,
Strength to recall what is useful,
Peace to leave the results with you.
I will keep you all in my prayers during the upcoming week.  Blessings.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Remembrance and Hope

 My thoughts today are turning to Remembrance Day.  I had quite a full day on Tuesday as the chaplain of the local Legion Branch in Parkhill.  The various ceremonies – at the Parkhill Cenotaph, one at the Leury community in the country, the assembly at the local High School, a wreath laying at the cemetery, interspersed with a luncheon at the Legion.  It was most rewarding to be a participant and serve as chaplain and have the community come out to support the memory of those who have fallen in war serving Canada.  At the assembly as well as the cenotaph service I read the names of those who from this area gave their lives serving Canada in WW1, WW2, and the Korean War.  Fortunately no one from this area has lost their life in other conflicts since Korea.  I also added the names of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and W. O. Patrice Vincent to honour their recent sacrifice which was in the hearts and on the minds of so many recently. 

A new and controversial element has recently has begun to enter the Remembrance Day observances.  Recently the white poppy has started to enter the territory which has up to this point been the exclusive domain of the traditional red poppy.  I was first aware of the white poppy a couple of years ago.  It was developed as a focus on the hope for peace while the traditional red poppy is for the remembrance of those who make the supreme sacrifice while serving their country.  When I first heard about the white poppy it seemed to me that there was merit using this symbol in promoting peace as well as the remembrance of those who suffered the ultimate sacrifice because of the opposite – war.  At the time I checked with the Royal Canadian Legion’s national headquarters and received the rather terse response that the poppy was to be used only in the form prescribed by the Legion.  I was not surprized by this as I was aware that the Legion was and is very aggressive in protecting its control of the use of the poppy.  I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and did not pursue the matter further not wanted to cause any possible consternation or hurt to the Legion members that I was involved with as Chaplain and others.

The issue came to the fore again this year with an interview on CBC radio with a retired member of the Canadian military who was promoting the use of the white poppy.  He was fervent in his belief that the white poppy was appropriate as a symbol for the hope for peace – a peace which would mean that no more lives would be lost due to war.  He stated that he would be wearing a white poppy along with his red poppy for this Remembrance Day.  He also stated that he was being attacked by people because of this position.  I did not hear the whole interview so I was not aware what form these attacks took but the impression was that while hopefully not physical they were quite dramatic and difficult for his to deal with.  However, despite the reaction he was – admirably in my opinion – determined to continue.

I am rather torn by this issue.  I firmly support the desire and need for a symbol that will show the hope for peace in the world and encourage people to look for alternatives to war to solve conflict and problems.  However, I am not sure that the white poppy is the appropriate one.  The poppy has a long, honourable and honoured tradition of remembrance for those who gave their lives while serving their country in times of war and other conflicts.  I can understand that people may, rightly or wrongly, react strongly against something that they believe may dishonour that symbol. The red poppy does not glorify or war or promote militarism although it may be seen by some as doing that.  It honours those who are most deserving of honour.  As I noted, when I first became aware of the white poppy I thought that it was a good idea.  However, after consideration I believe that it would be more meaningful for someone or some group to develop a unique symbol for peace that does not utilize the powerful symbol that the poppy has become. I must confess that I don’t have any suggestions at this point.  However, I sincerely hope that someone more creative than I will.  In the meantime let us continue to remember and honour those who have made sacrifices – supreme or otherwise – to serve Canada in the armed forces and let us all pray for the peace that passes all understanding. 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Sometimes the answer to prayer isn’t what you want to hear

Sunday at church one of the parishioners gave what might be described as a small testimonial.  He had been recovering from a quadruple bypass and was back at church for the first time in many months.  After thanking people for their prayers and general support he told is of an experience he had a couple of days after the surgery.  He was starting to feel more human and he started to pray.  In effect he said to God that he was 88 years old and has never been in hospital before.  He told God that God had better make sure he never was in hospital again.  These aren’t his exact world but that was the gist of what he said.  After that he heard a voice but couldn’t make out what was said.  So he asked that the message be repeated.  He heard it this time, “Sonny boy don’t ever tell me what to do again.”

I don’t know if this can be classified as revelation but it certainly is revealing.  It reveals a lot about our expectations for prayer and the purpose of prayer.  In prayer I believe it is hard not to substitute our will for God’s will.  Sometimes these two things seem to be indistinguishable or at least we would like them to be.  We may not create God in our own image or perhaps it is inevitable that we always do to a certain extent as God is certainly beyond all the ways we can think of God.  However, we certainly do substitute our will for God’s at times whether it is desire for healing when someone we love or we ourselves are in poor health physically, spiritually or mentally.  We pay for peace in times of conflict and that those who serve in our armed forces will not come to harm physically, mentally or spiritually.  We even pray for good weather and for abundant harvests.  In all this we hope and prayer that our hopes and prayers will be answered by God – in the way we would like them to be answered. 

Richard Rohr has spoken about this:

We need forms of prayer that free us from fixating on our own egos and from identifying with our own thoughts and feelings. We have to learn to become spiritually empty. If we are filled with ourselves, there is no room for another, and certainly not God. We need contemplative prayer, in which we simply let go of our passing ego needs, which change from moment to moment, so Something Eternal can take over.

In all this it is good to remember the closing sentence in Anglican prayer which I find helpful, “Loving God, you know our needs better than we know them ourselves.  Fulfil now our desires and petitions, as may be best for us, in this world knowledge of you truth, and in the age to come eternal life.”  Amen