Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Of Holidays and Holy Days

Happy Victoria Day to those of you who celebrate today as a Holiday.  Holiday originally meant holy day but it has lost much of that meaning for many people.  There is not too much that is holy about the 2-4 weekend in today’s society except for those who worship beer at the cottage. Of course many of our holidays originally had a religious connotation being connected to Christmas and Boxing Day, Good Friday and Easter Sunday and even Easter Monday.  But even those have taken on a secular connotation in modern culture.  I recently bemoaned that fact that the Easter Egg hunt in this part of my world is held on Good Friday morning.  I had a letter to the local paper publish those remarks to which I received some positive response.  There is also the new custom of wishing people happy holiday instead of Merry Christmas.  People obviously are oblivious to the fact they are wishing people a happy holy day.  However, the secularization of our Holy Days cannot be denied.
Perhaps this is why my thoughts this morning have turned to prayer even though Victoria Day is one of those holidays which does not have religious connotations.  I have been in a couple of discussions recently about why we pray.  I am reminded of the reflection I used for a Diocesan Council meeting some years ago which follows:

Dean Alan Jones of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco has noted that there are only two prayers: ‘Help’ and ‘Thank-you’.  Everything else is just a footnote or variation and expansion on the basic theme—whether it is praise, adoration, confession, supplication or thanksgiving.
I believe that the essence of those two prayers ‘Help’ and ‘Thank you’ can in turn be summed up by ‘O God’ depending on how you speak that phrase.  ‘O God!!!’ which could be followed by ‘what was I thinking’ or ‘what were they thinking’ or ‘what were you thinking God’.  Or ‘O God!!!’ which could be followed by ‘isn’t this wonderful’ or ‘aren’t you wonderful’.    These true prayers probably should always followed by exclamation marks. 
Whether it is ‘Help’ or ‘Thank you’, to pray is to strive to place ourselves more closely in right relationship with God and with God’s creation.  We need our God-given imagination to apprehend what that right relationship is or can be.  The poet Mary Oliver tells us that the world gives us an invitation to right relationship through our imagination every day: 
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
The world offers itself to your imagination,
Calls you like the wild geese,
Harsh and exciting,
Over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
In today’s meeting let us pray ‘Help’.
Gracious and loving God help us to open our imaginations to all that you are offering us.  Help us to imagine and see the path to our right place in the family of things—in God’s family—in our lives as God’s children, in our parishes and especially in our work today for the part of God’s kingdom that is the Diocese of Huron.   In silence let us open our hearts and minds and bodies and souls and imaginations to the help that God offers us.  Amen.

Afternoon Session

This morning I noted that there are two prayers ‘Help’ and ‘Thank you’.  We ended with the prayer ‘Help’ that God would enable us to open our imaginations to right relationship with God for ourselves, our parishes, and the Diocese.  Let us pause and reflect on where we have been this morning.  Let us reflect on where have we had difficulty in opening our imagination to see where that right relationship could be?   Let us reflect on where we have opened our imagination to what the right relationship with God is. Let us reflect on where we have seen but not followed the path of right relationship.   Let us reflect on where have we have moved to be more in right relationship with God and God’s creation.
Let us pray.  Gracious God we thank you for all that you have given us this morning. ‘Thank you’ for all that you will continue to give us this afternoon and when we return to our homes and parishes to continue to seek the right relationship that God intends for us as God’s Children and God’s Church.  Amen. 

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