Contemplative Prayer: Practice of the Presence of God

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Contemplative Prayer class. Practice of the Presence of God.

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So, this is our last or next-to-last class on contemplative prayer, and we're looking precisely at the moment of the practice of the presence of God. We noticed last time that this isn't some kind of artificial make-believe exercise, it's reality therapy, it's waking up to the fact that God is always with us in so many mysterious ways. So, in that sense, it's the simplest thing in the world. What is our motto as Kamal Ghalis? That's it, that's close. Could we have a serious answer? Our motto is ego vobis vos mihi, I with you, you with me.


And the coat of arms is the two peacocks just directly present to the chalice, directly drinking from the chalice. So that's what we're to be here, a community mutually supporting ourselves in this venture of being present to God. At the last chapter, there was much made of all the trips that the monks were taking, and Ivan suggested we redo our coat of arms with the peacocks flying away, but this did not receive consent. So, they're going to stay there drinking from the chalice, and that expresses this whole theme of the practice of the presence. We could relate it to the biblical theme of remember, remember, oh Israel. This is a theme that comes up again and again in the Old Testament, and in different ways in the New Testament. Israel is always forgetting, forgetting the mighty works of God, forgetting God present in Israel's history. And so, this exercise is to try to just move through this cold state of forgetfulness to


a lively awareness of God's presence, whether it be the direct kind of face-to-face presence with God, or simply being somehow aware of God as the larger context for the immediate focus, the larger horizon. So that's where we've been. Now, I think we could spend at least a little time asking about precisely this place here, doing gestalt therapy, raising to our awareness how this place wants to very much support and sustain this practice, make it almost inevitable, so that we really have to work at it if we're not present to God's being with us. How is this? Our little map here wants to help us in this regard, and in some ways it's just obvious, but if we called some of the aspects of this to consciousness, it might help us in our ongoing


practice. How does this place of the hermitage almost continually beat us over the head with this reality of God's presence? In so many ways. What are some of the ways? Is there any way in which this... The bell. The bell. Ah! Yeah, yeah. The bell. In most places where people live, the predominant aural factor is some church bells. It might be the subway, it might be the ticker tape or cars or whatever, but here it's a bell. Other things? Nature. Nature. We have... What kind of nature, Father? The green stuff over there. The hills. I lift up my eyes to the hills. That's right. This is to be in a kind of a naive style, not strictly this scale.


Yeah. So we're kind of in this bowl. So again, we're not in the inner city with the... I lived for four years in the Bronx with these brownstone kind of apartment houses around, broken windows, all this stuff. This is quite a different context. So to be kind of snuggled in this basin of the hills. What else have we got in this? Just the fact that ourselves surround the chapel. Mm-hmm. Yeah. I think in a certain way, the chapel is right at the center of everything, if you include our guest community. So right at the center is the chapel, and what's right at the center of the chapel? The altar. The altar. So it's a very centered community. It is extremely exceptional in a very secular world, whether you live in suburbia, or on a farm these days, or right downtown, or in the residential districts.


This is very exceptional. The church at the center, the church always open, so it's extremely exceptional. The church is very accessible to any one of us. I don't think any one of us lives more than five minutes away on foot from the church that's always open, and at the center is the altar. So even if we're not always consciously aware of this, the place is a kind of architectonic mandala, or kiosk, or something like that. It has other things. And on top of the chapel, we have the two signs, also very evocative. The cross at the center, and then the kind of the tower, the bell tower, like it reminds me at least of the ladder, the ladder connecting the church and chapel.


Jacob's ladder. Jacob's ladder. It's certainly the predominant architectural fact. Also, certainly the very highest points of the Hermitage, in terms of the buildings, are, as you say, the cross and the bell. And the cross, does it bear the corpus on it, or? No. No. It's the famous resurrectional cross. So it wants to witness fundamentally Christ is risen. So Christ is in our midst gathering a whole community. Oh, we didn't put our little cemetery. You can't represent it as crosses, because we've eliminated those crosses. Frank Kaczmarczyk, our liturgical expert, says that this symbol is so powerful, and we cheapen it and weaken it by repeating it everywhere. So instead of every grave having its own cross, just the headstone, but also our beloved deceased,


to this day we're thinking of them. They're gathered as close as possible to this center. We remain one worshiping community. So in all these respects, you go downtown. I don't know if you've seen pictures of New York City downtown. St. Patrick's, which is a very significant building, but it looks like a little tiny toy, if you get back far enough and see it in the context of these skyscrapers to the right and the left, and Rockefeller Center, etc. Even the Roman Catholic Cathedral is just dominated by this secular world of the business area That isn't the case here. Our business area is very—you have to go looking for it to find it, where we produce the fruitcakes and where we keep the financial records, etc. But quite emphatically at the center is the worshiping church. And I think you said something, Sabrina, about an ordered community around this.


This isn't haphazardly thrown together. Nor is it just kind of residential districts, but it's clearly coordinated with the central three buildings. Other factors about it? I'll try to go a little bit further with the altar being the center of the chapel, which is the center of the whole place. If you go back to the individual cells, the center of each individual cell is each one of us, and the center of us is God. So it's kind of like we come together communally as one, but then even when we go back and loop out all of this, the center continually stays grounded as we take it, as we move it over, that center being within us. Even in the cells. Right. There's a rhythm that wants to be balanced in terms of times together, times in solitude,


so that we don't lose that centeredness, so that we are aware of it. We're aware that we're community worshiping, we're aware that we're individuals worshiping, and the cell wants to strengthen that significance of the individual. We're not just a collectivity. But we are individuals who come together also in community to worship. So also, if you can put the time dimension somehow, lay that over this, the fourth dimension, the going back and forth four times a day to the church, going into the church, and the whole dynamic of worship in the church. I was interested to note that we're never more than three hours of our waking day away from a worship service. This is extremely exceptional, again, in the secular world, people go for weeks without being able to get to church if they want to get to church, or maybe they get to church once a week, etc. But every day to be coming and going back and forth, back and forth, and as I say, never


three, more than three hours away from formal worship. This, you almost have to be working at forgetting God. So someone like Brother Lawrence would say, just live this place, just claim it. What about this place? Is it just your usual secular classroom? No, Father. And why isn't it just your usual secular classroom? Of course, we have reminders all around, not just in this room, but in the kitchen sink, there's an icon, and the crucifix, and the laundry mat, and we're surrounded by symbols. It constantly calls to mindfulness. As Catholics, we take that all for granted, but Protestants immediately recognize it, certainly Buddhists. This is a pretty striking central symbol with a corpus, and what do we have behind us?


Yeah, Our Lady, then we have Gregorian chant there, so that's tying even the music corner into worship. Then we've got the Way of the Cross all around us. But this is a very exceptional classroom or chapel. The table is interesting. It's not just your usual school desk. It's been very carefully wrought. Why? Also to build a kind of a sense of reverence. So as you say, this is everywhere. In the library, we have the wonderful Haitian Madonna and Child, and all those images, et cetera, and just the books there, and so in the refectory. What about these three community buildings? How are they serving us? They're serving our spirit, you could say, Dave, if you want to get into our triadic, spirit, mind, and body, the worship, the library, the refectory, and then the bakery,


and all the rest. But they want to serve the whole person in this context of being a worshiping, contemplative community, and these three spaces in one way or another want to be in every cell and in each one of us. So it wants to be not only very focused, but somehow sufficient, complete, not repressing very significant parts of our humanity. You had your hand up. I was going to say something about the chapter, but now it's not. Let's come back to the chapter. I was going to say, in the chapter room, I think that the first chapter room I ever saw was at Spencer, St. Joseph's Abbey, and I was struck by the fact that they both look like churches in the way that she also has that feeling. We take care of a different part of our spiritual life. In fact, the chapter needs to be a conventional chapter, which has the decision-making part of all the family going on, all the Saturday chapters. It's not a room that we come to with coffee and donuts, so there's a certain sacredness


to it. We might have music in here, we might have theater in here, but there's still a sacredness to everything that happens in this particular room. Absolutely. I think that's exciting. Those of us who come to the Saturday Rosary, an icon goes here and a candle, it very quickly becomes a worshiping space, and then on, what is it? Yeah, this becomes the place of the... What is the technical word for that? The repository. That's right. So, yeah, this is very unusual. Also, our community room, that's just to enjoy. We don't have to be in a heavy sacred space, but there is that immense picture of Christ that we all appreciate by Dick Grishko, and a significant number of the videos have religious themes, et cetera. Other things.


No one mentioned in terms of nature, we had the mountains, but the ocean, incredible symbol of mystery of the infinite. So, lots of monasteries are closed into an area, and that has its own strength. Kamaldoli is kind of in a basin, but we have this incredible openness, so that I think in its own way, it's healthier than being all enclosed by mountains all around. It does want to open us out, et cetera. And then we have the guest ministry. They don't come here the way they might go to a Hyatt Hotel to just vacation and catch some golfing, et cetera. They come here specifically for the worship, so they kind of reinforce us in this openness. And the church is always open on our side, it's always open on their side, and every one of those spaces is specifically for this purpose.


So, it's a mutually supporting thing. Also, the guest house in terms of what we sell there, et cetera. So, the whole thing wants constantly to be reminding of this, and so again, I think we almost have to work at it to be oblivious to God's presence. Okay. Other things about that? There can be a kind of cataclysm over there in the sense that the very profusion of symbolic things can almost immunize us. The way people can ride along on the level of symbolic religion, on the level of images, call it the cataclysm, they can be so used to that that they really could live used to the presence entirely. That's the danger. We have the rhythm. I know that I'll be at, no, I won't be at Vespers tonight, but I know that I'll be at vigils tomorrow, et cetera. Just that knowing means I don't have to commit myself in faith or risk, or no one's going


to mug me on the way to church. I'm not going to have to call up the pastor to get the door open or anything. So, it's just so convenient. It can be second nature, not in the best of senses. In terms of the symbol thing, like Father Berman was talking about, that's the whole point of liturgical documents about our environment, to reduce the number of symbols, so that the ones that were there can be more powerful. There shouldn't be more than one image in Mary, in the church. That the author should be in the center with nothing distracting him, so that your eye can not go right to that, so that too much imagery. Again, something to notice. And that we've done. People are shocked how bare our church is. We still have more than one of the older people here who want plaster statues of Mary and St. Joseph in the rotunda kind of thing.


And this kind of thing. So, people are astonished to what extent we have brought it down in almost a Quaker or Zen way to the absolute minimum. And there again, what I find exciting is when we go into the rotunda at the moment of Eucharist, as I understand the idea of the architect, it really fills out. And we ourselves are the living icons, so that it's not bare at all. And it would be awkward if we had these sacred images then with our backs to them kind of thing. So, just the centeredness of the thing in its own way wants to challenge us to a bareness. Yeah, we have, I think, a few strong images rather than dozens and dozens of plaster saints around. There is another part to it too. You speak of the trees and the forest and the ocean, but there's also the desert here in the sense that with the dryness of this particular area where, you know, if you take a good look, everything does seem rather dead at this time of year, especially.


And that can be associated with the aspect of our life that, yeah, we don't have to make that commitment. We do go to church every four hours or so. However, there's the aspect of the times that we would much rather not go to church. There are those times when we might not want to pray because we don't have those friendly feelings towards God, which happen. There could be a time of person experiencing darkness. But then we're still called into that in spite of what we might be going through individually. We're still called out of that constantly into this experience of prayer. So, there's this desert in which we can encounter God as well. Yeah? I'm struck by the presence of the Romans there. The way you kind of know in particular. There's lots of Romans, yeah. You mean the one there? The main one. Yep. The driveway. Yep. Personally, I find it the most important reminder of God's presence or absence.


I also, just reflecting on the layout, you also haven't really drawn the wall that separates the cloister from the rest of the property. That reminds me of the wall separating the city of Jerusalem from the desert and the Mount of Olives and some outside the wall. Hmm? It's just something. I'm just trying to think. Hmm? There's certainly all kinds of sacred resonances for the better and for the worse. We live in a kind of a sacred place. And again, they aren't out there too much. I was thinking that so much of modern society is secular and the Roman Catholic Church wants to, for instance, witness to the sacred. But how many of the orders are contemplative, really have this kind of settled-in, ongoing


commitment? Very few. So if the Roman Catholic Church is just a minority of Americans, and if the contemplative space is like this, there are other contemplative monasteries across the country. But they're few in number compared with the parishes and compared with all the people who don't go to church, et cetera. We're an extremely small minority. So we just take this for granted. And yet, it's extremely exceptional. And if we claim it at all, again, we should get to work on what it's all about. But the road intuition is interesting. I used to go down the point when I just arrived and watch Highway 1, the traffic going back and forth, vroom, vroom, vroom, vroom. All these people very intent on getting someplace else. And in a sense, through the stability thing, we don't go anywhere else. We go out, but we come back. And there's not this desperate need to, because God is elsewhere rather than here.


The presumption is that God is here. Let's do something about it. I like the road for a number of reasons. One of them being that it reminds me of the whole Emmaus story, that Jesus walks the road with the disciples and they recognize him. It's only coming together and showing him the Eucharist that they recognize him. And then somehow mysteriously he's in heaven, which reminds me again of the encounter with the angel. Jesus is not in the tomb. The fact that the cross above our church is empty is almost a statement. You won't actually find him here. You must look for him here, but he has gone actually ahead of you, back to the periphery, to Galilee, back into the world, and not in Jerusalem. But you have to be in Jerusalem to find that out. And I'm really pleased that we have that large window outside the church. For me, that's really a resurrection symbol.


So, our response in this place. In this ministry, we talk about the practice of the presence of God. There is also, certainly in our time also, this mysterious absence of God, and to wrestle with that and acknowledge that. This place is also about that. So what do you do in the moments of darkness and the apophatic? Brother Lawrence, when we get to him, he spent the first ten years of his religious life in just absolute darkness and sense of absence of God and aridity, and he stuck through that and then came out on the other end. But part of it is the absence of God. Why have you forsaken me? So it isn't always lovely interior consolations, etc. There is a paradox that actually what seems like an absence really isn't. I don't mean that the road and the window are about the absence of God. They're rather an affirmation that the presence is not as we expect.


Yeah, precisely. That's what I would mean also. This totally other God, we've got to go beyond the gods who are easily present to find a God who is out present, but in such a totally other way that it's... Now you've got me thinking about the road. I think a lot of times when we walk the road, especially when we get down on the highway and turn around and come back up, that I'm not going on the highway and going off to the movies or going off to do something else. I'm going to go back up. That road to the road to me is a symbol that I'm going to stay in one place, too. It's a conscious symbol. There's the possibility. There's the door. There's the road. But in spite of the fact that I'll go to Berkeley or go to Rome. In spite of that, to me, I still have that image of the monastic life as staying in one place.


Staying put. And not running away from what's going on inside. Sitting yourself in yourself, teaching everything. And that notion of the contemplative life, to me, the road symbolizes that. Also the road that I'm not going to take. If I take this road, I'm not going to go up again. Brother Emanuel was telling us that he was here for seven years before he ever went into town. The Chinese hermits would sit and face a wall for nine years just to stay there. Let the inner work do itself almost. It's a great assistance just to that. Just to not move it. It's certainly, I think, a powerful counter-cultural witness. Because at least in the American myth, if it gets difficult here, just jump in the car and go elsewhere. There's an ad they're doing again and again on the radio about California.


We're a mobile people. We're constantly moving on. I don't know. Every five years, I think the average American family moves on. Often it's related with jobs or something. But the myth of the highway, I think, is very different from our wandering roads. It basically wants to link things. And as you say, on foot, that's very interesting. So to link not things, but the community and the guests. And it's basically a foot community on foot. Not even bicycles, but that's extremely exceptional. So your highway wants to be straight and five-lane, etc. And we don't have none of that. But it wants to bond. And this community, we've put a lid on it now. We're saying we're not going to grow more. We're not going to build more cells. This was a huge fight back in the time of Don Pedro Bello. He wanted to just keep building, building, building, and we'd be the biggest hermitage in the world. But you get beyond a certain size, and we're no longer Canalese hermitage.


Because that requires being family. I find it quite charming walking home and knowing I know everyone in the neighborhood. And they won't come out and mug me, etc. But we're all about the same thing. It's an extremely intentional community. Everyone here is... Why? If they're truly seeking God, that's it. That's our basic criterion. And that's what Brother Lawrence is talking about. So, passing this on, this one, and that up there. It's all about this one thing necessary. You know, Bob, that's a very important point. Because I was telling someone the other day that I was teaching some American literature from the 1930s to the 40s to some children about five years ago. And it dealt with life in a neighborhood, with neighbors, and knowing your neighbor's nose down. And these children were staring at me for 45 minutes with blank looks on their faces. And they wouldn't respond to any questions. And I just couldn't imagine what it was.


And it dawned on me that night. And I went back in the next day, and I said, How many of you have neighbors? And all their hands went up. I said, How many of you know your neighbor's names? Half the hands went up. I said, How many of you talked to your neighbors in the last year? One kid out of 25 put his hands up. They had no sense of really living in a community. And I think most of us here probably grew up in towns or even in a city where we had a sense of a neighborhood. And I grew up, at least, in a town where, yeah, you could be out at 11 o'clock at night and walk home without being scared of somebody mugging you. And on occasion, when we have a movie or a get-together or something, and I can walk back up to my cell, and the only thing that's probably going to mug me is a fox or a deer. It's very different within this particular group than it is outside. And I get more and more glaringly different.


And so with the road, the thing that strikes me about the metaphor of the roads, we have benches on that road, too. And I very often do go down and sit on one of those benches and watch those cars zooming up and down the highway or the motorcycles or the mobile homes. And it is a good reminder. Going into Monterey is another good reminder for one day that there is, and that God is there, too. I'm reminded of that, but I'm very often reminded of the absence of God or something spiritual. I heard about in London, to the elderly who are living in their apartments alone, they distributed these signs that say, Help! And she's supposed to struggle over putting the window, because otherwise no one would know for days on end if she dies in there or something. Because in a sense, it means an incredible type of freedom, this anonymity, the anonymous city, that you just do your own thing. But here, if someone's missing for more than a day, we're aware of it.


Well, this is the way it used to be for millions and millions of years. Human experiences, little villages. I'm kind of charmed by the idea that before we came, there was, oh, about three generations of white people, but before them was the Native Americans, for God knows how long. And we know they were here, but apparently they were in a little group, certainly not bigger than we are, and more or less living our life. But the idea of the small village, whether in Africa or the U.S. or Australia or something, the city is a very new thing, and it's a very exciting thing. We don't want to get anti-city. It's just that this is very unique. And yeah, I was thinking up at Berkeley. Our house there, we haven't been there that long, but we haven't even met our neighbors. You go and you knock on the door and you don't answer.


I think once there was a contact, but no other. And that's kind of the... You're extremely lucky in this day and age if you have that sort of relationship to your neighbors in your town. And we know everyone in every one of these, and more or less everyone is about the same thing, yes. I was thinking when we were talking about neighborhoods, but when I lived, before I went to seminary, I had a nice apartment, and if I had a couple days off, I'd go in that apartment and never see anybody for days. But I had a sense of more solitude there, but somehow I didn't have the community to support that solitude. It was a whole different kind of thing. And at the same time, between seminary and here, I lived in a rectory. There were three of us in the house. And after dinner, all the doors would get closed, and everybody would be in their televisions, you know, with their doors closed. And I'd think, what am I doing here? I live in this community. I mean, right on top of people, but no connection except at dinner.


So it's kind of, it's funny. I mean, Americans really do love that notion of just getting to their own room and closing their door. And I've said this before, I think sometimes at our worst, we have that too. I mean, there's also that unhealthy solitude of like, everybody's bugging me, so I'm going to go to my room and close my door. Just don't bother me right now. So, you know, the dynamic about, but we're trained with that in America. My Italian relatives, at least, they wouldn't have a sense of that at all. You know, they wouldn't. I imagine you can say they're different in Italy, like the way they live at the hermitage there. But in America, we're just, first thing we want to do is get to my house and close my gate. I think the value of community for hermits is that it helps us to come at it ourselves, to realise that the purpose of life is not the individual, but to move out of the self towards the other. That's why I added the road, because the road is there to remind the community that it doesn't exist for itself.


It exists to move out of itself towards the other. We welcome the other along that road. We choose to walk back up, not in order to close the doors, but in order to learn to love that other better and be more welcoming. That's what I value about this place, why I'm here. And not on Mondays, also, somewhere, where they cut themselves off. I can't stand that. Whereas the house across the highway has a gate in front of it, we don't. That's right, there's no gate. And I really appreciate the fact. Our founder, Father Medocchi, always used to say, this isn't a prison. And so, in terms of people coming in, also in terms of, we're here freely, and so at any moment, one could walk out. And to say that we're never more than three hours away from worship, also says we're never more than three hours away from encountering others, our guests who are there. And they come and they go from all kinds of different,


but they come here for this thing of also trying to find their center and deepen that, etc. And often they're more intent on that than we are. Looking from the perspective of the person outside, looking at that room, that person outside is glad that we're up here. And that person would not want us all to show up here, no one's home. They're very happy that we're here, and we're here, placed and put. Yeah, in that sense, we're very different from your retreat house, say, I don't know, a Passionist retreat house, where two or three priests are assigned there for this year or next year. And they're preaching, preaching retreats, that's their ministry, is to preach retreats. Our ministry here isn't to preach retreats. We just have five during the year. Our ministry is to be worshiping community here, and as permanent worshiping community, that's a powerful drawing card, so to speak. So we're always home, and we don't move on according to that other. And, of course, again, that goes directly into Brother Lawrence's practice,


the presence of God. It seems to me our main problems might not be the shape of the place or the rhythm, but things like negative affect. What can keep us away from God? If we get depressed, if we get lonely, if we get angry, that can be a kind of a very contemporary way of experiencing separation from God into our fear, etc. So it's not a distance from a sacred place to remind us. It's not that we have to work eight hours a day in, I don't know, an investment company or in a newspaper office or something. It's just there's no way. But we can, through our own inner stuff that can bubble up precisely through solitude and through the intensity of being an all-syllabic male small community, that can cause us to wrestle with other kinds of factors that can seem to render


something like a serene, ongoing communion with God difficult. And sometimes I think it can be positive affect. It can be a kind of a sense of elation and exuberation and being jolly, etc. That can make us less aware. We can get very busy doing this, doing that, doing that, and sometimes it's very necessary, sometimes it's less necessary. That can render the ongoing serene awareness difficult. Or on the other hand, idleness. We just don't have enough to fill up our day in a significant real way. And that's one of the real dark temptations of the desert fathers and mothers, that noonday devil. And we're just blah, you know. And this is the kind of thing that renders more difficult. And habit, routine, rote. Those are the things that I think we have to battle against. So it isn't as if it's the easiest thing in the world.


In fact, it's very difficult to be present to God in any kind of ongoing way. But not because the place doesn't call us to it. That was the only point I was making. Any comments about that? Just one other item. It was mentioned in connection with the church, but it's true more generally too. One of the biggest helps to the presence of God is what you might call the silence or the quiet. I don't mean just in an auditory way, but I mean in general. Because if you go in the water, these things start shouting at you. Signs and all kinds of things come at you and shout at you. Visually as well as in your hearing. And in other ways too. Every sensation leaps at you. There's a kind of a hole in all that. There's a kind of a space which is created, which allows you to become aware of a deeper thing. That's sort of the one thing in a way. I think absolutely. When I go into Monterey, but certainly to San Francisco,


suddenly I'm aware. As you see, all these images, the billboards are the most obvious. But what do they call it? Overload. Sensory overload. Now the danger here, I don't think it's sensory overload. Because again, the human family lived this way for millions of years, whether on the farm or in the little village. This is the way our nervous system is built for. And the nature is all one. Nature is your context. Nervousness is oneness. That also, the fact that we lived with some kind of ongoing contact with trees and rivers and seasons, etc. for again, millions of years. And it's only very recent, this extremely artificial context of the megalopolis. Where if you see a tree, it's just strictly ornamental there, you know, on the cement sidewalk, etc. So yeah, all that. And to be aware of that, and what do we do? How do we fill up in that silence?


That's the thing. I only wanted to mention this business of negative affect. What do you do about that? I like what Gerald May says, not to try in a busy way to try to fix that. And repress my anger or sorrow or fear or whatever it be. But be there with that. And there's somehow mysteriously at the center of that, find God, this presence. Right at the eye of the cyclone or the heart of the desert or something. That can be. And then with the busyness, just slow down a little. Just ask, is this necessary kind of thing? And just little moments of break, etc., to render that less frenetically wild. Other comments on all this? How this place, physically, but also the rhythm of the place


and the dynamic and the other people. Certainly the animals call us back to God. This kind of thing. Which animals? Primarily Buddy and Scooter. Little furry icons. Our infirmary is interesting. You know, we have a man who's bedridden. He's images all around you. It's obviously a faith context. And I have him in the morning now. And just about the first thing we do is the morning offering, you know. So here's this man who's close to death. He calls us back to this. And I say, good morning. He says, God's morning? Or what, God day or something? But also our library. It's specifically, there's also literature and poetry and humor and all the rest of us.


But it wants to sustain this life. There's not a lot of stuff that isn't focused. Also the food. Very simple, basic, healthy, cooked by us, with love, as they say. Lots of places, they have to bring in a cook. And they just grind it out and it's there. I think it's something different to know that Martin is doing his thing today, and Ezekiel will do his thing, et cetera. But also aware of the needs of the grumblings, of the hopes of the community, and the whole thing is in that context. All right. With that, we still haven't gotten to Brother Lawrence. So why don't we absolutely promise that our next class will be a shortened class focused right on Brother Lawrence. The pages aren't in order numerically,


but the pages are in terms of the themes we'll be looking at. Because it's not that he sat down and wrote a logical volume on the practice, the presence of God. It's a series of conversations, of letters, that his ideas would come up. It's very repetitive. But as you get into it, you kind of see the complexity of the supporting structure for this spirituality, and then the radical simplicity of the center of it all. And again, he's suggesting that this could be your basic and my basic practice as Christians. He would say it should be. And to ponder that challenge. If it's not the, I think it should certainly be a basic component of it. So for your homework assignment, you might just flip through there and get a feeling for this, if you haven't heard Brother Lawrence. And then again, our final thing, the way we'll conclude, is how to bring it all together.


And especially, is there any possible way of reconciling wisdom and those kind of pre-Christian Gnostic themes with Christian agape? Thank you. Okay.