Monday, June 2, 2014

Averted Vision

                                             Averted Vision

There is a practice common among astronomers who, when they wish to see a celestial object more clearly, avert their eyes from looking directly at the object. As an example of this, the separation between the two stars of the double star Albireo, at the foot of the Northern Cross,  is  best seen by this method. Physics of the human eye teaches that there is on the retina a small area (fovea) upon which focuses the light from objects looked directly at (stared at). If we look to the right or left of the object, the light from the object focuses on a less used and a more sensitive part of the retina.              

It is like that with prayer. When we wish to turn our attention to God, in what direction do we turn? So frequently we tend to believe that to "talk to" God we have to think about (have a concept of) God to which we turn. So often when we do not focus on "God" in this way, our mind wanders every which way and we find our minds racked with distractions.                             

Christian spirituality teaches that we do have an "adequate" concept to hold on to, namely, the human Jesus. When we focus on the human Jesus, his words or one of his deeds, we are focusing on God's human conception of Himself, Jesus. Since we as humans cannot conceive directly of God the Creator of space and time, hence of all things, we meditate by focusing upon one of the mysteries of his life on earth.

Of course, if the Incarnation is not an item of faith for one, as is the case with Zen-Buddhists, then the focus of meditation becomes that which is within, which can be perceived as “no-thing”.  Zazen, seated meditation, is an exercise in which, according to Suzuki :

"I discovered that it is necessary, absolutely necessary, to believe in NOTHING. That is, we have to believe in something which has no form, no color- something which exists before all forms and colors appear." [Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, Shunryu Suzuki, p.116] 

That experience is not what we ordinarily term,"satisfying"; it is a desert experience, too much of which can lead to insanity it has been said. It is a battle, a war which Saint Athanasius referred to as battling demons in his Life of Anthony.  

The evangelists wrote of Jesus' testing by Satan, the "adversary"(Mk.1:12-13; Mt.4:1-11; Lk.4:1-13 ).This testing is apparently much like that experienced by Job when Satan, at that time a member of the court of the "so called" sons of God, asks God for permission to test Job's love of God with trials instead of all the blessings which had been his birthright.  (Jb 1:6ff,2:1ff)

In Jesus' life, it is the holy spirit that leads him out into the desert to be "tested".(Mk.1:12-13) When Jesus prays, he seeks solitude, emptiness and the desert.


Emptiness…is where the Real is.

Don’t run from the emptiness,

Don’t solid-fill it;

Steer by it, as with the North Star,

Make it your bone, your skeleton, your Rock.

For He said,  The Kingdom of Heaven is within you,’                                              

Where the emptiness is;                                

Punch through the empty center                          

And make it your axis.

“Very early in the morning, long before daybreak
He left the house, went out to a lonely place,                                
an empty place… Where He prayed”.                                                                                           (Mk.1:35) 

May I come with you?   


One of the most poignant self-descriptions of Jesus in the gospels occurs in both Matthew and in Luke:                       

"Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of of Man  has nowhere to lay his head."                                                                              [Mt. 8:28; Lk. 9:58 ]

In saying this, Jesus indicates that his home is nowhere, not a three dimensional, this worldly place. His home is with the Father. He faces in that "direction" when he prays; and so should we.

Recently, I was struck by a song sung by Allison Krauss on the occasion of a concert "Down From The Mountain Tour" at the Bayside Pavillion in Boston. I didn't catch the name of it, and I could not locate it on any album or CD of hers, until recently.The song is entitled "A Living Prayer" and it is on the CD entitled Lonely Runs Both Ways. It sums up what I've tried to explain:

A Living Prayer
Words and music by Ron Block
Moonlight Canyon Publishing (BMI), Admin. by Bug Music
In this world I walk alone
With no place to call my home
But there’s One who holds my hand
The rugged road through barren lands
The way is dark, the road is steep
But He’s become my eyes to see
The strength to climb, my griefs to bear
This Savior lives inside me there
In Your love I find release
A haven from my unbelief
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer my God to thee
In these trials of life I find
Another Voice inside my mind
He comforts me and bids me live
Inside the love the Father gives
In your love I find release
A haven from my unbelief
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer my God to thee
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer my God to thee

Astronomers fix their eyes on outer space, to see what reality is, when maybe we should avert our eyes from that to interior space to see reality.

                                                                          Charlie Mc