by Jeremiah Bartram on 22/09/10 at 7:22 am
Last week, in sharing my experience of dark hour prayer, I omitted something important: the practice of offering.
I mean offering as in worship; as in primitive practices of sacrificing the best yearling, the best fruits, the best of whatever we value to God.
We’ve long since abandoned the literal application of that impulse. By which I mean, we don’t lay an animal (or a human) on an altar and slaughter it, ostensibly to please a distant and jealous deity.
In the Christian universe, the ultimate offering has already been made – that of Christ on the cross.
In the Eucharistic sacrifice, that offering is both memorialized and repeated, bloodlessly, forever.
And in prayer, I – we – every Christian – participate in that offering, in all places, at all times.
So in the dark hour, when I wake with anxiety (or euphoria), offering that experience, whatever it may be, is central to my prayer.
It’s part of the thanksgiving and praise that form the circle of fire, the accompaniment to the repetitive cycle of “Ask, Listen, Discern, Act”.
At least, that’s my very limited experience.
So the other night I awoke gripped by a deeper dread than usual (“Why so much dread?” you ask. For the purposes of prayer, the cause doesn’t matter, and seeking an answer to that question, at that time, is a distraction, a red herring.)
I followed my usual practice: opened my heart to the fear, without trying to push it away or ignore it or explain it or repress it.
And also I offered it, just as it was, to God as my gift in that moment. As a gift from him, re-gifted by me, without mental gymnastics and especially without imploring him to take this unpleasant feeling away.
None of that.
Instead, I tried to merely rest in that place of offering and receiving.
Strangely, the dread disappeared, to be replaced by a quiet euphoria, its flip side. But that is not the point of this little experience.
The point is something a little different.
It’s my understanding that my particular feeling – unpleasant anxiety, pleasant euphoria – doesn’t matter.
What matters is opening the heart/soul to God, and resting in his presence.
At dawn, when I read the Gospel of the day (the call of Matthew), I understood something new in a familiar truth.
Jesus didn’t come for healthy people, or rich people.
He came for the vulnerable, for the sick, for the poor, for people who have needs.
Our vulnerability is the needle’s eye through which we must pass to find the Kingdom of Heaven.
When we make ourselves invulnerable, it’s not that he is not present – never that. It’s we who are closed to him.
Conversely, when we open our own vulnerability to him, he enters, bringing light, peace, happiness – and healing.