Here I am still presenting my reflections from the first time I made the 40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich from Lisa Dahill’s book of that name. On day 5 of the journey, on the first part of it, the phrases that stuck with me while I was praying were:
…reverent contemplation … marvelling with great reverence …my spirit rejoices in God…He has looked with favour…
I remember vividly my imaginative contemplation of The Annunciation from when I made The Spiritual Exercises going into the second week. Mary had the audacity to desire to have God’s child. I spent a lot of time in this prayer with the word reverence and reverent, on what it means to regard something or someone with reverence: wonder and awe. And it dawned on me, in recent sprayers when He has been holding me, this has been His demeanour: reverence. I was gobsmacked (or Godsmacked!) when that sank in. How could He possibly view me with reverence? Yet there it was: love, tenderness and reverence. I am precious and sacred to Him; He looks at me with wonder and awe. Like Mary, my response was for my spirit to rejoice because He looks at me with such favour. Here, I am just like her marvelling with great reverence at His greatness when faced with my own littleness.
In the “Questions to ponder” section day 5, I made note of some things. The first is that Julian’s vision of Mary is one my faith tradition can embrace. My church likes the idea of her meekness. What is special about her for me though, is her audacity, and that in seeing her in this way, I might come to regard her as my friend. I’m still a little shy on that one though. The second is that our culture understands humility as weakness and treats it with contempt. By looking at Jesus, I understand it as truth, honesty and strength; to know who you are and to be unafraid to live by it.
…with great reverence that He was willing…
To me, this is the phrase that recast the understanding of humility to mean degrading. The other perspective is that humility is a liberating gift from God because it frees us to live as we truly are in Him to be our true self in God, rather than try to fit ourselves into the uncomfortable mould of worldly expectations.
When praying the second part of this journey with day 5, these are the phrases that stood out for me in the prayer:
I lift up my soul… teach the lowly your way… teach me Your way…
I saw myself sitting on the ground where I had just dug up my treasure from the field – my immortal diamond: my soul, my free will. I handed it to Him, saying the first phrase over and over:
I lift up my soul
The freedom to be who he would have maybe – the deepest desire of my soul. I said my own suscipe prayer to Him and asked Him to teach me His way. Still within and part of the prayer, I then seemed to be distracted then by all the chores I had to do, and about getting my things ready for work the next day, except, I noticed that there was an absence of the usual stress and anxiety around all of that. I understood that it was Him showing me his way: to just do, without thinking about it, to be in the present, preparing, but not worrying about tomorrow. It was a “just do it” sort of feeling. It is for me to just do what has to be done in a relaxed “being the moment” way – no drive or push; no pressure, just as it is. After the prayer, I sorted my clothes for work the next day and I cleaned the kitchen. I had my well-being plan. It was just to do it, simple things. I had been watching a Chinese internet star, her films of a simple rural life. It was her demeanour, just to do. He was smiling at me then.
As I reflected on this prayer and on the journal reflections suggested in the 40 Day Journey book, I noticed that I experienced myself as little at work. When other people saw me just a classroom teacher” when I have had so much more experience than that and they don’t know it. It was okay though, because putting myself in that position was all part of the stepping back, ruined for life experience of The Spiritual Exercises and my rejection of being overstretched by my pride. I struggled with the second reflection, not sure I can accept the premise of being pregnant with God. From praying with the Song of songs, I can relate to Him as a lover but can’t get my head around him being my child. Maybe it is an image to pray with another day. The third point, on the prospect of total availability to God, provoked the same feeling of desire in me and yearning for Him, to be able to live always and fully in that state of saying yes. I can pray:
Here I am Lord.