I have been spending time with the Northumbrian Community’s Daily Prayer book. It has very quickly become my favorite breviary. The “mood” of it matches mine lately – it is absolutely focused on the blessings of life, on the rhythms of nature, and on the value of small, deliberate, quiet, unobtrusive, unadorned service.
I have been particularly struck with their Rule of Life. It opens like this: “This is the Rule we embrace. This is the Rule we will keep: we say YES to AVAILABILITY; we say YES to VULNERABILITY.” Caps are theirs. This is a profound statement which seems to be an answer to the questions of how to be a contemplative in the midst of a busy life.
The Introduction to the Rule (written by Trevor Miller) mentions something which I have been mulling over. He says, “This is really important to understand: our Rule is our response to these questions . It is not an answer, only a response: an exploration of a way for living rooted in liberty rather than legalism or licence.”
No answers, and most certainly not The Answer. Just responses. Without a doubt, these come in many flavors, and not all of them are life-enhancing. But some of the sting is removed if we keep in mind that there are a range of possible responses, from the Dead End “No!”, to “Yes!” to my own cry of “Only Yes!”
This also leads me to all the great mysteries of our faith, and all the questions that life throws at us. We will not have answers to many of these, in fact we will not have answers to most. But all of them require a response. That response is our free-will gift to whatever it is. And our responses carry with them our most profound aspirations and our deeply ingrained ethics. Responses reveal our deepest selves. Most often a response is something that happens nearly automatically. We are then able to take that initial response and curb it, bend it, teach it and train it like a bonsai tree, even deny it. Responses sometimes become actions, and sometimes they become healing actions, but not always. yet we must respond. We are responsive beings. We hardly ever (if ever at all) have the initiative of action, acting completely free without any conditions. We are most of the time (all the time?) responding to events, we are reacting to circumstances. This is not a bad thing, because it is our lot. What we must work at is in how to respond.
There is a lifetime of work in this: joining the Kingdom Choir in a joyous responsory.