The Work of the People

FEB 19, 2018 - Visual Liturgy

A Death to Awken

A Death to Awaken, a visual meditation written by Kelly Stewart Hall and Inspired by John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul.

Something greater is holding each of our broken hearts together. Something that tells seeds to struggle towards Light while buried alive. Something that reminds us that darkness is not void of Life, but what Life was spoken out of. Life called into being out of a No-thing that Always Was.

+ Read reflection below, then watch/stream A Death to Awaken liturgy piece.

// REFLECTION by Kelly Stewart Hall //

Horrible tragedies will not stop happening. When I survey the expressions of America’s governing leadership (whether in the news or by their action/non-action) it’s hard to know what the hell is going on. Our grieving for the senseless and traumatic massacre of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida is just beginning. From ground zero out, we continue to cycle through shock and pain, and all the feelings that come from the violent and too-soon cutting off of the limbs of humanity. Collectively we hold our hearts at the base of our family tree, where we are all connected, rooted, entangled together.

We are more than sad, we are devastated.

If we keep moving forward without feeling this well, we will continue to lose part of the beauty of who we are and who humans are meant to be. Deadened to the traumatic realities, we may merely survive. It takes a lot of work to remain numb to life’s tragedies. It takes intentional closing of the eyes, or turning of the face. It takes defensive shielding of the heart.

It’s hard to imagine what the victim families are going through, our greatest gift to them now is to honor and share their burdens of grief, to not rush through healing, and work together in love to make things as right as they can be made (which will never ever seem right). I confess, I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but the opportunity for growth is present even (and sometimes especially) in times like these if we are willing and open, even while are hearts are shredded.

These are the hearts we brought to the altar of Ash Wednesday. These shocked legs are what we will walk into the desert-times on while bearing the weight of 18 coffins.

Just weeks before Lent 2018, my friend Travis sent over an English translation of Dark Night of the Soul, a poem written by 16th century mystic Saint John of the Cross. Typically anything Travis sends me is not merely an opportunity to sit down, contemplate, or write about but an opportunity to struggle with. (I should know by now, I should see it coming.)

This poem became a teacher to me, and a companion. To know that someone else, centuries ago even, awakened by blanketing himself in night and descending into the depths of himself is a comfort and a saving grace to me. This poem is a strong reminder that to make way for more God means hollowing out, shedding ourselves of the ways of coping or being that do not serve God or our own soul for that matter. A reminder that we are not invincible Gods, but vulnerable humans who can step into courage and bravery to step away from the comforts of our old ways into someone new. The last thing we have to lose is our individuality, that’s not going to go without a screaming match if not a clawing fight.

Moving towards unity, towards oneness, begins with oneself. In my life, I learned who I was, then who I wasn’t, I learned who I didn’t want to be, and who I wanted to be. It all seemed like small changes/tweaks to being able to present myself as a competent human. But, it didn’t work that way. I became a sick human. I became a costume designer wearing disguise after disguise. At some point the weight of the layers were too cumbersome, so I peeled them away, as much as I could tolerate at a time until I stood there as my truest self, a being of God’s own heart.

At my core, I AM.

I bet my life on it, when you get down to the bottom of yourself, you find it to be the same. We are I AM, we are made of God and sent. You and I share in the feeling of pains and loss, but also in celebration and joy, we are not only rooted together, we are connectivity; conduits of God’s unfailing Love to one another, co-laborers in the creation of this growing universe.

I choose this life. I choose to integrate more and more into the I AM. This is our work, beloveds. To grow into Him.

We need a deep breath and a turnover of the soil that will allow fallen seeds from these to be buried within us so that each of us can do with God the work that is done in secret. That happens in the depths of each of us, should we choose to not only go through, but grow through death times.

We are made to shed what no longer serves us throughout our life span. We are meant to let things die and fall away and sprout anew. I am not just talking about political reformations, and I haven’t for a while now—we all want to be transfigured, BUT IT IS TERRIFYING. It requires letting ourselves go and leaving our ways behind. It is saying goodbye. Severance of our old self is not a welcomed feeling, but it needs to be let in.

Something greater is holding each of our broken hearts together. Something that tells seeds to struggle towards Light while buried alive. Something that reminds us that darkness is not void of Life, but what Life was spoken out of. Life called into being out of a No-thing that Always Was.

A Death to Awaken is a poem created out of friendship for times such as these. Growth spurts. Healing Crises. Cocoon-times. Buried beneath the earth times. Dark nights of the soul are more than experiencing depression, but and end cycle and a beginning cycle of life. When you come through one, you feel completely different because you are. The whole process is full of grace.

Before watching this film, you may want to take a minute to center yourself through prayer, or lead your group through a centering prayer practice starting with breath work. Consider watching the film more than once listening for what speaks to you each time. Write these ideas into your journals, wind them into your prayer practice. Take them with you as guides.

It was Love that drew me into a total eclipse;
a dark born to heal me—a death to awaken me.
—O, the grace of Love!—
I cannot say how I went, 
but I left who I thought I was lying content.

Secure in the unknown, I chose, alone, 
to go deeper into my disguise, 
—O, the grace of Love!—
into the dark where things go to hide
all while my dying body lie.

On that miraculous night,
I traversed unseen, blind to all things
with no light, no guide
except for the passion of my heart burning inside…

And, its shine did surely lead me, more than any man-made divinity, 
to the presence of the No-thing, the Am, the All
—my first familiarity, the Always Been—
and all else I ever was, all I ever knew, would fall.

Oh enlightening emptiness!
A void that brings greater life than possessions.
A nothing that brings oneness; 
and enjoins God and what God loves,
and transforms the beloved into the Lover.

Love flowers from my heart
which I keep for God and God alone
where Christ resides inside, sleeping—where I hold No-thing and All
and all I thought, like wind, went breezing by.

I am blown apart! Seen through..
I touched Love, and Love in all its gentility 
ended me. 
Whatever was left of me, gone—
fully expressed into all that is.

And, there I remained, suspended in the vast
My identity laid unto the Beloved,
with nothing left to cling to, but us,
I abandoned my past 
leaving all my old worries and ways in the dust.

About Altɐr

We believe there is an alternative narrative to the prevalent narrative of scarcity and fear. We believe God is moving and is behind an alternative narrative of abundance and freedom, a narrative in which fear gets defeated and love wins.

We believe God’s narrative requires we altǝr our perspective, that we step, in faith, into God’s upside down reality. In God’s reality we listen for, live and speak God’s upside down voice of faith, hope and love, not striving for ourselves but serving our neighbor. For all these reasons, this is Altǝr.

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