Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Oil and emptiness as blessings at morning prayer

Elaine Neuenfeldt led our morning prayers this morning by encouraging us to return to Monday reading from the 2 Kings 4.1-7. In that text, to save her sons from being sold into slavery, a widow is told by Elisha to ask all her neighbours for as many empty jars as possible. Behind closed doors the miracle takes place of the small amount of oil she already had being enough to fill every one of the jars she has amassed, sufficient for her to pay off her debts, save her sons and have enough for them all to live on afterwards.
The story is one of healing in community, of ordinary people not offering their richness but their emptiness, their worthless empty jars save lives and buy back fullness of life.
So we listened to the text and reflected on it together. A person who works nearby and comes from Rwanda spoke about how for her the emptiness represents the listening she hopes to receive from her friends and neighbours, yet so rarely do we offer or receive the real emptiness of unjudgemental listening. She also spoke movingly of coming empty to prayer and leaving feeling filled.
Both emptiness and fullness are symbols of blessing.

Coming home this evening my heart was full of song after Holden Evening Prayer and on the bus I ended up reading a few more pages of Sarah Coakley (I was so hooked I missed my bus stop!) all about the complex and vexed problem for feminist theology of kenosis or self emptying. I'll come back to that in a later post but as I finally got off the bus it really seemed that morning prayer and evening home coming were part of the same reflection around fullness and emptiness. Very female themes.

To end our shared reflection this morning we prayed some word by the Brazilian feminist theologian Ivone Gebara inspired by Psalm 63

Vida, ó minha vida

Life, o my life
love, o my love
meaning, o my meaning
you dwell in me and I seek you without ending.

All my being thirsts for you
as dry earth thirsts for water
as the wanderer in the night hopes for the rising of the sun
As the pilgrim longs for coming home
likewise, I seek you at work and at rest
in joy and in sorrow.

Earlier, I was amazed by your majesty and you mystery in the sanctuaries of stone,
I praised your glory and honour on my knees.
Today, I seek you in the depth of my being and
in the gestures of tenderness that expand the earth,
I seek you in the laughing of children and in the grass that grows in the fields.

to seek you like love and justice gives meaning to my life,
for that I praise you
Every small gesture of compassion gives me joy,
and your mysterious presence is embodied in my body
My remembrance teaches me your faithfulness.

When I lay in my bed I remember you,
I meditate many hours on you
The darkness of the night is turned into light in my heart.
In many moments you have been my help, consolation and hope in the midst of many pains.

The powers of death threaten us, but they will not be victorious.
In the depth of the earth dwells life
And life will continue to bring forth new hopes and seeds of love, for ever.

Life, o my life
love, o my love
meaning, o my meaning
you dwell in my and I shall seek you without ending.