March 5, 2021
At the beginning of each day,
after we open our eyes
to receive the light
of that day,
As we listen to the voices
and the sounds
that surround us,
We must resolve to treat each hour
as the rarest of gifts,
and be grateful
for the consciousness
that allows us to experience it,
recalling in thanks
that our awareness is a present
from we know not where,
or how, or why.
–Benedict of Nursia
The ancient passage above, some 1500 years old, comes from a book entitled Always We Begin Again by John McQuiston. It is a modern paraphrase taken from a section of spiritual guide Benedict’s “Rule,” a series of lessons written for Italian monks in the hills of Subiaco, Italy, concerning how to live in community. This “Rule of St. Benedict,” as spiritual wisdom often does, has not only guided Italian monks but also non-Italians and non-monks over the centuries. Benedict offers a wisdom we are invited to listen to and embrace in our hearts.
Always We Begin Again is a clear description of what it means to rise from ashes to hope, the journey we find ourselves on in this present time. Each new day, no matter what has happened to us or to our world, we open our curtains and shades to the grace of a new beginning. We are given the opportunity to start over. Benedict advises that one way to do so is to “treat each hour as the rarest of gifts.” That advice requires that we pay attention to each hour, but how difficult that is with all the noise around us. If we are not inundated by outer noise, we are mired in the noise in our own heads.
Since reading this passage a couple of days ago, I have been trying (trying being the operative word) to make an effort to “wake up” to each hour, to give my attention to each hour, to remind myself to stop and notice the blue jay foraging in my front yard, to admire the miraculous way my cat moves across the room, to savor what I am drinking or eating instead of gulping it down with my thoughts a hundred miles away. This practice of noticing, or being in the moment, necessarily leads to another direction in Benedict’s passage: expressing gratitude and giving thanks. Who gave me the gift of vision so that I can appreciate the colors of the jay? What did I do to earn the privilege of owning a pet? Why am I gifted with food three times a day while others are not? When we pause, even to notice our very breath, we begin to realize that everything we have is a present from Someone greater than us. How, then, can we not express gratitude and wonder? When we live from a place of attentiveness to the moment, we discover the solid ground of hope that sustains us, even among the ashes. Blessings ~ Rosemary
What do I need to do at this moment
that is more important than petting my cat,
the tuxedo that rarely gets the choice spot
in my lap? What do I have to do
at this very moment
that is more urgent than stroking–
up and down–black fur softer than spring rain?
More vital than admiring spats and cummerbund
of white on this gentleman
dressed to take his girl to the show?
What must be done right now
that is so pressing that I would forego the solid
weight on my lap, betray the rumbling purr
that vibrates against my leg, disregard
the green eyes half-closed in pleasure,
to walk away from being?
© Rosemary McMahan