A prayer that I repeat frequently is an interpretation of a prayer titled Soul of Christ1 that was penned anonymously in the 14th century. Joseph Tetlow’s adaptation of this prayer begins like this:
I choose to breath the Breath of Christ, that makes all life holy.
To be honest, I have had a hard time making sense of this statement. Yesterday, I was listening to a session of “pray as you go,” a podcast produced by the Jesuits in Britain. The session was introduced with the following:
As I enter into prayer today,
I slow down. I slow right down,
and notice where I am.
I notice what is around me,
and I notice who is around me, the people here,
what they look like, what they are doing,
the expressions on their faces.
In all of this, God… is… present,
right here… right now.
God’s presence sanctifies this ordinary place,
and these ordinary people,
and makes them holy.
Really? …God’s presence makes ordinary places and ordinary people holy, or as Joseph Tetlow’s prayer suggests, makes all life holy? I don’t understand this from a theological viewpoint. But, the long term reader of this blog will know that, though theology is important, I am not seeking to understand life from a theological point of view. I am seeking God Himself. In my prayer, I was reminded of Moses’ encounter with God on the mountain.
When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
Consider the place. Why was Moses on this mountain? He was shepherding his sheep, just like he had been doing for the past forty years. The bush was not off the beaten track. Moses had been this way many times, with his sheep. It is conceivable that the sheep had taken advantage of leaves on that particular bush. Where there are sheep, there are sheep “droppings.” Forty years of sheep wandering around the general area of the burning bush, leaving behind all sorts of evidence of their having been there. Further, considering the location of the mountain itself, I imagine that the environment would have been rather dry. This mountain would not have looked lush, like mountains in Colorado. The burning bush was not surrounded by a meadow of green grass and beautiful wild flowers, and it would not have been covered in whispering aspen trees. More likely, the area was dusty dirt, flecked with the occasional green plant that provided food for the sheep.
With this background, we see what Moses saw. The burning bush was located on ordinary ground on an ordinary mountain on an ordinary day. The ground under the bush had been trampled by flocks of sheep for forty years, who mashed their feces into the dirt as they browsed for food to eat. The bush that Moses saw was growing on this ordinary ground, but when he approached, God told him to take off his sandals “for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
Really? Holy ground? What made that ground holy? The dust? The dirt? The ground-in feces? The urine that soaked the soil and then dried up? The smell of sheep that never took a bath, ever? What made the ground holy? One thing only: God’s presence.
In him we live and move and have our being. Where can I flee from Your presence? And where He is, the ground is holy. Since God is everywhere, then wherever I am, the ground is holy. Indeed, God’s presence sanctifies this ordinary place, and these ordinary people, and makes them holy.
1 This prayer was written originally in Latin. I am told that the English translation is a good one, but misses a great deal from the original.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inspire me.
Water flowing from the heart of Christ, wash me.
Suffering of Christ, console me.
O good Jesus, listen to me.
Hide me in your wounds.
Do not allow me to separate from you.
Defend me from the evil foe.
At the hour of my death, call me;
and tell me to come to you,
so that I may praise you with all your saints
forever and ever.