We recognize the immense role which symbols play in
our lives and therefore use these to the utmost. These symbols can be used
as aids in our daily walk with God, aids that assist our wandering minds and
hearts to stay closer to the Source. It is in little symbolic acts that we
find our day filled with little moments filled with massive meaning and joy.
The following scenario is not uncommon for the
average Church member, but it is not directly prescribed. I find it
necessary to wake up knowing that my cross pendant and Sakarali is on the
bedside table next me. This helps my slow-to-wake mind to wake to the
correct tune. It is also important for me to be able to look around my room
and again greet the persona that the little wooden statues are supposed to
resemble (see, I am rich, I have more than one of those in my room). After
years of lifting my mind to 'greet' these great ones in the mornings I still
marvel at how it is necessary for the Chinese to depict Gautama Buddha as a
fat man. Well, I must say, he makes a good companion to Yesu on the shelf.
It's good for me to see them together there with Krishna and Lao Tzu. I have
a miniature heaven on a shelf in my room!
The morning warms well as I feel the metal beads of
my Saikarali change temperature in my hand, and to feel the cold garnet
beads of my cross warm around my neck. During the day as well, every now and
again I would subconsciously put my hand in my pocket and feel the
Saikarali's beads, and the cold bone cross - the symbol of what my body is
all about, dying bone and ageing flesh, material getting ready to decompose
and return to the soil, perhaps being useful as plant food, hoping that I
can keep it heathy to serve my spirit for some more years.
Before I leave my room I like to approach the Lord
in my mind. This is made easier for me when I can reverently stand before
the little makeshift shrine (about 30cm by 30cm) where I can burn a stick of
incense. As the aroma fills the room, permeating everything, briefly
clinging to my clothes I know again that the Spirit is everywhere, in all
and through all. Even with closed eyes I can taste the smell of the incense
which is then holy to me, holy because it serves my being to get closer to
knowing God=s presence.
Blessed as I am I have access to morning service
and a yoga session before work but it is also in the shower where I am again
reminded by the metal and stone beads around my neck that God is in fact
close. After the hustle and bustle of morning activities I am often brought
back to the soothing knowledge of God=s ever presence when I look up at an
icon hanging on my office wall. Sometimes I will contemplate, or think work
things and find that I am actually staring at an icon. These holy things to
look at plays a great role in facilitating extended periods of
concentration. And in a shopping centre, looking for money, I inevitably
take a handful of change with my Saikarali from my denim pocket... It just
never leaves me, the presence I mean.
Some people have a little something in their cars,
or a little shrine at work. Taxi driver members in India tend to have a mini
shrine (as small as 10x10 cm) on the dashboard of their cars. Life in India
is generally more devout than western styled lives and there one has regular
access to a street shrine erected and maintained by a devotee in the
vicinity. Many people make a living by collecting and selling sweet smelling
flowers to devotees who like to hang these daily fresh flowers up instead of
incense. The smell lingers for hours and keeps one focused throughout the
day. Similarly with the little flame burning in the office or home shrine,
it keeps going and keeps catching one's eye, helping one to overcome moments
of being all to human in business.
Life is a symbol of God's Energy, and therefore
nature makes a good mandala to contemplate God's ancient ever-presence.
Death is a symbol of the temporal nature of earth things, and therefore
makes a good mandala to contemplate the cyclic nature of life. Evil is a
symbol of humankind's tendency to go against the stream and to be important
in them-selves, claiming their own power at the cost of others, and
therefore makes a good mandala to contemplate one's own evil tendencies and
reluctance to serve humankind. There is more to symbols and its use--we will
explore these in further short courses.
Here is a further lesson on symbolism. Church of
the East maintains a rather extensive calendar of seasons, feasts, fasts and
memorial days for the whole year. The seasons are thematic and take us on an
annual journey symbolizing the quest, starting in October with the symbolic
incarnation and follows through the year as we progress through the phases
of growth until we symbolically break through the Light in September. On the
way we are assisted with ceremonial fasts and feasts to remember the stages
of the quest and also to recall the great ones who have walked the Way
before us. We get courage and inspiration from following the calendar and,
serving as symbols, we are never far from the presence of God in our hearts
The Church's calendar of feasts is by no means a
legalistic injunction in our lives but rather serves to keep us on track,
refreshingly so, ever reminding us of new or once forgotten truths and aids
on the Way. The calendar does not declare some days to be holy and other
not. Every day is to be holy (holy = dedicated to God) and every day is
special. The calendar simply makes use of symbolism and names certain days
significantly to focus attention to specific aspects of our common quest.
We pray five times (morning, evening, 3 meal times)
meditate once and study Scripture once per day. This is easy and comes
naturally. Some choose to do the Saikarali more than once per day. But what
we all need is the thematic program of the calendar to take us through the
seasons of the year to continually assist us to contemplate the intricacies
of the quest and the Way.
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