[music of the soul series]
George Santayana was a Spanish American philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist who is perhaps best remembered from the oft-quoted statement, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Man, can I identify with that!
My family teases me about a notoriously bad memory. Kellie threatens me with an inscription from Gandalf on my tombstone that reads, “I have no memory of this place.” Between an elaborate array of post-it notes and computer reminders I stay relatively functional on such things, but where I find it most troubling is in my spiritual life. Sometimes I feel like I have spiritual amnesia.
What I find is that I am constantly re-learning the same lessons over and over. Surrender. Trust. The practice of joy. But the bucket of my soul has holes, and the revelations leak out over time. This too is part of our humanity and keeps us dependent upon the fresh “manna” of God’s presence…yet there is a spiritual practice that helps us hold onto God’s work in our lives and lessen the leak. It’s called remembrance.
Remembrance is the act of looking back on our journey—whether the day or the year or the decade—with the eyes of faith. What has the path taught us and what are we learning from the experience? What have we not yet learned but are being invited to learn?
All remembrance activities are based on the skill of awareness…and the ability to connect events to the meaning underneath. Here are a couple specifics:
- Examen. The Daily Examen is an act of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to discern God’s presence and direction in our lives. It was one of the few requirements for the Jesuits by their founder St. Ignatius. Ask yourself, What moment today did I experience as most life-giving? Receive it with gratitude. Equally important, What moment today was most life-draining? Share these with family or in a journal. What message are you getting from these reflections?
- Lectio Divina. Latin for “divine reading,” this is a Benedictine practice of reading, meditating, and praying scripture. Read a single passage and pay attention to where your heart is drawn—a sentence, a phrase, or even a word. Read the passage a second time and engage its personal message to you. What is God’s invitation to you in this passage? Now form that invitation into a prayer and receive it as a gift from God.
These “rewind” practices underscore what is arguably the most fundamental practice of all: paying attention! This is not as self-evident as it may sound, trust me. It’s much more common for us to “fall asleep” to our lives than to pay attention to the ongoing dialog of our lives. Examen and Lectio are two highly tangible ways to remedy our natural proclivity toward spiritual amnesia.
How do you engage the process of spiritual remembrance?