Monday, February 14, 2011

Spiritual Typology: The Cathedral or the Bazaar

Pui Lan asked us to consider our rule of life this week. What rule, I don’t have a rule governing my life? Should I? I know the answer to that or at least how the church expects me to answer that question. But really there are no rules, just practices that help us to discover and experience the numinous.

I had a course in Spiritual Disciplines three years ago -- my very first course in seminary at Wesley Seminary in Washington, D.C. I had developed an elaborate but also mischievous rule for my spiritual life. I included far flung spiritual practices such as incorporating the Native American medicine wheel and poetry writing to saying confession.

My first spiritual director (who I met with for about four months in early 2007, and our relationship ended about six months before I started my course at Wesley) would probably have rolled her eyes at my experiential spirituality. When I revealed to her that I spent Good Friday at a synagogue rather that in a church, she responded in a rather judgmental tone “That’s interesting.” The spiritual discipline of spiritual direction was not quite I was expecting.

I remember Sue handing me this huge book that she suggested that I order—it was the daily office. I have tried the office but it’s just too bulky and awkward much like the book that Sue handed me. Do I have to read and meditate on Christian scripture to be close to God? What I am seeking is to borrow from scripture but to see God all around me in different traditions, different media, be it a spiritual type song by Sting, a poem by Thomas Merton or Mary Oliver, or Tai Chi exercises?

I appreciate the metaphors for contemporary spirituality that Pui Lan developed in her article: cathedral spirituality and bazaar spirituality. As Pui Lan defines it, cathedral spirituality is for those who desire or need a spirituality that inhabits sacred spaces. Post-modern spiritual seekers are predisposed towards a bazaar spirituality which offers the exotic and the adventuresome.

My spirituality is both since I need the familiarity of sacraments (generally just the Eucharist) but also the need for creativity that the bazaar spirituality offers. I sometimes like to combine the two in creating new liturgies, but that also demands time and extra time, while in seminary, is often in short supply.

With only six weeks into the new year, I am trying to re-establish the practice of spiritual direction and am seeking out a spiritual director. I have actually scheduled appointments! I am also for the first time in my life (ironically as a Protestant) seeking to try on the rite of reconciliation. (“confession”) on a quarterly basis. I figure if I don’t like that I can discontinue it, but I think a commitment to a spiritual practice needs to be for the year, three or four times. Who knows what might happen? I consider these spiritual practices and disciplines are probably more characteristic of cathedral spirituality.

I may go back to the bazaar spirituality of my old rule of life that encouraged me to use the medicine wheel to gauge my spiritual and emotional state. In the meantime, however…..

A simple and rich exercise for me is to read an adapted daily office comprised of stories, poems, prayers, and parables written by Thomas Merton that were woven together by a Roman Catholic nun. I change the masculine dominant language to include feminine visions of the divine. I love to read the office late at night (there are four different services for each day of the week) to candle light. This is a lasting and formational spiritual practice for me. I sometimes include different genres of multicultural music as “music for meditation.” The Merton office is the most fulfilling spiritual practice I have tried on in the past year.

Monday Night Hymn

In my ending is my meaning
Says the season.
No clock:
Only the heart’s blood
Only the word.

O lamp
Weak friend
In the knowing night!

O tongue of flame
Under the heart
Speak softly:
For love is black
Says the season.

Kissed with flame!
See! See!
My love is darkness!

Only in the void
Are all ways one:

Only in the night
Are all the lost

In my ending is my meaning.

1 comment:

  1. I guess many people like you have combined the cathedral and bazaar spirituality at certain points in their life. Even if we do not have a rule for our lives, there might be de facto patterns, e.g. we wake up at a certain time and do certain little rituals (feed the cat, take a nap etc) during the day. It is good to hear that you will try out some new practices this semester to see if they will work out for you. I hope that you will be able to find a spiritual director open to many forms of practices and less judgmental.