While sitting in the church sanctuary this past Sunday before services began, our deacon was playing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on the harp (yes, our deacon is pretty cool) and my mind began to wander and ponder as it is wont to do. I find these moments before services rather meditative and most especially now that we have a harpist as it further enhances a sense of calm and serenity. As I sat there and let the thoughts roll through my head I was looking over the altar and taking in its details: the lit candles, the patterned altar cloth, the beautifully arranged flowers (lots of oranges for the fall season), the holy books, etc. As I acknowledged all of these details I was once again reminded of a thought that occurred to me during a visit to a certain Methodist church in our area that my husband and I attended for an acapella choral performance. On this church’s “altar” wall were mounted good-sized blocks at least 1.5 feet square or so with images painted on each one – a peacock, a dove, a fish, a lamb, with Greek Christian lettering and then snowflakes, a sun, etc. as symbols for the four seasons. I looked at the marvelous stained glass in that church with a great deal of fascination as there were both traditional and non-traditional representations there. Crosses, yes, and I believe a sacred heart, and everywhere curvy undulations of colors that were vaguely reminiscent of hills, oceans and the rocky layers within the Earth. Even glancing through their hymnal companion I found additions from other cultures around the world and songs praising “The Mother”, nature and our planet. The leader of the church was a fashionably dressed middle-aged woman (side note: why do they not give such women the moniker of Priestess?). Again, during that same time one has before the beginning of an even that allows for contemplation, as I was looking at and taking in everything around me, a phrase entered my head quite suddenly and firmly: “It’s all the same.” Religion and spirituality I mean; the sense that there is something greater than ourselves present in the Universe and a need to acknowledge and revere it. The methods may be different, but I believe that at the core of every religion and spiritual philosophy that what is being addressed as God is the same being regardless of how It is being acknowledged. It’s all the same.
Which brings me back to my contemplations this past Sunday morning which resulted in a quite similar end. It appears to me that the symbols, actions, holidays & so forth carried out in Christian churches (mostly of the Anglican variety, but not always) are but a mere continuation of the narrative used to address and celebrate the Divine that began long before any of the Abrahamic faiths joined in. Candles, flowers, incense, communion and altars are all too familiar things to the Pagan crowd of today and are reminiscent of practices performed by all of our non-Abrahamic forebears. The concepts of a Trinity, the Divine Feminine, a sacrificial God-Man figure, good & evil, otherworldly spiritual beings, etc. have been present in the minds and tales of man long before a scrap of the Bible or Torah were written. The idea of God is an ancient one and the desire to worship It just as old. This worship and reverence celebrated by our ancestors started a story that continues on in to the present day. This tome of world religious concepts, ideas, and practices is being added to every day by all peoples all over the world. Spirituality, to me, could be akin to poetry in many ways. It can be nonsensical, irreverent, deadly serious, funny, heartbreaking, thought-provoking, lyrical, whimsical and deeply personal. Spirituality and poetry are things which are oftentimes better understood more through feeling than through hardcore dissection and explanation. You can “get” a poem without being able to put that understanding into words. You can “get” nuances of spirituality and not be able to explain to another person how or why you do. There is an element of beauty in that kind of mystery that is felt but not easily expressed through words, and equally an element of frustration as well. You want to be able to communicate that sort of deep and meaningful experience you just had to another, but you can’t always get it out right. The poet is oftentimes the only one who manages to find just the right words.
I guess my whole point is similar to that which was made in the previous post, being that what you call the Divine, how you choose to worship It or not worship It, is all kind of BESIDE the point really. What really matters is what you’re adding to your own chapter in the grand and universal Divine Narrative. What does “God” mean to you? What makes you feel uplifted and connected with the world around you? Find what makes you happy and celebrate it to the best of your abilities. The only one who needs to understand your personal poetry is you.
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