From cave to a garden – from Babylon to Zion
I’m on a journey – to where I don’t even know!
I woke up this morning feeling like death dragged up,
Thanking God I did not have to be working another Saturday,
I’ve been working so many Saturdays I forgot
What it is like to be off at the weekend.
So what should I do with myself?
Reluctantly I dragged myself out of bed and prepared my breakfast of gluten free cornflakes topped with soya milk and made my usual fresh pep-me-up juice consisting of carrots, beetroot, orange, ginger, celery and apple. Don’t ask!
I realise that I only had less than 30 minutes to have a quick shower, make myself a banana and peach smoothie to take with me for lunch and cycle to Ealing centre. Oh yes, I’m well prepared for this expedition I planned to embark on.
Checked my bike – it needed a bit of air in the tyre but time is limited and there was enough to get me to Ealing and back, I thought; making sure my pump, tool set and patches, a book, a small towel were in my backpack.
Who knows what the day might bring?
Arrived in Ealing on time – parked my bike in the usual place but with my sense of direction I spent 15 minutes trying to find my destination. I seem to be asking the wrong people for help – probably all new to the area like myself. I definitely need a map of Ealing!
A lovely guy in an estate agent kindly directed me via a map on his computer but guess what? I still went in the wrong direction. I have this thing about maps where I tell myself I am no good at reading them but for some reason I always manage to when I am giving other people direction. Strange!
I asked a few other people for help and finally got there late (I thought) and how silly I was to walk all this way when I could have cycled. I wasn’t late but only missed the coffee at the start and was in time to join the main group with a cup of tea and champagne truffles in hand, this was worth it!
So where is this mysterious place?
Well, today I visited Ealing Abbey. I decided to visit as I am going to a seminar in Cork next month– led by a Benedictine monk who is originally from Ealing Abbey. I also came across an amazing Dominican retreat centre where I am thinking of visiting after my seminar and is described as an oasis of beauty, peace, hospitality and welcome…. seeking to develop and nurture a sense of the Sacred, and the contemplative dimension to Christian Spirituality – nothing to do with Ealing Abbey more the Catholic tradition. Maybe I’m a sucker for retreat centres and advertisement by I need a place of tranquillity.
So in doing my research on Ealing Abbey I discovered that there is a meditation group and a group for those exploring Catholicism every Saturday morning; having lost touch with myself and what to do on Saturdays I decided to attend either of these group. Incidentally I was too late for the meditation group but was welcomed by the group on exploring Catholicism.
So I guess you are thinking why is a born and bred Anglican exploring the Catholic faith? My grandmother would turn in her grave! I am on a journey and have noticed over the years that this missing ingredient in my faith journey have always been fulfilled through Catholic tradition. I first discovered this after spending time visiting catholic convents and retreat centres.
Over the past year I have been worshipping at an Anglo-Catholic church which seems to provide a balance but whilst I am familiar with the Anglican tradition (I hope) there’s this urge to fully learn/explore Catholicism – perhaps this will bring the balance, bridge the gap and make me a fully-fledged Anglo-Catholic.
In saying that, this is not about religion. The Catholic faith especially the mass & liturgy has a profound effect on my spiritual life, draws me into the heart of worship and a closer experience of God. I really just can’t explain it – it’s like been gently called into his presence and it’s so real. The Catholic faith enables me to experience a heart –felt knowledge of God.
Oh! And please don’t mention Mary!
Hail Mary, full of grace.
Clarification! : Catholics do not worship Mary – they honour her. And what a woman to aspire to be like! I am finding and experiencing the real me in the Catholic tradition –perhaps I’m on a journey and this is just one of the roads I have got lost on but for now I want to wonder down Haven Green and find the Christ I have looking for. For He promised;
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, “ declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” (Jeremiah 29: 13-14)
I wandered from my group in the main hall and into the Abbey itself having another amazing experience of a woman practising her singing for a wedding there today. I came across a stone carving of Mary with many children surrounding her – so moving! I wished I had a camera with me.
I practised kneeling (going down on my right knee) to acknowledge the presence of the altar where Christ our Lord is made present to us in the Sacrament. I am presently reading an article by my priest on an introduction to worship and practice and learning about the liturgy, gestures and postures. Kneeling especially going down on the right knee is not the natural thing for me to do but I am learning that this is a sign of humility and reverence. I picked up a leaflet in the Brompton Oratory recently which explained the various ways of taking communion and the meaning behind it. I usually take the bread in palm (with my hands making the sign of a cross), as I find it hard to actually allow the priest to put the wafer on my tongue. God forbid! How can I open my mouth with my tongue hanging out for a priest to put a wafer on? Especially if it’s a good looking priest:-)
Anyway apparently ‘when we receive the Holy Communion on the tongue, we are aware of coming to be fed with the Food of Life, conscious of our dependence on our Lord. We know the holiness of the One we receive beyond our touch’ (Vincent Nichols – Archbishop of Westminster)
Basically allowing God to feed me, submitting to absolute dependence upon Him; my misconstrued ideas of independence does not allow room for such but God is teaching me humility. So, I tried receiving the wafer on my tongue a few Sundays ago in the Brompton Oratory and it was such an amazing experience and it was issued by average looking priests! -:) I need to repent!
Taking about repentance, in exploring the Catholic faith I am also exploring the spiritual disciplines, confession, attending mass – probably falling low on this one since I have started working , spiritual direction, meditation, prayer (still learning) , fasting (need to re-access), the reading, study, memorization, and meditation of Scripture (Lord help me!) am I’m planning to embark on a pilgrimage soon. I did not deliberately go out of my way to include confession, meditation and a pilgrimage in my spiritual journey, I just felt a strong pull to do so or it happened by co-incidence or a God-incident perhaps. The purpose of spiritual discipline is the development of our inner being, that which has been transformed by Christ at salvation and I’m certainly embarking on developing my inner being.
I am still trying to find a balance between secular work and my faith journey – work always seems such an obstacle! Maybe I just don’t want to work or I am in the wrong place.
Moving on – It dawned on me that in living the Christian life, that when God place us somewhere we really need to explore why and find, connect with a centre of worship in that place. Over the past few months Ealing felt like living in a cave and just one trip to Ealing Abbey – a place where God’s presence dwell, has given me a different outlook. And yes I know that God presence is everywhere – He’s omnipresent – the attribute of God by which He fills the universe in all its parts and is present everywhere at once. But I am realising how important is the communion of saints. I left feeling and being reminded that I am a part of a body – the body of Christ. It was as if I’ve walked out of my cave into a garden – from Babylon into Zion – and I’m not exaggerating 🙂
Slowing walking back (in a reflective manner) to my bike through Ealing Broadway, I stopped to listen to a man proclaiming the gospel. I usually just walk by but this time I didn’t which even surprised me. Normally, most can come across as eccentrics but this man seemed different. I stopped, listened and marvelled at his courage and obedience to be used by God – to be a seen as a fool for Christ!
Walking through the centre I had an encounter with human nature when a ‘lovely’ family with Mom, Dad and three kids (children!) in their wish to cling together, monopolise the corridor leaving no room for single people like me to pass by. Yes I’ve emerged from the spiritual realm to the humane. And to top it all off someone locked their bike to mine in such a way that I could not reach my lock. At this point I started to fume and wonder why my bell that says ‘I love my bike’ has changed colour – and then I realise we both had something in common – the same bell – different colour and my mood changed laughter.
God is ever present ! ‘ Faith is a journey not a destination’ – A W Tozer . I want to believe though that no matter where we are on our journey, the main thing is that Christ is at the centre, whether we go down the path of Catholicism, Anglicanism, Baptist – the end result is an encounter with God.
My faith journey has taken me into exploring various traditions, In the Caribbean/African culture you are called by a name that either embodies who you are or is only used by those who really know and are closest to you. This is one of the things I love when I go home to Jamaica – to be called by that name. It makes me feel as if I am home and have connected to the real me and those who truly love and know you; and for now I am finding Karrie, home and God in the Catholic tradition. The Catholic faith calms my spirit, slows down the need to do, develop my reflective side and is teaching me to be, bringing an awareness and helping me to receive God’s love and grace.
It is said that home is where the heart is! – and my hope is that my heart is with God.
No doubt God and even my grandmother would approve! 🙂
“I have called you by name , you are mine” (Isaiah 43: 1b)
Faith is a journey, not a destination. – A.W. Tozer