Just what draws each of us to sit in the communal quiet?
There’s a need for relief from the conflicts of daily life – a desire for a time of lightness and joy. But ours is not a religion of escape, and the quest for social justice is a central Biblical theme. Some weeks, in fact, we come quite close to “praying the newspaper,” as our hearts carry a world of suffering to the invisible altar.
To have Christ be the Light and the embodiment of Logos is a much different from Christ being Jesus sitting at the right hand of God. Light, I contend, leads to a much more direct faith and experience than does the speculation about a heavenly throne.
When it comes to American Folk Art, one name pops up in mind first. The woman ahead of her time, a self-taught artist Susan Catherine Moore Waters or simply Susan Waters. Susan Catherine Moore Waters was born on May 18, 1823 in Binghamton, New York. The daughter of Sally Camp Moore (1788-a 1880) & Lark […]
Here widespread expectations of generosity and excess counter our Quaker discipline of frugality and moderation. The situation becomes especially complicated for individuals like me who find themselves lacking in gift-giving savvy.
Even when Friends formed a sizable community, they found standing apart from the surrounding society on these activities became impossible over time. Quakers eventually yielded to giving the children an orange or two the day after “the day the world calls Christmas.”
We live in a skeptical age, one infused by scientific method based on hypotheses and theories, on one side, and irony and posturing, on the other.
We find it much easier to admit what we don’t embrace than what we do. “It’s all relative,” we typically shrug, with a casual or even slipshod acknowledgement of Albert Einstein, who nonetheless held to the absolute of the speed of light. We value diversity and tolerance, or at least claim to, in certain circles.
I’ve been looking at seasons as a matter of life – seasons of youth, middle age, old age – as well as seasons of spiritual development. Some people latch onto a particular discipline, such as prayer or Bible reading, and stick to it daily for decades. I’ve been one, on the other hand, who delves deeply into one for a sustained period before moving into another one, eventually repeating or spiraling back to the earlier ones. What Friends today commonly call the Inner Light was traditionally more akin to what historic Quakers termed the Seed of Christ, taking leaf within us. That is, over seasons.
This is how we kept warm on icy mornings, back in the day before the meetinghouse had a wood stove. Friends would heat the stones in their own hearths, place them in metal carriers, and huddle over them in the hour of worship. The stones would also keep the carriage warm on their journey.
In contrast to pastoral meetings, we often make silence the measure while conveniently overlooking the focus of our practice. William Penn may have been critical of both.
When you come to your meetings … Do you gather bodily only, and kindle a fire, compassing yourselves about the sparks of your own kindling, and so please yourselves, and walk in the light of your own fire, and in the sparks which you have kindled? …
Or rather, do you sit down in True Silence, resting from your own Will and Workings, and waiting upon the Lord fixed with your minds in the Light wherewith Christ has enlightened you, refreshes you, and prepares you and your spirits and souls to make you fit for his service, that you may offer unto him a pure and spiritual sacrifice.
Seed embodies potential and active response. It also acknowledges the individual nature of each variety and place, as well as the universal process of photosynthesis reacting to a common source of Light.
If early Friends were imprecise in their definition of Seed – whether it was Christ or grace or the body of believers or even the Light, for instance – they were insistent on a personal experience of this transforming force. “Hast thou been fruitful?” was a common greeting among Friends.
To understand Christ as Light, as early Friends did, also allows another connection, a parallel construction: Jesus as Seed, the most perfect embodiment of response and human potential, an example for all to grow in.