COMP(on)LINE 25 October 2020

Compline with Friends (formerly Coffee Hour with Friends) has been a very lightly facilitated, gently theological online space, initiated 26 March 2020, with the encouragement of dear, beloved, late Glenn Jordan. It meets online 8:30-9:30pm, Irish Time. The link is (apologies to anyone who tried to join last week — the link automatically went to the old meeting!). The password changes weekly, depending on the author whose words I am sharing. This week it is (the Dutch Catholic priest and theologian) HenriNouwen.

For a number of weeks, we’ve been ending our meetings with this 4-part embodied practice: hands gesturing Awaiting, Allowing, Accepting, Attending. I love this simple and yet profound practice-prayer-meditation-thing. I have learned to observe which gesture feels particularly meaningful or difficult or consoling each time, and I’ve been thinking it could be nice to take each one on individually.

AWAITING, so. In continued thinking about Time from last week, I’ve been increasingly aware how much this moment feels like waiting (for a political outcome, the course of a pandemic, the duration of a lockdown, Godot, barbarians…), which then, of course, makes me think about how much of all life is waiting. How hard—boring, agonising, humbling—it is.

Here’s Henri Nouwen in “The Spirituality of Waiting” (this link is a PDF):

In our particular historical situation, waiting is even more difficult because we are so
fearful. One of the most pervasive emotions in the atmosphere around us is fear. People are afraid – afraid of inner feelings, afraid of other people, and also afraid of the future. Fearful people have a hard time waiting, because when we are afraid we want to get away from where we are. But if we cannot flee, we may fight instead. Many of our destructive acts come from the fear that something harmful will be done to us. And if we take a broader perspective – that not only individuals but whole communities and nations might be afraid of being harmed — we can understand how hard it is to wait and how tempting it is to act. Here are the roots of a “first strike” approach to others. People who live in a world of fear are more likely to make aggressive, hostile, destructive responses than people who are not so frightened. The more afraid we are, the harder waiting becomes.

And here is “Waiting for the Barbarians,” by the Greek poet C.P. Cavafy, translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.

What other poems/ theologies of waiting are there?

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