Dear old and new friends,
The roar we hear when we place a seashell next to our ear is not the ocean but rather the sound of blood surging through the veins in our ear…that’s a fact. Another fact is when we stop getting thirsty that’s when we need to drink more water because when the human body is dehydrated its thirst mechanism shuts off!
Your soul acts similar to the body. When you don’t feel any need to pray is the reason because your soul is dehydrated and its spiritual thirst mechanism has shut down? You’re confusing me, you say. I don’t understand why I should even feel a need for more prayer when daily I say my morning and night prayers, pray before meals and go to church every Sunday. How can my soul be dehydrated? And besides, who ever heard of a thirsty soul?
The mysteries of our soul are better pondered by poets than priests, so I quote the 17th century English poet and playwright, Ben Jonson, “The thirst that from the soul doth rise doth ask a drink divine.” We will never quench the thirst of our souls by simply going to divine wells like churches, shrines or cathedrals. While these are holy places, they are more reminders of the 10,000 holy fountains surrounding us.
Our soul thirsts for the Divine in the beautiful, in harmonic melody, creativity, and awesome astonishment. When you see an apple tree or a springtime magnolia in full bloom, don’t rush on to some appointment; stop and drink in deeply that stunning natural beauty. Do the same with an insignificant, budding yellow-headed dandelion growing out of a crack in your concrete driveway. You say, “But I live in the middle of the asphalt and concrete of the city.” To quench your soul’s thirst, go on a pilgrimage to the closest park full of living springs or to an art museum to make the stations of creative wonder prayerfully moving from painting to painting. Step inside an empty darkened church and quietly sit, absorbing its ambience. Let your soul soak in the echoes of silent meditations and prayers, the great pipe organ previously performing Bach’s soul-stirring Fugue in C minor, inhale the smells of candle wax and incense. Then with your soul staggering drunk from these inebriating moments descend the steps and return to your daily life.
Next week is Holy Week, and on Good Friday John’s Gospel gives our soul craving a voice as on the cross the dying Jesus says, “I thirst.” Saying prayers, regardless how many or how often, can too easily be simply saying words. Going to church can be a physical action that fulfills an obligation but leaves your soul dry as the Sahara. However, praying and attending religious rituals where you invest each one with as much love and devotion as possible can satisfy your thirsty soul.
If you find these spiritual exercises difficult, remember the old Danish proverb, “Pray to God in the storm, but keep on rowing.”