We each live busy lives, harried by endless never completed to-do's and unexpected complexity. Overwhelm threatening us at every turn. Yet, with the generosity of time, seasons turn, offering us repeated opportunities to be renewed. Ramadan, Easter and Passover are examples of three such yearly occasions, when the door of eternity opens wider, offering us each a chance to be self-reflectively released from the burdens of time.
At All Paths Divinity School we offer our M.Div and Ordination students and community numerous opportunities to discover the interspiritual mystical dimensions of the religious seasons. With spiritual development in mind, while embracing the external forms, rituals, and processes we allow opportunity to go beyond them to discover deeper resonances of sacred belonging common to all traditions.
We ourselves have experienced the special delight of hearing two distinct voices chanting in harmonic interplay during Interfaith gatherings at this magical time of year: a Rabbi blowing the shofar, chanting in Hebrew as an Imam simultaneously sings the call to prayer. Tears and goosebumps!
The meaning of the yamalka: that there is nothing above God reminds us, even as Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Agnostics, that Eternity is a hairbreadth away from our everyday distracted minds. When we consciously fast from the deluge of media, and deliberately take time to prayerfully enter the synagogue, church, temple, mosque or sacred space during these High Holy Days, we are sharply reminded of the daily necessity to lie quietly upon the lintel of God’s everflowing grace.
The need to spend time assessing our delinquencies; taking account of our failures to listen to the still small voice of divine intuition; these are all opportunities for spiritual spring cleaning. Whether in davening to the Light of Shekinah, or prostrating towards the presence of Allah in the Kaaba, or kneeling to the suffering on the Cross, we are all joined in mutual hunger for closer identification with the divine of our own understanding.
Each of us, no matter our chosen traditions, or spiritual pathways, have experienced exile from the truth of ourselves. We join with Jews in contemplation of the agony of escape from slavery to limitation, false imprisonment to ideas about ourselves and each other that bear no resemblance to the optimism of the Promised Land.
Each of us is continually being prompted by the exigencies of everyday life to pause midstream and to listen to the fullness of silence underlying our time-bound experience.
This year, I, an erstwhile Hindu monk, will join my Jewish wife Debrah celebrating Passover in Cape Town, South Africa, with her ninety-one year old mother Esther, her uncle Cecil, and a few friends. We will chant prayers, drink wine, break matza and follow the path of the Isrealites from Exile to the promise of Freedom. Freedom from, in Thomas Merton’s words, the false self.
In sacred community, releasing the restlessness of the busy mind, we drink of the waters of eternity and find ourselves renewed. In this time of violence and war, we send out prayers for healing and peace, inviting all to harness the sacred energy of a vast love and freedom beyond all suffering. To amplify the awe and wonder of a unity of being that can never be broken.