The River Flows — Center for Action and Contemplation

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The River Flows

Black Women Mystics

The River Flows
Friday, August 2, 2019

As we’ve seen through the perspective of black women mystics this week, our experience of God is not for its own sake or an end in itself. Unless we share the love we’ve been given we’ll become spiritually constipated!

Modern mystic Dr. Diana L. Hayes is an author and professor emerita of systematic theology at Georgetown University. She was the first African American woman to earn a Pontifical Doctorate in Theology. In her book No Crystal Stair: Womanist Spirituality, Hayes writes about the never-ending dance of giving and receiving:

We are not alone in this world, nor have we ever been, no matter how much we may feel otherwise. Many have come before us and will come after us feeling the same way, seeking as we are, searching for the “light.” And it is in coming together—one by one, two by two, and on and on—that we form the converging tributaries that make up the mighty stream of just and righteous people flowing home to God. We are and can be that justice that “rolls down like water,” and that righteousness that “flows like a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24).

This is our calling as Christian faithful: to recognize the Christ in everyone. And to reach out a hand of hope, to speak a word of love, to sing a song of happiness, to share a tear of joy or pain, to speak a word of praise, to murmur a prayer, to stand together against those forces that would divide us, isolate us, and block our flow toward home.

We must seek to become the righteous of God, recognizing that the path is neither short nor easy, but rock-strewn, obstacle-laden, sometimes even seeming to flow backwards and uphill! But as the prophet Micah proclaims:

You have been told . . . what is good
And what the Lord requires of you:
Only to do the right and to love goodness,
And to walk humbly with your God. (6:8)

This is the Christian vocation of the laity in the world. Today and every day. It is not an easy vocation for there are temptations to flow in other directions, to leave our own course and follow the so-called “main-stream,” a stream that appears large and exciting but eventually peters out into nothingness. . . .

The black scientist George Washington Carver [1864?–1943] . . . stressed that “how far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.” [1] . . .

The river is still flowing. We can accept the grace to be part of that flow . . . if we truly are to be followers of Christ, imitators of him, then we must leap with faith into that torrent knowing that we are . . . in the bosom of God, our Creator, our Sustainer, our Liberator, our Mother and Father.

[1] George Washington Carver, as quoted in Christina Vella, George Washington Carver: A Life (Louisiana State University Press: 2015), 291.

Diana L. Hayes, No Crystal Stair: Womanist Spirituality (Orbis Books: 2016), 35-36.

Image credit: Sister Thea Bowman (detail), TheArthur Wright. Used with permission of the artist.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: God is present in everything. In the universe, in creation, in me and all that happens to me, in my brothers and sisters, in the church, and in the Eucharist—everywhere. —Thea Bowman, FSPA
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