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Keeping Faith with Our Ancestors: Weekly Summary

Sunday
If we consider ourselves to be part of a continuum of life that does not end with death, but transitions to a life after life, our perspectives can change.
—Barbara Holmes

Monday
The communion of saints has enriched my theological imagination, particularly when it comes to my ancestors and las madres of the faith, the women throughout history who have gone before us paving the way, building their own tables, and offering a perspective of the divine.
—Kat Armas

Tuesday
When Christians made a late addition to the ancient Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in the communion of saints,” I think they were offering us the idea that the dead are at one with the living, whether they’re our direct ancestors, the saints in glory, or even the so-called souls in purgatory.
—Richard Rohr

Wednesday
We live in a world saturated with the love and intentionality of an ever-present God, and we are not alone.
—Barbara Holmes

Thursday
I have no doubt that ancestors not only exist, but they are present for us. They come to us in moments of great need and trial, and they also celebrate life’s moments with us.
—Walter Earl Fluker

Friday
The land itself and the conditions of that land, like altitude and climate, impact our genome just as our human ancestors do. We are born on it, die on it; we come from it and return to it. The land and the waters, oceans and rivers, are part of us, relatives and ancestors in a very real way.
—Patty Krawec

Resting in Love

Father Richard offers a practice of deepening love and healing:

How do we come to know love so that we can live from its depths? Love cannot be understood by the mind. And if God is love, God will never be subject to the mind as we know it. God and love can only be experienced. This simple practice is an invitation to encounter love in its very physical, connective reality.

Place the palm of one of your hands on your heart. Feel your heart beating, letting its rhythm bring you into the present moment and into the awareness of God’s blessing on your life, beat after beat after beat.

Bring to your conscious mind a loved one, an ancestor, a favorite place or animal, or anything that makes you smile with undeniable, spontaneous, unconditional love and joy.

Bring that particular beloved being or thing down from your mind and place it right under your palm, in your heart space. Relax your mind and let your heart relax at the same time, feeling the sensation of blood vessels, muscles, and chest cavity opening in warmth and love for that particular loved thing. Smile.

Now humbly place a challenging person, issue, or problem directly under your palm, within your wide-open heart space. This could be someone or something currently challenging you or an old hurt from a person gone from the living world. Silently continue to smile and hold this challenging thing in the warmth of your heart.

With closed eyes, look at the thing that causes you pain, visualizing the detail that bothers you the most, all the while smiling. Consider that there may be reasons why this thing brings hurt. Smile at the fragility, suffering, or misunderstanding that makes it this way.

Finally, give the person or problem to your heart and ask that your heart’s wisdom and love take over. Rest in the Love that loves both you and the other and wants to transform all into its loving image.

Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.

Reference:

Adapted from Richard Rohr, A Spring within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016), 324–325.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jeremy Bezanger, Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut (detail), Egypt, photograph, Unsplash. Jon Tyson, Untitled (detail), 2018, photograph, Unsplash. Rasam, Takht-e-Jamshid (Persepolis) (detail), 2020, Iran, photograph, Unsplash. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

Image inspiration: Human ancestors leave legacies in physical and cultural bones, while stones carry meaning and memory. How will you listen to the wisdom of your ancestors?

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

Nature: Our First Ancestor

Once we know that the entire physical world around us, all of creation, is both the hiding place and the revelation place for God, this world becomes home, safe, enchanted, offering grace to any who look deeply. —Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ

Patty Krawec, an Anishinaabe and Ukrainian writer and activist, invites us to consider the land itself as our original ancestor:

I want us to consider our relationship with land. . . . To think of ourselves as a part of creation rather than apart from it. What if the land is a being in its own right? That concept is not as foreign as you might think. And what if the land and all that grows from it and on it and in it are sentient beings in their own right? . . .  

When I say that the land is my ancestor, that is a scientific statement: I want to reflect again on this claim by Dr. Keolu Fox, a Kānaka Maoli anthropologist and genomic researcher. The land itself and the conditions of that land, like altitude and climate, impact our genome just as our human ancestors do. We are born on it, die on it; we come from it and return to it. The land and the waters, oceans and rivers, are part of us, relatives and ancestors in a very real way. . . .

Our emotions have a physical response. We feel sadness, and our body responds by crying. In the ancient Middle East, drought was often connected with mourning as the land’s physical response to an emotional state. Just as a Hebrew mourner would fast and pour dust over their head and body, so, too, the land expresses her grief by fasting and covering herself in dust. “Human action has caused desolation and destruction,” Mari Joerstad writes. “Further proof of human perfidy is their inattentiveness to the suffering of other creatures. The earth is left with no option but to cry directly to YHWH.” [1] . . .

The land mourns, but it also responds with joy. The same prophets who describe a land fasting and covering herself with dust in response to human wrongdoing and harm also describe beautiful scenes of rejoicing and jubilation upon the return of the people. “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom,” the prophet Isaiah says [Isaiah 35:1].

Krawec tells her readers of an ancient Anishinaabe prophecy that envisioned a choice between two paths for the future: one scorched and barren, the other green and fertile:

Remember the two paths of the Seventh Fire—one parched and blackened and the other green and lush. How we prepare now will determine what comes next: either a healing fire that brings wild strawberries and lush pathways or a charred landscape that cuts our feet. For Indigenous people, that means holding on to the knowledge of our ancestors. For the light-skinned people, that means making the right choices about how to live.

References:

[1] Mari Joerstad, The Hebrew Bible and Environmental Ethics: Humans, Nonhumans, and the Living Landscape (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2019, 2021), 143. Emphasis added by Krawec.

Patty Krawec, Becoming Kin: An Indigenous Call to Unforgetting the Past and Reimagining Our Future (Minneapolis, MN: Broadleaf Books, 2022), 126, 136–137, 138, 142.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jeremy Bezanger, Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut (detail), Egypt, photograph, Unsplash. Jon Tyson, Untitled (detail), 2018, photograph, Unsplash. Rasam, Takht-e-Jamshid (Persepolis) (detail), 2020, Iran, photograph, Unsplash. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

Image inspiration: Human ancestors leave legacies in physical and cultural bones, while stones carry meaning and memory. How will you listen to the wisdom of your ancestors?

Story from Our Community:

I’d like to share a moment of contemplation I experienced recently. My mother was born in 1914 to a Portuguese farming family in Bermuda, close to where I now live. Some of her fondest memories were natural ones—the rain, wind, the sea, the hoot of an owl, a restless dog, or a galloping horse and rider approaching with a message. One evening, I walked to the dock next to my house, just around the corner from where my ancestors lived. In the silence of the night, I was transported back 100 years to join my ancestors, and I gave thanks. —Sandra R.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

Experiencing Ancestors through Grief Rituals

On The Cosmic We podcast, hosts Barbara Holmes and Donny Bryant interviewed minister and scholar Dr. Walter Fluker, who shares a transformational experience he had during an ancestral grief ritual:

Walter Fluker: We hardly know the grief of our suffering. Certainly among Black people, but it’s true for all of us as you think of the Cosmic We and this universal moan [of suffering]. Even creation is moaning. Why shouldn’t we? . . .

I was involved in a grief ritual on Cortes Island off Vancouver, British Columbia. This island, all of these people from around the world were just going through these rituals. One evening . . . during what the Dagara people called the grief ritual, where we pay our debt to the ancestors through grief, through weeping and moaning that universal moan. . . . So [my friend Malidoma Somé] said just be free, so they started playing the drum and Sobonfu [his wife] was hitting some kind of shaking instrument. I just started getting down. . . . All at once, out of nowhere, my father is there. . . . I fell to my knees and I cried. I said, “Daddy, we miss you.” He had died in 1984.

I had performed a eulogy but never mourned him. I was too busy being me. I said, “Daddy, we miss you. Mama misses you, B. misses you.” I just went through the whole family. When I came to myself, all of the women had taken me to a corner in the room and they were rocking me. This Japanese woman whispers in my ears. She says, “You’re only five years old.” I didn’t know what that meant then. It was years later [that] I discovered, when daddy left Mississippi in a hurry, he sent for us, thanks be to God. I was five years old. I was still grieving my daddy’s departure.

That was one of the most healing moments in my life. He was more real than even in life real. So, I have no doubt that ancestors not only exist, but they are present for us. They come to us in moments of great need and trial, and they also celebrate life’s moments with us. They want to celebrate with us. . . .

Holmes and Bryant invite listeners to give space to their own need to grieve:

Donny Bryant: I guess the question is for our listeners . . . what trauma, what healing, what hurt, what pain that we need to be healed from could benefit from the practice of our own unique grief ritual?

Barbara Holmes: Yes, and how can the organized religious institutions, the churches, the places where we assemble to finally shed some of our arrogance, how can they help us to grieve, to lament, to begin to get free? . . . What are you grieving that you don’t know that you’re grieving? How will you process that grief?

Reference:

Adapted from Barbara Holmes and Donny Bryant, “Ritual Journeys through Grief and Joy with Dr. Walter Earl Fluker,” September 17, 2021, in The Cosmic We, season 1, episode 4 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2021), podcast, MP3 audio.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jeremy Bezanger, Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut (detail), Egypt, photograph, Unsplash. Jon Tyson, Untitled (detail), 2018, photograph, Unsplash. Rasam, Takht-e-Jamshid (Persepolis) (detail), 2020, Iran, photograph, Unsplash. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

Image inspiration: Human ancestors leave legacies in physical and cultural bones, while stones carry meaning and memory. How will you listen to the wisdom of your ancestors?

Story from Our Community:

I’d like to share a moment of contemplation I experienced recently. My mother was born in 1914 to a Portuguese farming family in Bermuda, close to where I now live. Some of her fondest memories were natural ones—the rain, wind, the sea, the hoot of an owl, a restless dog, or a galloping horse and rider approaching with a message. One evening, I walked to the dock next to my house, just around the corner from where my ancestors lived. In the silence of the night, I was transported back 100 years to join my ancestors, and I gave thanks. —Sandra R.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

Love Beyond the Veil

At CONSPIRE 2021, Dr. Barbara Holmes shared a story of her “beyond the veil” childhood encounter with her deceased Aunt Grace. Meeting her ancestor in this unexpected way influenced her faith journey and provided comfort that she was surrounded by Divine Love:

This particular evening, I was laying on the hassock [in my grandmother’s living room] when something very strange happened. . . .

I became aware in a hypersensitive way of sound that was recognizable to me as music, but at the same time, it was more than music. It was a sound that tuned my soul and it alerted me to the fact that nothing was happening in an ordinary way. For one thing, I was no longer on the hassock. I was floating toward the ceiling in a slow and circular movement that delighted me. I mean, I should have been scared because I could see my slumped body still on the hassock, but I wasn’t afraid at all.

I was happy to the point of bursting, and to top off this sense of euphoria, my beloved, deceased Aunt Grace was there. I didn’t see her, but I knew she was nearby and her closeness to me made me even happier. As I floated toward the ceiling, I thought about calling the adults in the next room, but I had no speech. There was no sense of distress as I approached the ceiling, but I knew that if I did nothing, I would pass through it and leave the Earth forever.

There was only a moment of conflict as I contemplated what it would mean not to be a child, what it would mean to turn to the hassock and to my supine body. I remember a farewell from my Aunt Grace, the fading of the music that was more than music, and then my speech returned. I was elated. I was breathless as I ran to the next room to report to the adults that I flew, I flew and Aunt Grace was playing with me. The mention of my deceased aunt stopped everything.

See, most families would’ve pooh-poohed my account of flying and visitations from a dead relative. But my family has roots in the Gullah culture of South Carolina on my father’s side and the Maryland eastern shore mystics on my mother’s, so they share a belief: everybody knows that the dead come back. They come back and forth to offer warnings, to bring messages from the other side. I was quizzed by the elders.

When I couldn’t come up with any deep wisdom or any important message from the other side . . . one aunt said rather pointedly, “Let us know if she comes to you again.” There it was, I had received affirmation Aunt Grace had been there and might come again. . . .

We live in a world saturated with the love and intentionality of an ever-present God, and we are not alone.


Reference:

Adapted from Barbara Holmes, “God in Thin Places,” CONSPIRE 2021 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2021), video.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jeremy Bezanger, Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut (detail), Egypt, photograph, Unsplash. Jon Tyson, Untitled (detail), 2018, photograph, Unsplash. Rasam, Takht-e-Jamshid (Persepolis) (detail), 2020, Iran, photograph, Unsplash. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

Image inspiration: Human ancestors leave legacies in physical and cultural bones, while stones carry meaning and memory. How will you listen to the wisdom of your ancestors?

Story from Our Community:

When I was a child, my mother would take us on nature walks in rural Connecticut, often to a special tree we named the Grandfather tree. In the shade of the tree, we would share a picnic of peanut butter sandwiches and milk straight from a jar. In my teen years, I would return alone, finding spiritual strength and comfort from Grandfather tree. I am grateful to the Daily Meditations for stirring the memory and for reigniting my deep gratitude that my parents instilled a reverence and connection for all creation. —Johanna Y.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

Part of One Body

Father Richard connects the church’s teaching on “the communion of saints” and our ancestors:

Humans throughout history have often had a strong appreciation for and connection with their ancestors. I think the collective notion of oneness is what Christians were trying to verbalize when they made a late addition to the ancient Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in the communion of saints.” They were offering us the idea that the dead are at one with the living, whether they’re our direct ancestors, the saints in glory, or even the so-called souls in purgatory.

Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh (1926–2022) wrote of experiencing a tender oneness with his mother in a dream and in nature:

The day my mother died, I wrote in my journal, “A serious misfortune of my life has arrived.” I suffered for more than one year after the passing away of my mother. But one night, in the highlands of Vietnam, I was sleeping in the hut of my hermitage. I dreamed of my mother. I saw myself sitting with her, and we were having a wonderful talk. She looked young and beautiful, her hair flowing down. It was so pleasant to sit there and talk to her as if she had never died. When I woke up it was about two in the morning, and I felt very strongly that I had never lost my mother. The impression that my mother was still with me was very clear. I understood then that the idea of having lost my mother was just an idea. It was obvious in that moment that my mother is always alive in me.

I opened the door and went outside. The entire hillside was bathed in moonlight. It was a hill covered with tea plants, and my hut was set behind the temple halfway up. Walking slowly in the moonlight through the rows of tea plants, I noticed my mother was still with me. She was the moonlight caressing me as she had done so often, very tender, very sweet . . . wonderful! Each time my feet touched the earth I knew my mother was there with me. I knew this body was not mine alone but a living continuation of my mother and my father and my grandparents and great-grandparents. Of all my ancestors. These feet that I saw as “my” feet were actually “our” feet. Together my mother and I were leaving footprints in the damp soil. [1]

Father Richard continues:

The whole thing, all of life, is one, just at different stages, all of it loved corporately by God (and, one hopes, by us). Within this worldview, we are saved not by being privately perfect, but by being “part of the body,” humble links in the great chain of history. This view echoes the biblical concept of a covenant love that was granted to the Jewish people as a whole and never just to one individual like Abraham, Noah, or David.

References:

[1] Thich Nhat Hanh, No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life (New York: Riverhead Books, 2002), 5–6.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe (New York: Convergent, 2019), 163–164.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jeremy Bezanger, Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut (detail), Egypt, photograph, Unsplash. Jon Tyson, Untitled (detail), 2018, photograph, Unsplash. Rasam, Takht-e-Jamshid (Persepolis) (detail), 2020, Iran, photograph, Unsplash. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

Image inspiration: Human ancestors leave legacies in physical and cultural bones, while stones carry meaning and memory. How will you listen to the wisdom of your ancestors?

Story from Our Community:

When I was a child, my mother would take us on nature walks in rural Connecticut, often to a special tree we named the Grandfather tree. In the shade of the tree, we would share a picnic of peanut butter sandwiches and milk straight from a jar. In my teen years, I would return alone, finding spiritual strength and comfort from Grandfather tree. I am grateful to the Daily Meditations for stirring the memory and for reigniting my deep gratitude that my parents instilled a reverence and connection for all creation. —Johanna Y.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

Voices of Our Female Ancestors

Author and podcaster Kat Armas shares how honoring the voices of our female ancestors enriches our faith. She calls it “abuelita theology”:

Scripture testifies to the power and influence of grandmothers among the people of God. For years I overlooked this detail because I hadn’t been trained to recognize the importance or value of women in the Bible. . . .

I overlooked the introduction to Paul’s second letter to Timothy until one day it caught my attention, affirming my curiosity and conviction of the importance of both abuelitas and the faith of my ancestors. In this short passage, Paul says: “I’m grateful to God, whom I serve with a good conscience, as my ancestors did. I constantly remember you in my prayers day and night. When I remember your tears, I as my ancestors did long to see you so that I can be filled with happiness. I’m reminded of your authentic faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice. I’m sure that this faith is also inside you” (2 Timothy 1:3–5, emphasis mine).

Here Paul names the power and importance of abuelita theology.

By acknowledging Timothy’s faith (a faith birthed from his abuelita and his mamá), Paul honors [and] . . . acknowledges that their faith is a communal faith that takes seriously the impact of . . . the women who formed and shaped him. . . . I often wonder what Abuela Lois and Mama Eunice’s faith looked like. How did they live it out? Were they dedicated to serving the community like Tabitha? Were they leading house churches like Lydia did or instructing leaders like Priscilla did?

Armas recounts losing sight of Christianity’s communal nature, and how the communion of saints inspires her:

I internalized the hyperindividualistic view of faith and salvation. . . . I bought into the idea that my spirituality is private, that my spiritual growth has absolutely nothing to do with my community, my ancestors—the cloud of witnesses, those I knew directly and indirectly—as well as the countless number of people who have influenced me or even those I myself have influenced. . . .

The communion of saints has enriched my theological imagination, particularly when it comes to my ancestors and las madres of the faith, the women throughout history who have gone before us paving the way, building their own tables, and offering a perspective of the divine, without which our faith would be lacking. . . .

My hope is that those without power or privilege in society, many of whom hold our families together, would be highly honored by all. . . . My desire is that the stories of these women in Scripture and beyond illuminate something new in us so that when we see those on the margins living life en la lucha, in the struggle, we would be drawn to their experiences and drink from their wells overflowing with sabiduría, wisdom, about the divine.

Reference:

Kat Armas, Abuelita Faith: What Women on the Margins Teach Us about Wisdom, Persistence, and Strength (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2021), 33–34, 35, 36, 37.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jeremy Bezanger, Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut (detail), Egypt, photograph, Unsplash. Jon Tyson, Untitled (detail), 2018, photograph, Unsplash. Rasam, Takht-e-Jamshid (Persepolis) (detail), 2020, Iran, photograph, Unsplash. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

Image inspiration: Human ancestors leave legacies in physical and cultural bones, while stones carry meaning and memory. How will you listen to the wisdom of your ancestors?

Story from Our Community:

The Daily Meditations bring me great deal of clarity and direction. I was inspired to think of my own ancestors when I read Felicia Murrell’s reflection: “We cry the tears our ancestors could not. We feel the fatigue they were not allowed to feel. We give in to the vulnerability that would have cost their lives.” In the past, I have blocked an emotional response to my mother’s life, but those words allowed me to feel for her with different understanding. Thank You. —Alpha H.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

The Continuum of Life

This week’s meditations celebrate the gift of our ancestors in family and in faith. CAC faculty member Dr. Barbara Holmes writes of the broad and deep life to which her ancestors helped awaken her:

A world without ancestors is lonely. I am so grateful for the elders in my family who introduced me to the continuums in life. It matters how we understand our sojourn in this reality. If we consider our lives to be comprised of segments separated by a dash that encompasses birth and death dates, we will be inconsolable when trauma truncates our realities and delays our destinations. But, if we consider ourselves to be part of a continuum of life that does not end with death, but transitions to a life after life, our perspectives can change.

The community of the ancestors, already inhabiting the life beyond life, kept in constant contact with us. They sent messages and intervened when necessary. They prayed with me and whispered warnings. . . . Whether we call them ancestors or elders, only those women and men who led good lives in the physical realm are considered to be wise guides in the spiritual realm. In some African cultures, they are called elders, “the old ones.” Any elder represents the entire legal and mystical authority of the lineage. For me, ancestors, living and dead elders, commanded my respect and were always present, abiding and guiding me. [1]

At the passing of his mother, Father Richard Rohr experienced a connection or “bridge” to the life after death:

I believe that one of the essential events that we must walk through is the experience of the passion and death with someone we love, with someone we are bonded to, with someone we really care about. When my mother passed over, I had no doubt that she built a bridge—I don’t know what other words to use—she built a bridge and she took some of me over with her, and she sent some of herself back. I understand now at a deeper level what Jesus meant by “unless I go, the Spirit cannot come” (John 16:7). I think the normal pattern in history is for each generation to pass over, and to build the bridges of love and trust for the next generation coming afterwards. The all-important thing, for all of us, is that we be bonded somewhere. If you have never loved, there is no bridge. . . .

When you walk through someone’s passion with them, through someone’s learning to let go, and pass over with them in a moment of death, I’m convinced it’s then and only then that you really are prepared to understand the resurrection. . . . All Jesus came to teach us, and only needed to teach us, was how to walk through the great mystery, and not be put to shame and to trust that God is on the other side of it. [2]

References:

[1] Barbara A. Holmes, Crisis Contemplation: Healing the Wounded Village (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2021), 90, 91.

[2] [2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Gravity and Grace: Insights into Christian Ministry,” Collected Talks, vol. 3, On Church (Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2000), Audible audio ed.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jeremy Bezanger, Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut (detail), Egypt, photograph, Unsplash. Jon Tyson, Untitled (detail), 2018, photograph, Unsplash. Rasam, Takht-e-Jamshid (Persepolis) (detail), 2020, Iran, photograph, Unsplash. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

Image inspiration: Human ancestors leave legacies in physical and cultural bones, while stones carry meaning and memory. How will you listen to the wisdom of your ancestors?

Story from Our Community:

The Daily Meditations bring me great deal of clarity and direction. I was inspired to think of my own ancestors when I read Felicia Murrell’s reflection: “We cry the tears our ancestors could not. We feel the fatigue they were not allowed to feel. We give in to the vulnerability that would have cost their lives.” In the past, I have blocked an emotional response to my mother’s life, but those words allowed me to feel for her with different understanding. Thank You. —Alpha H.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

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Our theme this year is Nothing Stands Alone. What could happen if we embraced the idea of God as relationship—with ourselves, each other, and the world? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.