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Ripening with Age: Weekly Summary

Sunday
Old age, as such, is almost a complete changing of gears and engines from the first half of our lives, and does not happen without many slow realizations, inner calmings, lots of inner resistance and denials, and eventual surrenders. All of them by God’s grace work with our ever-deepening sense of what we really desire and who we really are.
—Richard Rohr

Monday
What looks like falling can largely be experienced as falling upward and onward, into a broader and deeper world, where the soul finds its fullness, is finally connected to the whole, and lives inside the Big Picture.
—Richard Rohr

Tuesday
Now, this period, this aging process, is the last time we’re given to be more than all the small things we have allowed ourselves to be over the years. But first, we must face what the smallness is, and rejoice in the time we have left to turn sweet instead of more sour than ever.
—Joan Chittister

Wednesday
There is no more noble way to spend these years than to become an elder, to bear witness to the world as placeholders for peace, love, wisdom, and fearlessness.
—Kathleen Dowling Singh

Thursday
As we grow old we realize that, in all we have been through, Love has been using us for its own purposes. And for this we feel immensely grateful.
—James Finley

Friday
The soul of the “grand” parent is large enough to embrace the death of the ego and to affirm the life of God in itself and others, despite all imperfections. Its spaciousness accepts all the opposites in life.
—Richard Rohr

I Will Sing a New Song

We invite readers to join theologian and mystic Howard Thurman (1900–1981) as he prays for the courage and ability to stay renewed over the course of his life:

The old song of my spirit has wearied itself out. It has long ago been learned by heart so that now it repeats itself over and over, bringing no added joy to my days or lift to my spirit. It is a good song, measured to a rhythm to which I am bound by ties of habit and timidity of mind. The words belong to old experiences which once sprang fresh as water from a mountain crevice fed by melting snows. But my life has passed beyond to other levels where the old song is meaningless. I demand of the old song that it meet the need of present urgencies. Also, I know that the work of the old song, perfect in its place, is not for the new demand!

I will sing a new song. As difficult as it is, I must learn the new song that is capable of meeting the new need. I must fashion new words born of all the new growth of my life, my mind and my spirit. I must prepare for new melodies that have never been mine before, that all that is within me may lift my voice unto God. How I love the old familiarity of the wearied melody—how I shrink from the harsh discords of the new untried harmonies.

Teach me, my Father, that I might learn with the abandonment and enthusiasm of Jesus, the fresh new accent, the untried melody, to meet the need of the untried morrow. Thus, I may rejoice with each new day and delight my spirit in each fresh unfolding.

I will sing, this day, a new song unto Thee, O God.

Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.

Reference:

Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart (Richmond, IN: Friends United Press, 1953, 1994), 206–207.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 12, (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Jenna Keiper, Trinity Tree (detail), 2022, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 7, (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: Aging and transformation: the natural cycle of life, learning, growing, sharing. We flower, we leaf, we shed, we become.

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.

 

Becoming a Grand Parent

Richard Rohr draws on the archetype of the wise ruler to describe what it means to be a “grand” parent, someone who has become a mature elder:

The final stage of the wisdom journey in mythology is symbolized by the ruling image of the king or queen or what I like to call the grand father or grand mother.

When we can let go of our own need for everything to be as we want it, and our own need to succeed, we can then encourage the independent journey and the success of others. The grand parent is able to relinquish center stage and to stand on the sidelines, and thus be in solidarity with those who need their support. Children can feel secure in the presence of their grandparents because, while their parents are still rushing to find their way through life’s journey, grandpa and grandma have hopefully become spacious. They can contain problems, inconsistencies, inconveniences, and contradictions—after a lifetime of practicing and learning.

Grand parents can trust life because they have seen more of it than younger people have, and they can trust death because they are closer to it. Something has told them along the way that who they are now is never the final stage, and this one isn’t either. We need to be close enough to our own death to see it coming and to recognize that death and life are united in an eternal embrace, and one is not the end of the other. Death is what it is. I am a grand father when I am ready to let go. To the grand mother, death is no longer an enemy, but as Saint Francis called it, a “welcome sister.”

The soul of the grand parent is large enough to embrace the death of the ego and to affirm the life of God in itself and others, despite all imperfections. Its spaciousness accepts all the opposites in life—masculine and feminine, unity and difference, victory and defeat, us and them and so on—because it has accepted the opposition of death itself. Grand parents know that their beliefs have less to do with unarguable conclusions than scary encounters with life and the living God. They have come to realize that spiritual growth is not so much learning as it is unlearning, a radical openness to the truth no matter what the consequences or where it leads. They understand that they do not so much grasp the truth as let go of their egos, which are usually nothing more than obstacles to the truth.

I cannot imagine a true grand father or grand mother who is not a contemplative in some form. And contemplatives are individuals who live in and return to the center within themselves, and yet they know that they are not the Center. They are only a part, but a gracious and grateful part at that.

Reference:

Adapted from Richard Rohr with Joseph Martos, From Wild Man to Wise Man: Reflections on Male Spirituality (Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1990, 1996, 2005), 169, 171, 173, 174–175.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 12, (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Jenna Keiper, Trinity Tree (detail), 2022, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 7, (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: Aging and transformation: the natural cycle of life, learning, growing, sharing. We flower, we leaf, we shed, we become.

Story from Our Community:

Several years ago I made a conscious decision to shift my life to a contemplative state of solitude. . . I decided that despite the challenges of illness, I wanted to spend the final years of my life mostly on my own. Still, I have found a way to be of service to those I love. As friends and family struggle with the “what is” of today, I am there for them with a calm heart and words of consolation, reassurance, and hope. Although I am speaking from my own heart, I truly believe my words flow from all the wisdom teachers quoted in the Daily Meditations and other CAC publications. I have finally found the faith community I have been searching for my whole life. I feel so blessed! —Kathy S.

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.

 

A Windfall of Delight

CAC faculty member James Finley shares his thoughts on spiritual maturity as a form of ripening:

We ripen in holiness and spiritual fulfillment as we learn to sit in the sun of God’s mysterious, sustaining presence that energizes and guides our efforts, bringing us to realms of grace that are beyond, way beyond, anything we can achieve by our own efforts alone. . . .

The lifelong process of ripening brings about a corresponding ripening of our ability to understand the fundamentals in a wiser, peace-giving manner. . . . As a person ripens in unsayable intimacies in God, they ripen in a paradoxical wisdom. They come to understand God as a presence that protects us from nothing, even as God unexplainably sustains us in all things. This is the Mystery of the Cross that reveals whatever it means that God watches over us; it does not mean that God prevents the tragic thing, the cruel thing, the unfair thing, from happening. Rather, it means that God is intimately hidden as a kind of profound, tender sweetness that flows and carries us along in the intimate depths of the tragic thing itself—and will continue to do so in every moment of our lives up to and through death, and beyond.

As fruit ripens, it fulfills itself in reaching its full potential to nurture us and give us pleasure. We might say that, as fruit ripens, it fulfills itself in giving itself to us. In a similar way, we do not undergo the transformative process of ripening for ourselves alone, but rather that our transformed presence might be a source of nurture to others.

Then too, there is the fruit that, in remaining unharvested, falls onto the ground and dies. The lesson here is in Jesus’ words, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it brings forth fruit a hundred fold, a thousand fold” (John 12:24).

And so it is with us. As we grow old we realize that, in all we have been through, Love has been using us for its own purposes. And for this we feel immensely grateful. We know, too, that our inevitable passing away, in which we fall into the ground and die, is not the end of our ripened and transformed life. It is rather our passage into an infinite and deathless fulfillment. Saint John of the Cross [1542–1591] talks about a windfall of delight. [1] When fruit becomes very ripe, the slightest wind can cause it to fall to the ground. This is also true of us, and not just in the sense in which we learn to be undone and fulfilled in all the unexpected little blessings that come to us throughout the day. The windfall of delight pertains as well to our last breath, which we know and trust will send us falling forever into the deathless depths of God.

References:

[1] John of the Cross, “The Dark Night,” in The Poems of St. John of the Cross, trans. John Frederick Nims (New York: Grove Press, 1959), 19. Note: “Windfall of delight” is Nims’s translation of John’s line “¡o dichosa ventura!”

James Finley, “Ripening,” Oneing 1, no. 2, Ripening (Fall 2013): 37–38. Available as PDF download.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 12, (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Jenna Keiper, Trinity Tree (detail), 2022, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 7, (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: Aging and transformation: the natural cycle of life, learning, growing, sharing. We flower, we leaf, we shed, we become.

Story from Our Community:

Several years ago I made a conscious decision to shift my life to a contemplative state of solitude. . . I decided that despite the challenges of illness, I wanted to spend the final years of my life mostly on my own. Still, I have found a way to be of service to those I love. As friends and family struggle with the “what is” of today, I am there for them with a calm heart and words of consolation, reassurance, and hope. Although I am speaking from my own heart, I truly believe my words flow from all the wisdom teachers quoted in the Daily Meditations and other CAC publications. I have finally found the faith community I have been searching for my whole life. I feel so blessed! —Kathy S.

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.

 

A Noble Task

Known for her deep wisdom around death and dying, Kathleen Dowling Singh (1946–2017) also wrote about the awakening that can occur when we consciously address aging:

Opening deeply to the truth of our own aging is wise. Opening deeply to the truth of our own impermanence is wise. Although such opening may not come easily at first—we all know how the ego tends to resist vulnerability—it is important to do so if we wish to mindfully use the time remaining to us. . . .

To live a life of an elder is to ripen into being that is more than simply elderly, more than just old. It involves ripening into clear-eyed acceptance of the way things actually exist. That ripening involves, for each of us, many difficult reckonings in the multifaceted, multidimensional understanding that everything that can be lost will be lost. . . .

Grey hair and sagginess notwithstanding, many of us still cling childishly to so much that is unreal and inessential. Many of us still cling to reputation, to imagined security, to unexamined habits of attitude and behavior, and to self-image. We have deep aversion to having all of our cherished illusions stripped away by life-in-form’s seeming indifference.

We all have reservoirs of fear, some large and some small and subtle, around entering this new terrain of unknown and mystery: our last years. What will aging to do me? To my body? To my mind? . . . Will I matter to anyone? Will I be a burden? How will I die?

We do not know. We have no clue what these years will hold for us. We have no clue what will happen tomorrow. The “moment that changed everything” usually arrives unannounced.

The only person who can answer the questions posed by the often painful challenges of aging is the person we will be in the moment we confront those circumstances. The shaping of that person into someone with greater wisdom and equanimity can begin in this moment.

For Singh, when we choose to ripen, to awaken as we age, we offer a gift to the world and future generations:

If we are to claim the last years of life as years that hold the possibility of awakening into equanimity and lightness, into the very embodiment of grace, we need to bear witness to the ripening of that possibility. Not only would it be a blessing for each of us, it would be a blessing for a world starving for such witnessing. . . .

Mindful of impermanence, the breath-by-breath arising and abiding and falling of each moment, we can remain in remembrance of our longing to exist in wisdom and love and compassion. We can remain in our intention to ripen into the spiritual maturity that is our birthright to cultivate. There is no more noble way to spend these years than to become an elder, to bear witness to the world as placeholders for peace, love, wisdom, and fearlessness.

Reference:

Kathleen Dowling Singh, The Grace in Aging: Awaken as You Grow Older (Boston, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2014), 12, 16–17, 17–18, 21, 24.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 12, (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Jenna Keiper, Trinity Tree (detail), 2022, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 7, (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: Aging and transformation: the natural cycle of life, learning, growing, sharing. We flower, we leaf, we shed, we become.

Story from Our Community:

I’m writing to say thank you so very much for walking with me in my journey towards greater discernment. At age 72, I have built a very successful “container,” as Fr. Richard would say, to house my False Self. But I admit that I am struggling to find direction in my “second act.” —Jim K.

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.

 

What Kind of Person Are We Becoming?

Contemplative elder and Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister writes of the humility we must cultivate if we hope to grow in love and compassion as we age:  

If we learn anything at all as time goes by and the changing seasons become fewer and fewer, it is that there are some things in life that cannot be fixed. It is more than possible that we will go to our graves with a great deal of personal concerns, of life agendas, left unresolved. . . . So has life been wasted? Has it all been for nothing?

Only if we mistake the meaning of the last period of life. This time of life is not meant to solidify us in our inadequacies. It is meant to free us to mature even more. . . .

This is the period of life when we must begin to look inside our own hearts and souls rather than outside ourselves for the answers to our problems, for the fixing of the problems. This is the time for facing ourselves, for bringing ourselves into the light.

Chittister invites us to consider aging as an opportunity to grow into our true and larger selves:

Now is the time to ask ourselves what kind of person we have been becoming all these years. And do we like that person? Did we become more honest, more decent, more caring, more merciful as we went along because of all these things? And if not, what must we be doing about it now? . . .  

Can we begin to see ourselves as only part of the universe, just a fragment of it, not its center? Can we give ourselves to accepting the heat and the rain, the pain and the limitations, the inconveniences and discomforts of life, without setting out to passively punish the rest of the human race for the daily exigencies that come with being human?

Can we smile at what we have not smiled at for years? Can we give ourselves away to those who need us? Can we speak our truth without needing to be right and accept the vagaries of life now—without needing the entire rest of the world to swaddle us beyond any human justification for expecting it? Can we talk to people decently and allow them to talk to us? . . .

Now, this period, this aging process, is the last time we’re given to be more than all the small things we have allowed ourselves to be over the years. But first, we must face what the smallness is, and rejoice in the time we have left to turn sweet instead of more sour than ever.

A burden of these years is the danger of giving in to our most selfish selves.

A blessing of these years is the opportunity to face what it is in us that has been enslaving us, and to let our spirit fly free of whatever has been tying it to the Earth all these years.

Reference:

Joan Chittister, The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully (New York: BlueBridge, 2008), 179–180, 181, 182, 183.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 12, (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Jenna Keiper, Trinity Tree (detail), 2022, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 7, (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: Aging and transformation: the natural cycle of life, learning, growing, sharing. We flower, we leaf, we shed, we become.

Story from Our Community:

I’m writing to say thank you so very much for walking with me in my journey towards greater discernment. At age 72, I have built a very successful “container,” as Fr. Richard would say, to house my False Self. But I admit that I am struggling to find direction in my “second act.” —Jim K.

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 Second Journey

Father Richard describes the conscious attention and intention necessary to “fall upward” into a purposeful second half of life:

Most of us tend to think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of our physical life, but I simply don’t believe that’s all there is to it. What looks like falling can largely be experienced as falling upward and onward, into a broader and deeper world, where the soul finds its fullness, is finally connected to the whole, and lives inside the Big Picture.

It is not a loss but somehow a gain, not losing but actually winning. We probably have to have met at least one true elder to imagine this could be true. I’ve met enough radiant people to know that it is possible. They have come to their human fullness, often against all odds, usually by suffering personally or vicariously and empathetically. As Jesus describes such a person, “from their breasts flow fountains of living water” (John 7:38). They are models and goals for our humanity, much more than the celebrities and politicians whose actions we seem to care so much about today.

Remember, no one can keep us from the second half of our own lives except ourselves. Nothing can inhibit our second journey except our own lack of courage, patience, and imagination. Our second journey is all ours to walk or to avoid. My conviction is that some falling apart of the first journey is necessary for this to happen, so don’t waste too many moments lamenting poor parenting, lost jobs, failed relationships, physical challenges, economic poverty, or other tragedies. Pain is part of the deal. If we don’t walk into the second half of our own life, it is surely because we do not want it. Let’s desire, desire deeply, desire ourselves, desire God, desire everything good, true, and beautiful. All of the emptying out is for the sake of a Great Outpouring.

Jesuit theologian and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) prayed to allow his life to unfold in full confidence of God’s presence until the very end:

When the signs of age begin to mark my body (and still more when they touch my mind); when the ill that is to diminish me or carry me off strikes from without or is born within me; when the painful moment comes in which I suddenly awaken to the fact that I am ill or growing old; and above all at that last moment when I feel I am losing hold of myself and am absolutely passive within the hands of the great unknown forces that have formed me; in all those dark moments, O God, grant that I may understand that it is You (provided only my faith is strong enough) who are painfully parting the fibres of my being in order to penetrate to the very marrow of my substance and bear me away within Yourself. [1]

References:

[1] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu: An Essay on the Interior Life (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1960), 62.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011), 153–154, 160.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 12, (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Jenna Keiper, Trinity Tree (detail), 2022, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 7, (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: Aging and transformation: the natural cycle of life, learning, growing, sharing. We flower, we leaf, we shed, we become.

Story from Our Community:

This month I’m turning 64. In the game of life, you might say I’m “rounding third” and heading home. So, what have I learned? I spend less time separating people in my mind by their political or religious views. I give space to each moment because I know it is really all I have. And now I understand that whatever I want to change about the world begins with me. From 50 to 64, I took more risks than I ever had before. I fell in love twice, resumed a career as if I’d never left, retreated to my father’s old house, and never missed a meal. I wake up happy a lot more days than I did when I was younger. —Cindy G.

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.

 

A Ripening Mind and Heart

In this week’s meditations, Father Richard Rohr and other teachers consider how to age well with consciousness, spiritual depth, and purpose. In this essay from the CAC’s journal Oneing, Richard uses the image of ripening to describe this process:

The word “ripening” helps us move beyond any exclusive concern with physical aging, because our concerns are much more than that. If I am to believe the novels, myths, poems, and people I have met in my life, old age is almost never described as an apex of achievement as one sits atop a summit with the raised arms of a victorious athlete. It is something else, almost always something else—usually something other than what was initially imagined, or even hoped for.

Ripening, at its best, is a slow, patient learning, and sometimes even a happy letting go—a seeming emptying out to create readiness for a new kind of fullness—which we are never sure about. If we do not allow our own ripening, an ever-increasing resistance and denial sets in, an ever-increasing protection around an over-defended self. At our very best, we learn how to hope as we ripen. Youthful hopes have concrete goals, whereas the hope of older years is usually aimless hope, hope without goals, even naked hope — perhaps real hope.

Such stretching is the agony and the joy of later years, although one can avoid both of these rich experiences too. Old age, as such, is almost a complete changing of gears and engines from the first half of our lives, and does not happen without many slow realizations, inner calmings, lots of inner resistance and denials, and eventual surrenders. All of them by God’s grace work with our ever-deepening sense of what we really desire and who we really are.

Reality, fate, destiny, providence, and tragedy are slow but insistent teachers. The horizon of old age seems to be a plan that God has prepared as inevitable and part of the necessary school of life. What is gratuitously given is also gratuitously taken away, just as Job slowly came to accept. And sometimes we remember that his eventual pained response was “Blessed be the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21).

If we are to speak of a spirituality of ripening, we need to recognize that it is always characterized by an increasing tolerance for ambiguity, a growing sense of subtlety, an ever-larger ability to include and allow, and a capacity to live with contradictions and even to love them! I cannot imagine any other way of coming to those broad horizons except through many trials, unsolvable paradoxes, and errors in trying to resolve them.

The ripening of mind and heart is most basically a capacity for nondual consciousness and contemplation. So my guidance is a simple reminder to recall what we will be forced to learn by necessity and under pressure anyway—the open-ended way of allowing and the deep meaning that some call faith. To live in trustful faith is to ripen; it is almost that simple.

Reference:

Adapted from Richard Rohr, introduction to Oneing 1, no. 2, Ripening (Fall 2013): 11, 12–14. Available as PDF download.

Explore Further. . .

Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 12, (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Jenna Keiper, Trinity Tree (detail), 2022, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 7, (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: Aging and transformation: the natural cycle of life, learning, growing, sharing. We flower, we leaf, we shed, we become.

Story from Our Community:

This month I’m turning 64. In the game of life, you might say I’m “rounding third” and heading home. So, what have I learned? I spend less time separating people in my mind by their political or religious views. I give space to each moment because I know it is really all I have. And now I understand that whatever I want to change about the world begins with me. From 50 to 64, I took more risks than I ever had before. I fell in love twice, resumed a career as if I’d never left, retreated to my father’s old house, and never missed a meal. I wake up happy a lot more days than I did when I was younger. —Cindy G.

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.