When Things Are Unveiled — Center for Action and Contemplation

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See the schedule and event session details for the final CONSPIRE conference (Sep. 24 – 26)

When Things Are Unveiled

A Time of Unveiling

When Things Are Unveiling
Friday, January 8, 2021

I have read the scriptures since childhood and preached on them continually over the last fifty years in my role as a priest; but over the last year, I’ve found myself drawn to them in a different way. I have been looking, if not for answers, then for wisdom, solidarity, and always for needed inspiration. Perhaps it’s not surprising that this past year I have frequently returned to what we might call the “apocalyptic” readings found in the synoptic gospels (Matthew 24, Luke 21, Mark 13) and also in the entire Book of Revelation. Don’t be nervous! I’m not looking for signs of the “end times” or trying to predict anything. I’m simply trying to understand what is being “revealed” in all that is happening. Remember, the word “apocalyptic” simply means to “unveil.”  It was never meant to be a synonym for bad news!

Apocalyptic literature “pulls back the curtain” to reveal what is real, what is true, and what is lasting. It’s never what we think it is! That is the gift of this literature and a time like the one we’re living through. It shocks us out of what we take for granted as normal so that we can redefine normal. It uses hyperbolic language and images, such as stars falling from the sky and the metaphor of the moon turning to blood to help us recognize that we’re not in my home state of Kansas anymore. It’s not that it’s the end of the world, but it helps us imagine the end of “our world” as we know it. That doesn’t mean life doesn’t go on, but that our lives won’t go on the way we thought they would, could, and even should. It allows us to see that what we thought was necessary and inevitable, simply isn’t, and that everything is eventually “Gone, gone, utterly gone!” as many Buddhists chant daily in the Diamond Sutra (scripture).

When things are “unveiled,” we stop taking things for granted. That’s what major events like the COVID-19 pandemic do for us. They reframe reality in a radical way and offer us an invitation to greater depth and breadth. If we trust the universal pattern, the wisdom of all times and all places, including the creation and evolution of the cosmos itself, we know that an ending is also the place for a new beginning. Death is followed by a new kind of life.

I invite you to continue practicing some form of contemplative prayer this year. Our problems begin when we fight reality, push it away, or insist that the way I “see” reality, from my own limited perspective, is the only valid reality. Any contemplative practice that serves to welcome life as it is will change us. We will dive into this “unveiled”—and even unpleasant—reality positively and preemptively, saying, “Come God, and teach me your good lessons.” We need such a practice to lessen our resistance to change and our tight grasp around things. Let us seek to pray this way for as long as it takes us to arrive at a full “Yes” to Reality. Only then can its lessons come through to us.

Adapted from Richard Rohr with Brie Stoner, “United in Spirit,” The Call to Unite, reflection (May 2, 2020), YouTube video. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSp7LQHYn8k

Story from Our Community:
Six years ago, I walked away from the conservative faith I had always known. I was devastated, but did not know how to reconcile all my thoughts, feelings, and knowing with the God the church seemed to praise. When my dad tragically passed away in April (during COVID-19), I was left reeling. I did not know where to turn. Father Rohr’s book and daily meditations seem to be written just for me; they speak to the deep knowing of my soul and have given me a voice to once again believe, pray, hope, and even wrestle with the eternal. I miss my dad tremendously, yet am finding my second knowing in a much more loving and lovable God. —Kelly H.

Image credit: Basket and Tree Root (detail), Photograph by Thomas Merton, copyright the Merton Legacy Trust and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. Used with Permission.
Like the exposed roots of a tree, reality unveiled can be many things at the same time: sharp, smooth, ugly, beautiful, painful, and healing.
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