Saturday, June 7, 2014

Solace

"Cooling Fountain"
-triple digit desert heat-

I have never before lived in a place that had more elaborate public fountains than we have out here in the desert communities. There are fountains in neighborhood parks, fountains in public squares, fountains in front of malls and supermarkets - even a fountain at the entrance to the local hardware store.

Today it's supposed to get up to 112 degrees, and so I really "get" why there are so many of these  beautiful fountains scattered all around these desert communities -just looking at them seems to cool you off. When I go into the little village square near me, I will often sit on a bench in front of one of the fountains and simply gaze upon the fresh cool water cascading - cool refreshment in the heat.

Tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday on the Christian calendar - I love the story of Pentecost.  Jesus has gone away, and his frightened disciples have gathered together wondering what they will do without him. Suddenly they are filled with the Holy Spirit - an abiding Holy Presence bubbles up within them and among them, and they have renewed strength to carry on the work of Jesus and to walk in his "way." 

From biblical times, this abiding Presence has been called the "Holy Comforter." There are many Pentecost hymns in the Christian tradition, but I am particularly taken by one very ancient and beautiful hymn that sings of the presence of the "Holy Comforter" as:

Cool refreshment in the heat,
Solace in the midst of woe

People so often think about "God" as the distant superman who either causes trouble for us or takes all the trouble away- believers think about "God" in this way and so do atheists. But the biblical story of Pentecost presents a very different image of  "God" - not some man in the sky but a tender, gentle, comforting Holy Presence who doesn't take away the heat of the day, who neither causes us harm nor makes our lives all better, but rather "abides" with us even in the hottest and the driest times of life.

Cool refreshment in the heat,
Solace in the midst of woe

In the Buddhist tradition there are three "solaces" in which to take comfort in life, three "refuges" in the midst of the suffering which is endemic to the human condition. At a monastic ordination ceremony a newly professed monk announces:
I take refuge in the Buddha
I take refuge in the teachings (the Dharma)
I take refuge in the community of my fellow monks/nuns (the Sangha)

I love this Buddhist prayer. There is a universality to it that can be applied to all religious traditions - to anyone on any sort of spiritual journey on a way to enlightenment and deeper peace. The spiritual journey is a journey of "solace." 

We take refuge in an Abiding Presence. And as we walk along on the journey, we take solace in the teachings - the wisdom of our own teachers, the wisdom handed down to us from our ancestors, from the Buddha, the Christ. And yes, as we journey in the wilderness we never walk alone - we give solace to one another- Holy Comfort, cheering each other on, carrying one another's burdens along the way. 

As I sit in my garden in these early morning hours, the sun has made its way over the eastern mountains and the temperature is already almost into the triple digits. It's going to be a "hot one" today.  I listen to the sound of my garden fountain bubbling up with cool refreshing water - and I am flooded with a sense of peace - Holy Comfort, Holy Presence:

Cool refreshment in the heat,
Solace in the midst of woe







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