"A Garden of Paradise"
- At the Desert Retreat House -
My allergies have been acting up and I seem to be sneezing a lot lately; so every day I get to hear words of blessing. Yesterday, as I sat in the local Starbucks I sneezed rather loudly and the person next to me smiled and said, “Bless you.” As I heard this blessing I was suddenly struck by a flash of insight.
We hear plenty of condemnations in the course of our everyday lives, especially in this presidential election season where candidates are quick to judge, to curse and to condemn one another; but we rarely hear words of blessing. Even though I don’t particularly like to sneeze in public, I do like to get blessed from time to time.
Just the other say I came across a line spoken by an old country preacher in Marilynne Robinson’s wonderful novel, Gilead. Reflecting on his many years in the ministry and the many times he pronounced blessings upon his congregation, the old preacher said:
There is a reality in a blessing.
It doesn’t enhance sacredness but it acknowledges it.
I found this one little sentence to be extremely insightful.
As an ordained priest, all my life I have been blessing all kinds of people and all sorts of things. I have blessed cars, homes and gardens, swimming pools and bicycles. I have blessed babies, old people, sick and dying people, happy people and sad people. I have blessed marriages and I have blessed dead bodies. When I came across that one little line from the old country preacher, it caused me to reflect on what those many blessings may have actually meant.
We may think that a blessing makes something or someone holy but everything is already holy even before it is blessed. The energy of “God” flows in and through everything and everyone – “earth’s crammed with heaven, every common bush alive with God.” Blessings acknowledge the holiness, the sacredness, the beauty that already exists in every single moment of every single day.
In the later years of his life, the renowned 20th century monk and mystic, Thomas Merton, came to the realization that everything he was looking for in his life was already right here. He was seeking God and longing for paradise and he eventually realized that he could stop his search for something yet to be and instead “acknowledge” what already “is.” In one of his journal entries Merton wrote:
Everything is in fact paradise
because it is filled with the glory and the presence of God.
Nothing is any more separated from God.
It seems to me that you certainly don’t need to be a member of the clergy to pronounce blessings, in fact you can offer a blessing and you don’t even need to be a religious person of any sort. You just need to believe that the energy of Love flows in and through everything that “is,” everyone is holy and everything is sacred and when we bless it we acknowledge it.
It seems to me that in these days of curses and condemnations we need a lot more blessings in our everyday lives. So, as I sit in my garden at the dawn of yet another day I fill the air with words of blessing. I bless the rising sun, the palm trees as they sway in the breeze. I bless the cacti, the dry desert sand and the flowing fountain in my garden. I bless my two dogs, the fluttering hummingbirds, the buzzing bees. I bless my family and all the people I love. I bless foreigners and strangers, enemies and allies.
I bless it all today and invite you to do the same.