Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fly Away Home

Fly Away Home
I don’t want to let my thoughts fade too quickly as I return home from this memorable trip.
I wrote a prayer for the ministers while I was in Istanbul, and I want to be sure to include it in my blog, as it was most significant to the way that I was feeling on the morning of June 6.
Istanbul, Turkey -
Outside my window, I can see the spires of the Blue Mosque. As I crawled into bed last night, the call of the muezzin for night prayers echoed across the Old City. Again this morning, at dawn, came the call to prayer. While in Jerusalem, I could hear the call to prayer from the Dome of the Rock, followed a bit later by church bells that rang out over the Old City. Countless numbers of people responded by facing Mecca, or attending morning mass, or praying at the Western Wall. What gentle reminders to turn our thoughts to God!
So this morning, I offer to all of us a call to prayer -

In the morning light and in the evening quiet, I rest in God. I know that wherever I am i am in the Presence of the One - all Knowing, ever present, and all powerful Has-hem, Allah, God. In the Call to Prayer from the minaret, or the bells from the church tower, i am reminded over and over again of the Presence that is my very life, and the creative Spirit of everything that is.

I see the faces of the people wearing hijab, Yarmulkes, top hats, long, flowing robes and Arab headgear, and I know that God is expressing itself in myriad ways. So we, too, feel the call to prayer. We turn within to feel at our center, the power, the grace, the love and the joy of life itself. As we go through this day, and each day, we turn to remember God, and as we do, we find we are guided, enfolded and sustained as we go through what is before us to do.

I accept and embrace the gift of prayer, and all that it offers in my daily life - prayers for others, for the planet, for ourselves, and most of all prayers of gratitude and knowing that Grace is taking place in every moment of every day.

I know that our ministries are blessed, and that we are given all that we need for today - enough - so that we might be a shining example of the call to prayer in who we are.

I gratefully release my thoughts and words into the universal Mind and rest in the Truth.
And so it is.

One of the remarkable things about countries where Islam is widely practiced is the call to prayer from the mosque.  In years past, the muezzin (the one who leads the call to prayer) would climb to the top of one of the minarets or tall spires that stand alongside the mosque and call out to the surrounding area a proclamation that invites all believers to stop what they are doing and pray.
As you may know, Muslims pray five times daily. They do not simply stop where they are for five minutes, say a quick prayer and go on. They first do the ritual washing as I had explained in an earlier post, then do a very active prayer that includes kneeling, bowing, standing, and saying both rote prayers as well as personal prayers.
Today, most mosques have loudspeakers at the top of the minarets, and the call to prayer can be heard from a farther distance than before. In Istanbul, which is sometimes known as the city of mosques, what one hears is almost like a call and response; one muezzin will begin the call, pause, and down the way another muezzin begins the call to prayer again. One can almost tell time by these calls – at least one knows when it is dawn, when it is mid-morning, noon, sunset and the last time for evening prayer.
The first time I was awakened by the morning call to prayer was on my earlier trip to Turkey, and I was staying in a village with a Turkish family for the night. The mosque was within a city block of the house, and the window was open. I must say that it startled me awake, as I was not expecting it, and I found myself slightly annoyed. I remember thinking that I wouldn’t want to be awakened by that every morning.
After hearing the call of the muezzin in both Jerusalem from the Dome of the Rock, which was close to our hotel, and also from the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, I found I was able to simply incorporate it into the sounds of the day, and realized that I had found it rather comforting. It was a time to remember God. I am impressed by the devotion of Muslims to the practice of prayer five times a day.
As one who is part of the New Thought movement, which I feel suits me very well, I realize that we do not have rituals in the way that Orthodox religions, Islam, and many other religions do. I realize there are both pluses and minuses to this, yet I found I great sense of commonality in them. As we visited a number of churches that had been built at holy sites, we sat in on several masses. One always knew where they were in the mass, even though it was being said in different languages. A global consciousness builds out of that – the web of the Eucharist binds them together. I see the same to be true for the Muslim who daily answer the call to prayer. Wherever a believer is in the world, they are in unison five times a day.
There can be a kind of arrogance about one’s religious practices. We pray affirmatively, and I have heard colleagues criticize those of other religions who do not pray that way, as though we are somehow superior to others because of the way we teach affirmative prayer.  I am of the opinion that one prayer, regardless of how it is spoken, if expressed with a sincere heart, is as valid as another. Spirit within, or God outside are still one God, and prayer works from the inside out or the outside in, changing us, not God.
In Jerusalem, the ringing of church bells would follow the Muslim call to prayer. I would imagine that somewhere in the city there might also be the sound of the Shofar – the ram’s horn used by the Jews for purposes of worship.  The sights, sounds, and even fragrances (incense, etc.) of worship all add meaning and allow us to involve more of the senses in our reaching out or within to experience God.
That is what religion can do best. It can give us a vehicle to experience God. I felt such a deep connection when I touched the spot in the small cave at the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. I felt it again at the Dome of the Rock when I entered the grotto and saw the people praying at the foot of the tock of Abraham. I felt it sitting on a bench at the walkway between the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque, watching the pilgrims from all over the world who had come to admire these historic and holy sites.
You and I, and all of humanity, are such tiny intersections in the web of life. We are interconnected, and we are all here for a brief moment. We are here for a breath – a heartbeat – a glimpse of something ineffable. To experience God is different than worshiping a dogma or doctrine in which we make the religion more important than the experience. In that, I think one cannot really find the very thing we seek- because it has been lost in the set of laws that entangle it. The Ineffable is within us – and it is everywhere, but sometimes, a place, a fragrance, a sound, a whisper of a breeze or the call of a muezzin, reminds us once again of who we are and where we came from.

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