A Glimpse of the Divine

The music gives me a few minutes in which my soul relaxes into the divine. Even with my shoes on.  

Thin places.

…it’s called The Ground because I wanted to convey a sense of having ‘arrived’ at the end of the Mass; to have reached a kind of peace and grounded strength, after the long journey of the Mass, having gone through so many different emotional landscapes.

Ola Gjielo

There was once a pastor who removed her shoes before preaching at our Lutheran church. She said it made her feel grounded. Quirky, maybe. Certainly not theologically offensive. That people who attest “for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19) would object surprised me. I don’t know. Maybe they were afraid that she had athlete’s foot.

Norwegian composer Ola Gjielo offers a piece called “The Ground” as part of his Sunrise Mass (2008) for choir and string orchestra. The Latin would be familiar to pre-1965 Catholics, the English familiar to regular churchgoers. Gjielo composed this piece specifically to use within or without the mass. It is a stunning choral work to which I turn when I want to feel grounded.

I prefer the Latin text to the English. The Latin highlights the structure of the music which opens the portal to the divine, of which I write in other essays. The soaring melody, lush harmony, and simple but intricate accompaniment create space in which to see God.

Grounding is a popular concept in times of chaos. The instability of the major institutions of government/economy, health, religion, and education shakes the ground underneath all of us. We need to grab hold of something solid, be it friendship, God, family. The music gives me a few minutes in which my soul relaxes into the divine. Even with my shoes on.   

Where do you go to pray?

Find a place to pray. The world cries out for healthy souls.   

Where I go to pray.

Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable.

I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of praying, as you no doubt have yours. 

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds, until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost unhearable sound of the roses singing.

If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.

Mary Oliver ~ Swan: Poems and Prose Poems

Ordinarily, I don’t go to the woods alone. I prefer to go with my friends who are smilers and talkers. Although I welcome the restorative qualities of nature, an environment populated by animals alarms me. I live in the city where the only snakes I encounter are human.

Writing and music are my woods, where I go to pray. Accompanying singers and making music with others is fun and stimulating, but sitting at the piano or playing my flute alone, I transcend to a space where smiling and talking are noisy interruptions. Writing settles my mind, centering me on the present.

Karen Armstrong confesses, I have discovered that the religious quest is not about discovering “the truth” or “the meaning of life” but about living as intensely as possible here and now.

Where do you go to pray? Just as the body needs sleep, the soul needs prayer. Not the heart-wrenching cries to a “Santa in the sky” god, but moments to connect with all living things so that we can live intensely. I call that connection ‘God’ although it doesn’t need a label. It’s awareness and appreciation of the miracle and fragility of life on this planet resulting in valuing all life.

Find a place to pray. The world cries out for healthy souls.