Thursday, June 18, 2009

Retreat Musings

Retreat is a good time to do some reading. I found a book that I hadn't read by one of my favorite writers, Rabbi Lawrence Kushner. The seven chapters bring us that wonderful Jewish midrash--seven different ways of reading the same biblical verse. In this case it's the Jacob's ladder story in Genesis 28 and in particular verse 16: "God was in this place and I, I did not know it," which is also the title of the book.

I love Kushner's writing and I love Jewish midrash, at least the little I've read of it, so this is perfect for this week. I'll be sharing tidbits from it for awhile. Here's the first one:

"Gershom Scholem, the master historian of Jewish mysticism who is not customarily on stage with American standup comedians like Abbott and Costello, nevertheless expressed this idea. He once told me that the ultimate question one can ask is not, What is the meaning of life? or even, Why am I here? but simply, Who? Like all questions, its syntax predetermines the range of possible answers. And the question, Who? is a request for either a name or a personal pronoun. The answer, in other words, must be personal. It must be a self.

Like the Zen monk who, after years of study, formulated what he thought was the ultimate question, Who am I? only to be surprised by the voice inside him that replied, Who is asking? You are looking for the one who is looking. In this sense, then, this tale is not so much a literary fantasy about the possible meanings of a biblical verse recorded centuries ago, but a journey into the "self" who is reading these words."

One of our tall processional crosses--this one by the St. John's Abbey oblate and liturgical consultant and designer, Frank Kacmarcik--as it is caught in the early morning sunlight from the clerestory. To read about this unique artist go to this article, page 4, written by one of our sisters.