Father Mark, Reflections

Accessing God

The Unfailing Chalice–Russian Orthodox Icon

Besides spiritual revelation, we all “access” God in different ways, using sensory experience.  For example, some of us access God through “hearing” either internally or through music, others of us contact God through touch or feeling.  Others primarily access the Spirit visually.   Each of us usually leads with one sense as being more of an alert passage way than the others.  Others may use thoughts more than they will their senses.   All are viable ways for God to communicate with us. 

I tend to go back and forth between visual images and kinesthetic experience.  When I feel the coolness of a gentle breeze touch my face while walking in the wild especially when in the summer heat, my thoughts stop and I feel a sense of being held by One who is greater than I.   Visually, I am fed through symbolized images of stained glass windows and can be held by the Presence coming through them for minutes at a time without my mind interrupting me. 

Years ago, I read a short book by the late Henri Nouwen, a Jesuit priest entitled, Praying with Icons.   Icons are images of Jesus, Mary and the saints through their experience painted on wood or stone.   Some are very simple, others more ornate.  Occasionally, I discover one that is quite unusual and unexpected in its images and I find myself being caught up by them with a sense of awe and wonder.  I don’t know if I am receiving the same experience as the monk who painted them, but again, I am held up, much like being held in a force field, speechless and still as the images carry me deep into the mystery of God where there are no words where I am revived and often healed. 

One of these “unusual” visual gifts I discovered just a few minutes ago in a Russian Otthodox icon entitled, “The Unfailing (or Inexhaustible) Chalice.”   To see the young Christ emerge from the Holy Chalice/Grail leaves me spellbound.  As a priest, I am familiar with the Blood of Christ in the chalice and the contrast between this and the image of Jesus himself rising out of the chalice vividly pierces my mind, heart and soul.  The piercing is painless yet awe inspiring and blissful.  Mary stands with her hands orans (the term for hands raised, open to heaven). When gazing at this Holy Story I know that I am being held by God.  We don’t pray to icons.  We gaze upon them and remain open.

If this icon is helpful to you, I give thanks. If not, I want to ask you, what do you see, hear, feel, taste or touch, or what thoughts that carries you into the Divine? Ponder this awhile and place yourself in the Presence of the Holy One to permeate you with Divine Light and Love.

Let God take your breath away and give you His.

In His Holy Peace,

Fr. Mark