The Flowers of St. Francis

Brother Nazario Gerardi – ‘The Flowers of St. Francis’

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Praise be to you, O Lord, and to all your creatures. 
Especially Brother Sun, through whom you light our days. 
He is beautiful and radiant and resplendent, 
and derives all meaning from you
.”
~ Canticle to the Sun

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The deepest realisations and expressions of truth in Christianity have sometimes come from words and understanding, as was the case with Meister Eckhart, but it is, by far, not the most common path. Many a man or a woman have come to embrace God’s being through the expression of profound love and surrender. Such a path was trodden by Francis of Assisi, and has been splendidly shown in Roberto Rossellini’s 1950 film ‘The Flowers of St. Francis’. And if all one knew of Francis of Assisi was through watching this supremely elegant film, one would know what needs to be known, one would meet the essential — the essence — of this man’s life, of anybody’s life when it is lived from love and humility. One would know of the pure joy of being, of trust in life’s bounty, of care and attention for every beings on earth.

Showing only a moment of Francis’ life, the film is more a parable on the qualities that were emphasised throughout his life and teachings, than the real description of his life’s journey. Through a succession of simple vignettes, we are exposed to a panoply of Francis’ various expressions of love. We are shown a man who lived with his heart, and a life that has been made into a prayer to god. We are shown that prayer is but an act of love. We are shown people coming together around a common faith in God, their daily life and turmoils, their behaviours. Francis of Assisi encouraged his disciples to access or express god’s being by being oneself an example of the presence of god. And by making this presence shine in all their daily activities, so that the brightness of god can be harvested by everybody around. These expressions are in the film like the little flowers of St. Francis. A whole bouquet of them.

Praise be to you, O Lord, 
for Sister Moon and all the stars, 
which you cause to shine clear and bright
.”
~ Canticle to the Sun

[…]

A homage to Francis of Assisi through Roberto Rossellini’s movie… (READ MORE…)

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Search me, O God

I am presenting here a text excerpted from the Christian Old Testament, in the Bible. It is commonly known as Psalm 139, and belongs to the Book of Psalms. ’Psalm’ in Greek means ‘instrumental music’ and is by extension, a hymn. These hymns are mostly praises to God. This particular Psalm was brought to my knowledge by Rupert Spira. This is certainly one of the richest for it expresses the all knowing and pervasiveness of God, of that deep presence that is the nature and heart of our utmost self. It also stresses that this presence shines in all circumstances, including in our darkest hours. The psalm seems to hold in itself the soft power of a prayer, which is the ability to make us aware of our true self. For this is the function of a prayer, to throw us back into our self, into the deep silence that is the core of our being. As Stephen Mitchell wrote in ‘A Book of Psalms’, “Pure prayer begins at the threshold of silence. It says nothing, asks for nothing. It is a kind of listening. The deeper the listening, the less we listen for, until silence itself becomes the voice of God.” Listen to the depth of this poem. As its promise reads, you may be led “in the way everlasting”.

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O lord, thou hast searched me, 
     and known me.
Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, 
     thou understandest my thought afar off.
Thou compassest my path and my lying down, 
     and art acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word in my tongue, 
     but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.
Thou hast beset me behind and before, 
     and laid thine hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; 
      it is high, I cannot attain unto it.

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? 
     or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: 
     if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning, 
     and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me, 
     and thy right hand shall hold me.
If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; 
     even the night shall be light about me.
Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; 
     but the night shineth as the day: 
     the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

For thou hast possessed my reins: 
     thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: 
     marvellous are thy works; 
     and that my soul knoweth right well.
My substance was not hid from thee, 
     when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought 
     in the lowest parts of the earth.
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book 
     all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, 
     when as yet there was none of them.
How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! 
     how great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, 
     they are more in number than the sand: 
     when I awake, I am still with thee.

[…]

Search me, O God, and know my heart: 
     try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me, 
     and lead me in the way everlasting.

~ Psalm 139 (King James Version)

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Psalm from the Holy Bible (King James Version)

Photo by Alain Joly

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Bibliography:
– ‘The Book of Psalms: King James Version’ – (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)
– ‘A Book of Psalms: Selected and Adapted from the Hebrew’ – by Stephen Mitchell – (Harper Perennial)

Websites:
The Bible (Wikipedia)
King James Version (Wikipedia)
Psalms (Wikipedia)
Psalm 139 (Wikipedia)

Suggestion:
Other prayers from the blog at Fragrance of Love

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A Prayerful Mind

When I pray for aught my prayer goes for naught; 
when I pray for naught I pray as I ought
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~ Meister Eckhart

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This prayer is borrowed from a treatise allegedly attributed to Meister Eckhart, ‘The Rank and Nature of the Soul’, in the translation of Miss C. de B. Evans, 1924. The authenticity of these treatises is discussed, but it appeared to me like a beautiful prayer well worth sharing here. I have adapted it in a more modern English, sometimes taking some liberty with the original, and other times leaving it as it is. Its authenticity goes inasmuch as it is speaks to our hearts and reveals the fragrance of the divine presence it prays…

Meister Eckhart was a Christian theologian and mystic born in 13th century Germany. He is nowadays appreciated for the universal qualities of his message. For Meister Eckhart, the most powerful form of prayer is “the outcome of a quiet mind” where there should only be “a pure going out of what is our own”. Such a mind, in his own words, is one that “is forever immersed in God’s most precious will, having left its own.” A prayer is an invitation to rest or abide in what is most essential in our being, it is “the practice of pure being”. I hope this prayer will find a resting place in your heart…

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O divine presence, supreme fragrance,
Show me the way to your most precious nature
That in your wisdom you have sent my way
To be seen and recognised as my own self;
To be loved as my being beyond earthly manners;
To be enjoyed in this new birth as happiness.
To be owned in thy perfect wisdom.

Preserve me from all separation, for you have raised me above myself;
You have exalted my soul beyond the grasp of ego;
You have sealed me with the seal of your eternal image;
Have made nothing more like yourself than a man in his soul.

Teach me to live so that I may never want you; 
So as never to hinder the working of your love-stream in me; 
So as never to lend myself to any outward pleasure without you;
Nor occupy my mind with any creature other than you. 

You are that pure consciousness incomprehensible by ego,
Inspiring the soul and raising her above entanglement
So that she can do thy will only, O Eternal Wisdom;
So that in grace she can be freed from all that comes uninvited.

You have made the soul to suit yourself in her nature and her laws
And she maintains she has no room for anyone but you.
O Almighty! Most Merciful Creator!  Dear Lord!
Help me to overcome the pitfalls of my egoistic tendencies.

Help me to believe, to hope, to love; to live and feel exactly as you will,
And as much as you will and what you will. Lord, grant me 
The sorrow of the humble; a mind escaped from mortal body; 
To love, to laud and to behold you and cherish every act and thought that is toward you. 

Grant me a clear, sober and genuinely prayerful mind 
With real intuition of thy will, together with the love and joy 
Which make it easy to perform. Lord, grant me always modest progress 
Towards better things and never to backslide in any harmful way. 

And, O my Lord, condemn me not, as I deserve, 
To rely on my own powers, or my human weakness and foolishness,
But on your good providence alone. Direct me Lord to the Good itself;
Command my every thought and act to your own liking.

Make so happen that on my part, in me, your will is always being done,
And that I can be saved from evil and brought to the eternal life.
Make me be one where thou are three in Person, in the essence of thy divine nature: 
Father, Son and Holy Ghost and the ever blessed almighty God. 

Amen. 

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Prayer by Meister Eckhart
(adapted from a translation by Miss C. de B. Evans)

Photo by Elsebet Barner

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The photo represents a painting by Joakim Frederik Skovgaard (1856-1933)

Bibliography :
– ‘Meister Eckhart, Selected Writings’ – by Meister Eckhart – (Penguin Classics)
– ‘Conversations with Meister Eckhart’ – by Meister Eckhart & Simon Parke – (White Crow Books Ltd)

Website:
Meister Eckhart (Wikipedia)
Joakim Skovgaard (Wikipedia)

Suggestions:
This is Meister Eckhart (Homage to Meister Eckhart)
The Poor Man (a Sermon by Meister Eckhart)
– The Quiet Mind (a quote by Meister Eckhart)

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The Slow Path

A prayer is an invitation to rest or abide in what is most essential in our being. So it is something like an intimation, a subtle realisation of something that may take the form of a longing, or wishing, but is in fact already here, subtly present if not yet realised. I loved this humble prayer by Michael Leunig, so I share it here with you…

 

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Dear God,

We pray for another way of being:
another way of knowing.

Across the difficult terrain of our existence
we have attempted to build a highway
and in so doing have lost our footpath.

God lead us to our footpath:
Lead us there where in simplicity
we may move at the speed of natural creatures
and feel the earth’s love beneath our feet.

Lead us there where step-by-step we may feel
the movement of creation in our hearts.

And lead us there where side-by-side
we may feel the embrace of the common soul.
Nothing can be loved at speed.

God lead us to the slow path; to the joyous insights
of the pilgrim; another way of knowing: another way of being.

Amen.

 

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Payer and cartoon by Michael Leunig

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0526BD00-7BB3-43AD-BE57-E91737A198CCMichael Leunig is an Australian cartoonist, writer, painter, philosopher and poet. He describes his approach as regressive, humorous, messy, mystical, primal and vaudevillian – producing work which is open to many interpretations and has been widely adapted in education, music, theatre, psychotherapy and spiritual life. His work reflects, in his own words, “the fragile ecosystem of human nature and its relationship to the wider natural world.” He was declared a national living treasure by the National Trust for his unique contribution to Australian culture.

Read this article about Michael Leunig in Miriam Louisa Simon’s blog ‘The Awakened Eye’.

Bibliography:
– ‘The Penguin Leunig’ – by Michael Leunig – (Penguin Random House Australia)

Websites:
Michael Leunig
Michael Leunig Appreciation Page (on Facebook)

 

Naked Presence

A prayer is an invitation to rest or abide in what is most essential in our being. I have tried here to express my own version of a prayer:

 

I don’t know, sweet beloved, 
what to do with my fear, my anger,
all my overwhelming feelings
and the limits I impose on myself.

So please take them into your loving lap,
tender them till they melt 
and are taken away to be
one with your infinite being.

It is my plea and my wanting,
rather my offering – for I’m asking nothing,
to be rid of all my clothes and be seen 
naked in front of your most naked presence.

Let your constant outpouring of love
be my daily inescapable anchor,
let me I be you and you I
and feel no more the pain of separation.

You were so unnoticed,
at best visited from time to time,
let me now be the absent, unnoticed one.

Let me be whole and one with all things,
let me find in the pain, in the ache,
your most gracious presence,

my heart!

 

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Text and photo by Alain Joly

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Suggestion:
Fragrance (on the role and nature of prayer)

 

My Beloved

A prayer comes from the heart, and points to something that is beyond words and meaning. Its only function is to throw you back to yourself, to silence. It must be devoid of demands, which can only be objective and an expression of separation. In prayer, the result precedes the wish. Uma Gautam has written a lovely prayer that I’m happy to share here with you:

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My Beloved ~ I pray to you 

Grant us an exhaustion so deep
every cell in the body bows and accepts defeat.

Take away from us
the arrogance of guilt and judgement we don’t even recognise.

Help us move
as  leaves move, free-floating in the breeze
all hidden controls thrown away like muslin in the wind.

Make us so alone
we find we are our own best friend, lover and beloved.

Help us look every belief in the eye and keep it down gently. 

Let every idea we have of ourselves be given a quiet burial. 

Make our every thought word action
harmless as a rose and
sharp shiny and clear as a sword

Suffuse us with a Love so vast 
no sea, no rock, no tree, nothing is safe
from this love anymore.”

 

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Text and Painting by Uma Gautam

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7F5817A8-A1AC-4C8B-9BF7-CC52B4759526Uma Gautam paints and writes from the heart, playing and experimenting. She has published a book of poems, ‘Inner Weather’. Uma currently lives in Bangalore, India.

Website:
– ART BY UMA Gautam (Facebook Page)

 

Suggestion:
Fragrance (on the role and nature of prayer)

 

Ripples…

Why do I keep thinking that things happen
That there is drama
All kinds of ups and downs
Desperation between two short-lived chunks of contentment

Why do I keep looking for an escape
Something better, more fulfilling
An adventure for my little self
Lest it would plainly die or disappear

Can I not see the call of steady ground
The unstoppable peace behind it all
The depth of the unfathomable soul
That rise not but stays unshakable 

Can I not see that my worse dramas 
Are but ripples – maybe not even this
That sink into a space so vast 
That nothing – oh nothing! – can move it

Can I not see the blaze of immensity
Running so close, dancing before my very self
Making itself so very obvious and present
That I have to strive to miss it

Can I not see that my blindness, forgetfulness
Is but a futile escape from a release so plain
A readiness to see that just behind my ache 
Stands already revealed my completeness.

 

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Text and photo by Alain Joly

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Suggestion:
Voices from Silence (other poems from the blog)