Here’s a little video I filmed last month at the Gulf Coast. It’s only about 45 seconds long and consists of the sunset and the surf. I offer it to you as a little moment of serenity. Please enjoy.
I know some people might find a little video like this boring. Compared to Hollywood culture or Madison Avenue culture, something as simple as the ocean or the gulf crashing gently on the shore might very well seem, well, singularly unexciting.
And so it is.
I’m reminded of the title of a book by one of my favorite living authors, Fr. Michael Casey. It’s called An Unexciting Life: Reflections on Benedictine Spirituality. The spirituality of the cloister (whether Benedictine, Cistercian, Carthusian, or whatever) is indeed unexciting, because it stresses silence, contemplation, simple labor, peace, stability, and a gradual formation or conversion into love.
When you think about it, contemplative spirituality is actually rather subversive. It’s subversive of our hyper-pumped, flash-and-sizzle culture where the latest, the greatest, the loudest and the most explosive gets all the attention.
But isn’t that the joy of it?
I think so. I’m drawn to the gentle rhythms of the surf for the same reason that I’m drawn to the unhurried rhythms of monastic life. The surf may not be “silent” but it encourages me to find, and rest in, the silent place within me. The same holds true for time spent praying or on retreat in a monastery.
I think it’s easy to love the surf, with its soothing sound and endless rhythm, because it connects us, on the shore, with the vast openness of the ocean (or, in this case, the gulf). The water seems to have no limit, to go on forever. And yet here it is, crashing on the shore and available for us to stick our toes in or even to take a swim.Isn’t that the way contemplation works, only with silent prayer the “ocean” is the presence of God, and the “surf” is the many subtle ways we discover or encounter God’s presence in our lives?
When you go to the beach, you don’t have to make the surf happen. You just go there and enjoy it. It’s already there, and it is always available. So it is with the ocean of God’s presence. We are always on the shore of the ocean of God’s mercy. We stand and listen to the surf of divine silence. We are invited into the water, whether to stick a toe in timidly or to joyfully dive in, all the way.
We stand on the shore where the water may seem shallow. But the ocean is vast, and very, very deep. God will not force us to dive in. But we are always invited to do so, each and every day.
If you haven’t already done so, take some time today to be silent and to pay attention to where the ocean of Divine Presence washes up on the shore of your very own life. Listen carefully. Relax. It’s always there for you. All there is to do is respond.
What do you do to connect, or reconnect, with the ocean of God’s love in your life, each and every day? Please share your thoughts, in the comments section of this blog or on social media. Thanks!