Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Spring Opening

These wonderful photos come from the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University. They show a Star Magnolia bud opening in late April. Key word: opening. This time of year is full of spiritual reminders and messages. The Magnolia flower opens to the warmth of the day-lengthening sun. And this opening is the first movement of the Christian spiritual life which is relational. The psalmist instructs us:

You do not ask for sacrifices and offerings
but an open ear.
You do not ask for holocaust and victim
Instead, here am I.
Psalm 40:11

An open ear. Here am I. Listening is relational: student to teacher, soldier to officer, child to parent. But for the Christian, the ear is interior. It is the ear of the heart. St. Benedict's rule for monks begins.

"Listen, O my child, to the teachings of the Master, and incline the ear of your heart."  And in another place: "What dear brothers, is more delightful than the voice of the Lord calling to us." 

This is often difficult as we have somehow gotten the idea that Christianity is doing, doing, doing. When we were in the seminary, a monk came to speak to us about praying the psalms. The "rule" expects that when praying the psalms we are somehow to get through it to completion. Years ago a priest might pull his car off to the side of the road at night and read his breviary by the headlight in order to fulfill the rule that the prescribed psalms be read completely before midnight. 

But this monk disavowed that. He said instead, "Read the psalms so slowly that one line, even on word can jump out at you! Then close the book and let the phrase or word speak to you. Perhaps close your eyes and repeat the phrase gently over and over. The goal is never simply to get it done, but to allow Holy Spirit to speak, and for me to listen."  Of course, there are religious rigourists who will reject this approach - so be it.

We might apply this same method to the reading of the Gospels. One phrase; one word. Shhh. Then the gospel opens for us, and we notice what we had never noticed before, though we've "heard this story a million times," and the gospel becomes even dazzlingly alive because we are allowing God to instruct us.

Try it! You'll have a new sense of Christianity as an inner, spiritual way.


  1. This makes much more sense than "getting it done" for the sake of being able to say we completed a task. Taking the time to absorb the meaning will do more for our spiritual growth many times over.

  2. The opening of the flower petals is like the opening of our hearts. The more we keep ourselves open to God's love, the more beautiful we become.

  3. Think about a life where you continuously close your heart from love and companionship. Keeping your heart open prepares you for new relationships. It helps you move out of a place of fear and unhappiness when you allow yourself to be open to God's love. Reading the Word for its deeper meaning is a wonderful way to let it sink in deeper than before. One word at a time.