In January 2005, I wrote the following to explain why I had chosen the theme of Perspective for a contemplative prayer session I was leading that month.
“We head into a new year and as ever that invites reflection both on the year finished and the challenges of the year ahead. In that context, perspective comes to mind because, if one thing changes over the course of a year, it is our perspective on what has unfolded through the year.
Time lends perspective. Time lends understanding and wisdom. Time allows things that were not clear to come into focus and to find their place in a bigger picture. Things that can overwhelm us in January can look more manageable by March, decisions that needed to be taken in January and for which there was not clarity work themselves out to natural conclusions by June, that which appeared so urgent in May, we find was unimportant by December and so on.
Also, over time we discover that our perspective on something is perhaps not even our own perspective but someone else's - a perception we have inherited but that is not a true reflection of what is there. Perspective can be skewed by being too close to a situation or can lack depth because we are too far away.
There is also the big question of God's perspective on us, our lives, the issues we deal with and his invitation to us to explore that with him - the world offers up all sorts of illusions about what matters most whereas in God there is this sense that we will find the deepest truest form of reality - how do we gain that REAL perspective?
So many questions and thoughts leap to mind with regard to this issue and therein is the difficulty about how to tackle it. I believe there is gain in so doing but I cannot immediately see what it will be and where different people will be drawn by God through this. Perhaps the benefit is simply in the questions - when we stand before an issue that puzzles us, challenges us, scares us, delights us or whatever, the invitation might be to review our perspective and to do a reality check, if you like. I suspect we may find causes for hope if we would otherwise feel despair and reassurance in the midst of discomfort and so on.”
This is my last week of preparing contemplative material for the Church at Home pages and finishing with this material on perspective based on what I prepared in 2005 but nonetheless adapted strikes me as a good way to end. Covid-19 is up close at the moment but as time goes on our perspective on these months will evolve and change and with it we will continue to uncover new understanding of what this time has been as our lens and view on it widens as well.
Begin by focusing on your posture and settling yourself so you are comfortable but alert with your feet planted firmly on the ground and back straight. Let your weight settle into the seat that holds you reminding you that God holds you in a similar way.
Move on to focus on your breathing by taking deep breaths that gradually give way to quieter more even ones. As you inhale imagine drawing deep into you a sense of God’s loving presence and peace and, as you exhale, imagine letting go of those things that lead to tension and a sense of separation from God.
Gradually surrender to God.
Now picture a place where you find calm, serenity and peace. This might be beside water or up a hill or in a park or in a quiet corner of your garden or your home. Picture this place and imagine yourself there. Settle yourself there and draw upon the peace that you find there.
As you linger feel your body relax taking comfort and strength as well as peace from God and the surroundings.
When you are ready, gradually bring yourself back to this place thanking God for what you have received.
The invitation is to reflect on each of these pictures in turn. Do so slowly and without rushing. Notice how your understanding changes as your perspective does and you move from only seeing a part to seeing the whole.
When you have finished contemplating the pictures, consider how the following affect perspective:
Where I am standing
How close I am to events in time and space
How I am feeling
How much time I have
What I know
The things that tempt me
The assumptions I make
The people I am with
The opinion of others
The judgement of other s
Being aware of God’s presence
Having no sense of God’s presence
CONTEMPLATION OF SCRIPTURE
The invitation of this period is to read the story of Jesus Calming the Storm in Luke 8: 22 – 25 through several times until the details of the story are familiar to you. Then the invitation is to pray this story through first from the perspective of the disciples and then a second time from the perspective of Jesus. So imagine the scene in all its details and be present in the story to hear or speak the words. When you have finished praying consider what praying the story from the two different perspectives reveals.
Luke 8: 22 - 25
22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.
24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”
He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.
In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
In a final time of prayer rest in the peace of God’s presence and give thanks for what you have received.