Just as he who called you is holy,
so be holy in all you do; for it is written:
“Be holy, because I am holy.”
– 1 Peter 1:15-16
The Holy Life is a great journey. God will lead you high on the mountaintops and down into the valleys. God will lead you to busy and overwhelming places and to soft serene stillnesses. There will be many guides on the path of life and many who will stand in your way. The piece to remember is that you cannot get lost on the journey because there is one place where all of our journeys end.
This place can be found at the end of every path. From the moment we are born we are headed for the grave and throughout our entire life we walk in the valley of the shadow of death. Therefore, do not worry if your journey takes you in circles because you cannot help but get where you are going. It is essential to remember that the Spirit and the Spirit alone can guide you. You must allow her to lead you blindly onward, in times of hardship and of beauty. And you must dance with her in the moon and the stars and the sun.
To live the Holy Life is more than a set of beliefs or rituals – it is to gain new eyes. The spirit of gentleness and might can open our eyes so that we may see, she can open our ears so that we may hear, and she can open our hearts so that we may love. We can, of course, see, hear, and love already but with holiness comes true sight and true love. For we see now as if through a dirty window and we love now as if we are but actors on a stage.
The best place to begin is simple but requires intention. The first step is the most important because everything else depends on it. Whenever you eat, wake up in the morning, enter a new space, undertake an effort or complete a task, whenever you witness something beautiful or terrible – hold the experience for a couple breaths, relishing in it and blessing it. Speak to each moment, welcome it and thank it, be grateful for the opportunity to be alive.
Something so simple can change your world entirely. This interaction with the world of experience is the beginning of the Holy Life. The door to Heaven is like a great light, which opens our eyes and illuminates the intricate detail and masterful craftsmanship of this thing we call existence. As you bless the beauty of life you will come to live in gratitude. In gratitude, life will become – or more accurately you will come to realize that life has always been – a divine liturgy. The rituals of our daily lives are divine in their own right. Someone walking on this path eventually reaches a place wherein the reverence given to Holy Communion is given also to eating lunch.
The sacraments of family, labour, recreation, rest, and community are divine as well. In fact, the liturgies and sacraments of the church are only symbolic tools which point us toward the sacred in daily life. For Christ’s love and the Spirit’s wisdom are to be found flowing through every moment. From the time of your birth until the time of your death your human existence is a church service filled with God’s word, holy sacraments, sacred community, and the invitation into deeper awareness. It is imperative that you treat it as such. Do not show up to life as if your grandmother had dragged you to listen to another boring sermon. Do not show up to life as if you are only there for the free coffee afterwards. Do not show up to life as if it were a series of meaningless rituals. Show up to life with an open heart, ready to learn, ready to teach, and most importantly ready to love both God and neighbour.
The second step to take as you set out on this journey is to find a tree. Introduce yourself, and make a genuine and meaningful friendship. Bare your soul and reveal your inner nature to the tree. Confess all your sins and your secrets and ask for help and guidance. At first you will only speak, but with time you will learn to listen.
The language of trees is purer than the language of humans, they skip the words and go straight to the meaning – so do not listen with your ears! You will grow to know one another with time, you will know and be known in a way you did not know you could. Love the tree and water it. Be mindful of its happiness and growth. As you care for this tree it will care for you. Visit it often and indefinitely. This relationship with one of your kindred will be a wellspring of peace which will never run dry. There is no wiser teacher than a tree and there is no better anam cara.
The third step to begin your journey should be to engage with a religious community. Find a church, or a mosque, or a temple, or a Quaker meeting for worship and engage in sacred community. How we treat the people around us is how we treat God. The act of community is also a divine liturgy. It comes with many great joys and many great sorrows. In community we become dependent on one another, for better and for worse. This dependence on one another reminds us of our dependence on God and the divine dance of the Trinity shows us how to live in communion. Find a spiritual director in this community, find a mentor who can shepherd you into the Holy Life – for there is no replacement for the intimate and personal instruction of a spiritual teacher.
Learn from the tradition and engage with it. While tradition and ritual can never take the place of the Spirit’s leadings and the time may come when you will have to leave behind your tradition to follow God, it is better to go through a tradition than to avoid church all together.
These three steps will help to set you out on the journey, where it takes you after that is between you and the Spirit. If you do these things you will be prepared to take this journey with courage and faith.
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