philosophy

Posture of Prayer

by Howard Hain
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El Greco, “St. Dominic Praying”, c. 1588


Sometimes just showing up is all we can do.

To put ourselves in position to pray and worship—at least physically, even if we just cannot seem to get there spiritually—is an act of prayer and worship in itself. And quite often, it is the best we have to offer.

By confessing our aridity through physical obedience alone, we approach God’s altar with humility, for we come to God in our “nothingness”.

The bowing of head, the placement of knees, and the closing of eyes return us to the dark warmth of the womb. It is no coincidence that the posture of prayer and the fetal position bear great semblance.

It is in the womb that we are closest to God, furthest from the corruption of the world, and possess the least of what our “flesh” considers of value—our “brilliant” ideas, our “magnificent” plans, our “heroic” acts—our self-aggrandizement.

It is in the womb that we find ourselves in complete dependence. We receive all we need without knowing, without speaking, without cost.

In that sense, being in the womb is much the same as being in the world—for in the world we are still completely dependent—it is just that without the obvious reminder of the umbilical cord, we so easily forget our total and complete dependence on God, our Creator, our Sustainer, and our Ultimate End.

Hence we find ourselves “knowing,” “telling,” and “paying a price.” When in reality, the only thing that we can somewhat even come close to taking credit for is being physically present to receive His Word, His Wisdom, and His Will. All of which come free of charge, His Son having already paid the price.

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“Lord, let me place my knees to the earth. Let me feel the foot of the cross against the caps of my knees. Let me close my eyes and bow my head. Let my brow lay upon your bloodied feet. Let me humbly raise my eyes to gaze upon your battered body. Oh my Lord and my God, let your blood and water rain down upon me.”

Amen.


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father.

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber, or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.

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philosophy

Sure and Steady

by Howard Hain
jusepe-josc3a9-de-ribera-tightrope-walkers-1634

Jusepe (Jose) de Ribera, “Tightrope Walkers”, 1634


The brighter the light the more we squint.

The closer we get the less we see.

And if we stare we go blind.

Now what?

You have to trust.

In what?

Not in yourselves.

In total darkness the answer is clear.

All other ways disappear.

Close your eyes.

Shutter your ears.

Forget the past.

Ignore what is below.

Chin slightly elevated.

Now walk.

No need to go too slow.

Sure and steady.

Heart on the goal.

And if we slip?

Don’t worry.

I made the rope.

I hold it tight.

My Son is “the way and the truth and the life”.

In Him you never fall.

In Him you know.

In Him you live.

He walks before you.

You may not see Him but He is there.

Follow close behind.

It is a tight walk.

That’s why I gave Him a pole.

I gave you one too.

And because it can get very dark.

I made them easy to identify.

They are made of thick dead wood.

Your hands know their splinters and knots.

Hold tight.

Say thank You.

Kiss in the dark what you cannot see.

For that old piece of wood.

Will get you across the gorge.

Where on the other side.

It will be planted.

Grafted into the Tree of Life.


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father.

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber (drop-down menu at top of page), or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.


 

 

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philosophy

Clean Enough To Care

by Howard Hain
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John Downman, “Child Holding a Doll”, 1780 (The Met)


What if someone handed you a child?

A small child.

A tiny child.

An infant.

A few hours…a few minutes old.

What if you were the only one that the child could be handed to?

Only you.

No one else around to help.

Would you receive that child into your arms?

There’s no sterilized room, no sanitary precautions, no sink, not even a bar of soap—just plain old you, a bunch of imperfect circumstances, and a poor tiny child that needs to be embraced.

You know what you would do.

Even if your hands were filthy, completely covered in soot and mud, you know what you would do.

You’d quickly rub your hands against your pants or shirt and wipe away the obvious dirt.

Then you’d hold out your hands.

Wouldn’t you?

Yes. You would.

We all would.

That’s what makes us human.

That’s what makes us children of God.

We’d do what we could with what we have to help an innocent child.

We know that “cleanliness” in such cases really doesn’t matter. For even if the circumstances were “perfect” we’d still have that uneasy feeling. That feeling that we’re not worthy to hold such innocence, to be entrusted with such treasure.

It’s a holy hesitancy that only true humility can bear.

Yet, it’s the necessity to help, the clear need for our assistance—the abundantly clear reality that we’re the only “hands” on deck—that drives us to overcome such holy and righteous fear—a fear that reveals just how poor we really are, much poorer in fact than even the helpless child we are about to embrace.

It is preciously this beautiful fear of God that propels us to love boldly—to boldly reach out beyond ourselves, to boldly become part of God’s mystical body, to become His very arms and hands—to embody Divine Love Itself—that perfect love of the eternal Father for each and every child ever created.

For it is the Father’s love that creates us, and sustains us, and longs to flow through us.

We just sometimes need extreme circumstances—ridiculously obvious situations—in order to tap the needed courage to let it to flow beyond our own borders and into those around us.

You are in such a situation. Right now.

We all are.

This very moment.

No matter where you are or what you’re doing.

Such a situation is at hand.

A child, a new born—cold, hungry, and without a home—desperately needs to be held.

Quick then, wipe your dirty hands, make due with what you’ve got—believe the Word of God, it’s good enough—now hold out your hands.

You’re clean enough to care.


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father.

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber (drop-down menu at top of page), or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.


Web Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. John Downman, “Child Holding a Doll”, 1780

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philosophy

Postcards From Happiness: Morning Walk

by Howard Hain

 

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André Derain, “The Palace of Westminster”, 1906-07, (The Met)

She’s always looking down and I’m always telling her to look up.

Between the two of us we see just about everything.

It used to bother me that she stared at the ground.

It didn’t make any sense—she’s the most positive person I’ve ever met.

But that has nothing to do with it—she’s also the most grounded person I know.

Me on the other hand, I’m always in the clouds.

Maybe she’s just afraid to trip and fall while I’m simply petrified of missing something.

I guess that’s why we hold hands.


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father.

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber (drop-down menu at top of page), or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.


Web Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. André Derain, “The Palace of Westminster”, 1906–07

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philosophy

Falling Into Love

by Howard Hain

 

Francesco Sassetti (1421–1490) and His Son Teodoro Domenico Ghirlandaio ca. 1488.jpg

Domenico Ghirlandaio, “Francesco Sassetti (1421–1490) and His Son Teodoro”, ca. 1488 (The Met)

 

Dear Lord,

Let me begin with my apologies. Forgive me for coming to You yet again with nothing. I’m sorry. Look at me, I’ve just begun and here I go again, saying things that are just not true. Of course I do not come “with nothing.” No, I come with nothing of value. Yes, that’s better. For as You well know, Lord, I do come with plenty of things that simply get in the way of me doing my job, the job You Yourself assigned me, the job for which You Yourself designed me perfectly.

God, You are so patient. Truly.

Yes, Sir.

Forgive me…yes, I will stop talking. Of course I’ll listen to You. I’m all ears. Please, my Lord, go ahead, if You please, when You’re ready…

“My son, it is good to see you. I am always pleased to see you. You really have grown. Do you know what I hear when you speak to me? I hear hope. Yes, hope has a sound. No, it’s not like the sounds that you hear in the world. In heaven everything is Love. And the sound of hope is the sound of one of my children falling into Love. I never grow tired of you, or any of your brothers or sisters, speaking to me. Think about it. You know this yourself, the most painful thing for parents is for one of their children to turn away from them, to cease to talk, to cut off all communication, to deny their very existence. Oh, how that hurts. Don’t you see then how Jesus taught you all that you need to know? He taught you all that you will ever need to know while He hung upon the cross. He taught you to never turn away from me. To speak to me. To direct your heart and your mouth and your will toward me. He taught you to keep your eyes on me. The world only sees terrible pain and suffering upon the cross, I see you being set free. I see you this very morning coming to your Father and speaking openly. I see hope and I hear the sound of my dear child falling into Love.”


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father.

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber (drop-down menu at top of page), or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.


Web Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Domenico Ghirlandaio, “Francesco Sassetti (1421–1490) and His Son Teodoro”, ca. 1488

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philosophy

A Generous Silence

by Howard Hain

 

Pablo Picasso Woman in White 1923

Pablo Picasso, “Woman in White”, 1923 (The Met)

 

The fewest words possible.

It is hard to imagine why we speak any at all.

Nothing comes out right.

There’s never enough said.

What is uttered is always incomplete.

The vow of silence seems awfully attractive at times.

But how long would that last?

I remember taking early morning walks years ago.

I would see the sky, the horizon, the landscape, the fields, the trees, the rocks, the grass, the birds…

I would get so excited.

I would want to run home and tell my wife, to show her, to bring her to that very spot.

But I couldn’t.

By even thinking about doing so something had happened.

The sky, the horizon, the landscape, the fields, the trees, the rocks, the grass, the birds…they were all still there, but it was gone.

By wanting to run and show someone else, by desperately wanting to share—to not be alone—I was again the only one standing on that vacant road.

God of course was still there, and His holy angels and saints—the “great cloud of witnesses”—but I was no longer home.

For I was no longer there.

I was in the land of wanting, of wanting something else but the “here and now,” of wanting something else besides a glimpse of eternity—of wanting more than the kingdom truly being at hand.

For even the beautifully-human desire to share with others sometimes gets in the way.

What is needed is more faith.

What is needed is belief—the belief that the gift of God’s presence, when graciously and generously and humbly received, gives more to our family and friends, gives more to the entire world, than we could ever show or tell each and every one of them individually—even when our “receiving” takes place when we are completely and totally “alone.”


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father.

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber (drop-down menu at top of page), or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.


Web Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Pablo Picasso, “Woman in White”, 1923

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