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At Sea in our Spiritual Journeys

Sister Doreen’s Saturday Reflections

In the ocean of your steadfast love you bear us and place the song of your Spirit in our hearts.
(BAS supplementary Eucharistic Prayers #1)

One of the special gifts that God often surprises us with is to confront us with something we have heard over and over again in a way that we hear it for the first time in a very deep and meaningful way! This was so true one day when we used the Supplementary Eucharistic prayer #1 at our daily Eucharist at the Convent.

We all dream of a steadfast love, a love that will endure hard times and grow stronger with age! To think that in the ocean of God’s steadfast love, God carries us and also places a song in our hearts. This is not just a hope, it’s a promise, a promise that can change our lives.

I think that we all know what it feels like in our spiritual journey to feel like we are at sea! Feeling aimless, currents pulling us one way or another, tides coming in and going out in our life. We have been through a couple of years now that have been so difficult: being impacted by the covid virus and the isolation it forced upon us, the climate changes with its devasting weather patterns, the anger and tensions and wars in the world – we have, most of us I think, often found feelings of anger, distress, and hopelessness taking an upper hand. Perhaps this is what makes it so special, this surprise gift from God in hearing the words, surprisingly almost for the first time, from the Eucharist prayer. It highlights the mercy, the compassion, the kindness of God for me. Such zealous, such eager, such enthusiastic love!

I found myself lingering over the passage from Lamentations 3::21-24 “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the God never ceases; God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is God’s faithfulness. God is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in God.”

That passage comes out a lament, out of a time of deep mourning in the life of Jeremiah who we believe wrote the Lamentations. It was birthed out of pain, not joy. Perhaps we can all identify with this, we have all been in a place of pain and darkness, we have all sometimes felt hopeless, we have all thought there seemed to be no way out. Life can often seem like that expressed in Psalm 13 “ how long O Lord, How long? There is comfort in reading Lamentations 3 and Psalm 13, comfort in knowing that others have felt the same!

I share a poem by Joyce Rupp that I found very helpful when pondering my own experiences of feeling at sea in my life: the poem is called “Good Memories.”

“Good memories carry my heart through the bad times.
I close my eyes. I am there again in the sheltered cove, wrapped in tender mist,
Held by an ancient rhythm, embraced by a dancing sea.
Something greater than pain unites the sea and my soul,
The memory lingers in me like a well-fed pelican.
The dancing ocean carries me along through soiled dreams and old mistakes.
The comforting sound of endless waves ebbs and flows in my strained soul.
I am cradled in the water’s dance of strength, restored by the sea’s undying energy.
Good memories, I cherish them, returning often to their hopeful home.”

The turning point is in remembering, in remembering the steadfast love of God, that deep, steadfast kindness and mercy, that faithfulness – it is new every morning held out in the ocean of God steadfast love. Now in a new way and out of the depths I hear ringing in my ears those words again, made new for me: In the ocean of your steadfast love you bear us and place the song of your Spirit in our hearts.

It’s an abiding love, now, for today – a love that continues to be present, to be held, in an ocean so vast there is no beginning and no ending!
It’s an endless love, that nothing can separate us from, and that never runs out!
It’s a forever love, an endless supply that is forever – for all our todays and for all our tomorrows!

Sometimes all we can do in the midst of despair and crisis is to throw ourselves in the vast sea – the ocean of God’s mercy and loving kindness, into God’s steadfast love. Blessed by God!