"The burn of Love's hand is just another day in the Soup Kitchen..." And so begins my book, Resplendent In Rags... For every Catholic Worker House and Community, the Works of Mercy form the very core of life, work, and purpose. The particular emphasis of each House may vary, but in essence, they are all the same: more of you, less of me... Is it a hungry man at the door? Feed him first... Is it a migrant mother? Welcome her and her children with open arms... Is it a war on the horizon? Organize and resist...
It has been seven years since I left the Soup Kitchen that I founded (and in which I worked for 30 years). For the first few years, I returned there in my dreams several times a week... the past few years, well, it still just continues... (Can I go back?) Exactly like Dorothy Day used to say about the Catholic Worker, it was my school of love... And no doubt also like Dorothy, the love that I / we received from those whom we served simply overwhelmed us. It is a profoundly humbling thing to receive such giving, continually resplendent, love... And oh how my heart would break, over and over and over again, to the point that I could laugh at a line from Leonard Cohen and say "Yes! That is exactly it!"
"There is a crack in everything... that's how the light gets in..." (Leonard Cohen) These words -- this insight -- of Cohen's is the life that is lived in a Soup Kitchen, a House of Hospitality and an Intentional Community. But this is not a line that borders upon a mental breakdown... This is really good stuff! Let's meander through this... First, there is another line, it's in the Book of Genesis (1:3) "And God said, Let there be light and there was light." "Light" or Energy is the building block of all matter and life: atoms whirl in amazing patterns of manifestation! Now this, now that: from the First Burst of Possibility into Existence to the steady Evolution that has manifested Consciousness. Still in Genesis (1:27) "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." Of course, this is an ancient creation myth from among countless creation myths: but there is scientific and metaphysical truth evident in this particular story: Light and Evolution: all existence is built upon light and humans are an evolutionary expansion of consciousness (that seems to mirror the Source...)
Secondly, vast empty space is the greater "part" of all that exists. Light and Consciousness require that vast empty space in order to "get in"! The art of Alex Grey might be helpful here to better visualize the wonder and the mystery of light, consciousness, and the "how" of this "getting in"... But I want to advance to the point of this blog. Attuning oneself to the "spiritual life", in essence, means to willingly allow one's awareness of the Light and Consciousness to flood one's being. The "spiritual life" is the intentional cultivation of practices that enhance and deepen awareness... into the "steady" state of awakening... Dorothy Day was a nuts and bolts kind of person, so the Works of Mercy especially appealed to her (as it did to me, after her example): feeding the hungry was something to do! It was work! Yeshua said, "I was hungry and you fed me" and so there was an obvious plan of action!
If you've a mind to, you can look up a traditional list of the Works of Mercy. They are an essential part of every "spiritual life". However, like everything else, the 21st century demands an update, or perhaps better, "an-other look". So, this is what I was noodling over while walking our dog this evening, carefully, over ice and snow for a couple of miles: what I think of as The Works of Divine Presence... 1) Human intimacy and loving are fully Sacred and Holy; 2) Human family and community are fully Sacred and Holy; 3) The education, the nurturing, and the serving of children (every child) is fully Sacred and Holy; 4) The building of soil and the regeneration of the Earth is fully Sacred and Holy; 5) The serving and building of justice and liberation is fully Sacred and Holy; 6) The creative arts and life are fully Sacred and Holy; 7) The loving and yearning embrace of the human and the One Consciousness is the Sacred and the Holy.
In my old Soup Kitchen I used to love making the weekly menus and collecting the needed ingredients, so I have a tendency to like making lists! My so-called "Works of Divine Presence" is just such a list... and, I suppose, the simple point of the exercise of a list like this is simply to acknowledge and remember this one thing: everything that we do is our spiritual life. There is no such thing as "this for me" and "this for the Divine Beloved"! Unless it is all the same, there is no spiritual life!