Sunday, February 02, 2014

Presentation in the Temple & Theological Education Sunday, Feb 2nd, 2014

Presentation in the Temple & Theological Education Sunday

St John’s Cathedral, Albuquerque, NM

Today’s gospel is about seeing and holding, hearing and being heard.
To see and to hold and to hear, you have to have an object. In today’s gospel that’s Jesus. Jesus is a baby whose parents present him in the temple. Later in Luke’s gospel an adult Jesus will be the subject not just of Luke but the assumed subject of Luke-Acts.
In today’s gospel
·      Anna and Simeon do the seeing
·      Simeon does the holding
·      And we try to see what they see, hold what they hold and hear what they say
What does it matter? It matters, because in seeing and holding and hearing babies, as Anna and Simeon do, we can create trust in and with those around us, and in these circles of widening trust, we have the chance –through small acts--to make and re-make the world.

But first, we have to practice listening.

There was, said the great conductor Claudio Abbado, a certain sound of snow—
·      Not from underfoot crunching but
·      The sound of falling flakes
·      New down dipping on an ocean of spray
·      Pianissimo, fading into silence

Claudio Abaddo had learned listening skills from his maternal grandfather, an expert in ancient languages. Together on holidays they would walk in silence near the Matterhorn. And as an adult he walked there again, “specifically to test on the silence the orchestral scores that flowed, perfectly memorised, in his head.” (The Economist, “Claudio Abaddo” obituary, Feb 2, 2014)


“In rehearsal this was almost his only word, accompanied by a gesture, finger to lips, or one of his quick, dazzling, toothy smiles, or a sudden glance of the eyes that were, he thought, his most effective tool. He did not dominate the music, but was its servant. So no shouting, like Toscanini. No furious baton-play or maestro posing, like Karajan, whom he had succeeded in 1989 at the Berlin Philharmonic.

·      Strings, listen to brass
·      Flute, liaise with oboe
·      Those playing G sharp, flow around those playing C.
·      Those with the top melodic line, let the depths surge through.”

Listening to other musicians, orchestras become more cohesive and the sound is almost like that of chamber music.
Abbado also knew these magical moments disappear as suddenly as they occur-- always different, never the same.
That’s the thing about listening—it’s about receiving sounds & voices so as to absorb and be transformed by what we hear. To listen better we have to practice. And listening to others is not just what music is all about, it’s about learning and growing through trust and deepening relationships. It’s about the joy of being humble enough to receive God and God’s presence in our lives.

Listening is at the heart of education, which is why I mention it on Theological Education Sunday.
It takes many forms (visual, auditory, sensory), but is the only way to understand someone else’s life and experience. Yet most people today have been taught the opposite. We are told and we even believe that what is important about an education—and a life—is to express your opinions, to tell the world what we think. All day long, -- and I’m guilty of this too--we text, we tweet, we post our status updates on our Facebook pages. We are thus in danger of eclipsing listening, and without it, we cannot access lives, experiences, and beliefs that are different from our own. We cannot create trust. Learning how to truly listen may be the most important global lesson of all. And by showing up here in the Cathedral we are doing just that. Like Simeon and Anna we are ceding control to God: we are open to hearing because we trust.

Simeon and Anna are true saints of Israel. They seem to have lived their lives open to the Spirit.  As prophets they reach out to hear, touch and hold. Probably frail and able to achieve little that counts in terms of worldly value, they are wise to the things of God.
Ears can be deaf to the sounds and voices of others. But the ears of Simeon and Anna, and through them our ears, can undo isolation and dishonor by listening, valuing, inducing trust, respecting others and thus growing in faith and love of God.
Let us pray in the words of St Theresa:
Christ has no body but yours,
No ears but yours, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
Compassion to this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the ears, through which he blesses all the world. Amen. 

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