Shrove Tuesday pickings with Maimonides

This Shrove Tuesday I’m gathering up the leftovers from three years in the spiritual wilderness and seeing what I can begin to make of them.

To be honest, it was a strange feeling when my role as an Anglican priest came to an end because church authorities deemed that I wasn’t Christian. Anger, hurt, shame, grief, loss and a retaliatory indifference all swilled together in a toxic mix that threatened to completely derail me. But before that happened, I went travelling.

This was the third trip with my precious friend. Our first had been to Jerusalem and various places in Israel/Palestine. The second to Rome, Florence and Assisi.  We spend our time wandering in and out of holy sites, visiting cathedrals, mosques and synagogues. The third leg of this religious travelogue was to be Constantinople, the centre of it all, but things were fragile in Istanbul, so we headed for Toledo and Cordoba instead.

There’s nothing quite like the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, representative of how things can work together if you want them to. But it’s the memory of the statue of Maimonides (1135-1204) the great Jewish philosopher, Torah scholar, astronomer and physician that remains most precious to me from that city. One of his great works was The Guide for the Perplexed, which seems quite apt given the circumstances.

Maimonides once said that you must accept the truth from whatever source it comes. Sounds simple but it’s an enormously challenging idea, especially when you’re struggling. He also said that every person thinks their mind is more clever and learned than it is. I reckoned I could take that to heart and ponder on it whilst I licked my wounds.

These trips always activate something in me, which heralds a change and this one was no different. On the way back I said to my friend, ‘I’ve got to do something’. She didn’t need much explanation knowing it would have something to do with churches, temples or sanctuaries, places that are in my blood. So, I did.

For the last three years, I’ve sung my way through the pain and confusion, part of a warm and welcoming group that sings at the local Catholic cathedral.  Every couple of weeks I turn up on my rostered day and sit side on to the altar, within cooee of the sanctuary, all the while wondering what the truth is for me.

Last year I couldn’t sing at Easter. I was too angry, too scoured out. This year it feels different. So, I promised myself that I would put thinking aside and sing at every opportunity through the season to let the truth, whatever it is, reveal itself to me.  

14 Replies to “Shrove Tuesday pickings with Maimonides”

  1. Dear Sande, Thank you for your wise words. It’s been a long time since we first met at Xplorationz. I am still searching, but strangely, there is peace in that search now. Maybe it’s because I’m 91 and aware that I am nearing the end of the search. I ponder on the sense of taking “The road less travelled” not sure where it leads but knowing that all will be well when I reach that place. The Catholic faith gives me a certain security but leaves me floundering at times. So where am I? The bond of being a part, however small, of Creation and Evolution, is my Truth right now. And every Easter brings Resurrection.
    Liturgies involving Laity are powerful and inspiring. Is this the way that the Church will go? I hope so!

    1. How lovely to hear from you Margaret.
      I hope that we can all be part of creating liturgies of great meaning to us all. Rituals that speak to the human heart beyond any need to be right, or authorised or theologically correct!

      When you speak of the road less travelled I imagine so many interesting characters there and you are one of them. Perhaps being on that road is enough, as you say.

      There’s a couple of new pieces on the blog that you might enjoy. Will email them to you.

      Many blessings …

  2. If you wander from the path, to the right or left, you will hear a voice behind you, “this is the right way for you, follow it.”
    Keep walking/singing.

    1. Thanks Jenni
      Currently, it’s a fascinating path with no clear destination but I do hear that voice behind me. Encouraging.

  3. It matters not to us what the church hierarchy thought about you, it doesn’t change the fact that for so many of us you were and are the most inspiring priest we have ever known and your liturgy was both beautiful and compelling.

    1. Thanks Rob
      I think that liturgy is truly a work of the people and an interactive process. None of what we achieved together would have been possible without that interaction, messy and all as it was from time to time. Thinking here of endless candle wax and the health and safety problem of running long cables across the grass when we had no electricity in the chapel!

      And I have this crazy dream that the riches within the tradition can be shared (without expecting attendance or signing up) in the wider community in the same way. Call me crazy but to me ritual matters to mark moments of human joy and tragedy and the ordinary everyday things that keep us tethered.

  4. Your utterance has unleashed yet other beautiful utterances from others Sande. This latest from you pieces together for me the fragments that have reflected your most painful journey over these past months most helpfully. I have great admiration obviously for all you have achieved and are achieving. It’s so interesting how we can trigger off in one another the damnedest insights and remarks and sharing. For me at its best its the equivalent of pure worship and liturgy extempore.

    1. Thanks George

      I love the idea that worship and liturgy is being led by the people on the internet in the most creative, open and accepting ways. How glorious, how holy, how absolutely inspirational and sacred in everyday, kitchen table, ordinary ways. Thanks for that and for the trigger to think about it more.

      And thank you for your ongoing understanding and encouragement. I really value it.

  5. Sing on, sister. May your heart be filled, your spirit enlivened, your soul refreshed. May your journey from the desert to the cross bring a new richer appreciation of life. May perplexity, complexity, and mystery add a freshness in the spiritual glow of your being. Have a blessed Lent.

    1. Thanks Allan.
      Who knows where this journey will end up. Given my tendency to wander off any kind of path I’ll have to remain open to blind alleys and wrong turns! And may this season bring you new horizons.

  6. Accepting the truth from whatever source it comes… that just really speaks to me… I find it fascinating how we are often led to things without any prior thought that this was the path we might go down…
    Your writings are often thought-provoking Sande and I enjoy the seemingly fearless way you’re prepared to challenge the standard and accepted views/writings/doctrines etc… I love the way you make me Think!
    And long may you keep singing…

    1. Thanks Kate
      The being led process is interesting to me and I’ve been taught much about this by people in hospital as they struggle through whatever has befallen them. Most of them wouldn’t see themselves as being attached to any particular religious tradition but have a sense of the more and respond to that. I’m hoping that I’m more able to be led by what calls me.

      There is much fear in me Kate and I suspect it’s that hidden away fear that both inspires and controls some of the writing. I’m trying to get it to work in tandem with me a bit more. Perhaps I’ll even be able to write something about that, eventually.

      Just off to walk by the river and practice singing for tonight!

  7. I love that Maimonides wrote a guide for the perplexed. My mother often used that word perplexed to describe a state where she was still working something through – she was a great reader and read across a great breadth of literature seeking whatever wisdom there was to be found therein. I really find it liberating to seek truth and wisdom from wherever it might come. I so love your writing Sande – don’t stop. You have such depth of wisdom to offer.

    1. Thanks Mary and for the insight into your mum.
      And I agree it is a liberating experience to read widely and delve into all manner of things. Then in some magical way truths seem to become part of us. I’m hoping that writing keeps flowing a bit more now that some of the high emotions have settled.
      Thanks for all you did for me at St John’s Mary. Much remembered and still appreciated.

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