Opening myself to the presence of God in life, and letting the angels feed me, this has been my Lenten practice; this week I have tried to open my hands. I have a strained relationships with my hands because I am not “handy” or coordinated or deft. But, midway through the week I realized the invitation was to OPEN, not to create or craft or accomplish. What was the Spirit bringing to my hands–or by extension, my physical body–that took me more deeply in to the Presence of the Holy? I began to sense how God often comes to me in the things I encounter with my hands.
Some days I baked bread, then brewed tea and coffee for those who came to visit, and my hands came close embodying St. Teresa’s mandate that our hands are God’s hands as they share hospitality with beauty and grace. The frosting on the cake was when my 10 year old grandson said to me with shining eyes, “I love this cake, Mormor! You are such a good cook.” I knew that on a very practical level Betty Crocker had put the baking mix into my hands, but as I opened my hands to receive and to use it, I became a vehicle for God’s hospitality and grace.
I noticed that as I sit listening, I often have open hands, as if to receive the words coming to me, not only with my ears, but with my entire being. My hands are an articulate part of my style of communication, and when I can open them, I am able to receive more from those that the Spirit brings into my life. I went back to Jon Sweeney’s wonderful book, Praying With Our Hands: 21 Practices of Embodied Prayer from the World’s Spiritual Traditions, (Skylark Press, 2000) to recall how many ways my hands can be the entry point for the Holy One’s gifts to me. I remember learning to pray by my bedside at night with hands folded in front of me, and have those same folded hands during grace before a meal. I remembered the weight of the hands of colleagues in ministry on my hand and shoulders as I was being ordained and installed in various ministries to which I have been called, and then, paying it forward, as I will tomorrow again, opening my own hands in affirmation and blessing to others, many of whom were my students, being ordained to ministries of their own. My hands have nearly glowed and tingled with the sense of the Spirit using the open hands that were offered there to transmit the Spirit in all Her power, beauty and unpredictability.
I receive God’s Presence through the variety of the textures that brush past me, that come alongside me daily. This week there was the silk-like coat of my new puppy, the soft petals of the new roses opening each morning, the plushness of the comforter on my bed, the richness of the ripe avocados on my tongue, the fuzziness of my grandson’s hair as I tousled it, the strong and tan skin of my beloved who accompanies my daily. Each one has been a manifestation of the grandeur of God as I have touched it.
And then, I hold dear the holiness and nourishment of the Eucharist, which I receive in bread and the cup, and which I celebrate at the table from time to time. Bread for the journey held in my hand, strength for the day held in the cup. Communion is the place where I can let go of whatever barriers and strings I wrap in my fists, and allow myself, along with the gathered ones, to open to the Mystery of Faith, to receive in my very own hand the Body and the Blood of the Beloved. And I come to know again and again the Presence as I am fed by angels. Open hands!