Fri­day. The small square on the cal­en­dar is emp­ty. No appoint­ments. No job site meet­ing with my client and the archi­tect. No phone calls to make. No need to leave the house. Emp­ty square days are the days when I can sit in the black leather arm­chair in the liv­ing room for as long as it seems good. These are not ordi­nary days when my time is cut short by the note in the appoint­ment calendar.

My place of prayer is in this room. My prayers mean­der and wan­der prompt­ed by the view out the win­dow, the read­ing of Scrip­ture, and the repro­duc­tion of Rublev’s icon of the Old Tes­ta­ment Trin­i­ty paint­ed by my friend, Dan Cas­sis.1

Sun­light com­ing into the room illu­mi­nates the gold-leaf back­ground of the icon catch­ing my atten­tion. This will be the way into prayer. The three angel­ic fig­ures are ren­dered in a soft round­ness rather than a stern style. Their pos­ture, gaze and ges­ture sug­gest rev­er­ence and gra­cious­ness. It is as if I am stand­ing in the fore­ground includ­ed in the paint­ing – the result not so much of the reverse visu­al per­spec­tive but from a sense of invitation.

I enter the scene by tak­ing my place at the table. In the silence that isn’t silent I hear the holy con­ver­sa­tion. In this Divine Fel­low­ship each per­son has a warm regard for the oth­er. They seem to pre­fer one anoth­er. The con­ver­sa­tion is live­ly and ani­mat­ed. I hear laugh­ter, ques­tions, reflec­tions — all rec­og­niz­able but with­out words. I am no out­sider on this emp­ty square day for I sense how keen­ly inter­est­ed each one is in the details of my day. My body relax­es as one does in the warmth of famil­iar friendship. 

The table is set. I take my place across the table from the Christ fig­ure. There is an inti­ma­cy in the face-to-face encounter and I sense in my heart a still­ness that grad­u­al­ly gives way to a long­ing for a deep­er expe­ri­ence with Jesus. This is Jesus. He is my strength and my song, the source of all life and joy. I am aware of the chal­ice on the table. With Jesus I can be trans­par­ent and vul­ner­a­ble. This is a safe place. It is the com­mu­nion table.

The visu­al images give way to the words in Luke’s gospel. For a few moments it seems as if I am stand­ing off to the side and watch­ing Jesus as he tells Simon Peter to cast his nets into the deep sea. Simon obeys. I smell the salty sea air and I think about how tired and dis­cour­aged Simon must be after fish­ing all night. He washed his nets; the long hours of work end­ed. He will need to do this all over again — wash the nets. Do I have that kind of con­fi­dence in Jesus, I ask myself? Do I respond with the kind of rev­er­ence and awe and obe­di­ence that I see in Simon?

My focus returns to the icon. Rev­er­ence and majesty — that is what the icon con­veys through col­or and form. I turn to look at the per­son on my left with the same rev­er­ence and awe that I see in the oth­er two at the table. As I fix my eyes on the fig­ure in the icon that rep­re­sents God the Father, my heart prays the breath prayer giv­en to me years ago. 

Faith­ful Friend…
Almighty God…
Trust­wor­thy and True…
Holy, Holy, Holy…
Ever lov­ing, Ever giv­ing…
Rock Eter­nal.

Inter­wo­ven into the breath prayer are times of silence. My mind wan­ders and so do my eyes. I look again at the table. It seems as though there is room at the table for all who will come. Grat­i­tude wells up inside of me for fam­i­ly and friends, col­leagues and men­tors. I pic­ture each one com­ing to the table with me…Sidney, Kath­leen, Sue, Juani­ta, Roger and Glan­dion on and on the list goes. I pray for each one – count­ing it a high priv­i­lege to be seat­ed at the table with them. In my prayers I redis­cov­er how much I val­ue hos­pi­tal­i­ty and fel­low­ship and the gift of community. 

The chal­ice is on the table. For me, I won­der? Per­haps the Psalmist gives me the answer when he writes, 

Full of splen­dor and majesty is his work, and his right­eous­ness endures for­ev­er. He has caused his won­drous works to be remem­bered; the Lord is gra­cious and mer­ci­ful. He pro­vides food for those who fear him; he remem­bers his covenant for­ev­er. — Psalm 111: 3 – 5

This day is for the gifts of God — col­or, light, taste, music, the bird singing out­side the win­dow — the good­ness of cre­ation. The chal­ice rep­re­sents the gifts of grace and mer­cy. It is a vis­i­ble reminder that God’s mea­sure­less, bound­less love is per­son­al and can be seen all around me. I am deeply remind­ed to be atten­tive to what God is doing and respond in obe­di­ence and gratitude.

This is a day for grat­i­tude. To live out the day – this emp­ty square day — with a grate­ful heart and a sense of par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Divine that comes from belong­ing to God and to his fam­i­ly. I remem­ber the words of Thomas Kel­ly and think to myself, This is the kind of life I want.”

The life that intends to be whol­ly obe­di­ent, whol­ly sub­mis­sive, whol­ly lis­ten­ing is aston­ish­ing in its com­plete­ness. Its joys are rav­ish­ing, its peace pro­found, its humil­i­ty the deep­est, its pow­er world-shak­ing, its love envelop­ing, its sim­plic­i­ty that of a trust­ing child. It is the life and pow­er in which the prophets and apos­tles lived. It is the life and pow­er of Jesus of Nazareth, who knew that when thine eye is sin­gle thy whole body is full of light” (Luke 11:34).” —Thomas Kelly

Reprint­ed by per­mis­sion of Con­ver­sa­tions Jour­nal. This piece first appeared in Con­ver­sa­tions Jour­nal, Issue 10.1, Spring/​Summer 2012.

[1] Dia­man­tis Cas­sis paint­ed icons in the Byzan­tine tra­di­tion fol­low­ing the his­toric struc­ture and sym­bol­ism in order to com­mu­ni­cate the truth of the faith. The repro­duc­tion fol­lows Rublev’s com­po­si­tion, how­ev­er, there are sub­tle dif­fer­ences in the Cas­sis icon and Rublev’s icon of the Old Tes­ta­ment Trin­i­ty. The icon can be viewed at the fol­low­ing web­site: www​.byzan​ti​ne​icons​by​cas​sis​.com

Pho­to by NORTH­FOLK on Unsplash

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📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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