A reflection about Presence

This is a reflection with some experiences of the senses offered at the beginning of a retreat. The theme was ‘Presence’:

What do you think about when you hear the word ‘presence’?

However many ways that you have brought yourself here, you took a journey to get here! What is it like to be here? Really here?

Sometimes using the smart phone or zoom reminded me about Voldemort – he split his soul into 7 pieces so that he will not die. So do we – we split ourselves to different places more and more it seems. The modern technology seem to be asking us all the time to do multiple things at a time, or be a many places at once!

But truth is, we can only be in one place at a time, our attention can only be for one thing at a time. We might be split our presence into pieces so that we can give the illusion of achieving more – but really when we are not really here, or not really there, we are not really anywhere. Presence, real presence is precious nowadays.

If you pause for a moment and notice in this moment – where is my presence now? How is my presence?

Maybe some parts of you are still elsewhere, that’s ok, it may take some time for you to settle. I invite you to simply notice and bring yourself here.

When God first set up a way to say something about God’s presence, there are things set inside the Tabernacle, then the Temple, and then inside some of the cathedrals and churches. If we listen to this language, it strike me that this is an experience – one thing that God is saying through them is that God is to be experienced.

They are common things, everyday things that we already know – light, bread, water, incense. They are speaking – ‘God is like this.’ This morning, we are listening to that language which talks about presence with our senses.

How do you feel about the fact that Jesus was here on this earth?

Really here, not just from a far, not just an idea, not an information download, not even a book! not just a phone call, not even a zoom call! Jesus was here.

You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want.

John 5.39-40 (MSG)

I wonder how many times that God is right here in front of me but I missed it, maybe I only want to see what I want to see, or that I was distracted

What would it be like to be open to God’s presence?

It takes us to let go of what we grasp in our hands and simply notice and accept what is here.

We want to pay attention. The most simple way is that we will just do one thing at a time. We will be with each moment with our whole selves. So that we can pay attention.

The Incarnation brings the world his presence. It is a presence so complete that it overshadows every presence before it.
God is made human in Christ. God makes himself present to us with such a special presence, such an obvious presence, as to overthrow all the complicated calculations made about him in the past.
‘The invisible, intangible God has made himself visible and tangible in Christ.’

Carlo Carretto

This is what we proclaim to you:
What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have looked upon
And our hands have touched- we speak of the word of life.

1 John 1.1

Our hands have touched.

Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps:34:9, 1 Peter 2:3) and Isaiah says “hear the word of the Lord”.  Jesus promises that “the pure in heart will see God” (Mat 5:8) and that the faithful will “inhale the sweet aroma of Christ” (2 Cor 2:15). Even Christ himself spat on the ground, made mud and placed it on the blind man’s eyes because He understood the power of touch.

God want us to experience God’s presence. Jesus came, he came with a body.

There are four items in front of you: Fount, incense, bread and candle

What are the feelings come up for you as you interact with these elements?

There is no need to analyse or think too much, I invite you to simply enjoy feeling the simple truth that are in these elements. We are using our senses to learn, to know.

Breathing in deep breaths, notice your breath

The infilling of God,

Our body, the dwelling place of God,

Air filling our body signify God in us. What does it feel like?

Perhaps you want to close your eyes and really smell the scent in this room.

Jesus pray for us – the incense, we are putting on the aroma of Christ.

Put your hands in the basin of water, simply touch the water: Jesus is the living water, Jesus washes us clean

Look at the candle, really notice it and its presence: Jesus the light of the world

Have some bread and honey: Jesus the bread of life, O taste and see that the Lord is good!

Sitting with a presence of these objects. Notice their presence.

Whatever you bring here today, However you might feel at this moment, know the kind of lengths God go through to reach you. God is here, really here.

What kind of presence is God offering you today? I hope to encourage you to have this posture – Simply be, let things happen to you and really savour them as it happen. Slow down and notice.

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