Praying with Eyes Open

The practice of advent watchfulness is, in many ways an exercise of prolonged prayer... Training ourselves to be awake to the presence of God in the world around us. 
Earlier in the year I offered some reflections based on Eugene Peterson's book "The Contemplative Pastor". Well, in that book he points out the difference between the more commonplace tradition of apophatic prayer and kataphatic prayer. 
You may not realise it but most of us, particularly in the Protestant traditions, were taught apophatic prayer from childhood, when we were told "Fold your hands, bow your head, shut your eyes, and we'll talk to God." Apophatic prayer attempts to eliminate all earthly distractions that may distract us from communion with our Creator.
By contrast kataphatic prayer encourages us to "reach out our hands, lift up our heads, open our eyes and listen to God, using triggers in creation to point us to the Creator - icons, symbols, scripture, ritual, incense...
A balanced prayer life should contain both... But advent, with all of its characteristic sights and sounds and smells, is the perfect time to practice kataphatic prayer.
Peterson points to the practice creation spirituality author, Annie Dillard, who, in looking at the world around her says "There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises."
May that be your experience this advent...
Shalom

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