Recently, we have been talking about becoming less – less of who and what we want to be; less of what the world expects; less involved in ambition or climbing social ladders. As we give away more and more; how should becoming less and less make us feel?
As we give up more, we become poorer, and what does that mean?
What it should mean, and certainly why anyone would want to do it, is that we become happier and more centred in who we are. Once we have turned the idea of less being a negative we can start to appreciate what it is we are doing.
We all know that there are ways where ‘less’ turns what seems a negative into a positive; we can lose weight; we can become less stressed; we can de-clutter our houses and our lives. Once we start discarding what we don’t really want we can start to focus on what we do really need. Like martial arts practitioners, climbers or even fishermen we can pay attention to what is important, to what the goal is. I wonder if that is why Jesus started with the fishermen, seeing that ability in their eyes.
Becoming less also means that we become compact; we can join up our thoughts and our actions without having to work through the lists of ‘what ifs’ and ‘if only’s. We develop an instinct for what is right. We may still be veiled from God but there is a lot less veils to worry about.
And we become better at hearing God speak in our lives; seeing God’s hand in what happens in the day; understanding why what happens, happens. Not all the time, for who can know God that well, but more than we did.
And when we are able to reach that quiet God space within us, knowing that God is there; not as an angry judge, or a vindictive puppeteer but as a parent and comforter, then we can approach that place with confidence and eagerness. The simplicity of being less – the simplicity taught by Paul, by Francis and Chiara and many other saints – is a simplicity that says ‘I know you are there’.
The Maranatha method of contemplative prayer is the confident call to a God who wants to be with us.
To pray in this way you need a comfortable and quiet place where you can have silence for at least twenty minutes; you should be sitting in a relaxed but upright position – imagine the housemaids or the bridegrooms friends waiting for the Lord’s return. This is an expectant mediation. You might light a candle or close your eyes.
Once you are comfortable and relaxed in the body, taking a few deep breaths and moving any immediate thoughts away. This is time to begin the mantra – Maranatha. Try to say it and repeat it as part of your breathing, as quickly or as slowly as is natural for you.
The phrase itself is Aramaic and mean two things depending on how you say it,
Ma -ra – na-tha – means ‘come Lord’
Mar-an – a-tha - means ‘Lord, you are here’
But don’t worry about trying to say it in a particular way. You should aim to do this for about twenty minutes; you can build up from five or ten if you wish. As you pray you may feel yourself distracted by thoughts or noises, take a second to admit to yourself that you have been distracted but it is gone now; and continue. You may find that the word goes into silence and this is absolutely fine for however long you can manage it.
After twenty minutes, say thank you for whatever has come to you (and that could be nothing but the rest from the day) maybe listen to some reflective music and take some deep breaths and stretches, before continuing with the day.