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Some are fired into service; others wait, looking smart in their cherry-red caps.

So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour—so Jesus of Nazareth concludes the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids in Mathew’s Gospel.

This imperative, if practiced, prickles waking hours with discomfort, stripped of defense mechanisms, distractions, and procrastination. It corrals wayward thoughts and motives and reveals them for what they are: sludge-pots obscuring the Sacred’s yearning for communion with his beloved creatures.

Such discipline, or Kingdom living, costs, as Jesus well knew. To engage his listeners’ imaginations—hungry for peace—he taught with parables often used by other rabbis, but bearing his imprint that quickened heart-conversions. A revolutionary manner of living inevitably followed.

Indeed, is not conversion of heart life’s deepest lesson? As I continue filling each twenty-four hours with prayer, study, writing, and phone contacts, I keep company with the five wise bridesmaids in the parable; they knew to carry extra flasks of palm oil for their lamps lest theirs went out while waiting to escort the bridegroom and his bride to the feast. With them, I keep my spirit well oiled while waiting for his call to enter the joys of the banquet prepared for all eternity.

That, indeed, will be a moment…

 

“If you love the truth, be a lover of silence. Silence like the sun will illuminate you in God.”—a trenchant saying attributed to Isaac the Syrian, the seventh-century Bishop, theologian, and monk who the Eastern Orthodox Church regards as a saint.

Simple words, if pondered, reveal the unseen caught in the flux of time. Key to this process is passion, whose firelight, like the sun, ignites inner worlds. But who cares to go there? To discipline unruly instincts clamoring for expression? That would be like dying. Such flies in the face of our cultural mores, engulfed in denial and rationalization. The predictable is more comfortable, yet soulless.

It does not take much to see who is truly alive among us: their quickening gaze, their resonant voices, their authority, of whatever age and background.

That’s what happens when you sit in the fire. It works…

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