Friday, 16 December 2011

The Technological Tick - Jesus Calling

Some years ago - and for a very short time - I wore one of those digital watches which 'bleeped' on the hour - it was my way of practicing regular recollection. My long suffering and very wise Spiritual Director raised her eyebrows at the idea and said 'well I suppose you might think of it as a modern Angelus?'
Needless to say, I didn't carry on the experiment for long,partly because I'm not all that devout, but also I think because a bell heard across the fields calling one to prayer had deeper resonances in more ways than one.'

Just the other day I found myself trying  the same exercise, but now with 'improved technology' - marking certain hours of the day for prayer by setting an alarm on my phone to draw me from whatever occupied me to recollect myself for a few minutes. 

Now there is much to reflect on in this. The Angelus bell, indeed any bell chiming out publicly belongs to settings when we pray together - so my church bell is rung just before worship on a Sunday - however my practise and many similar ones amongst those of us who struggle to pray, are a salutary reminder that more and more we pray 'you in your small corner and I in mine' - that corporate prayer is hardly ever  a feature of our common life in these days and thus we may well ask, 'what if anything is the reality of our common life in Christ?'

But I digress . . .

My alarm ringtone is the same as my call ringtone - a beautiful 30 seconds of a Chopin nocturne which plays over and over, but wondrously and somewhat peculiarly never sounds as if it repeats.  Yesterday I found myself in deep in conversation with two folk I'm just getting to know in the theology department of the local University, when my phone went off.
It is my practise never to answer my phone when in conversation and when I finally came to an awareness that deep inside my jacket my phone was ringing, I made to push the Silence switch whilst maintaining eye contact and conversation. Having switched it to silent, after a few moments I realised I could still hear it.
Desperate NOT to break the conversation I switched the switch the other way but to now avail. It was so very quiet, I'm not sure that my conversational partners were aware of anything more than that my hand kept going to my jacket pocket. Eventually I gave up and apologised. Both men, probably so used to folk answering their phones and interrupting conversation made nothing of it.

I looked at my phone and realised why I couldn't switch it to silent for rather than 'Missed Call' -  I read 'Alarm - Prayer' - I switched the alarm off to continue  the conversation but my two partners had in that instant moved on to a conversation between themselves.

Now here's the thing and it may seem a 'Silly Pietistic Question' - but 'do I allow time with Christ to interrupt other conversations?' Of course one may well respond that in conversing with my fellow Christians I was engaged in some form of corporate prayer, that I am encountering Christ in them - except that to my mind that that smacks ever so slightly of a theology of 'praxis after the fact' - "we have to act this way, so let us find a theological sounding argument to make it Right". It is The Way of the World.

Because we rarely now pray together, because "there are so many things in life that are so pressing that we cannot any longer allow ourselves the luxury of shared fixed hours of prayer", have we made prayer all but impossible - that even 'a modern Angelus' is No Thing, an ephemerality, a twig on a wide and easy river, to be ignored at will.

In pondering this I come back to the First Thing - "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your strength", that it is ONLY in seeking to fulfill that command that we can begin to know what is the Love wherewith we might Love our neighbour as ourselves. Jesus himself seemed to have little compunction in withdrawing from the clamour of need

I don't answer my phone when in conversation because I think it rude, but perhaps there is a certain rudeness called for, rudeness towards the concept that 'Prayer just isn't a possibility in the modern world' - perhaps that is one call I should be answering without exception?

After all, it is an Alarm, a 'Wake Up!' call?

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