Chittister: How To Pray During ‘Hot, Hazy, and Humid’

Columbia Heights Fountain (David Gaines)
Columbia Heights Fountain (David Gaines)

“It’s July when the summer begins to wear even the most dedicated of sun lovers down. Life begins to feel sticky; nights get close; days get long and dry. Everything becomes a major effort; we slow down like rusted cogs on old wheels. Time suspends. Nothing much gets done. Day follows day with not much to show for any of them. Oh, yes, monastics know all about that kind of thing. In ancient monasteries the warning of Evagrius of Ponticus to “beware the devil of the noonday sun” loomed large. Acedia they called it. Spiritual sloth.

July is the month that teaches us, as the Desert Monastics said, to prepare ourselves for the “heat of the noonday sun,” for those times in life when going on and going through something will take all the energy, all the hope we have. Then, July reminds us that on the other side of such intensity, such demanding effort, comes the harvest time of life when we see that all our efforts have been worth it.

The question in every life, of course, is how to keep on going when it seems fruitless. A Zen saying: “O snail, climb Mount Fuji, but slowly, slowly.” If we are to persevere for the long haul, we must not overdrive our souls. We must immerse ourselves in good music, good reading, great beauty and peace so that everything good in us can rise again and lead us beyond disappointment, beyond boredom, beyond criticism, beyond loss.

The prayer from Mary Lou Kownacki’s, The Sacred in the Simple, calls us all to new energy at the break point of every day. It reads:

Let not the heat
of the noonday sun
wither my spirit
or lay waste my hopes.
May I be ever green,
a strong shoot of justice,
a steadfast tree of peace.”

–adapted from A Monastery Almanac by Joan Chittister

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