by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, January 1, 2017
No, this title is not a typo. I didn’t misspell the reference to a popular film. I didn’t fall victim to sugar overload or fuzzy thinking from one too many Christmas cookies (although I certainly did indulge). It’s not the result of a late night of ringing in the New Year.
So why The Hunger Names? Because it occurs to me as we stand peering into the year before us that so often the beginning of a new year centers around resolutions focused on what we want to let go of: extra pounds, unhealthy habits, toxic situations, and more. I wonder what might be revealed if instead we chose to spend time discerning what it is that we long to fill ourselves up with. What if we dug a bit deeper and named that for which we truly hunger? What if we spent some time early in this new year mining our deepest desires as well as God’s desire for each one of us?
There is great power in naming. Naming connotes belonging: parents often devote considerable time to choosing the perfect name for the child of their hopes and dreams. Naming shows connection: new owners may search for just the right title as they bring an adopted pet into their home. Naming witnesses to the intimacy and closeness of relationship: we tend to name what is significant and meaningful in our lives. And naming sometimes offers us a liberation of sorts when we’re able to voice what we hold in our hearts.
Not long ago, I was gifted with Joyce Rupp’s Fragments of Your Ancient Name. The book, subtitled “365 Glimpses of the Divine for Daily Meditation,” highlights names by which God is known around the world. The names are drawn from many faith traditions, rituals, and contemporary writers, and the author explores each name in a brief meditation followed by a simple sentence as a takeaway into one’s day.
Of course, when it comes to naming the Divine, we come face to face with our limited understanding of the One Rabbi Rami Shapiro calls “The Reality Beyond Naming,” the One of whom Dorothee Soelle acknowledges, “There are never enough names and images for what we love.”
Edwina Gately bumped into this human limitation in a hermitage conversation. She recalls, “When I asked my God if I could come and stay with Him for a while, She said: ‘Yes, but don’t bring your God with you.’ Oh, how easy it is to clutter up the path to the Holy Spirit with my images and preconceptions of God! The mystical heart lets go of all images, icons, and expectations of God.”
Gately wasn’t dismissing or discouraging our attempts to name who God is for us. She was simply acknowledging the truth that God is so much bigger than we can ask or imagine and that we don’t ever want to close ourselves off from fresh revelations of the Divine. When we pay attention to the names of the Holy which most resonate with us, we can come to a revelation about who God is for us at this time in our lives: Dreamer? Lantern of Love? Mother of the Weary? One Who Weeps? The Opener or Beckoner? Sanctuary? Flute Player? Laughing One? Shelter? Friend of the Poor? Disturber? Lord of the Dance? Other? (a sampler from Fragments of Your Ancient Name)
Imagine what might happen if we widen the space of our tent and invite in words and images beyond our usual consciousness. Being open to the new in other cultures and faith traditions offers a fresh way to look at what God hopes and dreams for all people on this planet. Which names make us sit up, pay attention, and notice? Which names grab our soul? Which names shake our complacency? Which names stretch our borders? Which names do we find particularly tender, consoling, exciting, affirming, disturbing? And why?
As we search for words and images to describe the Holy One, our prayerful reflection may reveal something of our deepest desires for this new year and beyond. May it also reveal how God desires to be present in every moment of every day of this year ahead for all of our beautiful, yet wounded world.
Sit in God’s presence and reflect on your images of God.
What names of the Holy speak to you at this time in your life?
Which ones do you imagine might especially amuse or delight God?
For what are you hungering in this new year?
What is the Holy One desiring in you for the life of the world?
Happy New Year! Thank you for following or discovering this blog and for praying with me for a new year marked by peace and a deepened sense of the Holy in our world.
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