Shekinah and Jacob’s ladder

Source of All Being and Hearer of All

Loving God,

Source of existence.

Source of wisdom.

Source of hope.

Source of compassion.

Source of desire for good.

Source of unselfish love.

Source of prayer.

Source of justice.

Source of eternal life.

Source of all that I am.

You hear the jubilation

Of the happy-hearted,

And the questioning 

Of the confused seeker.

You hear the shout

Of the angry one

And the last sigh

Of the dying.

The ear of your heart

 Is always open to us.

         Joyce Rupp, Fragments of Your Ancient Name, prayers for April 7 & 8

SHEKINAH

SHE WHO DWELLS WITH

The word SHEKINAH is a feminine term derived from the Hebrew verb shkn or shakan (to dwell) and literally means “she who dwells with.”

In Jewish tradition, the divine presence, the Shekinah, is female. Shekinah was used in post-Biblical writings and interpretations of scripture as a substitute for:

The name of God

         the face of God,

                  wherever God dwelt 

                                    wherever God was seen

                                             God’s presence, or                                                     

 God’s glory. 

QUEEN OF THE SABBATH
Shekinah is also thought of in the Jewish tradition as the queen of the Sabbath, who spreads her wings over the whole world as the Sabbath evening falls, to bring unbounded joy, peace and light to all people.  She is the mothering presence of the Sabbath, where God comes to dwell in peace with humankind, and human faces beam back the reflected light of the Shekinah queen

WORD ASSOCIATIONS WITH SHEKINAH

The Shekinah also has associations with a large cluster 

of important Biblical words.

Shekinah implies the light or radiance of God which overshadows people

Shekinah was used along with the term 

         glory (yekara)

                  and word (memra

to describe God’s own self dwelling on earth.

In addition, the word tabernacle or tent, or dwelling is related to the Shekinah.  The Aramaic for tabernacle is mashkan, which derives from the same Hebrew verb shakan (to dwell) from which Shekinah comes.

GOD-IN-THE-WORLD

All these associations with the words light, radiance, glory, word, tabernacle, dwelling, and overshadow have led rabbinical scholars to use the term Shekinah when they describe “God-in-the-world” in their interpretations of Old Testament passages. 

LIGHT, DARKNESS AND OVERSHADOW

The Shekinah is often described as a mysterious combination of light and darkness which overshadows earthly things.

In the account of Israel’s exodus from Egypt and their wandering 

in the desert, the cloud over the tabernacle, the pillar of cloud that 

led them, and the pillar of fire that replaced the cloud at night were 

all understood to be the Shekinah.  The word “overshadow” is used in 

both of the following passages and implies the Shekinah.

Exodus 40: 35

Moses was not able to enter the tent of                                                                                        

 meeting because the cloud settled upon it                                                               

 and the glory of the Lord filled                                                     

 (overshadowed) the tabernacle.

Hebrews 9:5

                           Above it (the ark) were the cherubim of glory                                                                          overshadowing the mercy seat.

GLORY, DWELL, CLOUD, OVERSHADOW

Luke 1:33-35 (the Annunciation to Mary)

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”  The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called son of God.

Luke 9: 32-35 (the Transfiguration on the mountaintop)

Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed wake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.  Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings (tabernacles – from the same word as Shekinah), one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” – not knowing what he said,.  While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud,  Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “his is my Son my chosen; listen to him!”

Some texts from Mirabai Starr’s book, Wild Mercy.

         Today we’ll focus on Shekinah as the feminine face of God and as the Queen of the Sabbath, which is today!  Author Mirabai Starr puts it this way, “The Shekinah is the indwelling feminine presence of the Divine.  It is her task to awaken us to what is real (Love) and to who we are (Love).”  Wild Mercy, p. 33.

MEDITATION

We’ll put ourselves into the Bible story of Jacob’s ladder, changing it slightly to fit with this idea of the Shekinah, and using all five senses in imagination to set the place in our minds and imagination. Two points are crucial – 1. Don’t judge or analyze yourself during the imagining.  2. Experience with your heart and feelings, not your critical mind. 

Relaxation talk

Here’s the story of Jacob dreaming of a ladder to heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it.  

JACOB’S LADDER 

Genesis 28: 10-17

10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 

11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 

12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 

13 And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 

14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 

15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done .what I have promised you.” 

16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” 

17 And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” 

So imagine the place, the rock for your pillow, the deserted landscape, the sun setting.  What can you see in the dying light?  How do the ground and the stone pillow feel?  What’s the temperature – cool, warm, cold?  Can you smell the grass or dustiness of the place?  Can you hear birds or the wind?  You are worried over many things.  Do you feel a metallic taste of worries and fear in your mouth?  Or can you still taste the small meal you just ate as you traveled here?

Suddenly, you see a ladder stretching from the ground where you are up to heaven.  Angels are going up and coming back down that ladder.  You’re amazed!  God is in this place, and you didn’t realize it until now.  From heaven you hear these words from Mother God at the top of the ladder, as she calls you by name,

Hello, dearest one. (Insert your name.)  Come near. Take a moment to set aside that list you’ve been writing in in your mind and heart.  That list which contains all those things that seems so important that you must act on them, think about them, worry about them.

Gather your burdens in a basket in your heart.  Then step on this ladder with the angels and take those burdens up to lay the at my feet.   Say to me, “Take this, Great Mama, because I cannot carry all this stuff for another minute.”  And then crawl into my broad lap and nestle against my shoulder and take a nap.  When you wake, the basket will still be there, but half its contents will be gone, and the other half will have resumed their ordinary shapes and sizes, no longer masquerading as catastrophic, epic, chronic, and toxic.  I, your mothering, sheltering God, will clear things out and tidy up.  I will take your compulsions and transmute them.  You only need to freely offer them to me.

(Based on Mirabai Starr’s, Wild Mercy, Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics, pp. 31-32)

What do you bring back down the ladder?  What answers have you heard or cares have been lightened, or open questions still existing in your heart?

Take some moments to have a friendly conversation with Mother God, speaking from your heart as to a good and trusted friend.

Last comments.  Suggestions for the week. 

“Set aside a regular day, once a week, a day, a month, a weekend as a Sabbath… Read, write poetry, color in a coloring book, take a hike, make a beautiful meal and feed your loved ones -anything that reconnects you with your soul.  Keep a journal of your experiences so that you can reflect back to yourself the gifts that arise when you open the door to deep rest and loving attention to the moment.” Mirabai Starr, Wild Mercy

Or you might pray daily by doing the activities that give you joy and a feeling of connection with the Divine.  My spiritual director, Sr. Anne Arabome says it this way.

“Suppose you like to draw and paint.  You could paint your story.  You could smell the paint feel the bush in your hand, see the colors of your desires, and channel all of them into your prayer.

What if you are more musically inclined?  You could compose and sing your song in prayer.  You could feel your soul alive through your composition, expressing yourself in music and songs of praise, and lament, and Magnificat.

Perhaps you are a dancer.  You like to dance.  What’s to stop you from dancing your prayer?  In dancing, you express yourself, your feelings of freedom to be who you want to be.

Imagine you like to knit or weave.  Why couldn’t you bewelcome to weave and knit your prayer? You could see the colors and the patterns and the style as all of God’s redeeming love in your life.

Maybe you’re a designer or architect.  You could construct and design your story.  You could feel the styles and shapes and patterns as manifestations of the infinite reality of God in creation and in your life.

         You might be a chef or a baker.  You could create a recipe of your contemplation.  You could feel in the texture and the aroma the fragrance of the Divine love and goodness wafting through the universe of your culinary experience.

         What if you are a writer or poet?  You could begin to see your creative words reflecting you own deepest self and desire and the awareness that God is feminine and that God is birthing, nurturing, inclusive, and diverse, all this coming through your writing and your poems.  The possibilities are just limitless.”

Now, or later, at home, color a sheet from my coloring book, if you like.

CLOSING PRAYER 

Source of All Being                          Hearer of All  

Loving God,                                     You hear the jubilation

Source of existence.                                    Of the happy-hearted,      

Source of wisdom.                                               And the questioning                 

Source of hope.                                                            Of the confused seeker.    

Source of compassion.                                         

Source of desire for good.                   You hear the shout

Source of unselfish love.                              Of the angry one             

Source of prayer.                                                 And the last sigh    

Source of justice.                                                 Of the dying.                  

Source of eternal life.                         The ear of your heart                

Source of all that I am.                                Is always open to us.

Joyce Rupp, Fragments of Your Ancient Name

  Suggestions for the week. 

“Set aside a regular day, once a week, a day, a month, a weekend as a Sabbath… Read, write poetry, color in a coloring book, take a hike, make a beautiful meal and feed your loved ones -anything that reconnects you with your soul.  Keep a journal of your experiences so that you can reflect back to yourself the gifts that arise when you open the door to deep rest and loving attention to the moment.” Mirabai Starr, Wild Mercy

Or you might pray daily by doing the activities that give you joy and a feeling of connection with the Divine.  My spiritual director, Sr. Anne Arabome says this:

“Suppose you like to draw and paint.  You could paint your story.  You could smell the paint feel the bush in your hand, see the colors of your desires, and channel all of them into your prayer.

What if you are more musically inclined?  You could compose and sing your song in prayer.  You could feel your soul alive through your composition, expressing yourself in music and songs of praise, and lament, and Magnificat.

Perhaps you are a dancer.  You like to dance.  What’s to stop you from dancing your prayer?  In dancing, you express yourself, your feelings of freedom to be who you want to be.

Imagine you like to knit or weave.  Why couldn’t you bewelcome to weave and knit your prayer? You could see the colors and the patterns and the style as all of God’s redeeming love in your life.

Maybe you’re a designer or architect.  You could construct and design your story.  You could feel the styles and shapes and patterns as manifestations of the infinite reality of God in creation and in your life.

         You might be a chef or a baker.  You could create a recipe of your contemplation.  You could feel in the texture and the aroma the fragrance of the Divine love and goodness wafting through the universe of your culinary experience.

         What if you are a writer or poet?  You could begin to see your creative words reflecting you own deepest self and desire and the awareness that God is feminine and that God is birthing, nurturing, inclusive, and diverse, all this coming through your writing and your poems.  The possibilities are just limitless.”

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