We’ve just returned from a trip that took us to Rome, Athens and Ephesus. I had some doubts about spending too little time in each place, but it turned out that “sampling” was a pretty good idea, especially if one goes to the table having read up on what will be there. I may offer some reflections on what we experienced a bit later, but what’s on my mind right now is the Daily Office. My habit of spending time with God in Morning Prayer and meditation gets a little wobbly when we travel, but I stick with it as best I can. What struck me so often on this trip was a portion of the prayers that petition God to “keep this nation under your care, and guide [it] in the way of justice and peace.” ‘This nation’ turned out to be Italy, Greece or Turkey, and that gave me pause to think about each of them in terms well removed from daily life on the American media farm.
It probably doesn’t matter where one lives, one’s worldview is likely to experience one’s own nation or tribe as the center about which all else revolves. I’m not sure there is any other way because the only way that any of us ever see at all is from the center that is our own being in the place where we are. The words of the Daily Office, offered up in fullness of heart and mind, did what they could to remind me that God’s worldview, if there is such a thing, centers all existence on him, and that his grace extends without particularity to all who would receive it.
I imagine that this could come as quite a shock to some of my acquaintances who are thoroughly convinced that God’s presence on this earth flows directly into the United States as God’s chosen distribution center for the rest of the world. I have no doubt that the same thought occurred to Martin Luther when he first visited the Vatican where every stone, statue and painting intended to show that it was there, and only there, that God’s grace flowed through to the rest of the world. London assumed that mantle for a few hundred years. Who knows, maybe Beijing will wear it next. In any case, it has always been a mantle of hubris that never lasted and always melted away, leaving little more than a statue to look at or ruin to visit.
The Daily Office goes on to offer a petition that God’s ways may be known upon the earth and God’s saving health be present among all nations. I don’t think God needs to be reminded of that. I think we need to be reminded of that, and reminded daily.