The deep attention and reverence that Thomas Merton and Abdul Aziz brought to each other's books, traditions and lives undergirded their friendship, and the frank way they explored their similarities and differences enlivened it.
I grew up attending Bible and Baptist
churches; now I generally identify with the emerging church. So I've had quite
a learning curve at the Episcopal seminary where I'm studying. Between
balancing prayer books and hymnals and crash courses in chanting, I've frequently
felt like a stranger in a strange land.
Reflecting on the Benedictus gives us an opportunity to
reflect on the place of memorization and repetition in our formation as people
who read the Bible as if our lives depended on it. Ellen Davis calls reading
the Bible as if our lives depended on it confessional reading. She does not
mean reading the Bible in light of a denominational confession. She means
reading the Bible as an "indispensible word."
She is foggy, struggling to find the old gifts of conversation. But she knows me, I think. I
tell her all of the reassuring things that pastors say in such a
setting. "The Creator who has watched over you all of the days of your
life is now holding you in those sacred hands." She smiles and
struggles to respond with words I barely understand.
The focus of geriatric doctors on testing for memory loss, which leads to possible diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s, is part of a war against the old, according to Margaret Morganroth Gullette, resident scholar at Brandeis University. She likens it to educators being preoccupied with testing schoolchildren. “‘Dementia’ is a label that dehumanizes,” she says. What aging people need is social support, which itself can enhance a sense of well-being that contributes to better memory. “In thinking about memory loss, we do well to remember two simple precepts,” she says. “Do not panic about your own. Be gentle toward other people’s” (Interpretation, April).