When I look at my to-do list and my calendar I do not see “turning aside.” I suspect that is true for most of us. We live busy lives. To do lists are long, calendars are full, and time is short. There is no time for “turning aside.” It is not productive or efficient to turn aside from the life and the task that is before us. But it is necessary if we are to have the new life that awaits us. This Sunday’s lectionary tells of Moses turning aside to see the great sight of a burning bush that was not burned up, to remove his shoes and feel holy ground between his toes, and to hear God’s voice echo “I AM” to Moses’ own response, “Here I am.”
I have seen the sun break through to illuminate a small field for a while, and gone my way and forgotten it. But that was the pearl of great price, the one field that had the treasure in it. I realize now that I must give all that I have to possess it. Life is not hurrying on to a receding future, nor hankering after an imagined past. It is the turning aside like Moses to the miracle of the lit bush, to a brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
– Daily Readings from Prayers & Praises in the Celtic Tradition, p. 27
What do we need to turn aside from, not because it is necessarily wrong or bad, but because it distracts us from what is real? I wonder what “great sights” we might see if we were to turn aside.
Amen. Turning aside should be more frequent. But, more commonly it is not.
Thanks for this meditation.
BTW, the citation is a poem by the Welsh poet and Anglican priest R. S. Thomas entitled “The Bright Field.”
The words “turning aside” struck me as different as I read the post. I hadn’t heard it this way before. Why turn aside? I looked up Exodus 3 and discovered that Moses responded to the “wondrous sight of the burning bush” by also, going up closer to look at the wondrous sight! In the French translation, he took a “detour” to go up to see this “sight”. I am turning the “turning aside” as clay upon a potter’s wheel, wondering about it’s meaning for me, today. In the past, I’ve gone up closer to look, I’ve taken detours out of curiosity and the desire to know; but this “turning aside”, what does it really mean for me, now? I’m intrigued, fascinated, curious and willing to go up to look, even taking a “detour”; but, “turning aside”. What does it mean?
nun Helen, thank you for your reflection and questions on “turning aside.” As I have thought about this I wonder if this turning aside has an aspect of repentance about it. Peace, Mike+
Several persons I’ve been in conversation with lately have stirred me and challenged me with the idea of being awake – of staying awake, actually, to the Presence of the Holy in the seemingly mundane or unexciting aspects of my day. I wonder if “turning aside”, for me, means this idea of keeping alert and being aware of the Holy – the “burning” – and actually having the eyes and awareness to really pay attention. I am thoroughly challenged by this! Thank you.
Jan, I think you are correct. Turning aside is about being aware, awake, and present – to recognize the sacrament of the present moment.
Yes, Fr.Mike, it seems that “turning aside” could and does imply repentance; and repentance does contain contrition, having sorrow for sins and transgressions in one’s life. And there can be many or few of them; it doesn’t matter. It’s the fact of “turning aside” from a way of doing, being, seeing, hearing, speaking … even hiding, from an attitude, I suppose. Having it “my way”! As sin does also imply a certain kind of rebelliousness towards God’s will placed before me on this day, hour, minute. So, I can ask myself, do I recognize the “sign” or sacrament of the present moment, a “sign” which is drawing my attention so that I can NOW become more aware, awake and present, concerning my present state of being.
I feel that this “turning aside” to see this sight, places me right where God’s wants me to be NOW, at this moment. This moment can be a crossing of my will with that of God’s, causing a cross or difficulty to appear. It is pleasant to see this sight of the bush burning and yet not being burned. It is awesome; a “sign”! So, I “turn aside” to see it better, to contemplate it! but, God doesn’t leave me in this state of euphoria at the sight! Does He? No, He tells me to “take off my shoes”, that is to take off all that keeps me comfortably stuck in my present life-style. He calls me to repentance, to a change heart in my present life, by telling me something about where I don’t really want to go: back to good ‘ole Pharaoh in Egypt, and, there to deal with a matter that I really don’t wish to attend to right now.
Going on the “horizontal” seems okay right now! Buts, God is asking me to go deeper into another direction “down into Egypt” which will entail a real crossing of my will with that of God’s!
Moses surely got scared about where God was asking him to go; he certainly had all kinds of excuses; he needed support, from his brother in the process, for he, Moses,could foresee that he would be such a stutterer, not being able to speak very clearly in the midsts of those who had adopted him as their own in Pharaoh’a palace.
Repentance is quite an endeavor in the midsts of the Lenten Journey! So, this “turning aside” is for me, at least, a dynamic “encounter” with the “Living God” who is asking something of me at present!… Am I truly hearing and heeding? willing to go forth into the great unknown of the past, in repentance, so that I can really do what God is asking of me in this apparent “detour” into Egypt in order that God’s own Plan be fulfilled; by my entering into this Divine Plan, by saying, “yes I will go, where you send me! and, I accept all that this “unknown” entails, in Faith, believing without knowing …
I certainly “stuttered” through the above, didn’t I?
to be con’t.
nun Helen, if that is stuttering – keep it up. I really like that image of Moses’ encounter with the burning bush as the intersection of the horizontal and vertical. It is the point of sacrament. Thank you for that. I look forward to more “stutterings.”
turning aside could mean breaking away from the normal daily routine and schedules that keeps u from accessing Gods voice.
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