Treasure in the backyard Arthur Middleton

`The gift which we have received from Jesus Christ in holy Baptism is not destroyed, but is only buried as a treasure in the ground. And both common sense and gratitude demand that we should take good care to unearth this treasure and bring it to light. This can be done in two ways. The gift of baptism is revealed first of all by a painstaking fulfilment of the commandments; the more we carry these the more clearly the gift shines upon us in its true splendour and brilliance. Secondly, it comes to light and is revealed … by unceasing remembrance of God. The first method is powerful but the second is more so; so much so that even fidelity to the commandments receives its full strength from prayer’ (St Gregory of Sinai).

If you want a life of prayer the way to get it is by praying. To pray is to share in God’s life for it is a participation in the life the Father lives with the Son in the Holy Spirit. St Augustine said that God is nearer to us than the air we breathe. What makes him seem absent is that our awareness of Him is dulled and distracted and this sense of God’s absence prompts us to assume that the treasure of a living experience and knowledge of God lies in some ‘far country’, outside the backyard of one’s life.

The story of the poor Rabbi in Cracow illustrates this point. He dreamed there was treasure buried under the bridge in front of the royal palace in Prague and set off to try and acquire it. He found the bridge heavily guarded but after some days chatted up one of the guards and told him of his dream. ‘Why’, said the guard, ‘You are a fool! Only last night I dreamed about a Rabbi in Cracow, looking very much like you, who had treasure buried in his own backyard. But you don’t think I’d be fool enough to set off for Cracow in search of it.’

The treasure we seek is in our own backyard, the real and living circumstances of life in the workaday world. We find that treasure as we respond to the spiritual fullness of life as it is, not as we imagine it to be or as we would like it to be.

Prayer is intimately connected with life and not a special segment of it. That would be false prayer. When it is an optional extra it creates its own unnatural strain in not being integrated with the rest of life and that is when so many people stop praying. Life is the backyard in which is discovered the Light, Life and Love of God’s presence when prayer is allowed to spring up spontaneously in the pressures of living and thinking.

Most people’s backyard is the workaday world that centres around the hopes and trials of home and family, and at work, whatever the job. Here is where the treasure will be found as one comes to know and experience the presence of God as the Lord of all life.

From ‘Prayer in the Workaday World’ by Arthur Middleton ND