The problem with priesthood, as with most of life, is the problem of awareness. In order to have any hope of fulfilling my primary function as a priest pointing to the hidden Presence of the Divine, I need to be ware of this Presence. But, of course like every person, I am at times deeply unaware.

I lose consciousness when I fail to prepare the soil of my life to open to the awareness of depth and mystery. When I get caught up in busyness, self-pity, and ego, it is not long before awareness evaporates. The mindless distractions and pettiness I choose, plunge me into the darkness of sleep. My awareness of the light is dulled. I am paralyzed by awkwardness and disconnection.

I do not want to be in this place. I do not want to be stuck here. But I can see how I got here. When I fail to tend the garden of my own inner life I become barren and my priesthood is fruitless. It is no surprise that the flower of Presence does not take hold in the soil of distraction, disconnection and unconsciousness. The outcome of my failure to be mindful is boringly predictable and all too familiar. I lose touch with the Source of my being and the beauty and mystery of life. The cause and effect equation is obvious.

But there are other more confusing times when the problem of priesthood inflicts itself upon me unexpectedly. I am truly seeking to stay grounded and to stand in the expansiveness, openness and freedom that I know are the essential postures of priesthood. I have been spending time in prayer, going slow, resting in the space, being silent and finding stillness. I am entering into worship with a  sincere heart, and seeking as much as I can to stay open and honest. I have been nurturing my spirit with deep nourishing food and avoiding those things that cause me to lose my way. I have been paying attention to the present moment and observing the world in all of its wonder and beauty.

Yet, for all my good intentions and attempts at spiritual practice, still my awareness of Presence has shrivelled. Where there once was a warm spacious awareness, there is now only a small pinched dark space.

Every word from my lips falls like the wilted petals of a dying rose. There is no connection, no warm abiding with the other. Every encounter is awkward and stilted. Everything feels out of joint. I am lost in the fog of surface details, caught in a miasma of conflicting emotions and confusing thoughts. I have wandered away from home and have lost the map to return. There does not seem to be any obvious exit from this barren wasteland.

The problem is that consciousness is not a conjuring trick or a tool I can summon at my command. There is always a measure of mystery that attaches to my awareness of Presence. The spiritual life is not a self-help program in which I can simply pull myself together, buck up and put on a happy smile. When it comes to living a truly authentic spiritual life, I know I am not in control of the process. At times I am conscious of Presence, at other times awareness is missing. It is not that the Presence itself gone, but my consciousness is sadly fleeting.

So, what is to be done when I simply cannot muster up adequate consciousness to enable me to fulfill my priestly role in any kind of genuine way?

The best I may be able to do is to see my lack of consciousness and hold that reality with gentleness and patience. I can see that, in this situation at this particular time, I have become distracted, uneasy, fixated on surfaces. My mind has taken over; I have lost touch with my body. I have wandered away from my deep nature. There is no magic incantation that has the power to call me back to a more grounded and aware place. I can only acknowledge that I am lost and seek to be present to myself in this confusing reality.

But, perhaps I need not despair. It may in fact be at precisely this conflicted place that I discover another fundamental priestly function. I will explore this possibility tomorrow.