Posts Tagged ‘sacred’

Centering, Words, and “Das Vaterunser”

Sunday, December 20th, 2020

M. Basil Pennington, the late Cistercian monk who encouraged and guided many in the devotional practice of “Centering Prayer,” urges in his writings that readers (and pray-ers) focus on a “sacred word” in Centering Prayer sessions.

When focusing on a special word, I almost always reach for my dictionary as encouraged by a gentle college professor of psychology who insisted students learn to “read” dictionaries; that is, to delve into not only definitions, but etymologies, synonyms and antonyms, and the subtle distinction of manifold forms and usages of the words (including translations of those words).

I think I can confidently say this professor believed “every” word is sacred.

As a native Hungarian and fluent speaker of German, Dr. Theodore Thass-Thienemann had been pressed into instructing classes in that tongue, and he urged those he taught into a tiny exercise of centering by demanding every class of German begin with a unison recitation—Auf Deutsch—of The Lord’s Prayer (The “Our Father”; in German, “Das Vaterunser”).

Many years after I finished college, I learned of this mentor’s death, and his 1985 obituary noted he had been trained not only in psychology but in linguistics. By that time, thanks to him, I had become an avid dictionary-devotee.

I’m still relearning his lessons, and I’ve come to believe, as he instilled in me, that every word is sacred. Thanks be to God!