In Memory of and Love for Sr. Lois Barton My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, Song of Songs 2:10
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.” Today I planned to reflect on this and other passages from the Song of Songs, a beautiful, love poem right there in scripture which engages all the senses and can be taken literally or symbolically. It expresses longing and complete love between two people, or between God and all creation, or Jesus and the Church as Body of Christ.
Meanwhile, a dear spiritual guide and friend of mine, Sr. Lois Barton CSJ, died unexpectedly yesterday. What I imagined upon hearing the news is this exchange between Jesus and my friend, Lois: My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.”
Lois shone with love for God and God’s people, which included everyone.
Sr. Lois was one of the first people I met in Binghamton outside my own church community, and my life is much the better for knowing her. She drew me deeper into the wisdom tradition of Christianity, and the wisdom tradition writ large. We worked together in teaching centering prayer (a time of silence and open presence before God), the Gospel of Thomas, and creating opportunities for deep conversation, leading others to less common pathways of Christian faith. Sometimes I helped lead and more often, I simply participated and allowed the holiness of our gatherings to enfold me.
Lois and I went on an adventure: a Catholic nun and an Episcopal priest joining a Sufi retreat led by an Episcopal priest and student of Sufism. As we turned like Dervishes, meditated and explored scriptures of broader Christian and Islamic traditions, Lois glowed. She always seemed light to me, both bright and weightless, and she loved to dance. Her liturgical dances brought one closer to the essence of God’s message, and she encouraged us all to move literally with the Spirit.
And she liked ice cream and delighted in my taking her to my favorite ice cream stand in Brattleboro, Vermont on the way to our Sufi retreat at Hallelujah Farm. She laughed and had joy in the pleasures of being alive, incarnate, and she always gave fully of herself to others. So Song of Songs. She knew the Beloved, and the Beloved knew her. As we read in the Burial Rite:
As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives and that at the last he will stand upon the earth. After my awaking, he will raise me up; and in my body I shall see God. I myself shall see, and my eyes behold him who is my friend and not a stranger.
At Sophia Center, Lois often observed how important our deep conversations are, and her great desire was to continue these and to draw others into conversation. She valued listening, and openness to others, and loving neighbor as self. These were not just wishes for her but a reality she lived. May we enter into the deep conversations.
And the Psalms. These were her particular favorites, and the longevity of the Lunch with the Psalms group delighted Lois. Lois was not able to join our most recent gathering, but I recall the last verse of Psalm 17 which we read:
But as for me, I long to see your face alone, O God, and awaken to your fair image and be satisfied.
Amen. Lois, you are there.
Please read Sr. Lois’s last blog from August 15. It will pierce your heart (in a good way).