Musings on Prayers and Kisses
Jennifer Angelina Petro
Trying to pray with your eyes open is like trying to walk with your eyes closed. One distracts you, the other confuses you, but the end result is the same—clumsiness. Trying to kiss with your eyes open is more an act of will and wide-eyed-giggling than it is: “I must see where my face is going.” Lips know. The soul knows. The feet do not without aid of the eyes. Then again, it must be considered not all prayers are the same, just as not all kisses are the same. And I must say at the beginning, I am musing along with you as I write these words. The ideas herein are like the aforementioned legs without eyes to guide them. I do have certain experience, albeit limited, with both kissing and praying, but I am roaming these topics of heaven-given moments with as much anticipation as you to see where they lead.
One can kiss a lover, friend, or a child “Good morning—have a good day”—with eyes open (perhaps, however, while staring at the coffee maker or the clock). One can kiss a lover with eyes open—wild, seeing everything—following the other’s eyes like search lights, but that’s usually at first contact—when clothes are dropping off ready bodies, like swollen seed-husks falling from blossoming flowers. Eventually the eyes close and you both connect, like living magnets, and both exhale–surrendering into that intimate vulnerability of having someone ornament your body with decorating kisses. We have an interesting distinction here: eyes open during the initial flurry of passion, then eyes close when things settle in a pulsing rhythm of bodies, and the feast of lips tasting lips. Then, one begins exploring the other’s body with kisses as the other’s eyes close in deep, rising and sinking sighs. And when the lips find the places where rapture happens both lovers’ eyes close. That being said, it’s not uncommon for the one receiving to have their eyes fly open with: “Oh God! Oh God!” When the sweet release comes, and the waves shimmer through the body, the eyes most often close like the deepest, most calming, evening. And when the lovers switch places, the process unfolds, with any luck, the same way.
Prayer is very much the same, only different. So is singing, but that’s another essay. In praying, as in nighttime prayers (that often slip so easily into sleep), the eyes close to shroud the whispers that kiss the dark. Morning prayers too are most often said with eyes closed, head bowed before the body of the day. Of course, there are those prayers where the whole body participates, as when the sea rolls through your body during love making. Dancing prayers, yogic prayers, walking prayers, making coffee for your partner prayers—these are all eyes-open prayers—even if your eyes are drooping with not enough sleep. There are vigil prayers when candles are meditated upon, and lives gone are reflected upon, and hopes for peace rise to the sky. During vespers, the eyes can be open or closed, as the prayers wish for safe sleep and warmth. Then, there are prayers we pray for someone else—someone sick or struggling through a rough patch—these prayers are almost always asked with eyes closed in supplication and intensity, as when we humbly, or boldly ask a lover to kiss us in the places we want kissed. There are prayers of wonder, as when we see stars and newborn babies and sunsets and moon rises. These are prayed with gasps and awes, as when your lover’s lips find the tingling places on your body—eyes suddenly open with surprise and reverence. There are rote prayers where the eyes automatically close because everyone else’s automatically close and if you sneak your eyes open and scan the room full of closed-eyed people you feel a sprinkle mischievous and a dash voyeuristic, and perhaps a pinch of outright rebel. These are moments akin to opening one eye during a kiss to catch the reaction of your lover. Both are perfectly acceptable, of course, for they inspire the fun of witnessing community and union, provided the eyes aren’t opening in either case with insecurity to check whether or not you’re kissing well or praying with the proper piety. Hopefully, however, there are very few rote kisses in your lives. There are prayers of prophecy—spontaneous and unplanned like wild, ravishing kisses predicting soon to come release. Your eyes are always open during these prayers while your lover’s are usually closed with faith and the sweet, blessed, little fear that sometimes accompanies letting go to the control of another. There are also the prayers of grace and blessings before a meal, which can easily be translated into prayers of gratitude before feasting at the table of your lover’s body. Lastly, there are prayers of ecstasy, when your eyes close seeing lights and visions, and the soul stirs awake and bliss shimmers through your entire body, and exclamations of: “Oh God, Oh God!” soar around the room. We don’t have to imagine too hard to know which kisses these are like and where they settle and deepen and what the eyes do when such rapture happens.
Well, there we have it. I truly had no idea where this was going. Now that we’re drawing to a close (or a curious, intriguing opening) it is my hope this meandering piece inspires you to kiss more reverently and to pray with more wildness; to kiss with more attention and devotion, and to pray with more openness to revelation; to kiss more adventurously and to pray more like the trees must pray, like the sea must pray, like the shore must pray, like a hawk gliding on spiraling currents must pray, like the mother bear awakening with cubs must pray, like the owl must pray keeping watch over fields and marshes. In other words, may our prayers and kisses become one and the same, where Lover and Beloved become one and the same–one breath, one sparkling river, one song of praise.