Month: May 2014

Feast of the Visitation

A Marian  feast that goes back to the 13th or 14th century. It was established widely throughout the Church to pray for unity. The present date of celebration was set in 1969 in order to follow the Annunciation of the Lord (March 25) and precede the Nativity of John the Baptist (June 24).

As with most feasts of Mary, it points to Jesus and his saving work. The two women (see Luke 1:39-45) are Mary and Elizabeth, both pregnant. The unborn  infant Jesus makes the small being who will become John the Baptist leap with joy. Mary’s kinswoman Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and addresses words of praise to Mary, a gospel passage that affirms her special place in salvation history

 

Since early childhood I have loved the fire and beauty of the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)., the promise made to the anawim, those poor in God who suffer and  fall into obscurity here on this earth but who will be redeemed by God.

 

 

‘Las profundas cavernas del sentido’

From St John of the Cross on the day after Ascension Thursday:

The caverns are the powers of the soul, memory, understanding, and will, and their depth is commensurate with their capacity for great good, because nothing less than the infinite can fill them. What they suffer when they are empty, shows in some measure the greatness of their delight when they are full of God; for contraries are known by contraries. In the first place, it is to be remembered that these caverns are not conscious of their extreme emptiness when they are not purified and cleansed from all affection for created things. In this life every trifle that enters them is enough to perplex them, to render them insensible to their loss, and unable to recognise the infinite good which is wanting, or their own capacity for it. It is assuredly a most wonderful thing how, notwithstanding their capacity for infinite good, a mere trifle perplexes them, so that they cannot become the recipients of that for which they are intended, till they are completely emptied. [III, 20]

 

And this too

 

Great, then, is the capacity of these caverns, because that which they are capable of containing is great and infinite, that is, God. Thus their capacity is in a certain sense infinite, their hunger and thirst infinite also, and their languishing and their pain, in their way, infinite. So when the soul is suffering this pain, though the pain be not so keen as in the other world, it seems to be a vivid image of that pain, because the soul is in a measure prepared to receive that which fills it, the privation of which is the greatest pain. Nevertheless the suffering belongs to another condition, for it abides in the depth of the will’s love; but in this life love does not alleviate the pain, because the greater it is the greater the soul’s impatience for the fruition of God, for which it hopes continually with intense desire. [III, 23]

Turning back to the past

Red leaves spinning down from the pin oaks lining the streets. Rust on the pelargonium,  the lavender’s subdued grey. If you stand in a sheltered spot in the sun, it is very hot but the  wind cuts through sweaters and rainjackets like ice.

Reflecting on the noise of social media, flattering, irrelevant, mildly amusing, a distraction. Noise — and turning to Marilynne Robinson. Picking up Guardini, Dom Chapman, looking further back for what is on the other side of  noise, what is still able to  convey meaning.

 

 

“Something I find regrettable in contemporary Christianity is the degree to which it has abandoned its own heritage, in thought and art and literature. It was at the center of learning in the West for centuries—because it deserved to be. Now there seems to be actual hostility on the part of many Christians to what, historically, was called Christian thought, as if the whole point were to get a few things right and then stand pat. I believe very strongly that this world, these billions of companions on earth that we know are God’s images, are to be loved, not only in their sins, but especially in all that is wonderful about them. And as God is God of the living, that means we ought to be open to the wonderful in all generations. These are my reasons for writing about Christian figures of the past. At present there is much praying on street corners. There are many loud declarations of personal piety, which my reading of the Gospels forbids me to take at face value. The media are drawn by noise, so it is difficult to get a sense of the actual state of things in American religious culture.”

Marilynne Robinson

Conversion, that ancient mystery

Found this review of Christopher Bela’s What Happened to Sophie Wilder, a Catholic novel for the 21st century:

 

Attending mass at a small Catholic church, Sophie suddenly feels — she doesn’t know how else to say it — “for a time, occupied.” Later she would agree that the “occupying force” was the Holy Spirit. At the time, though, she knows only that she has been taken over by “something outside of herself, something real, not an idea or a conceit or a metaphor.” She rebuilds her life around the moment of revelation, although it never recurs. In the language of Christian theology, she is gennathei anothen — “not ‘born again,’ exactly, but ‘born from above.’ ”

She finds a use for her religious faith when her father-in-law emerges from years of estrangement and mystery to ask for her help. Bill Crane is hospitalized after surgery, and he wants out. St. Vincent’s will only release him to the care of a family member. He wants nothing more, but Sophie learns that he is suffering from end-stage stomach cancer. Her religious instruction forbids her to abandon him. And so she moves into his squalid apartment, intending to care for him as the light goes out; perhaps even, she reflects, to save his soul. Crane is furious: he wants only to be left alone to die. As the pain spreads and deepens, he begs her to kill him. For a time, Sophie stands by Catholic law. But in the end, she relents.

What happens next is amazing.

You know the way to the place where I am going

The Fifth Sunday of the Easter Octave. Moved by the reading, praying through the familiar words and phrases again and again, ‘chewing’ them over and tasting the juicy sweetness of what is given.

 

Prayer for D who died during an asthma attack, so loved by us for many years. We should have stayed in contact, should have done more when  we knew she was unwell, but we couldn’t afford to  travel or  or help her out. And phone calls went unanswered, the muddle of human connections. She is held close in the Presence of the God  she  loved and at peace now, I pray. The little lives of struggle and  poverty so dear to God.

 

John 14:1-7

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.

That old wretchedness

The daily effort to die to self, the daily failure. Inattentive prayer, longing amidst dryness.

 

 

“Now I want you to have confidence in me and believe my word.  It is not our perfection which is to dazzle God, Who is surrounded by myriads of angels.  No, it is our misery, our wretchedness avowed which draws down His Mercy. All God’s dealings with us are a consequence of His Mercy (Mercy is God’s goodness touched by the sight of misery).  And that is why the great Saint Paul says, let others go to God leaning on the perfection of their life (as the Pharisee), “for me, I take glory in my infirmities that my strength may be Christ’s virtue.” If you could only once understand that you are never dearer to God, never glorify Him more than when in the full realization of your misery and unworthiness, you gaze at His infinite goodness and cast yourself on his bosom, believing in faith that His Mercy is infinitely greater than your misery . . . Now the triumph of his grace is when it raises up the miserable and impure . . . .”

— Bl. Columba Marmion