THERE IS perhaps no more haunting version of the Beatitudes put to music than Albinoni’s!Whenever I listen to it, as I am now in a powerful rendition by the Choir of New College Oxford, my soul is transported into the depths of the mystery of the Church and the constant yearning of the whole human family to rest in the eternal embrace of the Father.
This night as I walked about the neighbourhood praying the rosary I was struck by that yearning in the hearts of all the workers, felt deep in my being this paradox of being a worker wherein throughout the day the worker finds his being steeped in a type of anger.
He must work to eat and eat to work.
Work should be his daily experience of participating in the creative work of the Father, however work is, in our modern economies, too often a dehumanizing of the workers very person and dignity as man, as woman.
The explosion over the past few days of great strings of Christmas lights on the little houses, nestled between the two main rail lines which sever this area from the ‘better’ homes, could be seen as the great cry of Les Miserables, which echoes in my heart as a great hymn, worthy of Albinoni’s , of confident trust the Father has not forgotten them.
Once more I draw from the original notes, these from the time when doctor’s suspected I had a brain tumour:
ONLY SMALL sections of the river in the base of the valley, which I can see from my window, remain iced over.
The rolling hills, on the far side of the river, are various shades of brown, black. Here and there a slight hint of pale green, where poplars, always the first, begin to bud.
The only snow still visible are the remaining bits of five foot drifts left by what may have been the last storm of the fading winter.
The drifts cling to great rocks in the sheep field just below this house. [Lk. 24:5]
It is Resurrection day!
CHRIST IS RISEN!
I was looking at a black and white photo the other day in a coffee table book about Russia.
In it, a photo of a stone idol from that odd definition of a period which we write about as ‘pre-historic’, as if there were ever a moment in creation devoid of history!
What shocked me about the stone idol was how familiar it looked.
Then I remembered a period in my life, when I lived in an urban commune.
I was given a stone idol.
It was a stone head, over fifty pounds in weight.
The features: exactly as shown in the Russian photograph.
I kept that idol with me for several years.
Even when I moved, which I often did in those days, I’d take it with me, though it was usually the last thing I would ‘pack’.
This because somewhere deep inside of me was a reluctance to have it with me.
Now I can state without hesitation that thing deeply disturbed me, but it was as if it had a hold on me.
Then, too, those were the days when I was seeking the dead among the dead.
Just a few days ago my spiritual father and I were talking about my first years as a member of The Community and he revealed to me that at the time the Foundress did not believe it was my vocation.
Certainly, in retrospect, that is something for that period I would agree with, though at the time no one told me and I was too terrified of the alternative to face reality myself.
Nonetheless as mysterious as the workings of what Augustine calls the grace to have grace, I needed the community in those years and in their patient kindness they welcomed me as one of themselves.
It is the mystery: of that in some ways missed opportunities, yet total gift, I now wish to meditatively write about.
When I first joined The Community, in terms of the longevity of communities like the Benedictines or Coptic monasteries in Egypt, it was a newborn.
Even though I am once again part of this apostolic family in the heart of the Church it is not my place to reveal too much because, as with any family, it is to the parents, in our case the elders, to reveal.
Suffice to say in the early days there was the joy of a being part of something very new and exciting in the life of the Church, a degree of growing pains which was a time of trial and error, such as the almost casual ease with which one could become a member, contrasted today with a much more mature process of communal discernment and detailed formation which makes for members of a deep maturity in their charity and powerhouses of intercessory prayer for the Church and the world.
I mention only the above since there is a connection between that period in the life of the community and my own inability to reach out for the help I truly needed.
It is mentioned not as blame but as a simple fact of the mystery of my own life pilgrimage, a pilgrimage which was blessed then, as it is now, by each and every member of, and moment with, The Community.
It is perhaps pertinent here to recall once more the point of this book is not to focus per se on the story of one soul led by the Holy Spirit, through belonging to Christ, on a journey of unending mercy towards the Father in the awesome vocation of being PRIEST.
The point of this book is where sin abounds: grace abounds all the more, for each soul.
For your soul in the very moment you read this.
ALL is from the merciful hands of our Risen Lord.
ANYTHING not from His merciful hands is NOT for our good.
Only that which, and all that which, comes from Him is for our good, is good.
EDITING your own work is perhaps as wise as being your own lawyer!
However it is good to have these old notes to stimulate the reflections which are still within the depths of my heart about those early years, understood now as a great oasis of grace in the midst of the desert of sin which constantly gave birth to sandstorms of despair across the regions of my heart.
The headaches have returned, as the doctors said they would. The test results show no tumour or cancer. Rather the doctors have concluded the cause of my troubles is arthritic damage, including some nerve damage and additional havoc caused by the heatstroke and a common virus which has attacked the fluid in the ear which controls balance.
In a word, chronic stuff but no chance of getting to heaven anytime soon!
Yesterday I walked back from the chapel with one of the women members. She told me a great story about working with the grand-daughter of one of the local men. A man I should note who was a great presence in my life when I was first here and from whom I learnt lessons still lived to this day.
The woman told me how one evening she had invited this teenage grand-daughter to come to Mass and after Mass the girl had asked: “Do you know what men look like when they are in love?”
The woman told me she figured this teenager had a crush on the men of the community so she admitted hesitating but did say: “Well, yes!”
The girl’s reply was unexpected: “Oh, did you see all those men in church? They have THAT look….and….they’re all in love with God!”
The communion of love!
There are various things which can block or at least delay true and total spiritual conversion, emotional maturation….though one can be a saint and not necessarily have it all together…just look at the classic Urodivoi, the fools for Christ!
Much of the frustration and discouragement we experience when we seek God, begins when our first misstep is to seek virtually any who or why, to justify or affirm our own existence….the seeking of Him where He is not even while He has already found us!
The frustration and discouragement come from our impatient expression of our need to be named, that is to hear someone call us by name in a voice which affirms our very being.
It is to surrender to an idol, to the evil one, through the sin of asking, seeking, that voice from the mouths, the lives, of other seekers. In this is found the common cause of so much sexual disorder.
Ultimately it is a disorder of the heart where, rather than communion of love, we have devouring desperation.
One of the early graces of my time with the community, a grace later rejected and yet which remained buried in my heart until one day after my ordination it exploded in my being as I elevated the chalice, was coming understand Who knows our real name [Is.49:1]!
Keeping that ever since before my heart prevents me from easily seeking from anyone, anything else affirmation of my being.