Wednesday, April 29, 2009

His fruit is sweet to my mouth

Warning: here goes my mind again...

I heard part of a Christopher West talk on the Theology of the Body over the weekend, and once again my mind traveled to interesting places. He echoed one of my favorite topics of contemplation, saying that all of the sacraments reflect the essential reality of Christianity as a marital covenant between us (the bride) and God (the bridegroom). He spoke of how we are to understand the Song of Songs, and touched on communion as consummation.

My mental meanderings connected to thoughts I'd had at mass that morning, about how the placing of His body upon my tongue seems too rushed, too formulaic, too much of one-more-person-in-an-assembly-line. I thought of how lovely it would be to linger with His hand approaching, then resting against my mouth; His body approaching His bride...

I believe in the wisdom of a celibate priesthood for many reasons, but began to wonder what it would be like to be married to a priest.

What would it be like if your husband celebrated the mass with you alone, standing in persona Christi before you, delivering Himself to His bride first through the precious species, and then through his/His body itself?

What would it be like to consummate both weddings in the Eucharistic celebration, the three of you whispering the closing prayers together at the end?

We will not desire candy in heaven.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

At Jacob's Well

This is the most beautiful thing I've read in a very long time. Needless to say, it comforts me.

At Jacob's Well

Here's what I want to know about the woman
carrying her water-jar to Jacob's well
outside the town of Sychar, in Samaria:
what charms, what freshness bubbled up
from which corner of her heart, and made her the oasis
that she was? Five husbands and a lover
come one by one to slake their thirst in her,
and still some water-truce holds in Sychar, protects
this frank green spring from all polluting shame;
and now another thirsty man, this foreigner,
sits asking, and again her charms bubble up
like the water, like her questions. Could that be
what enchants them all, her way of asking
straight to the heart of things? And did she know,
before he spoke, how long her heart had thirsted
to be answered the same way? Hear the dance
of their talk, these strangers, as they sit together
on the path to Jacob's well, speak in circles
around the deep water: thirst and drinking,
husbands and lovers, mountain and temple,
Spirit and truth--askings and answers
bowing in, leaning back, swayed and spun
to the beat of two hidden drums. Here's what
I wonder about the woman, dancing back now
to the village, her water-jar left behind
for him to drink from: did she notice
what the disciples half-saw, how deep he had drunk
from their talk, from their dance? See the gleam
in his dark eyes, like sunlight sparking deep
on well-water; see his toes tap inside dusty sandals
in time to the dancer's steps; now see him rise
and laugh, shake his head, rinsed by her charms,
sated by her questions, enchanted by her thirsty
generous heart, a vessel after his own heart,
a dancer who matches his own steps in the dance
of ask and answer, of Spirit courting soul.

--Elizabeth A. Nelson

Peace among the thorns

Just saw the following as a closing salutation in a mysticism discussion group:

"Peace among the thorns."

I think I might have to start using that.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Eros in all his splendour

From The Four Loves (Ch 4):

It is in the grandeur of Eros that the seeds of danger are concealed. He has spoken like a god. His total commitment, his reckless disregard of happiness, his transcendence of self-regard, sound like a message from the eternal world. And yet it cannot, just as it stands, be the voice of God Himself. For Eros, speaking with that very grandeur and displaying that very transcendence of self, may urge to evil as well as to good. Nothing is shallower than the belief that a love which leads to sin is always qualitatively lower more animal or more trivial than one which leads to faithful, fruitful and Christian marriage. The love which leads to cruel and perjured unions, even to suicide-pacts and murder, is not likely to be wandering lust or idle sentiment. It may well be Eros in all his splendour; heart-breakingly sincere; ready for every sacrifice except renunciation.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Teach thy tongue

Teach thy tongue to say "I do not know," and thou shalt progress.

-- Maimonides

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wild and undisciplined Christianity

Recently my BP described the church universal as being like "...an English country garden - wild and undisciplined but beautiful and blessed to the eyes of our sovereign Lord".

Lovely, no?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Effervescing into twilight

I lay on the border of dreams
desire
like wind keening
through empty spaces
heart beating
to the rhythm of your name
while
you-shaped emptiness
expands to consume me
effervescing
into sparkling twilight.
Now
I am awake
and hungry for you still.

--Chantelle Franc

Sunday, April 19, 2009

If only the rest of the clergy understood it as well

This is what my BP (beloved priest) does, and encourages us to do.

From chapter 4 of Lilith:

'The sun broke through the clouds, and the raindrops flashed and sparkled on the grass. The raven was walking over it.

"You will wet your feet!" I cried.

"And mire my beak," he answered, immediately plunging it deep in the sod, and drawing out a great wriggling red worm. He threw back his head, and tossed it in the air. It spread great wings, gorgeous in red and black, and soared aloft.

"Tut! tut!" I exclaimed; "you mistake, Mr. Raven: worms are not the larvæ of butterflies!"

"Never mind," he croaked; "it will do for once! I'm not a reading man at present, but sexton at the--at a certain graveyard--cemetery, more properly--in--at--no matter where!"

"I see! you can't keep your spade still: and when you have nothing to bury, you must dig something up! Only you should mind what it is before you make it fly! No creature should be allowed to forget what and where it came from!"

"Why?" said the raven.

"Because it will grow proud, and cease to recognise its superiors."

No man knows it when he is making an idiot of himself.

"Where do the worms come from?" said the raven, as if suddenly grown curious to know.

"Why, from the earth, as you have just seen!" I answered.

"Yes, last!" he replied. "But they can't have come from it first-- for that will never go back to it!" he added, looking up.

I looked up also, but could see nothing save a little dark cloud, the edges of which were red, as if with the light of the sunset.

"Surely the sun is not going down!" I exclaimed, struck with amazement.

"Oh, no!" returned the raven. "That red belongs to the worm."

"You see what comes of making creatures forget their origin!" I cried with some warmth.

"It is well, surely, if it be to rise higher and grow larger!" he returned. "But indeed I only teach them to find it!"

"Would you have the air full of worms?"

"That is the business of a sexton. If only the rest of the clergy understood it as well!"

In went his beak again through the soft turf, and out came the wriggling worm. He tossed it in the air, and away it flew.'

Saturday, April 18, 2009

On a multitudinously complicated significance

I came across a passage Thursday night which does a decent job of conveying the difficulty I have describing what God whispers to me.

From chapter 9 of George MacDonald's Lilith:

"Here I interrupt my narrative to remark that it involves a constant struggle to say what cannot be said with even an approach to precision, the things recorded being, in their nature and in that of the creatures concerned in them, so inexpressibly different from any possible events of this economy, that I can present them only by giving, in the forms and language of life in this world, the modes in which they affected me--not the things themselves, but the feelings they woke in me. Even this much, however, I do with a continuous and abiding sense of failure, finding it impossible to present more than one phase of a multitudinously complicated significance, or one concentric sphere of a graduated embodiment. A single thing would sometimes seem to be and mean many things, with an uncertain identity at the heart of them, which kept constantly altering their look. I am indeed often driven to set down what I know to be but a clumsy and doubtful representation of the mere feeling aimed at, none of the communicating media of this world being fit to convey it, in its peculiar strangeness, with even an approach to clearness or certainty. Even to one who knew the region better than myself, I should have no assurance of transmitting the reality of my experience in it. While without a doubt, for instance, that I was actually regarding a scene of activity, I might be, at the same moment, in my consciousness aware that I was perusing a metaphysical argument."

Spring

Spring hopes eternal.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Blossoming of desire

In prayer this morning I pondered what happens to our desires when we leave this world; desires which are often tarnished with a verdigris of sin.

My first thought was that they would burn away like dross as our metal is purified.

But that is too simple and too dismissive of beauty.

Then I wondered if these desires might get consumed by the burning fire of love for our God, that the beatific vision would enrapture them into it's raging core of flame. And rather than simply being burned away, they would feed the fire that is Him, and grow it.

Better, this explanation, but still a bit shallow.

I finally concluded that the desires of this world which we carry must blossom and bloom after death. Instead of being removed or subsumed, they expand and grow until our whole being burns with love and desire and passion for all of creation, rather than for little pieces of it.

Just as His being does.

I can't wait to find out the truth.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The three become one

I recently sat in a small group celebrating the morning office, and listened to our voices united in praying the Lord's prayer.

My mind wandered where it wanders, and I wondered what it might be like to recite the prayer responsively while in the preliminary steps of lovemaking.

What would it be like to turn lovemaking into worship?

Would the three become one?

(Did I mention that I sometimes wonder about my mind?)

This saying is hard; who can accept it?

The other day I had a thought which feels both intensely right and disturbingly wrong.

It came while pondering the scourging scene from Mel Gibson's The passion of the Christ. Christ's mother and Mary the Magdalene used white cloths to try and collect His precious blood which was spilled and splattered over the stone pavement around the whipping post. In addition to the blood, you could see scraps of flesh which had been ripped from his body by the barbs of the scourge.

As I meditated on this scene, I thought about the spot becoming forever holy through such an outpouring.

Here is the disturbing part:

I desired to eat those torn pieces of His body, and even lick up the blood which the women must have had to leave behind.

I recognize how grotesque this sounds, and yet I still desire it, and think that it is the only right and reverent thing to do.

Sometimes I wonder about my mind...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Magnetic North

My heart is a compass needle
and you are north.

--Chantelle Franc

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009

Foot washing 2009

What a Holy Week it was! Each year is differently profound.

In mid-March I pondered whether Mary's gift of foot washing and anointing may have been inspirational to Jesus later service to his disciples. My experience last Thursday confirmed it.

As usual in this service, I knelt and wept as people went forward to have one of our deacons or seminarians wash their feet. A lovely man who I'd not yet met turned around twice to ask if I was all right, apparently unused to the sounds of sobs in church. The bent backs and bowed heads of these servants of Christ were heart rending.

I wondered who God had in mind for me, and eventually went up to one who washed us for the first time this year. I sat before him, the sobs rising in intensity as he lifted my foot.

And I still can't believe what he did.

I've participated in these services for 5 or 6 years and each time the men have been unfailingly reverent and tender, clearly acting in the person of Christ. Each one kept his face turned down so that we can better imagine He who first washed us.

I think that the Holy Spirit whispered to this man for me.

He took my naked, humble foot, no thing of beauty, and lavished it with love the same way I imagine Mary caressing Christ. It was an act of profound intimacy which I cannot possibly describe.

I was undone.

I am trying to figure out how to thank him for his obedience to the Spirit's prompting to give me this gift.

The generosity of our Lord...

George MacDonald on the Passions

From Phantastes:

"The hot fever of life had gone by, and I breathed the clear mountain-air of the land of Death. I had never dreamed of such blessedness. It was not that I had in any way ceased to be what I had been. The very fact that anything can die, implies the existence of something that cannot die; which must either take to itself another form, as when the seed that is sown dies, and arises again; or, in conscious existence, may, perhaps, continue to lead a purely spiritual life. If my passions were dead, the souls of the passions, those essential mysteries of the spirit which had imbodied themselves in the passions, and had given to them all their glory and wonderment, yet lived, yet glowed, with a pure, undying fire. They rose above their vanishing earthly garments, and disclosed themselves angels of light."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

George MacDonald on Dying of Desire (II)

From Phantastes:

"He could not come near her, could not speak to her, could not hear a sound from those sweet lips, to which his longing eyes would cling like bees to their honey-founts. Ever and anon he sang to himself: "I shall die for love of the maiden;" and ever he looked again, and died not, though his heart seemed ready to break with intensity of life and longing. And the more he did for her, the more he loved her; and he hoped that, although she never appeared to see him, yet she was pleased to think that one unknown would give his life to her. He tried to comfort himself over his separation from her, by thinking that perhaps some day she would see him and make signs to him, and that would satisfy him; "for," thought he, "is not this all that a loving soul can do to enter into communion with another? Nay, how many who love never come nearer than to behold each other as in a mirror; seem to know and yet never know the inward life; never enter the other soul; and part at last, with but the vaguest notion of the universe on the borders of which they have been hovering for years?"

Friday, April 10, 2009

Wormicide

It was raining the other day, and as I left work and walked across the vast parking lot I watched a worm squirm his way through a puddle. The sight of this gets me every time, and I bent to try to rescue him. He was slippery and annoyed by my "help", energetically resisting my efforts. I eventually did grab him, hoping I didn't hurt him in the process, and walked him over to a landscaped area which offered some dirt.

I felt both virtuous and victorious.

For roughly 13 seconds.

Then I saw another worm, this time already dead.

Then another.

Then another.

And a sense of futility rolled over me; the parking lot was too big. I was surrounded by other parking lots. The city was full of parking lots and driveways and other surfaces all covered with suicidal worms awaiting destruction.

I couldn't possibly save them.

That's when the anger hit; what the heck is wrong with worms that they end up drowning on asphalt?

Where do they all come from?

Why do I feel guilty about them?

And then, as if in a Hallmark card commercial, silent violins began to play and I thought of birds.

Birds were the answer; every rainstorm is a gift to the birds.

And I felt better.

Easter is coming. Alleluia.

George MacDonald on Dying of Desire

From Phantastes:

"She was found, the next morning, dead beneath a withered tree on a bare hill-side, some miles inland. They buried her where she lay, as is their custom; for, before they die, they instinctively search for a spot like the place of their birth, and having found one that satisfies them, they lie down, fold their wings around them, if they be women, or cross their arms over their breasts, if they are men, just as if they were going to sleep; and so sleep indeed. The sign or cause of coming death is an indescribable longing for something, they know not what, which seizes them, and drives them into solitude, consuming them within, till the body fails. When a youth and a maiden look too deep into each other's eyes, this longing seizes and possesses them; but instead of drawing nearer to each other, they wander away, each alone, into solitary places, and die of their desire."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Foot washing revisited

Here's an article I wrote a few years ago on what is for me one of the most heart-wrenching services. Should have thought to reference it earlier in the day...

Instilling Humility: Maundy Thursday Foot Washing

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

SquirrelTree

If not a dog named me
perhaps I can be
a creature near your window
perched in a tree
pretending not to notice
when you watch
and hoping you will join me
in the warmth of my nest.

--Chantelle Franc

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Imaginatio divina

At my beloved priest's invitation, for a few weeks I have been practicing what I am calling imagiplation or imaginatio divina; the use of the imagination for experiencing God.

It has been an amazing adventure, one which I need to document in greater detail in future. For now I'll limit myself to telling you about His gift to me this morning.

I approach Him in a particular setting which He created for me, and I climb into His lap. Normally I cuddle in like a child. This morning however, I turned my face up to Him as a woman, not a child. He bent His head to meet me and we kissed a kiss of lovers at rest. And as we kissed, He began to blow His breath into me.

I entered His presence heavy of heart and mind. I left at peace and in wonder.

He is so very generous...

Monday, April 6, 2009

George MacDonald on Reflections

From Phantastes:

"Why are all reflections lovelier than what we call the reality? — not so grand or so strong, it may be, but always lovelier? ... All mirrors are magic mirrors. The commonest room is a room in a poem when I turn to the glass. ... In whatever way it may be accounted for, of one thing we may be sure, that this feeling is no cheat; for there is no cheating in nature and the simple unsought feelings of the soul. There must be a truth involved in it, though we may but in part lay hold of the meaning. Even the memories of past pain are beautiful; and past delights, though beheld only through clefts in the grey clouds of sorrow, are lovely as Fairy Land. But how have I wandered into the deeper fairyland of the soul, while as yet I only float towards the fairy palace of Fairy Land! The moon, which is the lovelier memory or reflex of the down-gone sun, the joyous day seen in the faint mirror of the brooding night, had rapt me away."

Sunday, April 5, 2009

St. Ambrose on Psalms

What is more pleasing than a psalm? A psalm is a blessing on the lips of the people, praise of God, the assembly's homage, a general acclamation, a word that speaks for all, the voice of the Church, a confession of faith in song.

-- Ambrose

Friday, April 3, 2009

Rehearsing goodby

I rehearse your goodbye
in my dreams
the one that moves you away
to lands unknown
and sporadic hollowness
becomes forever.

George MacDonald on Truth, Joy and Sorrow

From Phantastes:

"From this I was partly aroused by a glimmering of white, that, through the trees on the left, vaguely crossed my vision, as I gazed upwards. But the trees again hid the object; and at the moment, some strange melodious bird took up its song, and sang, not an ordinary bird-song, with constant repetitions of the same melody, but what sounded like a continuous strain, in which one thought was expressed, deepening in intensity as evolved in progress. It sounded like a welcome already overshadowed with the coming farewell. As in all sweetest music, a tinge of sadness was in every note. Nor do we know how much of the pleasures even of life we owe to the intermingled sorrows. Joy cannot unfold the deepest truths, although deepest truth must be deepest joy. Cometh white-robed Sorrow, stooping and wan, and flingeth wide the doors she may not enter. Almost we linger with Sorrow for very love."

Thursday, April 2, 2009

George MacDonald on Self-destructive beauty

This one reminds me of an old me.

From Phantastes by George MacDonald:

"...I am sure she would not look so beautiful if she did not take means to make herself look more beautiful than she is. And then, you know, you began by being in love with her before you saw her beauty, mistaking her for the lady of the marble--another kind altogether, I should think. But the chief thing that makes her beautiful is this: that, although she loves no man, she loves the love of any man, and when she finds one in her power, her desire to bewitch him and gain his love (not for the sake of his love either, but that she may be conscious anew of her own beauty, through the admiration he manifests), makes her very lovely--with a self-destructive beauty, though; for it is that which is constantly wearing her away within, till, at last, the decay will reach her face, and her whole front, when all the lovely mask of nothing will fall to pieces, and she be vanished for ever."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Dazzling truth

The truth dazzles gradually, or else the world would be blind.

-- Emily Dickinson