Yesterday, Tim; today his mother, Sheila, brings a poet’s eye to the face mask and what it might teach us, now and when we can discard them (and please, not on the street!) Thank you again, Sheila for your artist’s wisdom.
Will we remember that we're beautiful?
When, masks discarded, hands once more held out,
Will we remember - beauty born - oh! Beauty born,
Made by Beauty to be beautiful.
Will we recall when the wrinkles show once more, how smiles light up that beauty,
When mouths now visible
May kiss and speak in beauty?
In tenderness, you made it so, in praise, in song?
Will we have forgotten the gentleness of touch?
The scent of the winter's buried spring,
Still masked, but waiting.
But since the desire of holy men, when God delays to hear, doth kindle in them greater love and merit, Christ, the blessed One, departed without hearing him, and without him speaking to him aught at all, and he went by the little pathway aforesaid. Then Brother John arose, and ran after Him, and once again threw himself at His feet, and with holy importunity held Him back, and with most devout tears besought Him, and said: “O most sweet Jesu Christ, have mercy upon me in my trouble; hear me for the multitude of Thy mercies, and for the truth of Thy salvation, and give back to me the joy of Thy countenance and Thy glance of pity, for the whole world is full of Thy mercy. And still Christ departed and spake naught unto him, nor gave him any comfort; and He dealt with him even as a mother with her child, when she makes him desire the breast and makes him run behind weeping, to the end that he may thereafter receive it the more willingly. Brother John still followed Christ with greater fervour and desire; and when he was come close up to Him, the blessed Christ turned and looked upon him with a glad countenance and gracious; and opening His most holy and most pitying arms, embraced him very tenderly; and as He opened thus His arms, Brother John saw streaming from the most sacred breast of the Saviour rays of shining light, which illumined all the wood and him likewise, both in body and soul. Then Brother John kneeled him down at the feet of Christ, and the blessed Christ of His loving kindness gave him His foot to kiss, as He did to the Magdalene; and Brother John holding it and with all reverence, bathed it with so many tears that he seemed a second Magdalene, saying devoutly:
‘I pray Thee, Lord, that Thou look not on my sins, but by Thy most holy passion and by the shedding of Thy most holy blood, revive my soul in the grace of Thy love, sith this is Thy commandment, that we love Thee with all our heart and with all our soul, the which commandment none can keep without Thy help. Help me then, most beloved Son of God, that I may love Thee with all my heart and with all my strength.”
This is a prayer any Christian could make their own; we do not ask to see the distant scene, let alone be assumed into it.
I heard humanity, through all the years,
Wailing, and beating on a dark, vast door
With urgent hands and eyes blinded by tears.
Will none come forth to them for evermore?
Like children at their father’s door, who wait,
Crying ‘Let us in!’ on some bright birthday morn,
Quite sure of joy, they grow disconsolate,
Left in the cold unanswered and forlorn.
Forgetting even their toys in their alarms,
They only long to climb on father’s bed
And cry their terrors out in father’s arms.
And maybe, all the while, their father’s dead.
Here we see that Mary Webb felt the despair that drew the student artist we mentioned yesterday to take her own life. Mary Webb was very close to her father and devastated by his death. Of course there is more than that event here. One reason the Father’s door seems closed to some of God’s children may be that we Christians are not active enough in keeping it open and welcoming.
Time to remember the Doors of Mercy around the world: this one was in Krakow, with the light of the candles welcoming us in. Let us have a light in our smile. ready for anyone who comes our way. Our smile is the Father’s smile, a joyful but tremendous responsibility.
A few days after our return from Wales, we met a friend after Mass. He described how he comes to Church most days: I pray and rest, pray and rest, pray and rest.
No need to cross two Kingdoms to do that! But he follows the advice we were given yesterday:
Let’s be still, our silence marked by the waves, the birds, the feet walking by. And not worry about ‘distractions’!
And here’s support for our friend’s prayer and rest policy from Pope Francis. The i news paper (2/11/17) reports him as saying prayer should make Christians feel like going to sleep in their father’s arms. He even admits to going to sleep when praying, as St Therese did.
Sister Johanna sees more sunrises than most of us. If I got up as early as she does, with a ladder and some glasses I could see to Minster marshes – if it wasn’t for the houses in between. Let’s enjoy her sharing the blessings of sunrise. An appropriate image to ponder when we have the feast of Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth tomorrow, a truly ‘warm sunrise of empathy’ and a neat challenge to Darwin.
Altar Cross, St Mary Magdalene, Davington, Kent. MMB
I wrote in the first blog in this series (December 13th, 2015) that we might need a stimulus from outside to grow our childish faith to adulthood as our bodies and minds mature. Therese showed us that. (December 30th, 2015) But we have to be open to growth for it to happen properly. Normally teenagers grow physically into adults without having to think about it, though some will diet to control or arrest the process. Great distress may be caused to themselves and others.
It can be all too easy to feel uncomfortable in one’s own skin if it is spotty or showing ribs or else not showing ribs. Growing in faith can be subject to similar pressures and embarrassments.
But as Pope Francis said on January 8th:
When we have something in our hearts and we want to ask the Lord forgiveness, it is he who awaits us to give forgiveness. This Year of Mercy is also a bit like this: We know that the Lord is waiting for us, each one of us. Why? To embrace us; nothing more. To tell us: ‘Son, daughter, I love you. I let my son be crucified for you; this is the price of my love.’ This is the gift of love.
God will do the same that he did with the prodigal son who spent all his money on vices: He will not let you finish your speech, he will silence you with a hug. The embrace of the love of God.
May we learn to accept and return that embrace from whomsoever God uses to show us his love. And may we be ready for the next person who needs the embrace of a real hug or else a cup of tea or even a smile.