Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

18 May: The Absorbeat.

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Following on from my contemplation of the fiery stars I am on a roll with the theme of fire. The fire of the Holy Spirit, the fire of God’s unconditional love, the fiery power of Christ’s love for us. We can experience this fire in joy: when we are filled with awe and wonder at the beauty of the day; the sky; of nature; of laughing children; smiling people; an act of lovingkindness; through another’s humility and gentleness. Through so many things, yet they are in themselves outward forms, an exercise or practice of experiencing joy via the perception of our senses.

The joy in the prayer above is one of complete consuming attention and focus upon the love of Christ to the exclusion of all else. Immersion in Christ is like being in the fiery furnace where Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were condemned by King Nebuchadnezzar, and who were not consumed by the fire being protected and sheltered by a fourth figure. We can only guess at who this fourth figure may have been but the fire of our faith combined with the fire of Christ’s love is a mind-blowing experience. Dare we allow ourselves to be so consumed? The mystics and saints were marked with such willing natures and as a result became extraordinary examples for us to follow…….

CW.


……Grant that we may be ready
to die for love of your love,
as you died for love of our love.
Amen

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11 May: Getting in the Way

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There are times when life doesn’t go our way. We make plans, and unanticipated events unmake them. It can be as simple as a delayed train, or as devastating as sudden ill health. We are going along, with some idea at least of what shape our day might take, or what form our life might take, but then everything unravels in the face of something we didn’t expect. We are left asking, ‘Where am I? Where do I go now?’

The unexpected happening gets in the way. If it’s a pleasant surprise we’re happy to be diverted, but even then we might feel a little thrown. But when something painful, difficult or threatening crashes in, we can be shaken to the core, bewildered by the turn of events and left with no clear sense of our bearings. I remember sitting down on a London bus and looking up to see the notice by the door: ‘NO WAY OUT’…not the sort of message you hope to receive when life feels uncertain!

There is another sense in which we sense something or someone stands in our way. We have a good intention, even one we sense comes as gift of the Spirit; but we also see an obstacle and it seems formidable. Perhaps it’s about finding work that is meaningful and makes a difference but the jobs don’t seem to be there. Or perhaps we sense we have something to give but doubt that it will be valued by others. Or perhaps it is a persistent call we sense to place our daily life more deeply in God, but we can’t seem to find the time or the means to pray.

Seeing the barrier on our mental map we might not even begin the journey. Or when we walk right up to it and see its size and hear its noise we might give up the task for hopeless. But what if the pull to make the journey continues to be strong? And what if this desire seems to come not just from our self-will but from some inner place where God’s Spirit dwells? Then we might be willing to go on walking trusting that in time we will arrive. But where will this arrival point be? It might be the place we imagined or somewhere entirely different and surprising. God knows.

I recently went for a walk, having planned my route on a map showing all the footpaths, I knew where I wanted to get to. But what stood in the way was a busy dual carriageway. The map showed a footpath running up to its edge and another starting on the other side immediately opposite. There had to be an underpass or a bridge… There wasn’t…

I understood how Moses and the Egyptians must have felt when faced by the waters of the Red Sea. There are no zebra crossings on motorways…

I might have turned back, but the lure of the destination was strong, and so I trudged along the road’s noisy edge for a long mile, searching for a crossing point and finally – when almost at the point of giving up – reached a turning that took me to the other side. I wasn’t on the path I first thought of but now new possibilities for the journey opened up for me. This, rather than the route I had imagined in the beginning, was now my path.

Jesus says, ‘I am the Way’. The Way moves on from where we are, and not from some other place. We don’t know where in detail it will lead us, but it will lead us somewhere. The obstacles we perceive are not barriers to this way; in Jesus they become the Way. All that has happened to us is part of the Way. All that might happen in the future – wanted or not – will also takes its place within the Way. Our part is to pluck up our courage and take hold of our desire and walk: a Way has to be travelled.

This Way might not after all, follow the path we envisaged and may not lead to the destination we imagined. But a Way that can lead someone through the dead ends of betrayal, ridicule and death on a cross, and yet lead to unbounded risen life, is always to be trusted.

CC.

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10 May : From Fear to Love

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In love there is no room for fear, but perfect love drives out fear [1 John 4.18]

Fear is disabling. It makes us shrink from the risk of trust. It closes us off from relationship. Fear binds us in a narrow life. The work of God’s Spirit is to lead us from fear to love. But how can we co-operate with the Spirit and overcome those fears that hold us back from wideness of heart?

Name your fear

When I was a small child I was afraid of the dark. I couldn’t sleep. I imagined I could make out the shadowy outline of a gorilla in the darkest corner of the bedroom – not the best inducement to sleep! Then one night inspiration came: I named my gorilla ‘Charlie’. Somehow I wasn’t afraid of ‘Charlie’ in the same way as my looming, nameless gorilla- shaped terror. Sleep came more easily, and in time Charlie no longer seemed to be around. It helps to pin down just what it is you fear so that you can see it for what it is. For example, ‘if I try something new I will inevitably fail’. Naming your fear helps in beginning to address it: ‘I own I am afraid of this, but I don’t have to be held by this fear’.

Share your fear: Fear becomes magnified in size when we seek to hide it from others. Share your fear with someone you trust.

Look at where your actions take you

The inner voice of fear bids us be ‘safe’ but this safety is often illusory. Choosing the safe can lead us to be more trapped than ever. The pattern often repeats itself – so be aware of it. There are other responses we can make that will help us in the longer run to be happier, less constrained and more confident in our ability.

Don’t listen to discouragement:

In his advice to spiritual guides Ignatius Loyola notes how when we seek to overcome our fears and move to a greater trust in God, what is damaged and closed to the Spirit within us will ‘harass, afflict with anxieties’ and ‘put up false obstacles’. On the other hand the voice of the Spirit within is heard in ‘every interior joy that calls and attracts’ us towards wholeness, freedom and generous self-gift. Fear drives us, whilst the Love that is God invites.

One exercise that may be helpful is to divide a piece of paper into two columns. In the left column write down what the inner ‘voice’ of fear says. In the right column write down in answer what, in better moments, you have sensed God saying to you…’you are worthy, capable…there is a future for you…’

Act your way into a new way of thinking

If we wait until we feel total trust and freedom before we step out of a fearful pattern of behaviour we may wait a long time! But if we dare to step out when Love calls, ignoring the voice of fear, then trust and self-belief will grow.

Stay in the moment, for ‘now’ is where God is.

The rule is jam tomorrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today’

[The Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s: Through the Looking Glass]

Fear usually concerns what has happened in the past or what might happen in the future. All our capacity to be gratefully present to the gift of ‘now’ and to work creatively within it is stripped away. Yet ‘now’ is where God is. Even if the worst we can imagine did happen, God would be within that ‘now’. Jesus invites his worrying disciples to ‘consider the ravens…consider the lilies, how they grow’. It’s impossible to ‘consider’ what is before us if we’re somewhere in the past or future. Jesus advises: be present to what is. Spend a minute or two giving all your attention to the sounds you can hear – voices in the street, rain against the window – listen to the texture of these sounds rather than getting tangled up in what they might signify. Or, absorb yourself in what you can see – the lines on the desk in front of you, the movement of clouds in the sky. Slowly you will find your heartbeat slowing. In this breathing space, God ‘is’.

Go with the flow

The movement from fear into love is a movement of the Spirit. It is like a stream we launch our boat into and then the current takes it along. It takes effort and courage and persistence to go with this flow. But the flow is love, and this love is life.

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22 April: Easter Saturday. Beyond doubt?

Easter Saturday

Image from http://www.otherood-devos.com/2015/04/believe.html

Mark 16:9-15

‘He reproached them for their obstinacy and incredulity because they had refused to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.’

There is a strong temptation in me not to believe good news until it is proved to me beyond doubt. Perhaps, somehow, experience has taught me that it’s less of a trauma to be proved wrong by good news than to hope for good news and be let down by bad.

The challenge I take from Jesus’ reproach is this: can I praise and thank God for His goodness to me before seeing the desired outcome to my prayers? What if I don’t see the results I hoped for? If I believe God is the Lord of my whole life and is all good and directs everything for my good then I should be able to praise Him whatever happens in my life. But the temptation is always to wait and see God’s goodness proved on my terms before I will trust Him.

I feel God is currently asking me to take up the challenge of the advance ‘thank You’. Can I offer God right now the unseen outcome of all my intentions, and thank and praise Him in advance? I pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit to move me, like the eleven disciples, from a default state of disbelief towards the astonishing ‘assurance’ shown by Peter and John in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:13-21).

FMSL

 

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27 March: “Is Christianity Dead?”- Our Response to BBB: II, Look up!

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Dear BBB,

Will continues our reply to your lament.

Today I’ll start with your question: I couldn’t help but ask myself, as I looked around and saw several dozen teenage boys counting the ceiling tiles, looking as though they wanted to die…is our faith on life support?

My faith is on life support all the time. It’s called Grace. God’s breath within me. As Doug was describing yesterday, Grace cannot be defeated.

But as for the lads looking at the ceiling: I too sometimes switch off, especially from ‘cut and paste’ sermons, and compose my own thoughts. Not that that’s needed with Franciscan sermons!

I feel it’s a shame if all there is on the ceiling is tiles. Our ancestors decorated churches in more or less good taste, but there was always something to look at! I read this morning that one of the gifts the Church has given the world is colour. Maybe our ceilings should be colourful so that drifting eyes have something to look upon; the one above is from Zakopane in Poland.

Christopher M. Graney, professor of physics and astronomy  in Louisville Kentucky reminds us: It is funny how we learn about our surroundings when we start looking carefully for something.  Scientists have this experience a lot. He’s right, of course, but he would agree that Christians should look and learn about the beauty that surrounds us.

Seeing, noticing, beauty is part of Laudato Si’ – Pope Francis’s letter named after Saint Francis’s hymn of praise – bringing Creation into our prayer. Pictures are concrete prayer. Better to have something good to look at than bare ceilings and walls. We are body and soul: the body is called to worship by standing, kneeling, signing with the Cross, but also by receiving God’s gifts.

We should have something for each sense. A sermon and hymns for the ears, but please go easy on piped music when the Church is quiet; some of us like quiet. A handshake of welcome as well as the sign of peace for touch; an open and a warm building if it can possibly be afforded. Eye-to-eye contact at the welcome; the readers, Eucharistic ministers and priest looking at the people they are addressing. For taste: a genuine welcome to approach the altar, and communion under both kinds; then refreshments after Mass – we have a tradition of English mince pies and mulled wine after Midnight Mass. Maybe even some incense for the nose, but flowers make a difference too – and so does their absence in Lent.

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All this is part of the welcome. But I have been in Catholic churches where I would hesitate to bring any non-churched friend to what I know would be a less than joyful and welcoming gathering. As Catholic Christians we are not called to worship in an 18th Century Lecture theatre, and not with our minds only.

Zakopane Ceiling by MMB; flowers by Karin.

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24 February: Saint Matthias

 

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We remember the story of Judas Iscariot well enough: the betrayal, the suicide, the purchase of the Potter’s Field; but also his constant presence with the Lord, his care for the material goods of the infant church, the easy temptation to despise and condemn the extravagant gesture of Mary who anointed the feet of Jesus with expensive perfumed oil (John 12:1-8), the concern for the poor… Not a bad man, but one lacking wisdom and humility.

judasWithout him, the Church was an Apostle short. Jesus did not replace Judas – I agree with the artist at Strasbourg Cathedral who has the Lamb of God releasing Judas from his tree, an Apostle still in Jesus’ eyes – but the Apostles decided to make up the dozen again. They wanted to strengthen their group by adding an eyewitness:

with us all the time that the Lord Jesus came in and went out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, until the day wherein he was taken up from us, one of these must be made a witness with us of his resurrection. And they appointed two, Joseph, called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. Acts 1:21-23.

Matthias was chosen by lot, as the two men were equally worthy. And then we hear no more of Matthias, either in Acts or in the Epistles. Why? Well, along came Pentecost, and the Apostles scattered to tell the Good News to the whole world. Matthias is believed to have ministered around the Black Sea in Georgia and to have been martyred there.

The Church faced new challenges in those early days. First to make up numbers to maintain the structure of twelve Apostles set up by Christ, but then to abandon that structure, for most of the twelve to abandon Jerusalem, and to establish new structures in Egypt, Asia Minor, Macedonia, Italy, Georgia …

Which structures are we being called to renew, which to abandon? Which new ideas are we called to nurture? Let us pray that the Spirit, who came down on Matthias with the rest of  the Apostles and more than a hundred other women and men, will fill the hearts of us the faithful and kindle in us the fire of love and wisdom.

MMB.

Pentecost by TJH

 

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February 16: the New Creation

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The way we overcome fears is not by coldly reasoning out an alternative. It is by accepting the gift of Christ’s new heaven and new earth, given to us as love. Mary received that gift on our behalf, a vision of new stars and a new sun, the sun of righteousness and integrity. Joy is an aspect of wonder in the Christian outlook of hope, because we look forward to transforming love as a community of joy. We cherish this authentic vision of love in all the layers of our personality.

As Karl Rahner expresses it:

“An authentic vision can probably be explained as a purely spiritual touch of God, affecting the innermost centre of a man, and spreading from there to all of his faculties, his thought and imagination, which transform this touch. Hence, when a ‘vision’ reaches the consciousness of a visionary, it has already passed through the medium of his subjectivity, and therefore also bears his individual characteristics as regards language, interests, theological presuppositions and so forth.”

Does this make our distinct cultures into barriers? Not so.

“The grace of which the Church is the enduring sign is victoriously offered by God even to those who have not yet found the visible Church and who nevertheless already, without realizing it, live by its Spirit, the Holy Spirit in the love and mercy of God.” “Some who would never dream of telling themselves… that they have already received ‘the baptism of the Spirit’ of the radical freedom of love… nevertheless live in a community secretly liberated by God’s grace in the deepest core of their existence.”

ChrisD.

January 2017.

 

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18 January: Relics VIII- Some stare with bewilderment.

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Fr Daniel Weatherley, a Kentish Man, is assistant priest at Saint Thomas’ parish in Canterbury. We welcome him to our team and look forward to more posts from him. He resumes our occasional series reflecting upon relics.

The stream of pilgrims and tourists to see the place of Thomas’ martyrdom continues – becketcarvingburgateand many come into our Church to see his relics. Some stare with bewilderment as to why we should pay honour to a piece of finger-bone! But let us think just what a finger that was! The finger of a hand which was extended in peace to friend and foreigner, to kings and serfs; which held the sacred texts of psalms chanted in long hours of pray; the hand raised in admonition and correction – even unto the King; which was raised in blessing and in the absolution of sins; the hands which offered to the Eternal Father the Body and Blood of His Son, whom Thomas served with such zeal and devotion.

May those who visit us here at St. Thomas’ own parish witness the invisible yet real testimony of lives lived every more consciously and deeply-immersed in the light of God’s Word, revealed in Scripture and explained in the teaching of the Church, and wonderfully strengthened in us by the Holy Spirit and humble participation in the Sacred Mysteries. And then might the earthly realm be seen in its true context: as the willing servant of and, ultimately, reflection of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Canterbury Cathedral, Eleanor Billingsley
Carving of St Thomas at his church, MMB

 

DWY

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18 December … Like the Dew-fall.

 

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Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above,

and let the clouds rain the just:

let the earth be opened,

and bud forth a saviour.

Isaiah 45:8

One Sunday our walk to church took us across a field of crystals, each blade of grass glowing in its jewels, our path marked out by one who had gone before. I was reminded of the good bit of the new translation of the Mass, where the presiding priest asks God to ‘send down your Spirit [upon the Bread and Wine] like the dew-fall‘. Maybe the image does not work in big cities but that’s no reason to discard it.

The same verse from Isaiah is often used in Advent – ‘Heavens drop dew from above’, ‘Rorate Coeli’ and so on.

 

Scientifically, what’s interesting is that dew does not exactly drop from the heavens; it is water that is in the air all along, and appears when conditions are right. When the air is saturated with water vapour. And the dew is seen when eyes are open to it.

We do not need a thunderstorm to impart the Spirit. (1Kings 19:12) The Spirit is already  within us through baptism – water again! We can let ourselves be saturated, with grace, with mercy, at least sometimes. After all, it is for us to prepare the way of the Lord by letting the Spirit be visible in our lives. If one person sees the spirit of love in me today the Holy Spirit will be able to touch them, and change them a little. And maybe change me a little.

Amen to that.

MMB

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November 27: Jacopone da Todi 1. A Poetic Challenge.

 

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This Wakefield scene shows us a provocative contrast between two ways of imagining the inner life of any person’s soul. Sometimes we feel churned up, or even seething. At other times, a lovely calm clarity runs through our inner world, and reveals our potential for containing tranquillity. On this footing we can show others how the world might appear in that condition.

Perhaps we more often have an opportunity to move from the turbulent to the calm than we realise. Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi regarded our awareness of these formative moments as the key to a faith-based personality.

“We were a mighty host, encamped on the heights,

But the waters of the flood have risen and covered us,

And taken from us the power to pray,

Which alone could keep us afloat and heal our wounds.”  (Laud 30).

 

The power to pray consists to a remarkable degree in the ability to welcome calm into our lives, to become attuned to the Spirit who provides calm, and to begin to acknowledge those areas of wounded memory within us where healing is needed.

Jacopone had a troubled life, beginning with the sudden death of his young wife in an accident. But God was speaking to others very often through his poetry, bringing hope and sincerity where before there had often been only pomposity, cravings for luxury, and abuses of power. We could try to nurture the moments of poetic calm in the course of a week, to let healing begin.

 

Chris D.

October 2016.

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