Tag Archives: Jacopone da Todi

December 3, Jacopone da Todi 7: A Host of Pardons

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Jacopone’s exhilarating phrases about his great attraction to the tremendous graciousness of God are tied in with other, simpler phrases about how humbly he waits to experience the bubbling spring of God’s forgiveness. This alone can free him from punishment he has had to undergo, for being so outspoken on behalf of Christ.

“Almost paralysed, I lie at the pool near Solomon’s Portico;

The waters have been moved with a host of pardons.,

And now the season has drawn to a close. When shall I be told

That I should rise, take my bed and go home?”                  (Laud/Letter 52)

(John 5:10)

“Why did you leave the golden throne resplendent with gems,

Why did you put aside the dazzling crown?…

Were these the actions of someone drunk, or out of his senses?

I know that all knowledge and power were yours

Even when still a child; how could so much be contained

In such a tiny frame, made of common clay?

What can a creature offer you, O Highest Goodness,

In exchange for your gift of yourself?

Your love, I think, brought you no gain.

Does gold need tin for its splendour to be seen?

For love of man you seem to have gone mad!

Myself and all my riches,

The treasure I brought with me when I exchanged

The glorious life of heaven for a cruel death.”                     (Laud  65)

 

This quietly bubbling fountain in a slab of stone is inside the Portiuncula Hermitage retreat centre at Clay Cross, Derbyshire. It is run by the Minoress Franciscan Sisters. Follow the link to learn more.

 

Chris D.

October 2016.

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December 2, Jacopone da Todi 6: The Life of Jesus is the Mirror of the Soul

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Acquiring a few virtues that might make us better friends to the wandering crowds seems to many a very drawn-out process. But Jesus stays close to our half-hearted attempts. It is he who makes us capable of a thankful life caught up within the immensity of God’s goodness.

“To see my deformities in the mirror of truth,

The life of Jesus Christ,

To see them, Lord,

In that blinding light!

Once I looked upon myself as a person of some importance

And my self-esteem helped to brighten my days.

I saw my charity – Love half-spoiled;

One look and my world dissolved

In dizzying, turbulent confusion.

In that mirror I saw my notion of justice –

A denial of true virtue, robbing God of his honour.

Though outwardly orderly and composed,

The heart, ever bolder, coveted all;

Its flood waters had submerged reason,

The reason it was meant to serve.

In your light, O Lord, I have seen my nothingness,

My less than nothingness. The vision compels humility.

….I cannot be reborn unless I first die to myself.

O glorious state, in the quiet centre of the void,

The intellect and emotions at rest!

I cannot swim in that ocean of fathomless depths,

I will sink beneath the waves, a man drowned.

Overwhelmed by… my sweet Lord,

I settle into the sands at the bottom of the sea.”              (Laud 39)

 

 

Gratitude for recognising Christ as Lord within the vastness of God is the fullest art of celebration.

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1 December, Jacopone da Todi 5. Eternity lies within You.

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There are obstacles within us to a more loving range of encounters. The frequent longings felt in our five senses to own this, do that impressive feat, travel to some famous sight or other, are all capable of misleading us. We forget the peace so greatly needed in our hearts. We place other goals and satisfactions in its place. Jacopone, in his poem, The Five Senses, reminds himself of the flat and tasteless reality of a world in which only physical experience is taken seriously.

“Each of the five senses argues heatedly

That his is the most short-lived joy,

That his delights fade fastest away.

The first to speak is Hearing.

‘The contest is over,’ he announces.

‘The sound I just heard is no more –

It touched the ear and vanished.

You can’t deny that.’

‘Hold on,’ argues Sight, ‘I am the winner.

When I closed my eyes just now

I blotted out all shapes and colours.

How short-lived the vision!

Can there be any doubt who has won this contest?’

…. Consider the risks of the game carefully:

For the one move you’re intent on making,

You appear willing to give up your soul.

My soul, eternity lies in you,

And eternal are the joys you seek.

The senses and their delights do not last.

Climb up to God: in happiness that knows no end,

In infinite joy, He will give you fulfilment.”

 

Our inner flowing mirror of light and wonder has its strength through the companionship of prayer. Even if our practice of prayer is a ruin.

 

Chris D.

October 2016.

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November 28: Jacopone da Todi 2. Attending to Faces in a Dark Mirror

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When we aim to understand ourselves in a deeper way, and spend time focussing inwards, the dark impressions which we recover at first are not reassuring. We may experience our soul’s troubled waters as a shadowy pool. What light we find there feels moody, insubstantial and even riddled with foreboding.

When St. Paul said ‘we see as through a glass darkly’, (1 Corinthians 13:12) it was surely the kind of seeing we attempt to enjoy as the character and creative traits of others. But at first we are not skilled in reading these correctly. We meet the mistrust and suspicion of others, or display to them more of our own suspicion than we would have wished them to notice. Jacopone tackles this clash well.

“Draw yourself up to your full stature

And thunder me a sermon for the mote in my eye.

You scorn me, oblivious of the beam in your own.

Tend your own wounds, so wide and deep they cannot heal.

 

“Students of Scripture, you want to preach,

And point out the darkness in my life, ignoring yours;

You make a show of your exterior, and have little love

For anyone who would search your heart instead.”

We sometimes wonder, when we lock horns, who will back down first? But as Christians we each have reserves of humility in our shady, glassy inner pool. We have to trust these and plunge into them as we would plunge into God, for the sake of a genuine friendship.

 

Chris D.

October 2016.

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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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