I was wondering why I had heard nothing from Eddie Gilmore for a while. Well, he has been to Korea with Yim Soon, to mark their thirty years of marriage. Congratulations!
Eddie posted this account of his holiday, which got off to an inauspicious start in and around various European airports, but turned into a great treat for the soul. Let’s rejoice with Eddie and Yim Soon, and before the memories fade, be grateful for the blessings of the summer that has now brought us to autumn, a time of reflection and new beginnings. At L’Arche Kent we’ll be planting bulbs for a start!
Here’s an extract from Eddie’s story:
Having left home on the Friday I finally landed in Seoul on the Monday. It was hot and humid, the monsoon season had just begun, and I was exhausted: hungry too, since you don’t get fed on planes the way you used to. After a couple of nights with Yim Soon’s eldest sister Son Ja, whose apartment was mercifully close to a mini-mountain with wonderful views over the city, we were picked up by Son Ja’s daughter Son Young for the three-hour (if there’s no traffic, otherwise it’s seven hours!) drive East to the Sorak national park. It’s a place that holds special memories for me: good walking, beautiful waterfalls, also its close proximity to the East Sea, where we had some fun times on the beach, partly due to the mountains being closed to the public due to the heavy rain. Thankfully they were reopened for our day to Daechongbong and Yim Soon and I were on the trail at 8 a.m. having dropped our bags at the temple where we would be spending the night. We were on the top at just after 2 p.m., having almost given up a couple of times on what seemed impossibly steep sections. I’m glad we pressed on and we were rewarded with stunning views over the lower peaks and all the way to the sea. We made it back down to the temple just in time for the final check-in at 6.30 p.m. but having missed dinner! No matter, we were both too tired to eat but what a good fatigue it is that comes from extreme physical exertion. There was a ‘full Korean breakfast’ on offer at 6.30 a.m., the only condition being that we had to wear the ‘temple robes’ that had been assigned to us on arrival which were grey trousers and a yellow jacket. I’ll wear anything for a good meal!
And things kept on getting better!
Thank you Eddie, as always.
To be acquainted with celestial things
is not only to know them,
but by frequent meditation to be familiar with them.
The effects of which are admirable.
For by this those things that at first seemed uncertain become evident,
those things which seemed remote become near,
those things which appeared like shady clouds become solid realities:
finally, those things which seemed impertinent to us and of little concernment,
appear to be our own, according to the strictest rules of propriety
and of infinite moment.
I felt like adding, ‘Come Holy Spirit’, to this meditation by Thomas Traherne. He seems to be writing about the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. These are given to us at Baptism and Confirmation, and reinforced by frequent meditation – or as we at Agnellus’ Mirror would say, frequent reflection.
‘Impertinent’ here seems not to mean ‘cheeky’ but ‘irrelevant’; ‘little concernment’ is more like ‘nothing to do with me’. But the things and people that seem that way are connected to us; they are our brothers and sisters as Saint Francis would remind us. And of infinite moment – ‘moment’ meaning both ‘momentum’ and ‘importance’.
All is gift.
I am writing this post in July, not a Lenten month at all. People in England are looking forward to the summer holidays, to relaxation rather than to rigorous fasting and spiritual exercise. But there is also a market – I use the word deliberately – for spiritual activities. Here are a few random web ads for yoga experiences; we could look at other sorts of spiritual experience, but yoga seems popular among those who can afford it.
What about a yoga immersion course – is the hint of baptismal initiation deliberate, I wonder?
Or a restful and rejuvenating yoga retreat, with mindfulness vegetarian food? The Cistercians are vegetarian and eat in silence, but is it the food or the shared nature of meal that contributes to ‘mindfulness’?
What about a Japanese yoga retreat mixing body-transforming jivamukti yoga with hikes through forests peppered with ancient temples. Could you not get the transformed body from the gym and hikes through the local countryside?
What are the purchasers of the top 30 yoga retreats going into the luxury desert to seek? Classical yoga and ‘divine’ spa treatments? Notice the Christian religious language that creeps into these ads, even the ‘transformed body’ has resonances, especially at the time you are reading, the season of preparation for Easter, when life is changed, not taken away.
Our desert this Lent makes no claim to be luxurious, nor will a few minutes of reading with us transform your earthly bodies, but we do hope the Spirit is leading us into the desert where we can receive a renewal of our baptism, the original and best divine spa treatment. And as for mindfulness food: must I spell it out?
Here is a hymn by Lucien Deiss that draws on 2Timothy2 and other texts: Keep in mind.
The WORLD is not this little Cottage of Heaven and Earth. Though this be fair, it is too small a Gift. When God made the World He made the Heavens, and the Heavens of Heavens, and the Angels, and the Celestial Powers. These also are parts of the World: So are all those infinite and eternal Treasures that are to abide for ever, after the Day of Judgement. Neither are these, some here, and some there, but all everywhere, and at once to be enjoyed.
The WORLD is unknown, till the Value and Glory of it is seen: till the Beauty and the Serviceableness of its parts is considered. When you enter into it, it is an illimited field of Variety and Beauty: where you may lose yourself in the multitude of Wonders and Delights. But it is an happy loss to lose oneself in admiration at one’s own Felicity: and to find GOD in exchange for oneself: Which we then do when we see Him in His Gifts, and adore His Glory.
A scientist as well as a poet can happily lose himself or herself in comtemplation.