Tag Archives: pain

21 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, IV.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2023

Photo: Mazur/cbcew.org.uk

As we join with other Christians around the world for the Week of Prayer we pray that our hearts will be open to see and hear the many ways in which racism continues to destroy lives, and to discern the steps we can take as individuals and communities to heal the hurts and build a better future for everyone.

Day 4 Lament

Psalm 22:1-5 
Matthew 27:45-50

Commentary

Lament requires us to really look and see. A young woman looked and saw the tears of the oppressed. The video she shot on her phone of the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 was seen all around the world and unleashed a holy rage as people witnessed, and finally acknowledged, what African Americans have experienced for centuries: subjugation by oppressive systems in the midst of privileged blind bystanders.In the UK, black men between 18 and 25 years are five times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police and black women are four times more likely to die during childbirth. We have much to lament.

The two passages today speak of lament. Jesus, and David, the brutally honest psalmist, set this example for us of what to do when we’re in pain.

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” is a pain-filled cry at the very beginning of Psalm 22 that is mirrored by Jesus himself on the cross in Matthew 27.

The pain is not sanitised and polished for us. It is raw and honest.

Lament is a hard practice to embrace. Our society wants us to rush towards positivity and victory. What does it mean to truly lament? To sit with the pain. Lament demands that we open ourselves, it demands from all of us, that we no longer ignore the pain.

Reflection

“Lament is a protest so deep that it must become a prayer, for only God can provide needed hope that justice will prevail and that the future will be different.”

Rachel’s Cry: Prayer of Lament and Rebirth of Hope, Kathleen D Bilman and Daniel L Migliore, The Pilgrim Press 1999

Prayer

God of justice and of grace, 
remove the scales from my eyes 
so I can truly see the oppression around me, 
and give me courage not only to name it, but to fight it 
while providing authentic presence, witness, and compassion to the oppressed.
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5 November: Not the forgetting, but the pain.

Boats at Beccles, England, wikicommons.

We offer this reflection from Tagore as a contrast to Frank Thompson’s poem of two days ago. He urged his beloved to forget him, Tagore insists on the sweet sorrow of parting, as a foretaste of death: parting and death do hurt, they cut through the false pride that Thompson accused himself of.

War always brings parting and death, realities that Romantics like Thompson and Brooke minimised, at least before seeing combat.


ON BOARD A CANAL STEAMER GOING TO CUTTACK, August 1891

The quiet floating away of a boat on the stream seems to add to the pathos of a separation—it is so like death—the departing one lost to sight, those left behind returning to their daily life, wiping their eyes. True, the pang lasts but a while, and is perhaps already wearing off both in those who have gone and those who remain,—pain being temporary, oblivion permanent.

But none the less it is not the forgetting, but the pain which is true; and every now and then, in separation or in death, we realise how terribly true.

Glimpses of Bengal Selected from the Letters of Sir Rabindranath Tagore.

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8 September: Griefs

Emily Dickinson’s verses prepare us for a short series on Grief and Suicide; World Suicide Prevention Day is on 10th September.

GRIEFS.
 I measure every grief I meet
   With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
   Or has an easier size.

 I wonder if they bore it long,
   Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
   It feels so old a pain.

 I wonder if it hurts to live,
   And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
   They would not rather die.

 I wonder if when years have piled —
   Some thousands — on the cause
Of early hurt, if such a lapse
   Could give them any pause;

 Or would they go on aching still
   Through centuries above,
Enlightened to a larger pain
   By contrast with the love.

 The grieved are many, I am told;
   The reason deeper lies, —
Death is but one and comes but once,
   And only nails the eyes.

 There's grief of want, and grief of cold, —
   A sort they call 'despair;'
There's banishment from native eyes,
   In sight of native air.

 And though I may not guess the kind
   Correctly, yet to me
A piercing comfort it affords
   In passing Calvary,

 To note the fashions of the cross,
   Of those that stand alone,
Still fascinated to presume
   That some are like my own.

Emily Dickinson.

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11 March: the self-consumer of my woes— John Clare

It is possible to be too conscious of certain realities, perceptions, or maybe illusions. What have we here? Loneliness, pain, self absorption, emotional and spiritual shipwreck, a longing for peace. John Clare descended into the hell of mental illness for the last years of his life – he died in 1864 – and the clarity of his language in ‘I am!’ points up the confusion of his mind. A mind churning, churning, all through the night; little wonder he craves a place where God can let him sleep, untroubling to others, untroubled by their intrusions into his life, or the mills of his mind.

God grant peace to all in affliction.

I Am! by John Clare

I am—yet what I am none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost:
I am the self-consumer of my woes—
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shadows in love’s frenzied stifled throes
And yet I am, and live—like vapours tossed

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
Even the dearest that I loved the best
Are strange—nay, rather, stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie
The grass below—above the vaulted sky.

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22 October, Little Flowers of Saint Francis LXXXIX: great joy and intolerable pain.

Crucifixion from Zimbabwe, by CD

An insight into Francis’s experience of the Stigmata in this extract from the Little Flowers of Saint Francis..

Those most holy wounds, since they were imprinted by Christ, gave very great joy to Saint Francis’s heart; nevertheless to his flesh and to his corporal senses they gave intolerable pain. Wherefore, being compelled thereunto by necessity, he chose Friar Leo, as more simple and more pure than the others, and to him he revealed everything; permitting him to see and to touch those sacred wounds and to bind them with certain handkerchiefs, for the allaying of the pain, and to catch the blood which issued and flowed from the said wounds; the which bandages, in time of sickness, he permitted him to change frequently, and even daily, except from Thursday evening to Saturday morning, during which time our Saviour Jesus Christ was taken for our sakes and crucified, slain and buried; and therefore, during that time, Saint Francis would not suffer that the pain of the Passion of Christ, which he bore in his body, should be assuaged in anywise by any human remedy or medicine whatsoever.

Sometimes, as Friar Leo was changing the bandage of the wound in his side, St. Francis, for the pain which he felt when that blood-soaked bandage was plucked away, laid his hand upon the breast of Friar Leo; whereby, from the touch of those sacred hands, Friar Leo felt such sweetness of devotion in his heart, that he well-nigh fell swooning to the ground.

And finally, as touching this third consideration, St. Francis having finished the fast of St. Michael the Archangel, prepared himself, by Divine revelation, to return to Santa Maria degli Angeli. Wherefore he called unto him Friar Masseo and Friar Agnolo, and, after many words and holy admonishments, he commended unto them that holy mountain with all possible earnestness, telling them that it behoved him, together with Friar Leo, to return to Santa Maria degli Angeli. And when he had said this, he took leave of them and blessed them in the name of Jesus crucified; and, yielding to their entreaties, he gave them his most holy hands, adorned with those glorious and sacred stigmata, to see, to touch and to kiss; and so leaving them consoled, he departed from them and descended the holy mountain.

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17 October: Little Flowers of Saint Francis LXXXVIII. The Stigmata.

Continuing yesterday’s account of Francis’s vision with the emergence of the Stigmata – the marvellous image and imprint of the Passion of Christ.

When, after long and secret converse, this marvellous vision vanished away, it left an exceeding ardour and flame of Divine love in the heart of St. Francis, and in his flesh a marvellous image and imprint of the Passion of Christ. For anon, in the hands and in the feet of St. Francis the marks of nails began to appear after the same fashion as he had just seen in the body of Jesus Christ crucified, the which had appeared unto him in the form of a seraph; and even so were his hands and his feet pierced through the midst with nails, the heads whereof were in the palms of the hands and in the soles of the feet, outside the flesh; and the points came out through the back of the hands and of the feet, where they showed bent back and clinched on such wise that, under the clinching and the bend, which all stood out above the flesh, it would have been easy to put a finger of the hand, as in a ring; and the heads of the nails were round and black. In like manner, in his right side appeared the likeness of a lance wound, open, red and bloody; the which oftentimes thereafter spouted blood from the holy breast of St. Francis, and covered his habit and breeches with blood.

Wherefore his companions, before they knew thereof from him, perceiving nevertheless that he uncovered neither his hands nor his feet, and that he could not put the soles of his feet to the ground; and finding his habit and breeches all bloody, when they washed them, knew certainly that he bore, imprinted on his hands and feet and likewise on his side, the express image and likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ crucified. And although he very earnestly endeavoured to conceal and to hide those most holy and glorious stigmata which were so clearly imprinted on his flesh, he perceived that he could but ill conceal them from his familiar companions; and therefore he stood in very great doubt, fearing to make public the secrets of God, and knowing not whether he ought to reveal the seraphic vision and the imprinting of the most holy stigmata.

At the last, being goaded thereunto by his conscience, he called to him certain of his most intimate friends among the friars, and, setting before them his doubt in general terms, yet without explaining the actual fact, he asked their advice; and among the said friars was one of great sanctity, who was called Friar Illuminatus. Now this man, being of a truth illuminate by God, and understanding that St. Francis must have seen marvellous things, answered him after this manner: “Friar Francis, know thou that, not for thy sake only but also for the sake of others, God manifesteth unto thee at divers times His mysteries; and therefore thou hast good reason to fear that, if thou keepest secret that which God hath shown thee for the benefit of others, thou wilt be worthy of blame”.

Then St. Francis, being moved by these words, with great dread related unto them all the manner and form of the aforesaid vision; adding that Christ, who had appeared unto him, had spoken certain things unto him which he would never repeat as long as he lived. And, albeit those most holy wounds, inasmuch as they were imprinted by Christ, gave very great joy to his heart; nevertheless to his flesh and to his corporal senses they gave intolerable pain.

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12 October: Friendship in letters.

Let’s rejoice in true friendship. On this occasion, Boswell missed Johnson’s company and longed for a letter. Johnson excuses himself with great eloquence! But who would like a letter or email from me – or you?

I set a very high value upon your friendship, and count your kindness as one of the chief felicities of my life. Do not fancy that an intermission of writing is a decay of kindness. No man is always in a disposition to write; nor has any man at all times something to say. ‘That distrust which intrudes so often on your mind is a mode of melancholy, which, if it be the business of a wise man to be happy, it is foolish to indulge; and if it be a duty to preserve our faculties entire for their proper use, it is criminal.

Suspicion is very often an useless pain. From that, and all other pains, I wish you free and safe; for I am,

dear Sir, Most affectionately yours,

SAM. JOHNSON.

(from “Life of Johnson, Volume 3 1776-1780” by James Boswell, George Birkbeck Norman Hill)

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29 June: I shall forget the drop of anguish

.
 I shall know why, when time is over,
And I have ceased to wonder why;
Christ will explain each separate anguish
In the fair schoolroom of the sky.


 He will tell me what Peter promised,
And I, for wonder at his woe,
I shall forget the drop of anguish
That scalds me now, that scalds me now.


XXXIX from Poems by Emily Dickinson, Three Series, Complete, via KIndle

Peter, whose feast we celebrate today, famously went out and wept bitterly. His woe was put behind him by Christ’s forgiveness (John 21) which gave him the grace to preach the good news far from the Sea of Galilee, the grace to be Saint Peter. But that was after the Ascension, when the Good News was totally entrusted to Jesus’ followers.

Tomorrow and the next day we welcome back Sister Johanna from Minster Abbey, who opens up the disciples’ first taste of ministry and what they learned from Jesus’ reaction to their experience. Let us remember all those who will be ordained priest or deacon this Petertide.

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20 February: My back tooth


Photo by Jan Spierings, the Pelicans

Rugby was always a penitential activity for me! However, Fr Bobby Gilmore is a Columban missionary, ordained in 1963. His story ‘My Back Tooth’ goes back to his boyhood experience of being bullied on the rugby field. Follow the link to read the whole article in ‘Far East’ magazine for December 2020, pp16-17.

What really surprised me was the acceptance of the physical aspects of the game, the tolerance and the camaraderie during and after the game.

If our coach was aware of over aggressive physical play, he immediately took the player aside and privately cautioned him without a put down or embarrassment … However, that does not mean that it did not happen when unobserved …

Fr Gilmore refers to bullied people becoming ‘prisoners of anguish’ well after they lose contact with the bully; I felt it to be an appropriate reflection for Lent because we should be looking out and speaking out when we see bullying.
The work of missionaries is often described as the Church’s good news story. Learn more about what the Columban missionary family is doing to create a better world for those on the margins. Subscribe to the Far East by calling the Columban Mission Office on 01564 772 096 with your credit or debit card details, or email your subscription request to fareast@columbans.co.uk .

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10 January: Holes of hope

The Baptism of our Lord: a cold shock to his system!

Father Tom Herbst describes winter mornings facing the sea at Margate in this previous post from Advent time. I don’t think many baptisms happen there in January, but the sacrament is an assertion of trust in the loving God, either personally or on a child’s behalf. Jesus trusted that this moment was crucial for his growing into the One mature human, Son of God, Son of Man.

Above we see a grey sky in the Polish Tatra mountains, with light breaking through the clouds. Today Sister Hanne-Maria Berentsen OCSO shares a reflection on January grey skies over the fjord near her monastery in Norway. It comes from Northern Light, a book I shall return to.

Pope John Paul II wrote of celebrating the Eucharist ‘on the altar of the world.’ Perhaps we can give some thought to the meaning of Water, in sky, river, lake and sea, and accept a daily ‘baptism in the font of the world’ – we are within the water cycle in this life – rain, river, sea, cloud – but called to put out into deep water, like Peter and the Apostles, trusting in the loving God.

There is much pain needed to make us fully human and Christ-like … if you feel down, you can look up, look out, go out, and receive the vast sky above and around you, finding again your trust in the loving God who created all this. Even on a grey, stormy day, you can find blue spots between the clouds, holes of hope.

from Northern Light by the Cistercian Nuns of Tautra Mariakloster, Collegeville Minnesota, Liturgical Press, p4.

We will review Northern Light after re-reading it, or should I say, reading it properly! More from Cistercians later this week.

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