Tag Archives: wound

September 2: L’Arche and Care VII -The roots of L’Arche.

Larmes de silence: Jean Vanier

Jean Vanier’s Tears of Silence (DLT, 1973) is the earliest book about L’Arche that I know, As an appendix he has a speech given at Church House in 1972, from which this is an extract.

This is the problem. We have created a society that rejects the weak. This is a terrible indictment of any society. It is a wonderful thing when you put your arms out in a welcoming attitude to a handicapped person; then something happens: his eyes begin to believe and his heart begins to dance and he begins in some way to become our teacher. . .

I begin to discover something: that this wounded person, a distorted face, a crippled hand, that the way the handicapped person looks at me, approaches me – all this does something to me, the wounded person calls me forth. And being called forth, I discover that I can bring him up some tiny little way.

The vocabulary has changed over forty years, but the message is clear. And although big subnormality hospitals are largely consigned to history, our society still rejects the weak, to the extent that parents will be put under tremendous pressure to abort a baby known to have Down’s syndrome.

We need to return, not so much to the 2oth century roots of L’Arche, but to the 1st Century roots of L’Arche, the Joyful Good News we are sent to proclaim to all nations.

(Tears of Silence is on sale in French and English through Abe Books.)

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20 May: About an Icon.

Croix Rousse large

This is my last blog of the week and I would like to write a little about an icon I have written.

This Croix Rousse was written as a gift for Bishop Chad in Harare, in response to a talk I heard on the persecution of the Christian church there. It took a good eight months to complete and I had never written an icon of the crucifixion before.

There are elements to working with icons that are unexpected – insights; deep feelings; new ways of seeing and in one case, a continual stream of quantum physics (when writing an icon of Elijah!)

Christ’s emaciated body hangs on the cross in a pose of absolute peace and composure. He bears the wounds of the nails and the spear. The vinegar dipped sponge is being hoisted to his lips. Jerusalem is in the background by the bar at his feet and the cross rests on ground where Adam was purported to have been buried. Golgotha, the Place of the Skull.

Mary, Mother of God, weeps by his right hand and John, his favourite, stands at his left. Above his head is the inscription INRI and above that an empty throne with an open Bible and angels around it, awaiting his Resurrection. The Sun and Moon are symbols of the Old and New Testaments and the circle of the cosmos is at the very top. The power of Almighty God.

Iconographers work form dark to light and each pass of the icon is a level of refinement from rough to smooth and more exquisite detail.

During one profound moment before I parted with this gift I looked at the holes in Christ’s hands and for a nanosecond I seemed to be able to travel across the whole of space through a deep black pinprick of emptiness. The holes in his hands have now become a symbol for me as a gateway leading to Christ. Our Franciscan habit of adoring Christ Crucified has taken on a deeper meaning.

CW.

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April 23, 2017: Be Grateful to Thomas!

Last Easter – well last Low Sunday – we visited Plowden, a small country church which would have been crowded if seventy people had gathered there. It was comfortably full, and comfortably friendly.

The priest, Fr David, was a visitor as well. If his homily had been written down, I would have published it here, but he said that he prepares his homilies and then lets them flow, hoping that the Holy Spirit can get a word in edgeways.

Well, the Spirit made an impression. One thing I will share. I paraphrase, wishing I could have recorded Fr David’s every word:

Saint John wrote for us, knowing that a different sort of Faith would be needed after Jesus had gone. We should be grateful to him for showing the disciples not understanding Jesus, betraying him – except John himself who stood by the Cross to the end. And we should be grateful to Thomas for his doubts – people do not come back to life, do they? Saint John tells us what we need to hear, that the twelve, whom Jesus had trained up for three years, doubted, let him down.

But Jesus came back, smiling, with no recriminations, just ‘Peace be with you’, and ‘touch my wounds.’

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And those are two excellent mottos for our task of spreading the Good News.

MMB.

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30 November Jacopone da Todi 4 :Making our Way back to God.

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Some of Jacopone’s poems work as a dialogue. This one is between a person who takes decisions carefully and develops relationships in a caring and responsible way, and his friend who is self-indulgent, living only for superficial pleasures and a worldly consumer way of life.

“O my brother, before death overtakes you

Come to terms, find your way back to God.”

“If I change my ways, brother,

What will become of these sons of mine?

Come, why not think on death, which awaits

Both father and son? Follow the path

That leads out of the labyrinth.”

“But I’ve become accustomed to being well dressed,

To a certain decorum. How can I suddenly change,

Become an object of people’s contempt,

Have them point to me as that poor idiot?

A baited hook looks good to a fish,

But once he has swallowed it

It gives him little pleasure.

Your arguments frighten me, brother;

You make me feel the wound of holy love.

The world will no longer deceive me.”

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The bait is worldly pleasures and High Street glamour. The hook is a bite of conscience about living an aimless and unmerciful existence.

We realise, however, that we share our mysterious and beautiful lives with a great expanse of fellow mortals. They, too, have buried desires for integrity and kindness poured into their hearts by God. We can only learn how to be meaningful in our relationships, and to make love our purpose, by seeing the beauty of others more clearly.

 

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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Good News, not Good Advice.

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The word “Gospel” means “good news,” not “good advice.” The gospels are not so much a spiritual and moral theology book that tell us what we should be doing, but are more an account of what God has already done for us, is still doing for us, and the wonderful dignity that this bestows on us. Of course the idea is that since we are gifted in this way our actions should reflect that dignity rather than the opposite. Morality is not a command, it’s an invitation; not a threat, but a reminder of who we truly are. We become taller and less petty when we remember what kind of family we ultimately come from.

We all have two souls, two hearts, and two minds. Inside of each of us there’s a soul, heart, and mind that’s petty, that’s been hurt, that wants vengeance that wants to protect itself, that’s frightened of what’s different, that’s prone to gossip, that’s racist, that perennially feels cheated. Seen in a certain light, all of us are as small in stature as Zacchaeus. But there’s also a tall, big-hearted person inside each of us, someone who wants to warmly embrace the whole world, beyond personal hurt, selfishness, race, creed, and politics.

The world isn’t divided up between big-hearted and small-minded people. Rather our days are divided up between those moments when we are big-hearted, generous, warm, hospitable, unafraid, wanting to embrace everyone and those moments when we are petty, selfish, over-aware of the unfairness of life, frightened, and seeking only to protect ourselves and our own safety and interests. We are both tall and short at the same time and either of these can manifest itself from minute to minute.

For John of the Cross, this is the way we heal:

We heal not by confronting all of our wounds and selfishness head-on, which would overwhelm us and drown us in discouragement, but by growing to what he calls “our deepest centre.” For him, this centre is not first of all some deep place of solitude inside the soul, but rather the furthest place of growth that we can attain, the optimum of our potential. To grow to what our deepest DNA has destined us for is what makes us whole, makes us tall—humanly, spiritually, and morally.

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Thus, if John of the Cross were your spiritual director and you went to him with some moral flaw or character deficiency, his first counsel would be: What are you good at? What have you been blessed with? Where, in your life and work, does God’s goodness and beauty most shine through? If you can grow more and more towards that goodness, it will fan into an ever larger flame which eventually will become a fire that cauterises your faults. When you walk tall there will be less and less room for what’s small and petty to manifest itself.

But to walk tall means to walk within our God-given dignity. Nothing else, ultimately, gives us as large an identity. That’s useful also to remember when we challenge each other: Gospel-challenge doesn’t shame us with our pettiness, it invites us to what’s already best inside us.

AMcC.

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5 September: Fiat

 

fallsupwardLike this tree, half-felled

by storm-wind, let my soul be

split, but not destroyed – see –

boughs, like ballet arms extending,

arch as if intending still more –

this severance allows for greater bending:

wind that wrecked has shaped

a back a neck a head –

once upright, whole, now torn –

another perfection’s born:

a tangled, sweeping reverence.

bowing to unlikely providence

that wrought this dread marvel

of fiat form.

 

A hidden flaw at core, no doubt,

gave grip for wind to wring

this grace like water out,

cracking this tough, this sheer,

this rigid thing –

new beauty spilt:

wound’s yielding.

Science needs surprises –

find yours.

Rule, pattern, type

don’t always please your God –

he’s not that kind of deity.

the good’s not always

in what’s done rightly.

Let my soul, half-felled,

be like this tree.

SJC

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August 10: Perspectives, Natural or Medieval

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Horses often come to us looking for attention. They have been taught to act in a domesticated and even submissive way. Perhaps they invented the idea of selfies before humans did! It possibly did not occur to them what situations of great harm and distress they would enter into as a result, having to bear men in heavy armour hoisted onto their backs, and to trample through landscapes of churned up mud and slaughtered  bodies, human and animal.

Not all medieval attitudes towards animals were caring and patient by any means. At an early stage, women as well as men realised the extra leverage over their neighbours could be gained by saddling a horse and fitting themselves out with swords, spears and regular violent training.

Boudicca

We may sometimes be inclined to sympathise, as when an invading army has better resources and equipment. The Iceni led by Boadicea (Boudicca) had only local knowledge as their advantage over the empire-building Romans. Both sides were pagans, so we can’t hide behind loyalties to a Christian tradition to explain why we would side with one or the other.

Presumably it is just the romance of seeing a vulnerable yet brave underdog militia up, against a drilled and remorseless invader which makes us pleased to see a stirring statue of Boudicca in her chariot on the London embankment. Romance favours heroism, without much in the way of challenging self-awareness to question the means that are employed to win the day. Faith in the Lord Jesus who died for love of enemies is dimmed.

CD

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August 3:The Psalms as Personal Prayer IV.

 

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What about the angry psalms – often called the cursing psalms – where the psalmist is ranting and raving and just lets it rip against his enemies?  What about them?  Should we be embarrassed about them, and try to hide them in a dark corner where no one will notice them?

Emphatic no! 

I am so glad my community prays them and doesn’t leave them out.  They are so important.  It’s to do again with listening to humanity.  Every good listener knows that when someone has been deeply hurt, the hurt person cannot arrive at forgiveness immediately.  Stages need to be negotiated.  Shock and denial usually come first, then a kind of mixed-up experience follows, that alternates between the acceptance of what happened and rage that it happened at all; forgiveness of the one who caused the hurt is usually way down the line.  The rage must be allowed its place in the healing process or the capacity to forgive the one who caused the pain is compromised.

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In the angry psalms we, of course, are not advocating that the hurt person should go out and act on his or her angry impulses!  But in these psalms we are allowed to turn those impulses into prayer; we honestly admit them within a relationship to God that is dedicated to the healing process.  We are identifying with those who are in that very painful place of hurt and rage.  We don’t judge anything the psalmist expresses – that is noit our role – we just allow it to be.  This might happen to be cathartic, also, for the one praying – but it’s not by any means the whole story of what’s happening when we use the angry psalms for prayer.

We’re also learning something extremely important about God in these angry psalms.  We’re learning that we have a God who allows us to say, “THIS IS UNBEARABLE” in bold print, underlined three times, with six exclamation marks, and who doesn’t mind.  At all.  The Jewish boast, “What other nation has its gods as close to them as our God is to us,” could be interpreted in this sense: that God wants us to bring him everything, not just the nice presentable bits of ourselves, but the really raw bits, too, the whole kit and caboodle, our entire inner life. The angry psalms help us to do this.

SJC

 

 

 

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30 June, Mates in a very real sense: II.

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After a year I was beginning to believe I was a proper miner. Then one day as we were going on shift Tommy called out, ‘We’re shooting today.’

I thought he was joking, so quipped back, ‘The whole Board or just the chairman?’

‘No, this is proper shooting,’ Tommy replied. Then he explained that there were little spur lines bringing coal down from higher levels in smaller wagons. These loads had to be integrated into the main wagon lines, which was accomplished by what was called ‘shooting’, or sliding crowbars under the front wheels of these smaller trucks, and simultaneously jerking them so that they were switched to the main wagon line. The first time we tried this it seemed very tricky and Tommy had to bear the chief burden. As I began to get the hang of it and even enjoy the operation, there came an almighty crash and Tommy was shouting ‘Coal-oh!’ as we dived into the safety ditch which ran alongside the main wagon line.

Tons of coal fell in on top of us and I feared I would be suffocated as I was tightly pressed down into the safety ditch. Then what relief! I heard a rescue squad arriving and calling out to us not to move. In no time at all they cleared the coal that was covering us, gave us a quick check over and escorted us to the cage and up to the pit head.

Once we had cleaned up and checked over our bruises, the duty overman took us to the miners’ club bar where he stood us a double brandy each. ‘I was wondering if that safety ditch would do what they said it would’, he said. ‘Now I know it does. Well done lads.’

 

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