Faith’s beginning

A Sunday-poem by Fr. David May from Madonna House for the beginning of this Year of Faith:

Faith’s Beginning

by Fr. David May.

It was (and is) like this:
That tortuous, tortured place,
Fleeing, like a tremulous little bird,
Flitting between hiding places,
Creature of shadows
Never in full light,
Yet giving away its presence
In fluttering wings and piercing
Song of evening…

That closed and stone-hard place,
Impenetrable, hard as hawk’s eyes,
Gleaming, piercing summer’s noon
With cold, unyielding stare,
Hunter driven by hunger…

Cauldron of bitter schemes,
Witch’s brew angry and troubled,
Seething even in quiet,
Secretly boiling, overflowing
Pain of nothingness and loving it…

That place—my heart—embraced by You.
No word, no admonition,
No judgment, no mountain storm
Of lightning, wind, thunder,
Slide of rocks, mud, trees,
Not even a gentle breeze or whisper of air,
But only strength of stillness
Laying irrevocable claim,
As if mining for gold
Buried in black-night earth,
Seeing treasure where none is,
Digging with bloodied hands
Till the mask is cast off—

Awakening love, reaching out
Like a reed crushed then mended,
Believing in the One believing in me,
Creature from his hands.

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“He lived in God’s favorite place.”

That title caught my eye as I was leafing through the November 2011 edition of Restoration (published by Madonna House).  The article is a homily given by one priest at Madonna House at the funeral of another priest.  He speaks of the deceased as often being in “the right place for the wrong reason.”  A soul so abandoned to God that he didn’t always realize how God was using him.  “That’s why he showed up in so many of our lives just when we needed him to be there. Whatever he was up to—whether it was fixing a door or a chair—it often turned out that the real reason he was there was that you were there, and you needed him.” You can read the homily here.

First, we must cry out

Here’s a comforting take on the story of the road to Emmaus by Fr. David May from Madonna House:

The Gospel is the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  They are discussing the events of the Lord’s passion and death when suddenly Jesus comes up and joins them on the way.  They take him for a stranger and are astonished that he seems unaware of what has happened.

Have you ever had that experience?  When it seems that Jesus Christ is the only one who doesn’t know what is happening down here!

“What things?” he asks. “What things?!

In his wisdom, the Lord wants to draw out of his disciples all the pain and sorrow they are carrying.  It seems that the Lord has more respect and understanding of our human nature than we do ourselves.

He knows our grief; he understands all our suffering.  But he also knows that first we must speak our pain to him.  First, we must cry out.

For how will we be able to hear what he has to offer until we do so?  And he has far more to offer us than mere sympathy for our plight.

Fr. David goes on to speak of what Jesus offers to these disciples in pain, and what He offers as well to us:

He offers them more than sympathy because as the Risen Lord, he can offer them a hope they had not dared to imagine.  He offers them a victory that comes only through suffering and death: Resurrection from the dead.

He will surely come:

In an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, the Lord can reveal himself, and after that, everything is transformed.  In a second, at the breaking of the bread, he is recognizable to his disciples in Emmaus.  And then he vanishes from sight!

This, too, is part of his mystery, of his unfathomable ways.

“Just wait a minute”

Well, I’m already having to “practice what I preached” last night.  I began last night with this quote from Fr. David May:

“We usually picture a stable around that manger, but in the Byzantine liturgy, they sing of a cave where the splendor of Jesus shines forth.
“’O little Child lying in a manger, by means of a star, heaven has called and led to you the Magi, the first-fruits of the Gentiles, who were astounded to behold, not scepters and thrones, but extreme poverty.  What, indeed is lower than a cave?  What is more humble than swaddling clothes?  And yet the splendor of your divinity shone forth in them resplendently.  O Lord, glory to you!’ (Prayer from the Divine Liturgy for Christmas).
“The Child teaches us not to be afraid of the barren winter of our wounded hearts, of our human emptiness.  For, by grace, these have become an Advent for us—a time of waiting for the Desired One.
“He encourages us during this season with a Child’s guileless smile.  He awaits us there where we are most in need and most afraid: in the dark cave of our poverty.”

The main point I was trying to make was about Christ’s desire to enter into the “dark cave of our poverty.”  That is where He decided–and still decides–to be born.  If the inn would have not been full, would He have been born there in the inn?  I think not.  He came–and still comes–to the lowliest and the poorest, to the smelly, messy stables.  That is Good News, isn’t it?  But we can, just like the innkeeper, say that there’s no room.  Or we can say: “Just wait a minute until I get everything fixed up first”–as though we could fix up anything in our souls without Him. We can make so many excuses for His not coming in–at least at this moment.

Anyway, this morning I found myself slipping again into the “Just wait a minute” mode and had to remind myself of what I was talking about last night: the most important thing we can do is be humble and open our hearts to the Christ Child at every moment, not just when we think everything is spic and span and perfect to receive Him.

“The Joys of Letting Go” & “Paging Humility”

About a month ago I wrote a post about not being in control which gathered quite a few comments.   Fr. David May, from Madonna House in Combermere, ON, writes along a similar vein in this month’s copy of Restoration.  He titles it: “The Joys of Letting Go.” You can read it here.  And, please, especially you mothers who worry about being the perfect mother–and even those of you who don’t, don’t miss this post by Betty Duffy.  It will at the least give you a good laugh . . . and that’s always a good thing.

“What, indeed, is lower than a cave?”

Something I wrote a couple of years ago, and still so true–and I am writing this foremost for myself!

Christmas!  Who doesn’t love this time of year?  Many people say to me of Advent and Christmas, “This is my favorite season!”  I’m sure we can all easily think of our reasons for that: lighting Advent wreaths, Christmas lights and caroling, Midnight Mass, etc.  And yet I know there are many of us who are only too aware of how little prepared we actually are for His coming, of how our weaknesses and faults, anxieties and busyness, seem to keep us from any kind of adequate preparation for this Feast.  The Prayer from the Divine Liturgy for Christmas in the Eastern Church gives hope: “O little Child lying in a manger, by means of a star, heaven has called and led to you the Magi, the first-fruits of the Gentiles, who were astounded to behold, not scepters and thrones, but extreme poverty.  What, indeed, is lower than a cave?  What is more humble than swaddling clothes?  And yet the splendor our your divinity shone forth in them resplendently.  O Lord, glory to you!”  Take heart!  We need not be afraid of the “stable” of our lives–as Fr. David May form Madonna House says: “The Child teaches us not to be afraid of the barren, winter of our wounded hearts, of our human emptiness.  For, by grace, these have become an Advent for us. . . . He awaits us there where we are most in need and most afraid: in the dark cave of our poverty.”  Yes, take heart.  At a mere opening of the door of your “stable,” Christ can shine resplendently therein!