Palm Sunday

This holiest of weeks I would like to share a poem or piece of art each day, hopefully drawing you deeper into the Great Mystery we are celebrating.  I begin with one by Malcolm Guite.

Palm Sunday: A Sonnet

 

We come now, with Palm Sunday, to the beginning of Holy Week and in the sonnets that follow I have explored the truth that what was happening ‘out there’ and ‘back then’ as Christ entered Jerusalem is also happening  ‘in here’ and ‘right now’. There is a Jerusalem of the heart. Our inner life also has its temple and palaces, its places of corruption, its gardens of rest, its seat of judgement.

If you would like to join in a discussion of these and my other poems for Holy Week poems you can do so by joining the Literary Life Facebook Page

I am grateful to Linda Richardson who has given me permission to share with you her series of remarkable paintings, ‘The Faces of Holy Week’. These will be on display, together with my poems, in the resurrection chapel in St. Mary’s Linton throughout Holy Week, do look in and see them if you are in the area. You can also look at these paintings and others on Linda’s Webpage.

Linda writes about this picture:

Very often I have thought that I knew what Jesus was about, what he was doing and why he was doing it. Then later I realise it was more than that, something deeper, and my understanding is stretched, and later is stretched again. So it is with Palm Sunday. Jesus is always with me on on my journey but he is always behind me and he is always beyond me.

In this painting Jesus face is elusive, and the features are gestural brush strokes, but energetic and visceral. It is a mixed media painting and within the face is the palm branch that I received at the Palm Sunday service last year. In the painting there is a ceremony from the past, a reminder of the cross that is to come, but if we don’t give our attention, we might miss the present day revelation of Palm Sunday. What will Jesus say to us today? We might imagine there is nothing new to learn, but as our “easy feelings” go through the familiarity of a Palm Sunday service are we still listening?

Palm SundayNow to the gate of my Jerusalem,

The seething holy city of my heart,

The saviour comes. But will I welcome him?

Oh crowds of easy feelings make a start;

They raise their hands, get caught up in the singing,

And think the battle won. Too soon they’ll find

The challenge, the reversal he is bringing

Changes their tune. I know what lies behind

The surface flourish that so quickly fades;

Self-interest, and fearful guardedness,

The hardness of the heart, its barricades,

And at the core, the dreadful emptiness

Of a perverted temple. Jesus  come

Break my resistance and make me your home.

 

If any one of you feels guilty

“If any one of you feels guilty and you know that you deserve it, fear not.  Look at Jesus Christ.  You only need to say, ‘Have mercy on me.’  Then, with the eyes of faith . . . see an unseen hand wipe out all your sins and misdemeanors.  You will realize you are in paradise because he who is merciful dwells in you.  Where he is, there is paradise.  It is as simple as that. …

Charlie Mackesy

“Faith assures us that when we come close to God with sorrow in our heart, his consuming fire cleanses everything in us.  His arms reach out and take us in and rock us back and forth.  We rest against his breast and are lulled by the heartbeats of God.” (Servant of God Catherine de Hueck Doherty)

Don’t miss Him

Reposting this from a few years ago:

This morning I was meditating on Simeon and Anna.  I know it’s Lent and not the Christmas season!  That was part of my meditation.  Simeon and Anna didn’t know, at the time, that it was the Christmas season.  It was just another day of prayer in the Temple.  But if Simeon had not been sensitive to the Holy Spirit, he would have missed the Child he had been waiting for all of his life.  Thinking about this made me pray that I wouldn’t miss Christ’s coming to me today in whatever guise He takes.  Let’s all keep watch for Him today.  Maybe we’ll find that it’s really Christmas during Lent.  *;) winking

The best thing to give up for Lent

I repost this every Lent.  It’s still the best recommendation as far as I am concerned.

This comes from a Magnificat article written by Fr. Peter John Cameron a few years ago.  I do not have time to quote the whole article (which is always dangerous because what you read will be edited), but I hope–especially those of you who despair of ever giving up what he suggests we give up–that you will find some hope in what he says:

Here’s what to give this Lent: the doubt that goes, “I can never get closer to God because I’m too sinful, too flawed, too weak.”  This is a lethal attitude, for it based on the false presumption that we can possess something of our own–that does not come from God–by which we can please God.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Only what is from God can please God.  But as long as such error persists, we estrange ourselves from God.  Lent is not about lamenting our inadequacy.  Rather, it is a graced moment to receive from God what he is eager to give us so that we can live the friendship with him that he desires. . . .

He goes on to describe how often we try to substitute self-sufficiency for the lack that we find in ourselves–and this usually leads to an experience of darkness in our lives–“we may even wonder if God hates us.”  He allows the darkness in order to draw us back to him.  “The most reasonable thing we can do when that feeling strikes is “to renew our act of love and confidence in God’s love for us.  The Lord allows the darkness precisely to move us to unite ourselves all the more closely to him who alone is the Truth.”

Still–we panic!  We feel as if we are obliged to do for God what we know we are unable to do.  But the point of the pressure is to convince us to receive everything from God.  We can be sure that God himself is the one who, in his mercy, moves us to do what is not within our power.  This is the Father’s way of opening us a little more to himself by making us a little more in the likeness of his crucified Son.

For nothing glorifies God like the confidence in his mercy that we display when we feel indicted by our frailty and inability.  The experience of our hopelessness is a heaven-sent chance to exercise supremely confident trust.  God delights in giving us the grace to trust him.

Sadly, for those who refuse God’s gift of confidence, the darkness can turn to despair.  Yet even in despair the miracle of mercy is at work.  Father Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire, the nineteenth-century Dominican priest who was responsible for the revival of the Order of Preachers in France after the French Revolution, makes this astonishing remark: “There is in despair a remnant of human greatness, because it includes a contempt for all created things, and consequently an indication of the incomparable capacity of our being.”  In our darkness, the incomparable capacity of our being will settle for nothing less than the embrace of the Infinite.  Like nothing else, our helplessness moves us to cry out for that embrace in confidence and trust.  The cry of forsakenness that Jesus emits from the cross is just this.

Saint Paul wrote, “We were left to feel like men condemned to death so that we might trust, not in ourselves, but in God who raises from the dead” (2 Cor 1.9, NAB).  That’s the point.  That’s the challenge of Lent.  God wants us to have the strength to believe in his love so much that we confidently beg for his mercy no matter how much we feel the horror of death in ourselves. . . .

Let us this Lent, in the face of all ours sins, our limitations, and our weakness cry out with Jesus, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”  And let us do so with certainty–not doubt or desperation–because our union with Christ crucified has given us the Way to approach reality.  In our asking we hold the Answer.

Solid interior mortification

“The appropriate word you left unsaid; the joke you didn’t tell; the cheerful smile for those who bother you; that silence when you’re unjustly accused; your kind conversation with people you find boring and tactless; the daily effort to overlook one irritating detail or another in those who live with you…this, with perseverance, is indeed solid interior mortification.” (St. Josemaría Escrivá)

Walking with Jesus

An excellent Holy Week suggestion from Fr. Peter John Cameron (editor of Magnificat):

One way to approach Holy Week to live it like no other of the year is to unite yourself with one of the holy people who accompany Jesus in his Passion.  So perhaps you might identify with one of the disciples sent to prepare the Upper Room, looking at everything in your life in the light of the Eucharist . . . or the woman who anoints Jesus in Bethany, begging for the grace of special compassion . . . or Simon Peter, weeping with true repentance over your sins . . . or Simon of Cyrene, eager to take up Christ’s cross no matter how it may appear . . . or the Good Thief, bursting with hope that Jesus wants us to be with him in paradise . . . or John, daring to remain with Jesus on Calvary and accepting the gift of Mary to be our Mother . . . or the centurion, letting our profession of faith transform our life for ever: This man is the Son of God!

And for those of you who are walking your own way of the Cross, my advice is that you approach Holy Week pondering how Jesus is accompanying you in your passion, helping you to carry your cross, washing your feet and kissing them . . .

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What really matters

Is Lent about reaching a greater level of perfection?  Read on.

It does not matter what level of perfection you reach.  What others think or don’t think of how much you does not matter, not does your judgment of yourself.  All that matters if that mercy has taken you for ever, for the very origin of your existence.  Mercy called you to love, because mercy loved you.

Holiness means always affirming–before everything else, in everything else–the embrace of the Father, the merciful, pitying movement of Christ, his gesture, that is he himself, independent of everything that stirs and has the appearance of life in us. . . .

We must become more and more aware of God’s covenant with us, of life as God’s involvement with us, and therefore of the absolute and unmistakable importance of the irrational influence of our outbursts, of our projects.

Nothingness, destruction, exile is the life proper to the world, especially our life, without this covenant, which remains in me even in the destruction and in the desolation caused by my wicked heart.  Grace holds fast because God leads me to discover what he is and to understand that from my destruction he makes something new bud forth–an identification with him and the Father.

(Servant of God Luigi Giussani)

The first goal of spiritual combat?

If you’re like me, one of the things that you battle–especially during a season like Lent–is discouragement.  You just keep failing at whatever.  Fr. Jacques Philippe, as always, has something encouraging to say, something doable.

The real spiritual battle, rather than the pursuit of invincibility or some other absolute infallibility beyond our capacity, consists principally in learning, without becoming too discouraged, to accept falling occasionally and not to lose our peace of heart if we should happen to do so lamentably, not to become excessively sad regarding our defeats and to know how to rebound from our falls to an even higher level.  This is always possible, but on the condition that we not panic and that we continue to maintain our peace.

One could, then, with reason, enunciate this principle: The first goal of spiritual combat, that toward which our efforts must above all else be directed, is not to always obtain a victory (over our temptations, our weaknesses, etc.), rather it is to learn to maintain peace of heart under all circumstances, even in the case of defeat.  It is only in this way that we can pursue the other goal, which is the elimination of our failures, our faults, our imperfections and sins.  This is ultimately the victory that we must want and desire, knowing, however, that it is not by our own strength that we will obtain it and, therefore, not pretending that we can obtain it immediately.  It is uniquely the grace of God that will obtain the victory for us, whose grace will be the more efficacious and rapid, the more we place maintaining our interior peace and sense of confident abandonment in the hands of our Father in heaven.