Held Back

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When a sparrow tied by the leg tries to fly, it is held back by the string and pulled down to the earth. Similarly, when the intellect that has not yet attained dispassion flies up towards heavenly knowledge, it is held back by the passions and pulled down to the earth.  

 

          Reading the daily Bible readings, I have often prayed to have words move me, pierce me even. Sometimes, that prayer is answered; often not. Today was a not day, and that made me wince a little. Anyone walking in the dark desires light. How can you know where to go or where not to, where to place your foot and where to draw back – unless there is light shining out the path ahead?

          So, I asked God to move my heart with His word.

          Instead, every word slid off me. Nothing stuck nor stirred.

          Why? I asked God.

          Then, an old friend brought this answer,

          When a sparrow tied by the leg tries to fly, it is held back by the string and pulled down to the earth. Similarly, when the intellect that has not yet attained dispassion flies up towards heavenly knowledge, it is held back by the passions and pulled down to the earth.   ~   St. Maximos the Confessor

          What passions did I have? I wondered even as I recognised the truth of it. Was it the small bit of glee I had that we were finally going to change the living room sofa to a colour I liked after 10 years of my husband’s choice? Did the thinking about slipcovers and maintenance and chair positions constitute passions? And anyway, wasn’t this way better than constantly pulling out my hair over work issues?

          The reply to that came soon enough. It wasn’t the new couch. My leaden passions referred to my heightened busyness and preoccupation with work plans and deadlines. Despite the great calm inside me and my cheeriness at work and in work, there was too much of work filling up my soul.

          Taking up space that it shouldn’t.

          Biting my lip as I stared at this truth, I wondered what to do. I wasn’t stretching myself thin; whatever work I was busy with was work that needed to be done.

          Again, St. Maximos intervened. He took me back to an old post from almost 4 years ago, to old problems with superiors which remained still, hurting and grating even now. St. Maximos led me to his old words for me,

To the extent that you pray with all your soul for the person who slanders you, God will make the truth known to those who have been scandalized by the slander.

          And that very day, I began to pray Blood of Christ prayers for superiors and colleagues who continue to make life difficult for everyone.

          Prayer didn’t lesson the amount of work I needed to do. But suddenly, work didn’t take up the space in my heart that it did before. While it was a constant presence, even following me home, I didn’t feel anchored to it.

          And as I continued those Blood of Christ prayers, I felt the first stirrings of a new sign for the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Great Light

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The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.   ~   Matthew 4: 16

          I awakened in the dark of pre-dawn Friday last week, puzzled at the unusual illumination of a room that is normally swathed in darkness at this time. Parting the curtains I realised it was the moon’s doing. Crowned with her aura, bright beyond words, she had flung her cloak of light across the expanse of the northern sky. Breathing in this incandescent beauty, peace settled its freeing mists gently into me.

on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen

          After 2 consecutive Thursdays of joyful news, naturally, my seeking heart was primed for another this week. Still, God’s ways not being ours, and not mine certainly, I prayed to forge ahead with steady hope even if the Thursday hours descended into its end with nothing for me.

          Thursday morn began with a brief dream. A dream of a telegram received from a family member, telling me the news of the death of his wife. But the telegram message ended unexpectedly with a triumphant

Yeayyy!!

          The gentle peace of the quiet moonlight snuggled deep within, the morning marched on, and soon, out of England last week, came the next – news of a royal couple trying to break free of Palace control.

          In both the Thursday dream and in that piece of news, the common theme was freedom. The dream showed the family member was finally free from a wife who seemed to tick all the boxes for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This severe narcissism had rendered the relative’s marriage of 5 decades a long march of endless madness and suffering.

          The royal couple seemed to be trying to break free in order to find true life. As it is with any news, people soon hustled themselves into 2 camps: the for and the against. Some commiserated and rejoiced with the couple. Nonetheless, louder still were the voices accusing them of derailing decades of adherence to monarchial norms.

          I feared for the young couple, even as I rejoiced with them for wanting to chart their own lives. Because it is never easy to redefine relationships, be it with someone suffering from NPD or the monarchy. When people like even the former chaplain to the Queen of England no less, says, The problem for the Sussexes is that they have chosen to put their own self-interests before their public duty and family, when words like blinkered, immature and self-pity are used to bolster such an opinion, each missile takes me back to my past. Of being in a prison pit, totally subject to another person’s control. Of being indoctrinated repeatedly that my own husband and children were not as important as my birth family. That my own life and all that matters to me must come a distant second to anything deemed more important by those who controlled me.

          Many aspects of the royal drama reminded me of the past where my life was not my own, not even God’s. It brought back to me the old days of knowing where the key to my prison was, yet being too incapacitated by fear to reach out and use it to unlock the door and sprint for freedom.

          Planning for a break is one thing; going public is another. To have your attempt to break free played out on social media, in press pits, in bars and restaurants, in offices as well as in homes, is taking the fight for freedom to another level. I can barely contend with 2 sides of the family even now foaming at the mouth waiting to sink their teeth into me for daring to break away to save my marriage, my family and my sanity; I cannot begin to imagine the number of snarling wolves circling this young pair bold enough to attempt something done only once before in the 1930s. The volcanic fallout can suffice to tempt them to choose the path of cowardice and to back away from the fires of change.

          Because fear of punishment is a powerful weapon. And its power is not lost on those who feed on our obedience, our love, our readiness to forgive.

          Our mute allegiance to commands.

          Our timidity.

          But is the pain and unhappiness wrought by someone’s  – or any institution’s – crippling dictates truly preferable to living free under the rule of God?

          Of course I cannot claim to know exactly what shade of freedom this young prince and his beloved seek. And taxpayers have every right to know how much of this freedom they have to pay for, as is their right to reject footing the bill for the freedom of the rich and privileged.

          But I’m looking at support of a different kind. Isn’t it telling when someone wilfully eschews much of the trappings of power and plaudits for a quieter life away from the blinding lights of pageantry? Doesn’t it count for something that this is a fight for the right to raise a family in the real world?

          Isn’t that a choice we should try to support even if we do not completely grasp all the reasons for it?

          About a year ago, I had a dream about the British royalty – my first, incidentally. However, it showed the older brother of the royal in question now, with his wife, living and thriving as commoners. They were at an outdoor market, perusing items on display, very casually dressed, just part of the crowd. No one even recognised them and they did absolutely nothing to seek out the old public adulation. In the dream, they were calm, and quietly happy to be a part of the mundane flow of the day.

          There were no forced smiles, no scripted moves, no performing for the public gallery. They were themselves.

And they had clearly found peace.

          At that time, I did not believe this would ever come to pass. Even in my relative’s case, I wondered if peace would ever come to that marriage lined and ruled so deeply by narcissism.

on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen

          But God used a Thursday to remind me once more that miracles mean light rising out of death, the unimaginable becoming reality.

          A miracle is also when a prisoner is finally, impossibly, set free, his freedom like the brightness of a moon, against which the darkness of night surrenders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Happy

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I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains. Think of all the beauty still felt around you and be happy.   ~  Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

 

          Two Thursday miracles so far, two answered prayers. Uncertainty for the future remains, the thread of anxiety stitches a quiet seam through my hours.

          But what is life if not to hope?

          This day is a carefree young girl, undecided on her hours. Should she drench the earth with springs from heaven, or burst gold and warmth through blooms and boughs? The winds laugh and sigh, giggle and chatter, as the day ponders how it will live.

Think of all the beauty still felt around you and be happy. 

          As the hymn of the winds dip then soar from minute to minute, a lone robin slips his notes into the spaces. Hope, he sings to remind me, Hope being his song from a winter old. While worries and concerns are an immutable part of my daily walk, the robin wills me remember they must never be allowed to blot out the sun of hope.

           So, for my heavenly Mother, my offering for this First Saturday of the decade is to seek out the blooms of hope She has hidden for me to find.

          May this be my gift to my Mother today, the gift of enduring hopefulness. For hope is the angels’ paean.

          To hope is to be happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soul of my Soul

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          I am going to reveal to you the secret of sanctity and happiness. Every day for five minutes control your imagination and close your eyes to all the noises of the world in order to enter into yourself. Then, in the sanctuary of your baptized soul (which is the temple of the Holy Spirit) speak to that Divine Spirit, saying to Him:

O Holy Spirit, beloved of my soul, I adore You. Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me. Tell me what I should do; give me Your orders. I promise to submit myself to all that You desire of me and to accept all that You permit to happen to me. Let me only know Your Will.

          If you do this, your life will flow along happily, serenely, and full of consolation, even in the midst of trials. Grace will be proportioned to the trial, giving you the strength to carry it and you will arrive at the Gate of Paradise, laden with merit. This submission to the Holy Spirit is the secret of sanctity.   ~  Cardinal Désiré-Joseph Mercier

 

          Early yesterday, before I learned about the Ring of Fire eclipse, the Angel had gently opened the door to my heart and slipped this in,

          Love the Holy Spirit and call upon Him in humility and confidence. He will never fail you. He is, as my Church calls Him, the “Father of the Poor”. He takes delight in descending upon the poor in spirit and He makes His tabernacle in their hearts.

And then I learned a tiny gem of a prayer,

…and address Him as “Soul of your soul”.   ~  In Sinu Jesu

          Using the words from Cardinal Désiré-Joseph Mercier’s advice, I fashioned my own prayers to the Holy Spirit, now calling Him, Soul of my soul. Through the calls of duty, through the excitement of the eclipse, I embroidered this name new to me upon the garment of hours lent me by the day.

Soul of my soul

          When the stars had come out to adorn the velvet breadths, I made a small discovery. The annular eclipse of yesterday had coincided with a beautiful sun halo. The last time I had feasted my eyes upon a sun halo had been more than a year ago. And a prayer had been speared through my heart that day,

Holy Trinity, light Thy flame within me

          So, the ribbon that bound both sun halos was the Holy Spirit.

          This morning, marigold~sunshine grins through my window as the North winds and breezes dart about weaving heaven’s secrets into this final Friday of a year making its way to eternal slumber.

          Will You give me Your sign today? I ask God playfully.

          In His answering peace and light, I slip my hand into His.

Soul of my soul

 

 

 

 

 

Ring of Fire

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          I struggled when trying to accurately describe the miracle of the Illuminated Heart which I witnessed in my home last Christmas. Until today – the day of the Ring of Fire eclipse – the last for this year.

          Not being on social media, I hadn’t even known about the annular eclipse today. It was some moments away from the hot stove, reading the happenings of the day which alerted me to the phenomenon. Assuming we had missed it, imagine my excitement when I realised that the very minute I had read about it, it had ‘begun’ here.

          For a long hour, I became a child once more. The beauty of the experience – the encroaching moon, the dimming of the sun, the drop in temperature, the mysterious shadows formed by the leaves – all wound bands of thrills around my heart as I darted between the outdoors and my stove in the kitchen.

          As the evening winds gentled their farewells, I stood at my window. Looking up at a smoky evening sky which today kept its secrets to itself, I thought about my morning prayer question, What is Your sign for me?, and the joyful experience of the eclipse that followed. I thought of what it was called – annular – which made me think of St Anne who had been much on my heart these months – and Ring of Fire – of our wedding anniversary today. If it was a sign, I needed to know its significance.

          Give me Thy sign, I pressed into the watching skies before turning away.

          Scant minutes later, God lifted the veil.

          The experience of the Ring of Fire had infused me with a strange iridescence of joy. Because it was not merely an experience – it was a celebration.

          As I pondered what it was that I was meant to celebrate, God shared with me joyful news. Dawn has truly, truly broken, was my only thought as my heart swelled and swooped, thinking of the ascending sun over my place of work.

          God must have smiled as He watched me become a kid in the sugar jar all over again.

          Then, He brushed this last veil for the night from my eyes.

          The Ring of Fire was the eclipse. It was also the perfect description of my Christmas miracle of 2019, when the evening sun illuminated the Heart of my Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cross of Light

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          On this delightful day of simple joys, I asked God once more for His sign for me. All through the chimes of hours since the break of Christmas dawn, through Christmas Day Mass, and Christmas visits, I waited in peaceful expectation of His answer. Towards evening, home again, tired yet happy, I gaze up at a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary above my front door, on the eastern side of the house. Last year, on Christmas Day too, during sunset, I witnessed something impossible in the Heart of Jesus which I never saw before or after that day.

The sun setting in the west shone through the Heart – but from behind it.

At that moment, I felt Jesus was reminding me about the Illumination of Conscience.

          Today is Christmas once more. A whole year has gone past. Like a playback, I’m in my living room, listening to the tangerine~pinked winds sing the last song of the day. It is sunset again as the sun prepares for grateful slumber. My thoughts return to the miraculously illumined Heart of last year.

          Suddenly comes a prayer I’ve never seen, bringing to light a secret hope of a reunion.

Prayer to St. Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings

O Raphael, lead us towards those we are waiting for, those who are waiting for us! Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings, lead us by the hand towards those we are looking for! May all our movements, all their movements, be guided by your Light and transfigured by your Joy. Angel Guide of Tobias, lay the request we now address to you at the feet of Him on whose unveiled Face you are privileged to gaze.

          Is it a sign or a mere coincidence? Is it a trick? I look at out at the trees bathed in the last rays of the setting sun to clear my head.

          At that very moment, the rays of the Christmas sun pierce the trees in a bright, unmistakable Cross of Light.

          And I have my answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Promise of a New Dawn

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          The image for my post yesterday came with this information: Morgenrot. Curious, I looked it up. It was the name of the place and it was German, bearing the meaning dawning, red sky at morning.

          Reading that, I felt a sudden arrow of excitement slice through me.

          This morning, eager to get on with the remaining cleaning and Christmas pre-cooking, my spirit found a quiet corner for some minutes. Remembering Sunday’s 1st reading,

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying:
Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky!   ~  Isaiah 7: 10 – 11

I prayed my prayer since Sunday once more.

Lord, I ask Thee for Thy sign

Since Sunday, each time I’ve prayed it, not seeking my will but that of God through His sign, God has answered me in huge ways. And so, I press on today.

Lord, I ask Thee for Thy sign

          Once more, He answers me and catches me by surprise. It is by the prayer following the Alleluia during morning Mass.

Alleluia, alleluia.
O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Alleluia, alleluia.

          The words seize my spirit. Each word is like an alpine horn, its notes blown down hillslopes and valleys, sounding the echoes of the past year.

Radiant Dawn

eternal light

sun of justice

come and shine

          In months past, countless times, so tired and beaten, unable to get back to my feet, God shot arrows of hope and encouragement to bid me rise.

God will help at the break of dawn

The cock is about to crow

My designs for you are about to unfold

          Each one bore the undeniable promise of a new dawn.

          Today, seeking His sign, God gives me the prayer for Christmas.

Radiant Dawn, Eternal Light,

Sun of justice, come and shine!

 

 

 

 

 

Faith to Fallen is Restored

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Maker of All, Eternal King

Now the shrill cock proclaims the day,
and calls the sun’s awakening ray,
the wandering pilgrim’ guiding light,
that marks the watches night by night.

New hope his clarion note awakes,
sickness the feeble frame forsakes,
the robber sheathes his lawless sword,
faith to fallen is restored.

 

Faith to fallen is restored

The line resolutely pushes past the many clouds upon my heart.

Three days to Christmas.

The sun begins to rise!