JESUS

Lent 39 ~ Memories

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          Hours upon hours of stillness. A world frozen. A world in motion. One has ended, the other in a flow that barely paused. Voices filter through the bars, laughter even. Huddled in spots, people gather for the news, casting for details they might have missed. Mouth to ear, word by word, a story gets told.

          Almost forgotten is a mother, whose heart beats in the shadows of anguish. Surrounded, yet alone, travelling the length of remembers.

          Of a Baby She held to Her Heart, a life loved, a life lived, lit by lamps of a million memories. Thoughts and words, so many, many, tucked into each crease of times gone by. Old yet fresh, anguished yet tender, in its unveiling.

          Held again, this Mother Her mutilated Son, in farewell poignant, one last time. Released now as Light to the world.

          That life may live again.

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LENT 35 ~ Jesus Fought My Battle

St. Sebastian, St. Sebastian (41)[1]

          Yesterday, the Lord called me to a fast from anger.

          Never before have I felt such tenderness in a call. Never before have I found the firmness of will to obey. 

          The moment I sensed the call, there arose like mushrooms after the rain, endless pops of situations that tested my patience, and tempted me to anger. Seeing the end of Lent in sight, and not wanting to gift my Lord on Easter with the usual mess of red darts, I willfully chose to rest my heart and will in Jesus.

          And He fought my battles for me.

          I came to evening weary and listless from physical tiredness, but also with a relief that no one did I maim with my anger. Neither did it find a refuge within my soul in the sultry hours of yesterday.

          Because, for once, I fasted from myself and let my Jesus fight for me.

TRIUMPH OF THE HOLY CROSS ~ Sept 14

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Years ago, when my eyes first traced the words – Triumph of the Holy Cross, I naively imagined the coming feast would bring me joy and revelry. As it turned out, from that first year, every time I saw the feast approaching, I remembered all we had hoped for but ultimately lost. My heart ached every time I heard the proclamation that the Cross would bring joy and that it was a sign of hope.

To me, it brought neither.

Yet, I knew that the struggle to comprehend the true meaning of Christian joy was due to my experience of pain, and not a rebellion against the truth. My feelings were an impediment to the acceptance of the doctrine of the Cross. Although I instinctively knew it was true, I couldn’t see the truth of it manifested through what we had gone through. I didn’t doubt the truth of my cradle faith, but I hurt because I could not proclaim it in sincerity in my life. And I desperately wanted to not hurt because of it.

Every time, every year the feast made its way up my calendar, the eyes of my heart watched it in wary curiosity, willing God to lift the veil and let the truth shine through, so the pain would dissipate.

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This year, on an impulse, I made the sudden decision to mark the feast. I had had enough of waiting by the wings. I began to recite the Novena of the Exaltation of The Holy Cross. It was my way of telling God, I want to know. Lift the veil, Lord.

Some days into it, I heard a voice say, Blow the Spirit of My Mother into the realms. A fleeting voice. Light. Leaving no mark within me. No compulsion that I follow its leading. An invisible beckoning to part the veil, to go beyond the veil.

I chased after the voice. I called out and waited for its answering echo. I listened out for it, day and night, trying to make out its cadences from among the cacophony of other competing voices.

Blow the Spirit of My Mother into the realms.

I turned the phrase over and over in my mind. Many dear souls tried to help me fathom its meaning. But every honest suggestion bounced off me like silver raindrops sliding into the earth. Nothing stayed long enough to resonate.

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On the 14th of September, I sat in an empty and silent church and stared at my Lord on His Cross. It was not an easy journey to make to the church, so I wanted to make the most of it. I got busy offering Him my prayers and supplications. I looked carefully at the Cross and willed Him to speak to me. I waited. There was a peaceful quiet around me, but nothing more. After a time, I decided to leave.

As I moved to get up, I was suddenly assailed by a powerful sense of gratitude for His gift of faith to me. Thankfulness flooded my spirit like never before. I had long suspected that what bit of faith I had was not of my making, but a gift from above.

But up to then, I had never before felt such a deep conviction of that. In that moment of light in the church yesterday, I was bent over in a gratitude not mine for all God had blessed me with. It was something I knew all along, and yet, it seemed that some inner eye had been opened to the gift of spiritual insight.

As I finally made my way out of church, I felt an unseen burden lifted off my shoulders. I did not know what that burden was, but I felt light within.

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Stepping into the sunshine, ready to go forth with a spring in my step, I became aware of a sudden developing aridity in my soul. In a split second, I had moved from white to dark. It felt as if my soul was drying from the edges inwards. Nothing around me had changed. And yet, some darkness had slipped in. An unseen wind borne and strengthened on gusts of fear and panic began to howl silently inside me. From the positive emotions of a scant few minutes before, this sudden change was a storm I never saw coming.

I went into pretend mode. I tried to not panic. I carved a face of normalcy and went about my day, while the storm clawed at me on the inside. I tended to house chores and cooked dinner, all the while frantically trying to discern what I had done wrong to have visited this on myself. A hundred questions. No answers.

But I knew, like the faith I carried in my heart, this secret growing desert within my soul was not my doing. It had formed unbidden in me several times in the past. It was not unknown. It was a small moment in the desert Christ stayed in for forty days. It was the desert of hopelessness, doubt, sorrow of the loss of heaven. It was the desolation of the perceived closed door of heaven. No spiritual leadings in that desert in me. No voiceless prompts to charity and rightness. No comfort, no solace, no peace. The aridity was heaven’s door sealed to me so I would leave the comforts I had grown used to, to search anew for Truth.

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It was a journey I could never not make however much I despised it. And yet, I cowed in fear because it was a journey of the soul but without clearly sensing my Lord’s guiding Hand. It was a journey of obedience through bitter darkness and fear, not being able to see in front of me. This was a journey that called for only faith and obedience. And yet it seemed unsurmountable.

As the storm inside me crashed and raged in a widening circle of tempests, I grew more and more desperate. It reached a hideous peak.

Then, a prayer slipped into me. A prayer I have never before prayed.

Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit.

Like the faith I had, like the dryness in me, this prayer too was not my doing.

But I grasped it like one drowning. I didn’t question it. I didn’t analyse it. Over and over and over, I prayed the prayer, throwing myself in abandon into the depths of it.

Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit…

Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit…

Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit.

And the miracle began. I felt something take root and bloom within my soul.

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The black ice began to melt. The darkness edged away. The storm swirled slower and slower and slower.

Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit.

I didn’t know that prayer and but my spirit did. It was my Savior’s words from the Cross. He gave me His words and turned me to His mother to place my spirit, my will in Her hands.

Stunned, I realised whose voice it was that I had heard that day ~ Blow the Spirit of My Mother into the realms – it was Jesus’ voice.

And when I answered with a trusting beyond me, Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit, I stepped out of the darkness. I parted the veil.

In that instant, I knew the Triumph of the Cross.