FEAST OF THE EXALTATION OF THE CROSS

To Accept

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          Who knew it is possible to be gently happy and at peace even in sadness and uncertainty? With each passing day taking me closer to the day when I might lose my job, I expected the pain within me to intensify to the point of bitter grief. Instead, here I am, filled to the brim with a strange sweetness, a pink and white nectar I’ve never known before. And not only am I sustained through the hours, I can even sense a silver brook tumble elfin bells within me.

          Even as one life seems to be winding to its end, another has already begun. Towards the end of May this year, I finally admitted to myself that I was experiencing a deep burnout over work. Despite the changes I had made and the improved quality of life, it still wasn’t enough to shore up what was inevitably crumbling. Even though I could still handle work and do it well, something was clearly dying inside me. All the years of struggle and tyranny had taken its toll. I only wanted to stay on for financial reasons, nothing else mattered any more. Even then I wondered how long I’d hold out, because although money is important, it has never been a major motivation for me. When I reached breaking point, would money be enough to convince me to stay on?

          At that point, everything that held me in place fast fraying, one Sunday in May found me musing about trying something, something different that would offer a respite from the intensity of life as it was then. If I couldn’t escape from my job, could I then build another world within it, a new world that would nourish and sustain me even as the old one drained me dry?

          The minute I began to give it serious consideration, something was set in motion. Despite being filled with trepidation and doubt in myself, I applied to go back to school, fulfilling a dream I’ve long had. Even as fear and shame over my lack of abilities and past failures held me back many times, the moment I opened one door, it seemed as if unseen hands were gently pushing me from behind and tugging me forwards. 

          On and on, those unseen souls led me down one rutted path after another. Sometimes, overcome by fear, I would question my sanity in attempting something like this. If I could barely manage my job, how was I to study and work? Was this not the height of lunacy?

          In response, yet another door would open. Keep your eyes on the Lord and move forward, St Margaret Mary said.

          Just as the storms whipped around me more violently, the acceptance notification came on the Feast of St Teresa of Calcutta, to shine a light through the gathering darkness. And it was significant because 11 years ago, St Teresa had taken me on a journey through the book on her life, Come Be My Light. At the end of that journey 11 years ago, I understood what carrying our cross and following Jesus meant. While I fell many, many times since then, I know that those lessons St Teresa taught me have brought me to this point in time when light is somehow piercing this darkness. There are some days when I still I cry and rage at the world for the unfair hand it is dealing me and my family – but I cannot remain in the pit for long, for there are books to read and words to write, meetings to attend and thoughts to think.

          Today, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, little bells are stirring in my spirit. Their light chimes lead me to forgive all who are hurting us. To ask for the grace of silence as I carry my cross as Jesus did.

          And finally, to accept with humility and with generosity of giving, the will of my Jesus that sometimes we must suffer so that someone else is saved.

 

 

 

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.