ILLUMINATION

3 Words

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          Just about 2 weeks ago, I became unexpectedly overwhelmed, reaching a cliff-edge I had not been quite so near in some time. Many times before, I have been overcome by exhaustion and a host of other emotions. But something was different this time. This time, part of me was calm and fully functional.

          But there was another part and that part of me was at the very edge of hysteria; I felt as if I wanted to just scream and scream till I was emptied of everything that had accumulated inside unseen. There was no rage or fury nor sorrow. None of that. Just an overpowering sense of being being filled to bursting with things that had no right being inside me.

          Thank God my husband walked into our bedroom just as that moment and I blurted out to him about how I was feeling. Very firmly and quickly, he told me I had pushed too much, that I needed to drop everything and rest. With that timely support in place, I did just that. Although it was just a little past 10pm and there were still some things to be seen to at home on a week night, I dropped everything, shut the door and picked up a book I had been reading since the beginning of the year, Barack Obama’s A Promised Land.

          The effect of that shutting down was instantaneous. Just a few lines in, a sudden inner quiet took hold of me. It was not due to anything on the page I had been reading – but I suspect just the fact that I had intentionally stepped away from something not quite right – saved me.

          In that moment of sudden quietening, I called out to my God.

Help me, Lord. I need help. 

          I was a workaholic and I needed to quit working the way I did and yet, not actually quit my job. But I didn’t know how. I had tried breaks. I had tried to not care as much. Nothing worked.

Help me, Lord. I need help. 

          Into that silence, I heard a male voice, with an American accent, speak at my ear.

Keep it simple

          Like a bolt of light, those 3 words pierced me.

Keep it simple

          I didn’t need anything more explained to me. Early in the year, I had heard a voice say to me, The time for work has ended. I wasn’t too sure what was meant. With each phase of lockdown we entered after that, I wondered if that end had come. Yet, it wasn’t so. Deep inside, I wondered if it meant that the old way of working had ended. But with the terrible crush of work that came in March, that too didn’t seem likely.

          Keep it simple suddenly made it clear. The world would go on the way it was going – it was I who needed to change my approach to work. The time to work as I had for more than 2 decades had ended. The endless 18-hour days, the vicious cycles I put myself through, the high intensity of perfection I pushed myself to – it had to go. It all had to go.

Keep it simple

          I went in to work the very next day and for the next 2 weeks with those 3 words firmly pinned to my heart. A clear stream began to trip and tumble within me. An exquisite sweetness began to light the edges of my spirit. Some days, I still came home very tired – but something had changed. It was a tiredness that was quickly healed by a day or two of good rest and sleep.

          In the past, none of that had worked for long.

          Today, I realised that the cliff-edge I had almost tottered over was that of irreversible burnout. Had I not been obedient to God’s voice through my husband, something could have happened that night 2 weeks ago.

         3 words sent from heaven had saved me.

Keep it simple

 

Lent 19 ~ Let Me See

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Open my eyes to see clearly

the wonders of Your law.

I am a sojourner in the land;

My soul clings to the dust;

give me life in accord with Your word.

My soul is depressed;

lift me up according to Your word.   ~  Psalm 119: 18, 19, 25, 28

          Today work reached in and wiped out everything I had in me, right down to the inner cellars where reserves of strength and hope are stored. Restlessly, I roamed, going from window to window, trying to see something in the skies, in the garden, that would lift and dissipate this dull deadness within. I know what brought this on – skimpy sleep and work overload. I had nobody to blame but myself.

          As the hot evening winds gusted insistently about the house against a lowering yellow sun, I washed the car and scrubbed floors even as I leaned my heart against the words of the unruly winds, trying to make out what they were saying, if any of it was for me. But I was wound too tight, and nothing got past the doors of my heart.

          Still, you don’t go through 18 days of Lent and not learn something. The harder it gets, the harder you must love. Someone I know is in terrible need. I’ve known something of this kind of worry. It slips deep, snaking its fear through you, rendering you deaf and blind.

It must be prayed against.

          Before long, the prayers gentle. Whether due to physical exertion or the moment of need passing, I cannot tell. I hope it is the latter. I don’t want my friend to suffer this fear.

          But the tired lifelessness remains.

My soul is depressed

          Lift me up according to Your word

          I cannot go on, Lord, I just cannot. We need some news, Lord, a sun to lift the spirit from this strange bed it’s lying on. Tell me my prayer, Lord. Tell me what to pray for. From morn, I have asked this, to no avail. It is night now and the winds have gone back to their lands. There is still work to be done, it never ends, just never ends. I poke at it listlessly, labouring over a simple report, but my heart now rests deep in family, in thanksgiving of past miracles.

          It is then that I hear it, the prayer for the day.

          Let me see.

Lent 13 ~ Live in Gentleness

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He who does little, but in a state to which God calls him, does more than he who labours much, but in a state which he has thoughtlessly chosen: a cripple limping in the right way is better than a racer out of it.   ~  St. Augustine

          How true that quote is. And how often I have been guilty of being the racer who labours much but in a state I have thoughtlessly chosen. I am reminded of a time a few years ago when I stubbed my toe and fractured it. For 4 weeks, I was that cripple in the quote, slowly and carefully hobbling down corridors and up and down stairs. I thought of the large amount of work that needed to be done but which I couldn’t in my state. There was no help for it; I could only work as fast as I could move.

          Surprisingly, everything got done. For 4 weeks, I worked with calm deliberation, thoughtfully considering my every move and task. No frenzied ticking off lists in my head. No zipping here and there, doing the necessary and the unnecessary. Still, work got done. Meals got cooked. Clothes got laundered and ironed.

          For 4 weeks, every minute was lived in gentleness.

          Today, for the first time, I catch the morning sun shining its heart right through the trees facing the east. At that perfect angle, the sun’s rays pierce my eyes and my heart. Delighting in this early morning gift, I leave my work to love the sun. 

           What do You ask of me, Lord? I happily tilt my own heart to the sun. No reply is laid upon my ears as second by second, the gold of morning grows impossibly brighter. Then, just as suddenly as it came to its window in our trees, the sun rose higher, taking its piercing rays to others.

          In the ineffable sweetness of parting, I understood the call of His flaming Heart.

          Live in gentleness.

Lent 6 ~ Journey

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When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi,
He asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven
.”   ~  1 Peter 5: 1 – 4

          Whatever Peter proved to be right up to the time of Jesus’ capture and subsequent Crucifixion, to earthly sight, he was no rock and certainly not one to be trusted with the keys to heaven. He wasn’t too keen on dying for heaven and tried to persuade Jesus to this view. In trying to protect Jesus from capture, Peter left Malchus with one ear less but later, vigorously denied the same Jesus he claimed to have loved.

          Jesus knew all of this would come to pass; yet, He proclaimed,

And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven;

          Because Jesus knew that Peter was a work in progress. That it would be a journey for Peter to go from being an impulsive and tempestuous man to being loyal and steadfast, humble and obedient to the point of death.

         Before Lent, in 5 words, God had defined Lent for me:

Descend into your inner room

          I misconstrued it to mean that I had to immediately reach the depths of this inner sanctum by the first day of Lent. That is why I put myself under unnecessary pressure. Now, seeing the word Descend clearly and finally, I understand that I have to journey into my inner room. It is not a thing to be achieved in a day. There will be things that I have to face in myself. Things I have to learn to let go of and to heal from. A journey and a process. Some things must come before others, just as it did with Peter. Peter’s whole life was a journey into his inner room. So is ours. Perhaps that is why God said, Descend, – not, Go.

Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My heavenly Father.”

          Descending into our inner room is a conscious and deliberate journey towards Illumination.

For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My heavenly Father.

          It is a journey into the Heart of God.

Troubling the Dark

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          A week back, I began to pray for the grace to love my crosses. I was fed up of fearing them, worrying over them, and twisting this way and that to get away from them. I figured that if I loved my crosses like the saints did theirs, it would make for a far simpler life, gentle the rough and painful.

          But I’m no saint. To love one’s cross is a love that is hard to swallow. And praying for the grace to love the cross is one thing; loving it when it actually comes is another. But anyway, last week,was all about praying for this grace. And hale and hearty, feeling strong inside, I went at it with a dedication.

          One day, my husband away in another city, the kids in bed, just past the witching hour, I said the Rosary for the day. Through each decade of the Sorrowful Mysteries, I wove a tentative thanksgiving for the crosses in my life which helped me see the Face of my God. I asked for the grace to love my crosses sincerely. When I was done, I went in to prepare for bed.

          No sooner had I set the alarm for the next day when a thunderous crash smashed through my home. Shocked, I shot out of bed, shouting, What was that? What was that? It sounded like something huge and heavy had crashed down to the floor just outside my room. I turned on the light in my room and cautiously scanned the hallway and living room for the source of that terrible sound. None of the pictures on the walls had fallen. The altar hung as securely as ever. The house lay still and silent. The children slept on blissfully unaware of anything. I stood still at my bedroom door, in full alertness, yet, curiously, unafraid.

          Then, I saw it.

          Just in front of me, on the floor, a good 5 feet from where it hung, was our small, light, wooden Crucifix. Its place was a nail on the wall just beneath our altar outside my room. And just below this Crucifix, was a broad, sturdy, hardwood cabinet. If either the nail on the wall from which it hung or the hook on the Crucifix itself had broken, the Crucifix would have landed on the cabinet, or at the furthest, the floor close to the cabinet. But, no, it landed 5 feet away.

          It had hit the floor with a vehemence incongruous with its smallness and lightness.

          I was exceedingly calm. Yet, my skin on my right arm crawled and crawled upon seeing the Crucifix on the floor – a sensation I had only when I saw snakes.

          I took a deep breath and bent down to pick up the wooden Crucifix. I willed it to have a broken hook.

          It was fine, nothing wrong with it.

          I went to the wall to see if the nail had loosened. It hung firm and securely.

          A light fell into my heart like a shard of glass.

          I knew then with a certainty that the Crucifix had not fallen down. That terrifying noise had come with force. It had been smashed down by a force unseen. And it had been smashed down with hatred and anger.

          Someone hated the very Cross I wanted to love.

          I was alone with young ones, living an hour when it would be insane and heartless to call the priest and tell him what had happened. To get through the remaining hours of the dark night, I tried to convince myself that I had imagined it all. Maybe a super-big bug had knocked the Cross off its hook on the wall.

          In an immediate response to that reasoning,  my skin crawled again. This time, I couldn’t delude myself into believing that I had imagined it, or that there was an insect that it could be blamed on. The crawling sensation on my skin was proof that the Crucifix on the floor was the work of the serpent.

          Why had it come into my home? Where had I gone wrong? I searched my heart for answers as I moved through each room in the house, sprinkling holy water as I prayed a prayer brought to me two years ago in a warning dream of evil, Blood of Christ, wash through my home. It was then that I recalled my prayer earlier, at each decade of the Rosary. My prayer to love my crosses seemed to only be brave words from a cowardly soul, yet, it had hit darkness and lit a black rage there, its fury making it grab and smash the very Cross I had prayed to love.

          In that moment of illumination, I realized that every humble and sincere prayer troubles the dark waters, but the prayer to willingly suffer for Christ goes further. It unlocks an unseen gate, unleashing a violent tempest of malevolence. I believe it is the prayer the dark hates the most. And that was the prayer I prayed in all my weakness. The journey of years had brought me to that point. I have taken a step willed and lit by heaven’s Light. But it’s not a step the dark ever wanted me to take.

          To suffer for my Christ is to suffer the brutality of the dark. Yet, cowardly and lame as I am, I will not turn back, for I sense heaven lies ahead.

          Just past the steaming dark swells that churn between the now and the Coming.

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The Illumination Gifts

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                Wanting to glorify Mother Mary on the Feast of the Assumption today,  I sought to mark the day in gold for her, because nothing less would do. Remembering her love for Roses, I offered one, its Mysteries mine ~ A Mother Gives Glory:

The Annunciation,

The Visitation,

The Birth of Jesus,

The Wedding Feast at Cana,

The Assumption.

          On the first four, I traced Her life and Her deeds, following Her as She placed Her will in the heart of God. Against the jubilant chorus of sun~morning winds, I learned anew Mary’s Yes. Simple. In the moment. Humble. Pure. Perfect.

          When I came to the final decade of my Assumption Rosary, I tipped over my heart and emptied it. I wanted nothing of myself in the final reflection, but to be filled with the Perfume of the Queen. As the winds sang and wove their goldspun dance through the leaves and boughs, tickling the old, weathered wind chimes into giggles, I waited expectantly for Mother to come before me, in word or vision, as she once had. 

          Slowly, gently, as the mirth of the day touched the ends of the cloud dusted skies, I sensed my emptied heart being expanded with a presence. I peered eagerly into the pearlstream of diamonds brimming into my spirit, wondering what treasure My Mother had for me.

          The winds dipped into a hushed sweep.

          Then deep within me, stirred memories of long ago-s.

          I felt the caresses of old years gone by, heard the lilting gaiety of innocent babes born to us, blessing our weary hearts with a joy never imagined. I touched the wraiths of love and fun and tender cherishing, born from the old days when to love was to hug and tickle, to caress and kiss. I remembered the joys we once had with the children, sun~tumbled days of simple happiness, when the shadows knew not where to find us, because our love for the little ones was the second sun in the sky, leaving no space for the slightest grey.

          Bit by little bit, my heart filled with these aged memories where cherishing came before anything else.

           On this day of Her Triumph, looking out of the window of my heart for Mother Mary to come to me in a burst of golden glory, She came instead to turn my heart to where my true gold was. She came to me, bringing me the illumination gifts: my own children. From the Heart that Knows to the heart that is seeking, She asked that I learn to rest from work and care when the need had passed. She pressed that I perfume this day, and all days, once more, with the incense of tenderly cherishing the children, as they once were cherished.

          As She once appeared to me arrayed in the Gold of Ophir, with children in Her arms and around her, She came once more today to teach me my path of Illumination lay in treasuring my gold ~ my children – as much as it did in working and caring for their needs.

          Like Martha, I too must learn to leave work and cares in their place, and seek the better part, for to rest in the joy of my children is to glorify my God who gifted me them.