PENTECOST

River

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          The past week, I had been trying to prepare myself for the feast of Pentecost. Yet, everything I tried didn’t quite click. Finally, I turned to God and asked Him to lay upon my heart that which I should focus on.

          I went on to spend a happy Pentecost Vigil day touching the soul of God through an assortment of household chores which kept me busy and happy, yet undistracted.

          Through them all, in my heart I prayed St. Augustine’s prayer,

Breathe in me O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.

          Later that day, still confident that God would speak, as I read on a multitude of topics, I continued to ask Him to lay His word on my heart.

          I felt a shifting in the air. Many things did pass before my eyes, but my spirit could hold on to nothing.

          As I waited for sleep to claim me on the Vigil night, I sang in my heart an old Holy Spirit hymn that an Irish nun had taught me as a child.

Come, Holy Spirit, we need you,

Come Sweet Spirit, we pray,

Come with Your strength and Your power,

Come in Your own gentle way.

          On the morning of Pentecost, an unexpected word was waiting for me.

River

And with it, an old post from Good Friday last year, They Have Returned.

          I slept well but was awakened close to six in the morning by a dream.

          I was outside a building. I had the feeling that there was water nearby, that it was a waterfront building. There were cars. I saw one, a humble, old car, a muslim father and kids inside. The kids were slightly impatient. I heard the father calmly tell the children to be patient a while longer. I sensed he and others were waiting for something or someone. I interiorly knew that the mother, a muslim too,  had gone inside that waterfront building

          Then, I too was inside that building. A priest was just ending the celebration of Mass. For some reason, I went up to the altar, to the right of it. Behind the altar,  the doors of the building opened out to a huge, huge, flowing river. A golden river. The waters seemed to be even higher than the building I was in. 

          Suddenly, the moment the Mass ended, a great mist rose from the golden river and began to swirl around. There was something so deeply beautiful in that mist that the congregation collectively gasped at its beauty.

          But I didn’t have time to immerse myself in its beauty – for I saw something the others had not seen yet.

That it was not mist.

It was children! Little children! Hundreds of them!

          These children were alighting from a sort of river bus. Each one had a photo. I knew immediately that the little ones had come from heaven. And that they were going to be ‘matched’ to the person in the photo that each clutched.

          In such a crowd of busy, silent children, it should have been impossible, but I immediately saw the one I sought. I rushed towards him and hugged him tightly as I sobbed and sobbed. All around me, the rest of the congregation at Mass, all of them parents too, surged forwards towards their children in tearful joy.

          In that piercing dream, I was shown the two children I had lost through miscarriage long years ago. I had always strongly suspected that I had miscarried our first baby but because it had happened so soon, before I even had time to test myself, I could never be sure.

          Yet, my heart mourned and I mourned for a boy, though I didn’t know why.

          Then, after our eldest was born, a year later, I had a miscarriage at 2 months, but came to know only at the fourth month mark. We grieved very deeply over that loss and somehow, I always sensed it had been a girl.

          That Good Friday dream of 2018, years and years after these wounds to our hearts, confirmed what I had sensed all these years.

          Now with the word river laid on my heart, I realized something about little children was being shown to me. It was like a hidden bell tinkling in the mist, signaling that something lies ahead.

          Something to do with children. A miracle.

          Something not just for Christians but for all.

          The following day, on the Feast day of Mary, Mother of the Church, God placed on my heart a sick baby and his brave mother. Too far away to offer any physical help, I decided to pray a special anointing prayer for them for the rest of June, using the St. Raphael’s healing oil I had. I asked for a miracle.

          As I traced the sign of the Cross on my forehead in proxy for the mother and wee son, I sensed my spirit quieten even more.

          Later, tuckered out from a busy day of home chores, I went to lie down for a short nap. I had been on a short break and it was my last day of respite from work. I would be returning to work the next day, returning to all the old and mottled lanes.

          But something had changed. I no longer resented the call of work. While I wasn’t looking forwards to it, I did not fear it as I had before. My impending return didn’t dry out my spirit or rent my heart. Instead, a strange ray of hope had begun to shine through.

          My heart plunged into thanksgiving for the beautiful break. Over and over and over, I gave God my grateful heart, humbled at how happy He had made me with little gifts tucked into each day. As each passing hour took me closer and closer to a world I still wished I was not a part of, suddenly nothing mattered now except my song of thanksgiving.

           A short while later, I awakened. Going to my window, I looked up at the sky.

          And I gasped.

          Before me was a massive, massive rainbow, stunning beyond words, its colours so vibrant and vivid. Only once before, broken and in near despair, had I seen a rainbow as beautiful as this. That day, God had strongly spoken His word of hope to me. Upon hearing it, my weakened spirit had immediately revived.

         Now, seeing this gorgeous gift from heaven, right outside my window, unbelievably huge, majestic in its presence, its colours pulsing with life, I rushed out of the house, into my garden to gaze at the bow in the sky, unhindered.

          Standing in stunned, joyful silence, I breathed in its luminous beauty.

          Golden river. Returning children. Feast of Mary the Mother of the Church.

          The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will fulfill the promise   ~   Jeremiah 33: 14

 

 

 

 

Fire

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          I had become aware that I had been mentally and emotionally feeling the heat of a burning for the past two weeks. The fire of loss of a (destructive) friendship I have come to cherish (unfortunately). The fire of loss of hope in the workplace environment. And a few other little  fires burning here and there on the landscape of my spirit.

          I lamented these fires, sought heaven’s help to put them out. These were almost all old fires, and I had wearied of them. Most of all, I was tired of being who I was, someone in a near constant burn, always burning up in secret over something.

          And when I finally fell at God’s feet for mercy, asking for the respite of Joy for my burning, He told me,

Rise!

          A day later, when I had quietened myself somewhat, He continued,

Arise!  Shine!

          I saw it as a call to obedience, as a call to work. So, with the help of dear~heart friends who answered the Spirit’s summons to help me understand, I tried the live the new hours differently. I did not seek joy although I burned for it; instead, I sought His will in loving and caring for my family. I sought His will at my workplace in willfully searching out silence. Because in all of these abodes of quietness and simplicity and silence, lay the call to obedience, from which joy would flow.

          If I could just hold on long enough, that is.

          So, I took myself back to the vineyard again. But instead of the inner assurance I thought would come, I sensed that my spirit doors remained open.

          Late, late at night, when the moon~scented hours seemed to have nothing more for me, unseen hands turned my eyes towards a piercing teaching about Fire.

          “A Father of the Church, Origen, in one of his Homilies on Jeremiah, cites a saying attributed to Jesus, not contained in the sacred Scriptures but perhaps authentic, which reads: “Whoever is near to me, is near to the fire” (Homily on Jeremiah, L. I [III]). In Christ, in fact, there is the fullness of God, who in the Bible is compared to fire. We just observed that the flame of the Holy Spirit blazes but does not burn. And nevertheless it enacts a transformation, and thus must also consume something in man, the waste that corrupts him and hinders his relations with God and neighbour.

          This effect of the divine fire, however, frightens us; we are afraid of being “scorched” and prefer to stay just as we are. This is because our life is often based on the logic of having, of possessing and not the logic of self-gift. Many people believe in God and admire the person of Jesus Christ, but when they are asked to lose something of themselves, then they retreat; they are afraid of the demands of faith. There is the fear of giving up something pleasant to which we are attached; the fear that following Christ deprives us of freedom, of certain experiences, of a part of ourselves.

          On the one hand, we want to be with Jesus, follow him closely, and, on the other, we are afraid of the consequences entailed.

          Dear brothers and sisters, we are always in need of hearing the Lord Jesus tell us what He often repeated to His friends: “Be not afraid”. Like Simon Peter and the others we must allow His presence and His grace to transform our heart, which is always subject to human weakness. We must know how to recognize that losing something indeed, losing ourselves for the true God, the God of love and of life is actually gaining ourselves, finding ourselves more fully.

          Whoever entrusts himself to Jesus already experiences in this life the peace and joy of heart that the world cannot give, and that it cannot even take away once God has given it to us.

          So it is worthwhile to let ourselves be touched by the fire of the Holy Spirit! The suffering that it causes us is necessary for our transformation. It is the reality of the Cross. It is not without reason that in the language of Jesus, “fire” is above all a representation of the mystery of the Cross, without which Christianity does not exist.

          Thus enlightened and comforted by these words of life, let us lift up our invocation: Come, Holy Spirit! Enkindle in us the fire of Your love! We know that this is a bold prayer, with which we ask to be touched by God’s flame; but above all we know that this Flame and It alone has the power to save us.

          We do not want, in defending our life, to lose eternal life that God wants to give us. We need the fire of the Holy Spirit, because only Love redeems. Amen.”   ~   Pope Benedict XVI

 

          Like so many, I too wanted to be enveloped by the miracle and joy of Pentecost. Pentecost was fire, yes, but for me it meant the fire of inner light and jump and spring, the fire-power of special wisdom and vigour that I needed so badly to carry my Crosses.

          Not once did I associate it with a hidden burning away of my old self.

          In the dark of the quiet hours, I finally understood the fire I was sensing.

 

 

 

 

Pearls of Little Holies

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          I made a friend recently. Only I didn’t know it till later. I first found him through a humble entreaty to the Holy Spirit in a Consecration Novena I had said short weeks before. Later, in the hours of dry winds, I met him again in a prayer.

          And still it didn’t clink that these bumpings were not mere coincidences.

          Until I came face-to-face with him yet again in a quote by him, On your exceedingly great mercy, and on that alone, rests all my hope, used as a lead to the exquisite poem, Regarding Love by Cynthia Scodova in her blog, The Mad-Eyed Monk. From that quote, he led me down the poem till my eyes rested on

The infinitesimal sings its small song for You

          Only then, belatedly, did it hit me that St. Augustine was calling out to me to get my attention, and his call had something to do with the way The infinitesimal sings its small song for You curled and settled into my heart .

          I knew very little about him except that he was more than a trunk-load of headache and heartache to his mother, St. Monica. Then, he found God, and left the sordid life he had known and loved, for another of holy deeps that stripped him of all he had held close before.

          Reading about him, getting to know him, I asked him what his reaching out to me meant. Was it to strip myself of more life-sapping petals? Was it to write more, speak more? What?

          He held my eyes, and took me back to the little lamps he had lit as he drew me towards him.

∗   The simple prayer to the Holy Spirit in the Consecration Novena,

∗   The calling to the Holy Spirit to scatter its cheerful beams into my withering soul.

∗   And finally, The infinitesimal sings its small song for You

          And then, the bead slid into its pod.

          St. Augustine, great Doctor of the Church who occupied the highest of echelons of spiritual greatness, was calling me to the littles of life. To pare down life to what was truly important – the little calls heaven presses into my spirit. The ones I sadly, often forsake, seeking instead the heights of greatness in pastures not meant for me. The calls were the sacred duties of wife and mother which God had entrusted to me.

          Every day since I found his prayer I had been praying for the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Now, St. Augustine was willing me to understand that for the Spirit to permeate every pore of my soul, I needed to return in cheerful obedience and humility, to tend to every one of the little holies of my life – the sacred calls woven into my marriage and motherhood. To attend to the littles of life was to allow a scattering of the Spirit’s cheerful beams, within every fold and crease of my walk on this earth.

          St. Augustine had come in Mercy, to call me to return to the holiness of the littles. To fill with love and tenderness the golden cups set out for me in the Divine Will. He had come to teach me that every little act of love, every tiny sacrifice hidden for the Love of the Most High, would be like simple grains of sand the world might scoff at, but when  purified, be transformed into pearls of little holies, woven one into another, to form the necklace of Eternal Life.

Spirit~Fall

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          Two weeks ago, St. Augustine quietly eased into my life on a blue breeze when I began saying the shortened, 9 day Preparation for Consecration of the Family to Jesus Through Mary. Tucked into that 9-day novena, was a daily prayer by the saint:

St. Augustine’s Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Breathe in me O Holy Spirit that my thoughts may all be holy;

Act in me O Holy Spirit that my works, too, may be holy;

Draw my heart O Holy Spirit that I love but what is holy;

Strengthen me O Holy Spirit to defend all that is holy;

Guard me then O Holy Spirit that I always may be holy.

          I was pleasantly surprised to read such a simple, straight-to-the-heart prayer from an esteemed Doctor of the Church, whom I always associated with loftier works. One of the little lessons the Spirit brought me through St. Augustine’s prayer was that those closest to God will always endeavor to simplify life and living, for themselves, for others. And that is one of the signs of someone whose heart was right beside His Shepherd’s, united with His Master in bringing heaven’s lights to the somber clutter of erred living.

          I made the consecration and left St. Augustine in the prayer booklet I had used. A week after, I became aware of a mild interior barrenness. Of an inner abode cleared of many of its burdens, yet lacking the silver tinkle of joy to wreathe the inner spaces with life-giving light.

          That was when St. Augustine came right back into my world. He slipped in through Nancy Shuman’s post in The Breadbox Letters, Holy Spirit, Enlighten…

 O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams.  ~ Saint Augustine

          I read the words and right away knew it was what I needed – a scattering of cheerful beams. Not a firing up, not a lancing through, not even a flooding, but a scattering, so Light is drizzled far and wide, over every mottle of shadow left in my soul.

          I went back to that invocation several times, for myself, for others, each time, praying the hope St. Augustine had spun into prayer.

          A day later, returning home as the afternoon sun had begun to tease the western skies, I suddenly sensed a tiny joy~bell chime within me. My breath caught as a faded memory of old days danced before me. Days dimpled in exquisite peace and joy. Times gone by, years and years and years past.

          And now suddenly, right after the prayer, with no fanfare to herald its coming, a hundred wee bells tinkled their lilt of joyousness into the folds of my spirit. Ringing and tinkling, ringing and tinkling, they watered the empty burrows I had grown accustomed to. Once more, long, long years since the last, I felt again the joy~jingles birthed only from the shores of heaven’s streams. A deep serenity and peace bubbled and unfurled within the folds and creases of my weather beaten spirit, smoothening out every wrinkle.

          Since Pentecost, I had been looking out wistfully for the holy fire of the Upper Room to fall upon me. I had tensed in hope in every crescendo moment; in rigid readiness sought the spirit~fall in the crash and bang of dramatics.

          But for me, the spirit~fall was not to be found in the passion and widesweeps of life.

          Instead, it came in the quiet streams of Sacred Blood and Water, to tinkle awake the sleeping bells of my soul.