Thursday, April 24, 2014

Turned Turf

These daffodils by the Lake today are almost a month later than usual.  They push up through sticks and the remains of last summer's lilies.
I woke during the night and picked up District and Circle, a book of poetry by Seamus Heaney.  I am never sure, but I think in one poem he is describing his awakening to life and maybe to God.  He describes the cutting and turning of peat to dry in the sun.  Then he goes on to speak of himself: "...once I felt the air I was like turned turf in the breath of God."

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Almost Heaven

I've been hearing rumors about Corridor H in West Virginia for many years, but it didn't seem like it would ever be of use to me.  Recently some friends told me that some new sections had been finished that brought it from Interstate 81 to Bismarck, W.V., not too far from where I live.  It is Route 48.
Since I use Dulles Airport I got so excited about it yesterday afternoon that I drove over to Bismarck and got on it and drove to Moorefield, W.V. which took only 25 minutes.  The views were magnificent, an elegant bit of road building.   Parts of West Virginia that I had never seen.  I guess much of it was seen only by people who lived in the small towns in these mountains.
Much of the westernmost part of the road is also finished, but the sections from Bismarck west to at least Parsons are not.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Peace To You

Another picture of Friday's glorious sunset.  This is one of the first pictures I took that evening.  I came back in the house, but the sunset wouldn't quit.  I put on a coat and went back out.  That's when I got the picture I used Saturday.  That time I stayed out until the sky faded into darkness.
I've been reading about John 20:19-31 and meditating on it.
Father Raymond Brown says that Jesus' saying "Peace to you" goes beyond a greeting.  It is rather a statement that Jesus' Resurrection has brought them peace.  At the Last Supper he had said to the disciples, "Peace is my farewell to you; my peace is my gift to you; and I do not give it to you as the world gives it.  Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27)"  Jesus repeats, "Peace," as he sends the disciples as the Father has sent him.
The peace that Jesus is talking about is not the absence of war or conflict.  His Easter gift to the disciples and to us is an abiding sense of well being, a deep contentment that springs from our conviction that the Risen Jesus lives within us and is caring for us, looking out for us, protecting us.  We have no reason to be troubled or afraid.  We experience profound rest in his love for us and our love for him.  Our peace in the Risen Jesus is enlarged by our awareness that all others are experiencing the same deep contentment.  As faith deepens peace blossoms.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Beyond Time and Space

Last night's sunset, a fitting end for the Friday that we call Good.  Maybe an Easter sunset service might capture the glory.
None of the four Gospel writers describe the actual Resurrection, but if any of them were going to it would have been Matthew.  His account of the Empty Tomb (28:1-10) has more dramatic events than any of the others.  He wishes to show that the Resurrection is of cosmic importance, shaking the foundations of the world and affecting those long dead.  He uses typical apocalyptic imagery to symbolize that the power of God has intervened definitively in the tomb of Jesus.
The Resurrection itself could not be described.  It was an event that touched the other world beyond time and space.  When Matthew's angel rolls back the stone, it's not to let Jesus out of the tomb, but to show that Jesus is no longer in the tomb.
I used to imagine Jesus bursting out of the tomb.  But let's suppose that while Jesus lay dead in the darkness of the tomb his Father drew him body and soul into that other world beyond time and space.  Jesus in all his humanity becomes alive in a totally new way that enables him to move back and forth between worlds.  That's why he can appear as if from nowhere to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and later to the other disciples.
That's why he can live in us and in our whole cosmos, gathering all into God and filling us and our world with an Easter joy beyond imagining.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Maybe the greatest experience of art that I had last year was the exhibit at the Jewish Museum in New York City titled "Chagall: Love, War, and Exile."  I wrote about it here last November 14, but this Good Friday I am revisiting it through the book I bought at that time.
A Jew, born in Russia, Chagall ended up in the United States to escape Hitler's persecution of the Jews.  To express his concern for the Jews who were being killed in Europe he painted more than 25 pictures of the Crucifixion.  He stressed the Jewishness of Jesus and used his Crucifixion as a symbol of what was happening to the Jews in the concentration camps.  He commented, "My Christ, as I depict him, is always the type of the Jewish martyr, in pogroms and in our other troubles, and not otherwise." 
Among the many explanations of his art on the walls of the exhibit was this: "The Crucifixion images were not an expression of Christian theology. For him the cross was a symbol of persecution and oppression rather than a sign of redemption and hope."  That's a very succinct expression of what the Cross means to us.  Their were two paintings that I thought came very close to expressing redemption and hope. 
One of them is the picture (above) which Chagall titled "Exodus."  While it was not the most beautiful painting in the exhibit, it held for me the deepest meaning.  A large Christ is leading the Jewish people across the Red Sea to the Promised Land.  Moses holding the Tablets of the Commandments is almost out of the scene in the lower right hand corner.  Jesus is pictured with a halo and is surrounded by light, more as the triumphant Christ of John's Passion account rather than as the suffering Christ of Matthew's Passion. 
We Christians use the Exodus as a prototype of Jesus leading us out of slavery to sin into the promised land of new life.  Redemption and hope.

Wash one another's feet.

This is an extraordinarily clear picture of a dove outside my window.  Peace!?  (Click on it to enlarge it)
I had planned to use the powerful picture of Pope Francis washing the feet of imprisoned young people last Holy Thursday, that the Jesuits have been using as part of their vocation appeal.  I could not get it to show up properly on the blog.  I gave up, but today I thought I might at least include part of my reflections from yesterday.
This Holy Thursday Francis went to a home for elderly and disabled and washed the feet of twelve people: 9 Italians, a Muslim from Libya, a young man from Cape Verde, and an Ethiopian woman, some of them with feet that were swollen and disfigured.  He washed and dried and kissed their feet and explained that Jesus had made a gesture, the job of a slave, a servant, and left us this inheritance.  "We need," the Pope said, "to be servants to one another."  Seeing  this on TV or the internet is an enormous challenge to search out the forgotten ones.
Jesus wants to touch the hurting people of our world.  He can do it now only through us and only if we take to heart his command, "You also ought to wash one another's feet."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Between Two Worlds

22 degrees this morning and snow on the ground.  This goose hesitated for the longest while, torn between two worlds, one cold, the other colder.
Today is the feast of St. Bernadette.  I am going soon to Lourdes, France, where she saw visions of Our Lady. The movie, The Song of Bernadette, had a big influence on my heart as a boy.  I will watch it again tonight.
I wonder if Lourdes will be one of those places where even the air seems holy.  The Irish are not the only ones who refer to such places as "thin places," where the "membrane" separating this world and the next world is so thin that sometimes the Divine breaks through.  If we think of the other world woven into and through this world, it's not such a stretch to think that there are places where we are more apt to sense the Presence.
The strongest experience of a Holy Place that I have had was Assisi.  I have often told people that I wasn't sure St Francis made the place holy or the place made him holy.  The first "thin place" I experienced was the shrine of the Holy Child (Santo Nino) in Chimayo, New Mexico.  A holy well in western Ireland and inside the passage grave of Newgrange were places where I felt God's presence.  Chichen Itza on the Yucatan and Stonehenge in England had a similar feel about them.
Matthew in his Gospel, especially in his account of the Passion and of the Resurrection, is focused on how the Divine breaks through into this world.  Earthquake and lightening and the Temple curtain torn in two and the dead seen all around the city.  Daily prayer sharpens our senses so we can experience the Divine when and where Holiness happens.