Friday, October 29, 2010
Last night I dreamt that I was on a hillside looking for the spot where Jesus was crucified. Two women showed me two places that were "maybe" and advised me to settle for one of those. A young man took me to another spot that he said was the very place. Suddenly I awoke with mean cramps in both of my calves!
I guess this dream captures my disappointment in not seeing the hill of Calvary in the Holy Land. I did not realize that churches had been built over most of the important places to the extent that I could not see a hill. The same was true for the Empty Tomb. No garden to see. I expected a church to be beside Calvary or within a garden where I could see the Holy Sepulchre.
This is the best picture I could get of the area. It is the outside of the chapel of the Holy Sepulchre. I got the impression that the chapel is like a little church built inside a very large church which contains other segregated spaces. There were 25 of us priests and we had gotten permission to celebrate Mass in the cave where Jesus' tomb is located. We went through this door into an outer chamber where most of us gathered, while a few of us at a time stooped and went into the tiny cave. The altar in the cave is built over the Tomb. It is more abundantly decorated than this area outside the chapel.
If memory serves me, we climbed some steps from there to the chapel of the Crucifixion, just the opposite of the direction the body of Jesus was carried. What I remember most vividly of that space were life-size images of the Crucified Jesus and two other figures (Mary and John?)covered entirely with silver that reflected light so brightly that I could not get an adequate picture.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
I felt God's presence here more powerfully than in any of the shrines of the Holy Land. One of the new Seven Wonders of the World, Petra is in the country of Jordan. The towering canyon walls are majestic. I know that God is always present in me and around me, but this was one of those extraordinary times in my life when God allowed me to feel God's presence in a very intense and joyful way.
The two mile walk down into the canyon was more beautiful with every turn. The famous "Treasury," which is really a grand tomb, is carved into the rock face and presents a stunning appearance as we emerge from the narrower canyon into a more open sort of "town square." Once there our guide left us on our own. I enjoyed the excitement and bustle for about ten minutes, but I wanted to experience the canyon alone, so I started a very slow and meditative walk back up. At times I was completely alone, no one in sight. Just me and these great walls and God.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee. Neat that I got the Holy Spirit dipping into the water.
My favorite day in the Holy Land was the first day we spent in Galilee. I woke early and went for a swim in the Sea. I found myself thinking that Jesus and his disciples probably bathed in these waters every morning and perhaps also after a hot sweaty day. Then that got me thinking about all the other ordinary things that we human beings do every day that Jesus and his disciples must have done. It brought home vividly to me how really human Jesus was. "The Word became flesh and lived among us." The Greek verb translated "lived" means literally "pitched his tent among us."
We went for a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. It was easy from the boat to see, sloping down to the shore,the hillsides where Jesus taught and where he fed five thousand. It was easy to imagine him and his friends in a boat on the same sea. I thought how happy they must have been just to be with one another.
This is how it all began: a man looking pretty much like any man whose personality and conversation caught people's attention and made him some close friends. Pitched his tent among us indeed!
Saturday, October 9, 2010
On my way to the beach one day on the Big Island of Hawaii I saw this little church and I stopped to check it out. One of the stained glass windows is of a man I much admired when I was young. We called him "Damien the Leper." His last name is de Vuester. October 11 a year ago he was canonized Saint Damien of Molokai.
In 1865 when he came from Belgium to work as a missionary in Hawaii, his first parish was on the Big Island. This church was the third church built to serve that parish. Not many years ago it was in the path of lava from an erupting volcano. The parishioners valued its connection with St. Damien so they moved it to its present location.
In 1873 Damien volunteered to move to an isolated peninsula on the island of Molokai to minister to a colony of about 800lepers that the government had quarantined there. He spent 16 years caring for the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of the lepers before he got the disease himself and eventually died.
He wrote to his brother in Europe, "I make myself a leper with the lepers to win them all to Jesus Christ."
Friday, October 8, 2010
"For the Now in which God created human beings, and the Now in which the last member of the human race will pass away, and the Now in which I am presently speaking to you, are all the same in God and are nothing other than a single Now."
This is from Meister Eckhart's The Sermons, quoted by Frank X. Gaspar in his novel Stealing Fatima.
My birth and death and all in between are simply Now to God. This means that there is no "Before Christ" or after Christ. When God looks at the human race God sees all of us caught up in the dying and rising Christ. Even though I remember and sometimes regret the past and even though I anticipate and sometimes worry about the future, I really live in God's eternal Now.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Across the morning sky all the birds are leaving
Ah! how can they know it's time for them to go....
But I will still be here.
I have no thought of leaving....
I do not fear the time.
Who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?
A few days ago as I took my morning walk I heard this flock of Canada geese coming and shot straight up, just barely catching the end of the flock. They hang around the lake all summer but they seem all gone now.
I love Judy Collins singing "Who Knows Where the Time Goes." I listen to it more often at this time of year. I am listening to it now as I write. There is a kind of melancholy about it, a feeling that I associate with this dying time of year.
There have been a lot of deaths and funerals these past two weeks. "Time for them to go." Makes me think of my own death and of death in general. The loving embrace in which God holds us here continues into hereafter. By his dying and rising Jesus has transformed death from a blank wall that could stop us cold into a door that opens onto a new life filled with joy and peace.
Monday, October 4, 2010
"To live is to change and to be perfect in this world is to have changed often."
Each year as fall takes hold I remind myself of this quote from John Henry Newman. The words are from his writing on the development of doctrine. His evolutionary approach to doctrine was so at odds with the very conservative theology that we were taught in the early 1950's that none of us ever dreamed that Cardinal Newman might become a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. But on September 19 the pope went to England to declare him "Blessed."
He strikes me as a perfect example of faith for our time. He was a famous Anglican priest in 19th century England when he decided to become a Roman Catholic. This took great faith on his part because it meant that he would lose a lot of his Anglican friends. What seems to me to require even greater faith is that he felt he had to do this even though he was very critical of the way authority was exercised in the Roman Catholic Church. What I find encouraging is that his criticism of the contemporary misuse of authority did not keep him from recognizing the truth and goodness and holiness of (for him) the 1900 year history of the Catholic Church.