Many churches in the Western Christian tradition use paschal candles. One is lit at the end of the Easter vigil; it stands for Christ, who is the light of the world. Paschal comes from a Hebrew word meaning Passover.
I used to live a few blocks from the University of Chicago campus. And periodically we'd hear the carillon bells ringing. There's something about bell tones that resonates in a person's bones. Depending on the tones and what they signify, you want to weep in mourning or sway in rapture. The bells in this picture are not fancy, but they ring for hope, tranquility, love, and joy, just as all wondrous bells do.
I’ve made a spiritual decision, one I shall have to make again and again this year—but I’m committed to it. I’m going to be hopeful. I’m going to walk and talk hope about all sorts of things.
I’ll hope for a shift to a higher level in the collective consciousness that will enable us to build healthy economies across the world.
I’ll hope for peaceful souls to win over the warmongers who keep animosities stirred up between Israel and the Palestinian people.
I’ll hope that more and more people volunteer their time and resources for the sake of better education, better childcare, better housing.
I’ll hope that the moderate voices keep our government on track in revamping our country’s healthcare.
I’ll hope that heads of state all over the globe have personal conversions concerning care for the planet.
I’ll hope that local authorities everywhere will tell the truth about poverty and oppression and help the rest of us do something right.
I’ll hope for communities of faith to be converted day after day until they actually live as God desires us to live.
I’ll hope to be an encouraging and beneficial influence on my own marriage.
I’ll hope for artists to rise up and create works that make us long for beauty, honesty, and humility.
I’ll hope to pray with more regularity and more love.
I’ll hope for Christians to discover what it means to be free spiritually and to free others.
I’ll hope that the prophets keep making noise and irritating the rest of us.
I’ll hope to see a dramatic rise in the number of people who learn how to be still and comprehend that God is right here.
I’ll hope to write fewer lists this year and squander more beautiful afternoons by enjoying the breeze and thinking about nothing in particular.
A New Testament verse in 1 Corinthians 13 says that what will remain are faith, hope, and love. Do we have any clue what that means? I believe that faith, hope, and love are powerful energies in this world, and when we choose to build up our faith, act out of love, and live as if we’re hopeful, then divine power is free to do its work. May the wonders begin.
My last post was more than a month ago. Huh. Thought I was doing a better job of keeping up with life. But no.
Also, I fall asleep a lot. When trying to study, or write, or gather my thoughts, or pray, or pay attention. With all good intention I sit down to watch television with my husband and within ten minutes am a misshapen, horizontal, snoring lump. Isn’t this alarming? Should I be getting help?
Someone once said (I’ve been told it was St. Therese of Lisieux) that “God does his best work while we’re asleep.” I hope this is true—and if it is, then maybe this past few weeks have been tremendous spiritual strides for me. I said (out loud, because I was feeling drowsy), “Holy Spirit, feel free to do whatever’s necessary while I’m sleeping.”
Then, because I slept last night when I had planned to be praying, I set aside everything else during my morning commute on the train. I gazed out the window at the city coming out of its gray, and said (not out loud, because people were around), “Okay, Lord, I just want to sit here with you, and listen, and know your presence.”
And then spent the next forty minutes chasing my wild monkey thoughts all over the place. I mean, every thought led to some other thought, which led to a worry or a task or a bit of anger. So I’d drag those thoughts back to the quiet place, only to have others pop up like preschoolers during church and go running off somewhere else. I’m sure God was present, but I wasn’t in the least.
Which made me think that sleep might not be a bad alternative. At least when I’m asleep, the only activity is somewhere besides my conscious life. Perhaps my deeper self has long, luxurious conversations with God while the snoring self on the couch is knocked out and oblivious. I hope so.
Fatigue accomplishes some of the same effects that grief does. It strips a person down to a self who is defenseless, who moves with pain, and who does not have the energy to create an unreal life through elaborate lies. These days, I move slowly and very close to whatever anger or hurt has been living in here. I have to ask myself, every day, Why am I doing this (going to school, trying to write, taking on responsibilities)?
And I barely sense time passing. Now I’m studying the book of Exodus, and tomorrow it’s Leviticus. Now I’m editing author A; tomorrow it’s author B. Now I’m eating a salad, tomorrow a burger. Last week? I have no idea; reality does not reach that far back. In getting from one day to the next, I have lost the weeks—in fact, the entire month of October. At least I spent part of a Saturday taking two girls shopping for Halloween costumes; that anchored me in larger Time. In Time with a capital T, everything is present tense anyway.
Until the next post . . . enjoy your right-now life.
I’ve been sad lately, for no apparent reason. It’s not depression or overwork or fatigue—just a wistfulness tossed across the days, landing over my lap like one of Great-Grandma’s homemade afghans. It’s a comfort but heavier than I need right now. Also, it carries not only weave and color but a lot of memories. Yes, I’m feeling the weight of time collapsed, and it causes a sort of soulful adrenalin to kick in.
It’s the weather. Autumn is still nearly a month away, but already the atmosphere is giving off signals: summer is waning. The barometric pressure shifts, the sunlight slides differently over the day. The insects fill the night with their own sad songs. I don’t sleep well. I keep waking up to the intensity of trees moving just inches from the window screens. Ripe, restless life is everywhere; the season has filled and overflows now—into over-thick foliage and seediness. The air goes faintly sour with the beginnings of decay that will take over the landscape in a few short weeks.
Late summer and early autumn have always been regathering times for me. The subtle changes in the wind and underfoot play tricks on me. Suddenly my senses don’t know what year it is. Am I about to start fifth grade? Is this Chicago or my hometown back in Kansas? Are those college textbooks piled on the sofa? That woman I just glimpsed on the street—is she someone I know from my present life, or is she one of my teachers from senior year in high school? The physical senses don’t seem to care what time it is; they only understand the season.
And, perhaps because time gets all mixed up and I am confronted abruptly with every other era of my life, and with all the people from those eras, I must confront as well the basic person I am and the true longings in my heart. Those things don’t change much, if at all, though the years rush by.
I find myself wanting in multiple ways during this regathering time. I want to be kinder and not have difficult relationships to look back on. I want to appreciate those I love with more consistency and passion. I want to organize my stuff so that it doesn’t clutter my life. I want to understand my ultimate purposes with more clarity and move in their energy rather than in the energy of anger or anxiety.
I want to live well. I want to hold all lovely things with gentleness and grace. I want to shine with Divine everything. When sensing the arc of an entire life, even the parts not yet lived, I long more than ever for God-ness in all its forms: awareness of God, peace with God, love for God, a place in the great creation and family of God.
Such longing is dangerous to an ordinary life, because for awhile I believe that there’s nothing ordinary about living in this world. During late summer and early autumn, for a brief time I know my power and greatness. I understand what it is to be priceless. A night wind stirs in the room, and it’s obvious that a portion of the wind’s meaning lies in my own resting form. A rose shrivels and droops, and I feel its death move through me. On a cool morning I nearly weep because right then I long for everything in the world—for all the cities and rivers and lovers and songs. I long and long and long.
Because of all this, my productivity at home and at work is riddled with pauses and sighs these days. I don’t fight this. It’s a worthy longing I feel, a true movement of the soul—the remembrance of beginnings and endings, the pulling together of distant pieces and phrases.
For all I know, I am more myself now than at any other time. I am more honest about what I love, and I am more willing to let the world see who I am. And so the bittersweet regathering, the seasonal great longing, is allowed.
LOYOLA PRESS A Jesuit Ministry : Home This is where I work--we're all about helping people's souls, as the Jesuits put it. Books to buy, articles to read, a great 3-minute retreat and other short meditations.
Lively dust This blog is created by LaVonne Neff, a good friend as well as writer/reader/editor/cook/mother/grandmother and who has a lovely way of seeing how life is sensual and divine all at once.
PBS Masterpiece series Cranford This is my new (well, new to me) favorite miniseries. Lovely, funny, heartbreaking. Made to go with a pot of strong tea and hankies with lace.
Rambling Rose I don't think there was much buzz about this 1991 movie, but I like it so much I own a copy. There's so much grace in this story, and Diane Ladd delivers one of my favorite movie speeches of all time, toward the end of the film (she and Robert Duvall, her husband, are in the doctor's office).
Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God This is a short, readable, and powerful book. I'm on my way to read Bourgeault's other works. This one encouraged me and gave me a boost of desire for that quiet place with God.