Friday, 10 August 2012

St Lawrence & green tomatoes

picture from this site
One of the great deacon saints of the Church.  I hadn't before considered his connection with tomatoes, but this morning I read about it in the iBenedictines blog. Like Digitalnun, I have no bright red tomatoes yet to remind me of St Lawrence's martyrdom. Mine are still green. So I'm thinking about the Celtic idea of green martyrdom.

Unlike red maryrdom, the shedding of blood for the Gospel, or white martyrdom, the life of peregrinatio or exile far from one's own land, green martyrdom happens at home. Ancient texts describe it as a way of life marked by fasting, "penitent labours" and "denial of desires". That sounds harsh - so how might we translate it today?
I don't believe we are called to deny our desires, rather to pay attention to them.  The perhaps painful, martyrdom bit, is to sift through our surface desires, which are often conflicting anyway, and seek the courage to connect with our truest, deepest desire (I say our; of course I mean my!)  At the heart this is nothing less than the desire for God and to live in tune with God's desire for me. The fasting is, in this sense, about patience - letting God be God and accepting that "it is what it is what it is". I can't demand a lovely salad of my own tomatoes just when I want it (and anyway, the slugs have eaten most of the basil). I am not the centre of the universe. "Penitent labour" might mean simply being, doing what is here for me to do right now: paying attention to the present moment, without being distracted by fantasies about the future of the past ("what if"s or "what might have been"s).

In his Principle and Foundation Ignatius reminds us that we are created to be in loving relationship with God in and through God's creation - to "live love" as we might say. Our desires for the other things in creation can either help us live love, or hinder us. Only by nurturing my deepest desire for God (and discovering God's desire for me - at the heart of things they are the same) can I learn, slowly and with many mistakes along the way, to tell the difference. So while I wait for my tomatoes to ripen God will have other gifts for me, if I care to look.

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