Sunday, 31 March 2013

The Sun Dancing

The Risen Christ as Sol Invictus, with the chariot of the Sun

Canticle of the Sun
Dancing on Easter Morning (John Heath-Stubbs)

I am the great Sun.  This hour begins
My dancing day – pirouetting in a whirl of white light
In my wide orchestral sky, a red ball bouncing
Across the eternal hills;
For now my Lord is restored: with the rising dew
He carries his own up to his glittering kingdom –
Benedicite, benedicite, benedicte omnia opera.

Look, I am one of the morning stars, shouting for joy –
And not the least honoured among those shining brothers,
O my planetary children – now that my dark daughter,
The prodigal Earth, is made an honest woman of;
Out of her gapped womb, her black and grimy tomb,
Breaks forth the Crowned, victory in his pierced hands –
Benedicite, benedicite, benedicte omnia opera.

You too, my lovers – little lark with trembling feathers,
Sing your small heart out in my streaming rays;
And you, grave narrow-browed eagle, straining your eyes
Against my wound – foretell
These fiery dales and flame-anemoned meadows
Shall be a haunt for shy contemplative spirits –
Benedicite, benedicite, benedicte omnia opera.

And now with joy I run my recurring race;
And though again I shall have to hide my face
With a hand of cloud out of the heart of schism,
Yet the time is sure when I once more shall be
A burning giant in his marriage-chamber.
A bright gold cherub, as I came from my Father’s halls –
Benedicite, benedicite, benedicte omnia opera.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Christ is Risen!

Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.

(Pope Francis' homily at the Easter Vigil) 

Holy Saturday

'He descended into hell'. (Apostles' Creed). Does this mean merely that Christ went to preach to the departed spirits during the interval between Great Friday evening and Easter morning? (see 1 Peter 3:19) Surely it has also a deeper sense.  Hell is a point not in space but in the soul. It is the place where God is not (And yet God is everywhere!)  If Christ truly descended into hell, that means he descended into the depths of the absence of God.  Totally, unreservedly, he identified himself with all man’s anguish and alienation.  He assumed it into himself, and by assuming it he healed it.  There was no other way he could heal it, except by making it his own. (Kallistos Ware)

In times of despair, O God, rain showers of gentleness upon us, that we may be kindly one to another and also to ourselves.  Renew in us the spirit of hope.  Even in the depths of the darkness, may we hear the approach of the One who harrows hell and greets even Judas with a kiss. (Jim Cotter)

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Luminous life

Full Moon and plum blossom, courtesy of Ferrebeekeeper

Maundy Thursday today, and the Paschal full Moon last night...

I have more on my mind to express; I am full like the full Moon. (Sirach 39:12)

The luminous life now triumphs, having scattered the darkness of idolatry in the abundance of its light.  This is why the course of the Moon, on the fourteenth day, shows it as facing the rays of the Sun. Having welcomed the Sun when he is setting, she herself does not set before she has mingled her own rays with those of the Sun, so that only one light endures without any lack of continuity, through the whole cycle of day and night, with no interval of darkness. Let your whole life, then, be one sole feast and one great day. (Gregory of Nyssa)

Göran Strand took one of his fantastic pictures in the ice of northern Sweden last night, here it is from his blog Astrofotografen today...

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

March is going out...

Like a lion, or possibly a snow leopard! This is my entry for the March Simple Woman's Daybook. I missed February and almost missed this month too - but here I am!
Outside my window... Leaden sky, heavy with snow (though at the moment it's only blossom petals swirling around) trees swaying in the wind. The house opposite is swathed in scaffolding - they're having a new roof - but no one's working today and the street is quiet and empty.
I am thinking... about the Chrism Mass I attended yesterday: beautiful music, greeting old friends, the joy of seeing priests renew their vows - and some bittersweet memories of Holy Weeks past. But...
I am thankful... For where I am now and for all that led me here; for life. Yes, and for the winter - its lessons and gifts.
In the kitchen... Little pots of freshly-made chimichurri and mayo. The makings of a Thai green curry. Photos on the wall of Pope Benedict and our dog (separately, I mean. They have never met).
I am wearing... Black denim skirt; black sweatshirt with embroidered motif of whippets; red opaque tights; black ballet pumps (the nearest I'll ever get to anything balletic!); my hair loose and rather frizzy today from the cold, damp weather (has been described as the Morgan Le Fay look); black-rimmed glasses for an air of studious gravitas (it's not working).
I am creating... A workshop on Discernment & Desire, based on the Spiritual Exercises, for a group of spiritual directors in Stockholm after Easter.
I am going... Out for coffee and shopping soon. Then to write my Easter cards - and as I do it to recall all who have touched my life this year and pray for blessings of new life for them.
I am wondering... What the future holds for aspects of my work - there are changes in the air.
I am reading... On The Way To Jesus Christ - a collection of essays by Joseph Ratzinger
I am hoping... Just hoping...
I am looking forward to... Lunch. And spring.
I am learning... That spring will not come any sooner however much I'm longing for it.
Around the house... Books, books, books. Siren calls to curl up with a blanket and read (see the picture below!)
I am pondering... "When I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor 12:10)
A favourite quote for today... "You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves" (Mary Oliver)
One of my favourite things... The colour and scent of the ingredients of my chimichurri coming together. The thought that some of these things - parsley, oregano and maybe even red peppers will be growing in my garden again one day.
A few plans for the rest of the week... Term has ended, so time to rest, catch up on projects - and savour Holy Week.
A peek into my day ...

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Palm Sunday (for Sunday Snippets)

Entry into Jerusalem (I found this here)

See, your King comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey (Mathew 21:5)

What does The Lord ask of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

I seem to have been hearing a lot about humility lately, and today is a good day to reflect on what it means; it is a subtle and elusive grace of God (Ignatius reminds us we have to be chosen to receive it - we can't create it for ourselves). Many things can masquerade as humility.  I've been struggling to order my thoughts about it: Screwtape has much to say as always...

Once again, I'm joining in with Sunday Snippets - A Catholic Carnival.  This last week I've written about Daydreaming and procrastination (something I know a lot about!) and Balance (something I'm still striving for...)  And some thoughts on our call to flourish, inspired by an out-of-place flower. Have a blessed Holy Week, everyone!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Thief of time or giver of gifts?

I was playing with my new phone, and accidentally took a photo of my desk... Then I played with my new (free) iPastels app. And a memory surfaced...

Almost exactly a year ago, liturgically speaking - last Holy Week - I went to a lunchtime performance of Haydn's Seven Last Words from the Cross at the London Centre for Spirituality. Being the sort of place it is, the sounds of the city outside blended with the sublime, sorrowful music: traffic, road drills, police sirens.  They added something important and powerful.  As I sat and listened I gazed up at the sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows (yes, we had sunshine last Passiontide. Amazing thought, isn't it?) and for the first time, among the coloured images, I noticed words. What thou seest, write (from Revelation1.11). They connected with a passion deep within me: to see, and then to share. I'm still working out how to embody this passion. I suppose that's why I'm writing this blog. And I want to find other ways, too (they say we all have a book inside us. What do you think?) 

Of course, all this was what they call "displacement activity". I had work to do - plenty of it. But I was heartened to read somewhere recently that procrastination can be creative. It's in those moments of displacement and daydreaming - play - that ideas can be born: wacky, passionate, out-of-the-box ideas. I'm grateful for the rekindling of a memory and a dream.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013


The Spring Equinox, though it still feels wintry. A time to reflect on - and pray for the grace of - balance. I crave balance right now. I'm aware of a lot of quite turbulent change, already happening or looming in the wings, and much negativity in the air (and I'm owning a lot of it as mine!)  There's a lot of comparing (always dangerous ground) going on in conversations I've been part of: how things are now vs. how they have been, or how they might be; does that ring any bells with you? I'm so easily drawn in: I know from bitter experience how quickly my defensive buttons get pushed.

Well, it's Lent and I'm trying hard... Everyone knows - and many sneer at - the old adage, "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything", but it's advice we could all do worse than follow. Instead of "nice" try "loving", or "conducive to the greater glory of God" if you're into Ignatian-speak, and see what you think... Ah, but it's not easy! Now that I'm paying more attention to how my own negativity flows into my conversation I'm so often dismayed. Sometimes when I know I'm losing the struggle with myself I'll even physically withdraw and take refuge in the loo (there was a good post about praying there in Finding God In All Things a while ago). My colleagues probably suspect I have a medical problem!

Ignatius tells us how important it is to be at balance (and to know when we're not!). He suggests a way of re-balancing: agere contra, or to move in the other direction. Sometimes I can find the grace and energy to do that; I might change the subject or even manage to say something loving and positive while still remaining true to myself. But often I can't. I think I'm learning, though, that agere contra needn't be about action. It can be simply a helpless turning to God who, in the words of the old Lenten collect, seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves. As the newly-elected Abbess says in Rumer Godden's novel In This House Of Brede: "I can't... So You must!"

I'm up to Jacob in Genesis: "truly the Lord was in this place, and I didn't know it." God is there even when I can't feel his presence - joining in a good old game of "ain't it awful", or hiding my helplessness in the loo.

Blossom, bare boughs and grey sky - on the station platform this morning. Oh, and there's a blackbird in there somewhere. 

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Random thoughts for today

The first full day of a new Papacy... and my first sight of the new crescent Moon (for a stunning picture look here - h/t to NASA as usual). Coincidentally, it's also the 26th anniversary of my ordination as Deacon today too.

Please forgive my flippancy, but I did chuckle at the picture above (Monty Python was part of my formation), courtesy of CatholicMemes, which I found at the Catholic Herald site. And 'fess up - is it only me, or did anyone else dust off their Evita CD and play Don't Cry For Me, Argentina? As we pray for Pope Francis, let's expect him to be Surprisingly Good for us...

And for an excellent post which really will give you something to ponder and pray about, it's iBenedictines as always.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Habemus Papam

The first Jesuit Pope! I've just watched the news live... Forgive me, I don't think I can write anything coherent right now! Only, pray for Pope Francis. How wonderful it was to pray the Our Father with him (our new father). And, as he asked us to, to continue to pray for Papa Bendedict, who is praying for us. Joy for my Ignatian - and Franciscan - friends. A sense of history unfolding. 

And a h/t to Pastor in Valle for the picture of the seagull on the chimney. I saw that live, too!


Look at this... I don't know how this hyacinth bulb got wedged behind the grow-bag frame. I suspect a squirrel found it somewhere and dropped it. What a kind thank-you for all the birdseed they snaffle! Amazing that it's growing and flowering. It reminds me of Carl Rogers' potatoes... He watched the contorted shoots of some old spuds in his shed striving towards the light and reflected on the "actualising tendency" of all creatures: we all have hard-wired in us the deep desire to grow into the best we are created to be; to grow towards the Light.

Yesterday we were teaching about Ignatius' Principle & Foundation: our mission statement, that we are created to live in a loving relationship of praise, reverence and service to God in and through creation, and so grow into freedom and wholeness. One of the participants paraphrased it by saying "we are created to flourish". That just about says it, I think. In the words of George Appleton's prayer: Give me freedom to grow so that I may become my true self – the fulfillment of the seed which you planted in me at my making. Out of the deep I cry unto thee, O God.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013


Black smoke - is the whole of creation waiting for a new Pope?
"If we want the Holy Spirit's involvement, it is a good idea to ask." Wise words from Digitalnun, reminding us that this is our Conclave  - all of us Catholics - and we are all called to pray (she has more to say today as the Conclave begins).

Here at Rome Reports you can read about the "Room of Tears" off the Sistine Chapel where there is already a selection of white cassocks and red shoes* in various sizes, ready for whomever the Holy Spirit will choose. (*Unlike some rolling news channels, desperate to pad out a story that hasn't really gone anywhere yet, I won't illustrate this with pictures of Moira Shearer or Judy Garland's Dorothy.) The room is so called because in this private space, as the new Pope is robed,  he is often overwhelmed by tears. Apparently Papa Benedict said "Lord, what have you done to me?"

So the Lord says to Peter (John 21:18): "Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."

Dare I suggest this is something - someone - for  all our prayers, Catholic or not? Come, Holy Spirit...

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Sunday Snippets - a grey March day

I missed RAnn's roundup at A Catholic Carnival last week: don't want to make it a habit, so here I am now! I'm not sure whether March has come in like a lion or a lamb this year - more like some cold, grey wet creature (a walrus?). But it's spring - with birdsong, blossom, daffodils and catkins. Oh, it's cold this weekend, though...
I thought I'd have a go at creating a Wordle with bits of some of my posts since I last joined the Carnival: here's the result.

I've been posting about creation and wildlife, and here too.  Some signs of spring, and a new (to me) creature.
Thank you for joining me, and have a good week!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

...and God saw that it was good

When I played in the garden as a small child I used to imagine there were tiny creatures living in the moss on the stone wall. Today I saw this amazing picture of a real live one - on the NASA picture of the day site, of all places. It's called a Tardigrade (and as someone who's always last off the train I warm to that name), a  Waterbear or a Moss Piglet. My world has been made bigger by this minuscule fellow-creature.  And apparently it wouldn't have needed the Ark to survive!

Monday, 4 March 2013


Just noticed that my Moon-phase widget is on the blink - seems to be stuck at Waxing Gibbous, which sounds painful, while in fact the Snow Moon has been and gone and we're definitely deeply waning. I hope no one has been relying on it for the right time for planting comfrey, or whatever...

I'll wait a while and see if it fixes itself. To make up for it, click here for Göran Strand's delightful picture of the Snow Moon.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

The grace of confusion

Here is a Pre-Raphaelite mouse - look in the bottom right-hand corner: you may need to click to enlarge the picture - in Millais' Mariana, Or He Cometh Not, She Said (thanks to Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood)

We're definitely having nocturnal visitors. I hate to say this, but we're having to think about Traps - something I've always said I'd never use.  (We've already got those plug-in things that make rodent-deterring sounds: ours couldn't seem to care less) And I sit here blogging piously about the joy of the wild, and conviviality with the non-human. What a hypocrite, my busy little inner critic murmurs gleefully. What would St Francis say? What would St Cuthbert and his otters say? What would Adam, naming the creatures when everything still ate plants, say? What would... well, you get the picture. And what indeed would Jesus, being true to himself and his Father among the wild beasts in the wilderness, say?

As you know, I'm reading Genesis this Lent and I recently got as far as Noah. I was looking forward to the lovely bits about the dove and the rainbow, but you know what I noticed this time? The world may have emerged all bright and shiny after the Flood but it was still broken; still fallen. The first thing Noah does after saving all those animals is to start sacrificing them, clean and unclean. (And where did that come in? Who said some were clean and some unclean? I don't remember God saying that in chapters 1 and 2) But now the Noah family is told they can start eating animals; that all creatures will now (understandably) be filled with dread of us. Not quite how it was in the Garden. Then it hit me - the bleedin' obvious, of course - creation is fallen, and I am part of that. My uneasy relationship with wildlife is simply a sign that this is so. It's taken me until nearly the third Sunday of Lent to realise this, but I suppose that's not bad going for me...

Only this week I was in Oxford talking about the dynamic of the Spiritual Exercises. I spoke about the graces we pray for; and what's the grace of the First Week, the "sin bit" of the Exercises, where we recall our solidarity with groaning creation and need of God's healing love? Shame and confusion... I think I'm receiving that now.  And it is grace.  And I'm thankful.

Oh, and a sympathetic h/t to Greenpatches who has coincidentally been posting about a similar problem!