The Living Flame of Love

ode to the feast day of St John of the Cross passed

Oh, living flame of love
That tenderly woundest my soul in its deepest centre,
Since thou art no longer oppressive, perfect me now if it be thy will,
Break the web of this sweet encounter.

Oh, sweet burn! Oh, delectable wound!
Oh, soft hand! Oh, delicate touch
That savours of eternal life and pays every debt!
In slaying, thou hast changed death into life.

Oh, lamps of fire,
In whose splendours the deep caverns of sense
Which were dark and blind with strange brightness
Give heat and light together to their Beloved!

How gently and lovingly thou awakenest in my bosom,
Where thou dwellest secretly and alone!
And in thy sweet breathing, full of blessing and glory,
How delicately thou inspirest my love!

St John of the Cross. Euclid, Ohio.

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Take on His burden for it is light, yoked to the benevolence of His Mother

“Crying, my little one, footsore and weary”

poem by Christina Rossetti

Crying, my little one, footsore and weary?
Fall asleep, pretty one, warm on my shoulder:
I must tramp on through the winter night dreary,
While the snow falls on me colder and colder.

You are my one, and I have not another;
Sleep soft, my darling, my trouble and treasure;
Sleep warm and soft in the arms of your mother,
Dreaming of pretty things, dreaming of pleasure.

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Detachment

People say: ‘O Lord, I wish that I stood as well with God and that I had as much devotion and peace with God as other people, and that I could be like them or could be as poor as they are.’ Or they say: ‘It never works for me unless I am in this or that particular place and do this or that particular thing. I must go to somewhere remote or live in a hermitage or a monastery.’

Truly, it is you who are the cause of this yourself, and nothing else. It is your own self-will, even if you don’t know it or this doesn’t seem to you to be the case. The lack of peace that you feel can only come from your own self-will, whether you are aware of this or not. Whatever we think — that we should avoid certain things and seek out others, whether these be places or people, particular forms of devotion, this group of people or this kind of activity — these are not to blame for the fact that you are held back by devotional practices and by things; rather it is you as you exist in these things who hold yourself back, for you do not stand in the proper relation to them.

Start with yourself therefore and take leave of yourself. Truly, if you do not depart from yourself, then wherever you take refuge, you will find obstacles and unrest, wherever it may be. Those who seek peace in external things, whether in places or devotional practices, people or works, in withdrawal from the world or poverty or self-abasement: however great these things may be or whatever their character, they are still nothing at all and cannot be the source of peace. Those who seek in this way, seek wrongly, and the farther they range, the less they find what they are looking for. They proceed like someone who has lost their way: the farther they go, the more lost they become. But what then should they do? First of all, they should renounce themselves, and then they will have renounced all things. Truly, if someone were to renounce a kingdom or the whole world while still holding on to themselves, then they would have renounced nothing at all. And indeed, if someone renounces themselves, then whatever they might keep, whether it be a kingdom or honor or whatever it may be, they will still have renounced all things.  

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The end of ‘On the Acquisition of the Holy Spirit’

“Thus, my son, whatever you ask of the Lord God you will receive, if only it is for the glory of God or for the good of your neighbor, because what we do for the good of our neighbor He refers to His own glory. And therefore He says: “All that you have done unto one of the least of these, you have done unto Me” (cp. Matt. 25:40). And so, have no doubt that the Lord God will fulfill your petitions, if only they concern the glory of God or the benefit and edification of your fellow men. But, even if something is necessary for your own need or use or advantage, just as quickly and graciously will the Lord be pleased to send you even that, provided that extreme need and necessity require it. For the Lord loves those who love Him. The Lord is good to all men; He gives abundantly to those who call upon His Name, and His bounty is in all His works. He will do the will of them that fear Him and He will hear their prayer, and fulfill all their plans. The Lord will fulfill all thy petitions (cp. Ps. 144:19; Only beware, your Godliness, of asking the Lord for something for which there is no urgent need. The Lord will not refuse you even this in return for your Orthodox faith in Christ the Savior, for the Lord not give up the staff of the righteous to the lot of sinners (cp. Ps. 124:3), and He will speedily accomplish the will of His servant David; but He will call him to account for having troubled Him without special need, and for having asked Him for something without which he could have managed very easily.

“And so, your Godliness, I have now told you and given you a practical demonstration of all that the Lord and the Mother of God have been pleased to tell you and show you through me… Now go in peace. The Lord and the Mother of God be with you always, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen. Now go in peace.”

And during the whole of this time, from the moment when Father Seraphim’s face became radiant, this illumination continued; and all that he told me from the beginning of the narrative till now, he said while remaining in one and the same position. The ineffable glow of the light which emanated from him I myself saw with my own eyes. And I am ready to vouch for it with an oath.

Saint Seraphim of Sarov (Russian Orthodox)

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Immaculate Conception

O purest of creatures! sweet Mother, sweet Maid;
The one spotless womb wherein Jesus was laid.
Dark night hath come down on us, Mother, and we
Look out for thy shining, sweet Star of the Sea.

Deep night hath come down on this rough-spoken world.
And the banners of darkness are boldly unfurled;
And the tempest-tossed Church – all her eyes are on thee.
They look to thy shining, sweet Star of the Sea.

He gazed on thy soul, it was spotless and fair;
For the empire of sin, it had never been there;
None had e’er owned thee, dear Mother, but He,
And He blessed thy clear shining, sweet Star of the Sea.

Earth gave Him one lodging; `twas deep in thy breast,
And God found a home where the sinner finds rest;
His home and His hiding-place, both were in thee;
He was won by thy shining, sweet Star of the Sea.

Oh, blissful and calm was the wonderful rest
That thou gavest thy God in thy virginal breast;
For the heaven He left He found heaven in thee,
And He shone in thy shining, sweet Star of the Sea.

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A poet

I found a copy of ‘The Works of Christina Rossetti’ at a Cleveland Heights Library book sale. The woman’s vision and sense of eternity pervading is awesome; inspiring and friendly in companionship.  Akin, she remains a soul one aspires to watch a sunrise, sunset, or reflecting moon with, or nothing at all; a knowing set afire, while complacent and contrite in silence.

A boat amid the ripples drifting from photos of Connecticut.

Haycocks from photos in North Dakota.

a poem by Christina Rossetti

PASTIME

A boat amid the ripples, drifting, rocking,
Two idle people, without pause or aim;
While in the ominous west there gathers darkness
Flushed with flame.

A haycock in a hayfield backing, lapping,
Two drowsy people pillowed round about;
While in the ominous west across the darkness
Flame leaps out.

Better a wrecked life than a life so aimless,
Better a wrecked life than a life so soft;
The ominous west glooms thundering, with its fire
Lit aloft

A painted portrait: a poet and her mother.

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Pray for us: Exercising the Divine

a portion of a novel by Caryll Houselander

Now they sang again, and the singing rocked and swayed with the movement of the sea, and it gathered in love and in sadness; but it was a sadness full of relief, for they were singing the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, and it gave a voice and words to the sorrow, and hope, and love, that was their daily bread and the salt of their lives.

It rocked and rocked their hearts with the movement of the sea. To the people of Riverside the sea was always present. Present in the hope, the fear, the waiting, the patience, of the mothers and sweethearts of the men who were out in ships. Present as they swept, and washed, and cooked. Present in their dreams in the night, and the Mother of Christ was both Mother of Men and Star of the Sea. She shone above the tall masts of the storm-driven ships, and the waves of the sea rocked in her light, and at home the cradles of the seamen’s children swung to and fro to the rhythm of the waves, rocked in the hands of the merciful Mother of Christ.

She was their pride and joy. The drabness and smeariness, and mediocrity of life, slipped away in the thought of her. She stood before the throne of God, their own and one of themselves.

Tower of Ivory!
Gate of Heaven!
Morning Star!

And in the city street and the narrow dark house, she was the white flower in the woods to them, the poetry and loveliness of their lives:

Mater purissima,
Mater castissima,
Mater inviolate,
Mater internerata,
Ora pro nobis!

The cadence of their love rocked to and fro, and flowed like waves round the foot of the monstrance.

The girls who had skimpy, washed-out clothes, tawdry finery and Woolworth’s rings, rejoiced because she, their Mother, was a Queen, Queen of Heaven, robed in its blue, crowned with its stars.

The mothers, the old women, and the men, put their cares into her hands and the rhythm of their singing rocked them into rest.

Salus infirmorum,
Refugium peccatorum,
Onsolatrix afflictorum,
Auxilium Christanorum,
Ora pro nobis!

Almost in the same breath, the Litany flowed into the “Tantum Ergo.” Again the bell rang out, loud and sweet and solemn, the bell of benediction. It shivered into silence. Silence possessed the people. Silence possessed the whole of Riverside.

Not the silence of emptiness, but of fullness, of a crescendo of expectation like a towering wave, gathered to the whole of its strength, lifted up to its fullest height, pausing in the moment of its upmost integrity, rolling on, to fling itself forward and break upon the rocks.

The flowers on the altar breathed the shimmering breath of the candle flame. The incense rose in straight blue lines through the haze of gold.
“Blessed be God.” Said the priest, and the wave broke, surging, tumbling, rushing forward in a torrent of praise.

“Blessed be God,” roared the people.

Blessed be God,
Blessed be His Holy Name.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true Man.
Blessed be the Name of Jesus.
Blessed be His most Sacred Heart.
Blessed be Jesus, in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
Blessed be the Great Mother of God, Mary most holy.
Blessed be her holy and Immaculate Conception.
Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.
Blessed be St Joseph, her most chaste spouse.
Blessed be God, in His Angels and His Saints.

Now the “Adoremus” rose, gentle as a caress and flowing over the Sacred Heart, as Father Smith lifted It from the monstrance, put it back into the tabernacle and locked the door.

Benediction was over, but Miss Mulliger (organ player) maintained the fervor of the people as they crowded out into the street by thundering an improvisation of her own on the organ, a triumphant pot pourri of piety, incorporating all the most loved hymns with the most familiar marches, a number of indescribable chords and discords, sudden, almost frivolous trills, and melodies suspiciously like the popular song hits of the day.

Someone was waiting outside the church with news: “Willie is a little better.”

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