Saturday morning relaxing, bed lounging reading: Archbishop Charles Chaput’s ‘Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World’ and Eugene Vodolazkin’s ‘Laurus’, while holding close upon the covers a short collection on Silence from a conference held by Camaldolese Hermits in Bloomingdale, Ohio. A scriptural quote from the back of the hermit book: The Lord is good to those who expect Him, to the soul that seeketh Him. It is good to wait in silence for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit in solitude and silence, when He has laid it upon him. Let him put his mouth to the dust. There may yet be hope. Lamentations 3:25-29. The Laurus novel is a strange Russian story of a young boy growing in medieval times. Prone to superstition, a lack of scientific knowledge, religious misunderstanding, as well as religious fervor, a keen mind, and pestilence, the orphan boy is raised and taught by his grandfather, a healer familiar with herbs and traditional ways of confronting physical ailments. The grandfather is advised by an elder monk to take up his abode next to the local cemetery. Due to the plague and an abundance of empty homes, the obedient grandfather/healer lays claim to a comfortable home bordering the cemetery, a rail fence the only thing between the home and the resting place of the deceased. Advancing in companionship, love, and learning, the boy loses his grandfather as he grows into his teenage years. Without his grandfather, the boy understands he is alone in the world, grappling while accepting. Neighbors—patients and friends, offer the boy their home, yet he refuses, comprehending he could never abandon his grandfather’s home for it has become his home. It is his grounding point upon the earth. There is no place else he could go. He instinctively and efficiently takes over his grandfather’s role as a healer, making a reputation for himself for having comforting hands, the ability to lay his hands upon people and ease their burdens. I am locked into the novel at place where the solitary boy growing into a man has gotten himself stuck in a serious conundrum. A ragged fellow orphan entered his world. One night, desperate eyes emerged from the dark forest begging for food. The boy offered the soft voice the comfort of his home, as well as food, yet the girl’s voice refused, warning him her village was wiped out by the plague. She explained she was not worthy to enter anyone’s home, and even more if others learned she entered his home it would be condemned. She warned him if others knew who she was she would be killed and her body burned. She begged the boy to leave the food beyond the edge of his fire so she could retrieve it unseen and disappear. The boy immediately walked to the girl and brought her to his fire, recognizing she was a small famished red head child. He took the girl into his home, allowing her to bath, and afterwards feeding her, unable to take himself away from her once she fell asleep with food remaining before her. Putting her to bed upon a wooden bench, the boy sat with the sleeping girl, and while sleeping she brought him into her embrace. The boy fell asleep next to her, waking to the moist touch of tears. Awake, the girl was staring at him, crying. Blushing, he tried to remove himself from her, yet she protested, telling him he was all she had. Fearfully, the boy would take the girl into his grandfather’s home, hiding her from everyone lest they discover her origin. An unrelenting panic subtly overwhelmed his waking moments that he would lose his girl. He shunned the church, the receiving of communion, becoming distant and absent minded in his duties as a healer, convinced he could not share with anyone the love of his life. I have reached a point in the simple fictional story in which the girl has become pregnant, urging the boy to take her as his wife. The boy declares he loves her above all things, that she is already his wife. For the first time, the girl challenges him, declaring that his secret and possessive love is not enough. She wanted to be his wife before God, the church, and all people. The Russian story blends in well with my recent immersion within Russian culture, now evolving with the branching out of the Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr, immersed within his film ‘The Turin Horse’, a strange tale breaking off from the incident of Nietzsche falling into madness after an encounter with a peasant man beating his horse. The film is a brutal tale of existence, a metaphysical blustery visual meditation on the harshness of life for a father and his obedient daughter. The father is the owner and thrasher of the horse that ignited the curse of madness onto Nietzsche. The story reflected upon my mind the Biblical old woman raising her grandson who Elijah came upon begging food. “As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread–only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it–and die.” Elijah would compassionately be moved, endlessly filling the woman’s jars with bread and oil, saving her son. The reading time and musing time comes conveniently through the blessing of no work for two days. Following a Saturday early morning Mass and Holy Hour at St Dominic. A prayer from the session:
O Eucharist, source of charity made present at every Mass, form me into your image and into the image of your saints.
Open in my soul, “in spirit and truth,” a real and unfathomable love that seeks to grasp your sacrifice.
May I see in your sacrifice love, and may I respond to it in love.
May I not only know love, but may I begin to love as you love.
May I walk along the path of love that you have set before me, the path of progress, of development, of deep and strong growth.
May I see in your Eucharistic presence my most authentic and deepest Christian vocation of perfecting the image and likeness I was meant to be like, the image and likeness of you O Lord.
Help me to be a sign of unity and a bond of charity in a world so hostile, cold, and distant.
O sacrament of love, help me to fulfill the commandment of love of God and neighbor.
O Eucharist, source of charity made present at every Mass, form me into your image and the image of your saints.
The woman orchestrating the Holy Hour establishes herself as a blessing; a distant, silent, beautiful woman providing companionship. Her smile and nod of the head is properly invigorating, a sharing worthy to look forward to once a week. It is enough. I left work last night feeling confident, humble and proud. I received an hourly raise of seventy-five cents last week, retroactive to the start of the year. Providing nourishing pride, I am comprehending I am worth the money, standing behind my performance and who I am. Something transforms inside, grace providing, allowing a strength within the lack of clarity regarding the future. The significant other, although the term is used respectively and tenderly, is returning as a companion. I am proud of her. Over the last two weeks she conducted a Master Cleanse, fasting for ten plus days, demonstrating discipline and the corresponding consequences. Furthermore, a brutal honesty emerged allowing a bottoming out, a confrontation of a momentous personal shortcoming demanding reparation. Without the acknowledgement of hitting a bottom, we are only prone to fall deeper into another bottom. There are always bottoms beneath every bottom. We can spend a lifetime descending to lower and lower bottoms. The only thing bottomless is death. I am honored to assist in her immense progress, inspired by her acquired devotion to Our Lady Undoer of Knots. A comforting companion, able to share in enriching entertainment, she has attained tickets through her employment for the Cleveland Orchestra tonight at Severance Hall, a performance of Bach’s ‘St John Passion’, with a preceding lecture on the work. Our first experience at Severance Hall proved a meditative splendor with the enjoyment of the choral and musical piece ‘Sabet Mater’. I expect nothing the less this evening. Regarding companionship, the erroneous thought was placed before me that my recent struggle was to be a means of stagnation and the continuation of destructive ways. Unable to even confront, weary of debating on levels that continually prove fruitless, I trust in patience and the grace of love to penetrate unknown regions. Where there has been a shattering of trust, commitment, and devotion, the wreckage and ruin are only emptiness calling for the imagination to dally within nonsense. I will only receive frustration pursuing. When there was never the formation of trust, commitment, and devotion—a selfish void filling—when such holy things were properly laid before one, when these virtues were never advanced upon, rejected and refused, it is only obvious a delusion and inability to receive grace exist. Regarding the latest, when there is such a misconception of truth, a severe lack of insight, a clear demonstration one cannot be open and willing—desiring to see through the eyes of God, then everything seems futile, an inevitable clash awaiting. When grace is not providing understanding, sincerity is not enough.
Bella Tarr ‘The Turin Horse’