Weary in Well-Doing

a poem by Christina Georgina Rossetti

I would have gone; God bade me stay:
I would have worked; God bade me rest.
He broke my will from day to day,
He read my yearnings unexpressed
And said them nay.

Now I would stay; God bids me go:
Now I would rest; God bids me work.
He breaks my heart tossed to and fro,
My soul is wrung with doubts that lurk
And vex it so.

I go, Lord, where Thou sendest me;
Day after day I plod and moil:
But, Christ my God, when will it be
That I may let alone my toil
And rest with Thee? 

After reading selections from Ms. Rossetti’s to start my day, I cam across a humorous effort. It tickled lightly and made me smile. Christina is truly a poet parallel in mindset and heart. This brought a light-hearted soothing.

Wee wee husband, 
Give me some money, 
I have no comforts, 
And I have no honey. 
Wee wee wifie, 
I have no money, 
Milk, nor meat, nor bread to eat, 
Comforts, nor honey. 

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Everywhere alone with God

I was once asked: ‘Some people like to withdraw from company and prefer always to be alone. That is where they find peace, when they enter a church. Is this the best thing?’ My answer was ‘No!’ And this is the reason why.

That person who is in the right state of mind, is so regardless of where they are and who they are with, while those who are in the wrong state of mind will find this to be the case wherever they are and whoever they are with. Those who are rightly disposed truly have God with them. And whoever truly possesses God in the right way, possesses him in all places: on the street, in any company, as well as in a church or a remote place or in their cell. No one can obstruct such a person, if only they possess God in the right way, and possess him alone. is this so?

This is the case because they possess God alone, intend God alone, and all things become God for them. Such a person bears God with them in all that they do and wherever they go, and it is God who acts through them…if we truly intend God alone, then he must be the one who acts in what we do and nothing, neither the crowd nor any place, can stand in his way. No one can obstruct this person, for they intend and seek nothing but God and take their pleasure only in Him.

…Truly, this demands hard work and great dedication and a clear perception of our inner life and an alert, true, thoughtful and authentic knowledge of what the mind is turned towards in the midst of people and things. This cannot be learned by taking flight, that is by fleeing from things and physically withdrawing to a place of solitude, but rather we must learn to maintain an inner solitude regardless of where we are or who we are with. We must learn to break through things and to grasp God in them, allowing him to take form in us powerfully and essentially.

Meister Eckhart

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Contemplation of a child

“I know Monsignor,” he said, “that you think the whole thing likely to give scandal—”

“A view which I have always understood you to share with me, Father.”

The young priest swallowed, the sharp Adam’s apple in his throat jerked up and down in a way that looked as if it must be painful, and caused everyone who observed it to feel as if his own throat was sore.

“I did share it,” he said, “but the fact is, since I’ve been there, and stayed in Father Malone’s presbytery, and seen Willie Jewel—and the people—well, I suppose it’s a kind of little conversion—I just see for myself that it is all part of the mystery of love, and goes much deeper than hysteria, or anything like that. I don’t think it could give scandal to anyone who really saw it. I don’t think it could give scandal to anyone who really saw it. And the novena, it’s well, it’s just something very beautiful. It is drawing all sorts of very different people, even people of different Faith, and people who don’t get on in the ordinary way, round the child, in a closer and closer circle of love. It really is quite extraordinary, how praying for the tiny boy has made all those poor people one with one another.”

………………..

Timothy broke in. “You mean,” he said, “that Willie Jewel is a crucifix for the simple and the poor?”

“Yes—but as much, possibly even more, for the sophisticated and rich. We all need to see, we have grown so blind. We need surely a new—or maybe, a very old—kind of contemplation, a looking at Christ in one another, a contemplation in which our part is the response of love. I can see a likeness, between the crucifix that the contemplative in his cell takes into his hands, and the child who awakens love in everyone who knows him, the crucifix whose feet we kiss.”

……………….

“To get back to myself,” said Timothy, “which is, I’m afraid, what I always do get back to, the worst thing of all is the feeling of discouragement, nearly despair, when one sees the pride of life set up and accepted as an example, and realizes that Christ’s humility and poverty are more despised in practice among religious people, or Communists. It is such a hard, black bruise to the spirit, and one becomes cynical, and feels that one has been a fool to struggle so hard for the ideal of the humiliated Christ.”

“Did you ever imagine…that you could willingly practice Christ’s humility, and not be humiliated?”

Timothy was silent for some minutes, and then he said: “No. You are right. But what should I do now? It has come to a crisis in my soul. Ought I go back to the loneliness of my life as a Catholic, as it was before I knew that set? Should I make a real break and be quite alone? Ought I to give Cosma up? Of course, she does not care for me and she never will.”

“I think…that it depends on whether you can be yourself with her, and in her environment. If you can’t, then you are in a hopeless position anyway, for how can you really love, or be loved, if you cease to be yourself? To love you must possess yourself; God, Who is love, possesses Himself wholly, and gives Himself to all that is. You possess yourself in so far as you are true to His plan for you, which is your own likeness to Christ. But I do not think any drastic decision will be left to you. I am afraid that the war will sweep us all apart.”

Caryll Houselander ‘The Dry Wood’

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The perfect joy of St Francis

The perfect joy of St Francis always appealed to me, yet a recent reading and reflection advanced the charming story to an understanding of living within honesty, forsaking dreams and delusion.  Dreams and delusion too often steer the mind toward glorification of one’s self, a doing of great things, a usurping of the will of God, the advancement of individuality preventing one from living within the moment, reality rejected for the sake of possibilities, uncompliant with one’s current standing. There are enough people doing great things. The story is a bit dramatic, cunning with insight.  The grandeur of accepting the sufferings of daily life ultimately providing the greatest of joys, the development of discipline leading to a concentration upon Christ within the individuality of our lives, is playfully exercised.

How Saint Francis, walking one day with brother Leo, explained to him what things are perfect joy.

One day in winter, as Saint Francis was going with Brother Leo from Perugia to Saint Mary of the Angels, and was suffering greatly from the cold, he called to Brother Leo, who was walking on before him, and said to him: “Brother Leo, if it were to please God that the Friars Minor should give, in all lands, a great example of holiness and edification, write down, and note carefully, that this would not be perfect joy.”

A little further on, Saint Francis called to him a second time: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor were to make the lame to walk, if they should make straight the crooked, chase away demons, give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, and, what is even a far greater work, if they should raise the dead after four days, write that this would not be perfect joy.”

Shortly after, he cried out again: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor knew all languages; if they were versed in all science; if they could explain all Scripture; if they had the gift of prophecy, and could reveal, not only all future things, but likewise the secrets of all consciences and all souls, write that this would not be perfect joy.”

After proceeding a few steps farther, he cried out again with a loud voice: “O Brother Leo, thou little lamb of God! if the Friars Minor could speak with the tongues of angels; if they could explain the course of the stars; if they knew the virtues of all plants; if all the treasures of the earth were revealed to them; if they were acquainted with the various qualities of all birds, of all fish, of all animals, of men, of trees, of stones, of roots, and of waters – write that this would not be perfect joy.”

Shortly after, he cried out again: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor had the gift of preaching so as to convert all infidels to the faith of Christ, write that this would not be perfect joy.”

Now when this manner of discourse had lasted for the space of two miles, Brother Leo wondered much within himself; and, questioning the saint, he said: “Father, I pray thee teach me wherein is perfect joy.”

Saint Francis answered: “If, when we shall arrive at Saint Mary of the Angels, all drenched with rain and trembling with cold, all covered with mud and exhausted from hunger; if, when we knock at the convent-gate, the porter should come angrily and ask us who we are; if, after we have told him, “We are two of the brethren”, he should answer angrily, “What ye say is not the truth; ye are but two impostors going about to deceive the world, and take away the alms of the poor; begone I say”; if then he refuse to open to us, and leave us outside, exposed to the snow and rain, suffering from cold and hunger till nightfall – then, if we accept such injustice, such cruelty and such contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring, believing with humility and charity that the porter really knows us, and that it is God who makes him speak against us, write down, O Brother Leo, that this is perfect joy.

And if we knock again, and the porter comes out in anger to drive us away with oaths and blows, as if we were vile impostors, saying, “Begone, miserable robbers! You shall neither eat nor sleep!” – and if we accept all this with patience, with joy, and with charity, O Brother Leo, write that this indeed is perfect joy.

And if, urged by cold and hunger, we knock again, calling to the porter and entreating him with many tears to open to us and give us shelter, for the love of God, and if he come out more angry than before, exclaiming, “These are but importunate rascals, I will deal with them as they deserve”; and taking a knotted stick, he seize us by the hood, throwing us on the ground, rolling us in the snow, and shall beat and wound us with the knots in the stick – if we bear all these injuries with patience and joy, thinking of the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, which we would share out of love for him, write, O Brother Leo, that here, finally, is perfect joy.

And now, brother, listen to the conclusion. Above all the graces and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ grants to his friends, is the grace of overcoming oneself, and accepting willingly, out of love for Christ, all suffering, injury, discomfort and contempt; for in all other gifts of God we cannot glory, seeing they proceed not from ourselves but from God, according to the words of the Apostle, “What hast thou that thou hast not received from God? and if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou had not received it?” But in the cross of tribulation and affliction we may glory, because, as the Apostle says again, “I will not glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.”

To the praise and glory of Jesus Christ and his poor servant Francis. Amen.

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Shall I Forget?

a poem by Christina Rossetti

Shall I forget on this side of the grave?
I promise nothing: you must wait and see
Patient and brave.
(O my soul, watch with Him and He with me.)

Shall I forget in peace of Paradise?
I promise nothing: follow, friend, and see
Faithful and wise.
(O my soul, lead the way He walks with me.)

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A turn of the century Jewish child’s experience

Just before the beginning of his troubles, Solly used to follow his Grandmother about like a little dog. He went around the house with her and to the market with her, and watching her face saw that her lips often moved.

“Who are you talking to Grandmother?” he asked one day.

“I am blessing God.”

And he learned that she blessed God many times a day. She blessed Him when she ate the fruit that grows on trees, when she smelt fragrant wood or flowers, when she smelt fruit or spice or oil. She blessed him when a storm broke, when she heard the roar of thunder and saw the flashing of lightening. She blessed him when the first white bud broke on the tree. She heard Him when a wise or learned man came to the house. She blessed Him when they saw beautiful animals, dogs, cats, and birds, and the gulls sweeping over the bows of the ships in the docks, on wings like the wings of angels. She blessed Him when she used anything new, when she put on new clothes or dressed Solly in new clothes, when she ate any kind of fruit for the first time in the season, and when the new moon rose over the chimneys.

Solly felt close to Grandmother, especially when she blessed her Lord God for beautiful dogs and cats, but he felt miles away from Grandfather, of whom, though he did not fear him, he stood in awe. Although Grandmother’s life was filled with her religious rites, they seemed homely, they brought her closer to Solly, they were domestic, sensuous and tenderly devout. But Grandfather was set apart by his prayers, his soul seemed to be soaring away, outside of their little house. Solly watched him, half in awe, half fascinated, he watched him wrapping himself in a shawl to pray, binding thongs of leather on his forehead and arm: heard his voice reading the Scripture in Hebrew as a voice from another world. He sensed both sorrow and emptiness in the old man. Sorrow that was oppressive, and emptiness that was frightening to a child as it would be to suddenly find himself alone in an empty house.

Moses Levi, in self-sought exile, did not find the promised land that he had dreamed of. Although his memories of it were dark, blood-red and black, and sodden with tears, he found that after all he could not tear out his roots from the Ghetto he had forsaken. There, the people, the Chosen People of God and his own people, were one in the solidarity of suffering. Their oneness set them apart and excluded the rest of the world. Their unity was not one that could be broken even by death. It was like hard rock made of multitudinous grains of sand, that has been washed in the salt of deep and bitter seas.

Caryll Houselander ‘The Dry Wood’

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Christmas approaches

A new schedule at work promises extended free time, an intentional reduction in overtime.  The new year will bring changes.  Hopefully, the grace providing free time will allow growth in the pursuit of God.  I have ideas, yet silence, prayer, and the exercising of the moment presents a greater immersion into the sacred heart through a divine mother.  Words playing to music as I type:

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves
There’s no need for rain, it’s our own parade
Let’s not be afraid of our reflections
It’s not only you you’re looking at now

Jack Johnson ‘No Good With Faces’ from the album ‘To The Sea’

For if things are to go well with a man, one of two things must always happen to him. Either he must find and learn to possess God in works, or he must abandon all works. But since a man cannot in this life be without works, which are proper to humans and are of so many kinds, therefore he must learn to possess his God in all things and to remain unimpeded, whatever he may be doing, wherever he may be. And therefore if a man who is beginning must do something with other people, he ought first to make a powerful petition to God for His help, and put Him immovably in his heart, and unite all his intentions, thoughts, will and power to God, so that nothing else than God can take shape in that man.  Meister Eckhart 

St John of the Cross was known during his time for converting secular songs into religious themed excursions.  There is a term for such an exercise that I cannot think of right now. I like the idea of observing, adoring secular activities and artistic efforts, trusting in man and God, while centering everything within one’s religious efforts. It is an endeavor of humility, the avoiding of using religion as a hammer, the immature reduction of religion merely to a means of elevating one’s self–complexly through delusion seeking one’s self.

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