- There is nothing there
Dry kindling for a flame
The crackling caress of a strain
The weathered relief of time
Passing alone in the light
Remain sitting still for the taking
In the moment fulfilled within longing
A mystery revealed within sacrifice
The burden of sin aching, silently pleading
Impudently depressing, confessing
Honestly enriching, there is no…
Nothing, yet the presence and prayer
A mother, a Child, and a Father
This novel, which I have moved through slowly, has amazed throughout its entirety. I have seriously moved away from reading fiction, yet Ms. Houselander captivates. Her use of children embodying the innocence of Christ took a personal twist yesterday as I was given a grandson for the evening, a shopping excursion and dinner together entreating. One on one time with a child is a precious thing. Recently becoming a big brother to a sister, a second time, Tyler, a five year old, astounded with conversation. I asked him if he had ever experienced a drive through carwash. We did not go through the carwash as rain appeared inevitable, yet his response delighted. He told me he had never been in a carwash, yet he thinks he was in one when he was in his mommy’s belly, although he did not have his eyes open then so he could not see. He rambled on about eyes and being in a mother’s belly, moving his words to school and how he saw on television a man try to jump over a school however he fell and broke his neck. It was quite scary. A loud noise sounded outside the car, startling him and he apologized, explaining he did not know why loud noises scared him.
Within the ending of a story
Inside, it seemed to Timothy as if he were taking part in a pathetic pageant of the Stations of the Cross.
One by one the men stood before the officer, who looked them up and down, asked a few questions, condemned them to probable death. One by one they were stripped for the medical examination, and stood, pitifully childlike in their nakedness, immolated men. And then they were given soldiers’ clothes, and even on the big men, they seemed to sag and to be a mockery. Perhaps in a few months they would fill them, perhaps then the clothes would have wed themselves to the men and the men would be soldiers. At present they looked incongruous and ludicrous.
His own turn came, and the misery of self-consciousness of an over-sensitive school boy came back to him. He felt that his shrinking mind was exposed in his thin body, that it would glare out of his ribs that he preferred poetry to football. He hated the soldier’s coat, but it covered his nakedness.
He walked back when it was over to take his place among the other recruits, and the sound of his heavy army boots on the wooden floor sickened him with its association with school. He sat down in the row waiting for orders, and began to watch others, to try to see below the masks of their faces, to know them from their hands, the delicate scholars’ hands, the broad efficient hands of the craftsmen—”all held out for the nail” he thought, and he thought too, “how strange it is, that it is our flesh and blood, these bodies, that Christ uses for His purpose of love, as He used common bread for the Sacrament of His body. Poor bodies of men, broken, twisted, drained, ugly, and Christ present where they are. The Incarnation is everywhere.”
He felt peaceful and ready now to wait for orders. He knew that he had only been able to volunteer as a soldier because he recognized no man living as his enemy, because his offering for his friend was equally and inevitably an offering for the whole world, Germans and Englishmen alike. He had laid bare his heart.
Power, might, the Pride of Life, those things never stood alone, never dared to stand alone, and dared not stand against the guilt and misgiving even in themselves. They needed the reassurance of countless others like them, dressing like them, speaking like them, acting like them, convincing them that wrong is right because the great “All and everyone” does wrong. evil, like the devil, is named “legion”.
And those who stand for humility, thought the Archbishop, are alone, on this earth lonely. Those who hold through the ages to old conventions of holiness that Mother Church teaches in her nursery—humility, poverty, the mortification of the senses, lowliness—they are alone, he thought, even among whom they love, and again, men of goodwell learn only by striving with sanctity, are healed of their own infirmities only by dashing themselves against the rock of holiness.
He thought how the saints have always been alone and lonely on earth, because they held on with aching fingers to the holiness of Christ. Because they saw the Changeless Vision through ushered tears, and heard the voice of love through the world’s din, be it the clash of swords, the humbling of machines, or thunder of guns.
“I looked for one who would sorrow together with me and I have found no one.” Wherever they had been in the world, wherever in time or place or circumstance, they had been alone.
Power, Strength, Force, the armed pride of life (evil). What force could oppose it? Could any legion of flesh and blood destroy pride? Even if it could defeat the pitiful army of robot children on the field of battle, could it destroy pride, or would that only have changed hands, to march on and on, gathering its recruits from the whole world, on and on and on to the destruction of humanity?
Lovely children, with slender bodies, with rose-petal cheeks, with small pink mouths, with white bleached hair, silver, gold. The light playing on their helmets, the light flashing on their marching feet. Children swinging along in perfect time, in terrible unison, coming up to the young Christ on the cross. A cry went out from the Archbishop’s soul to the crucified Christ, “Eternal Innocence! Child of the Father, did You see the children advancing when You hung on the cross? Did the steel tramp of their feet ring in Your ears? Was the drumming in Your ears in the hours of death, turned to the shout of Kriege, Kriege, Kriege, hammering on Your bloodless brain, drowned only in the dark storm of the waters of death, the torrent inside the little skull, trying in vain to burst through the crown of thorns as You bowed Your head and died?
And as if it was in answer to his prayer, another procession of children came into his dream, walking slowly with infinite dignity, one by one, each one alone, each alone walking in the pure majesty of childhood, the holy children of our times. Gentle, devoted peasants and grave, sweet patricians, children stepping softly on blameless, naked feet. Almond-eyed children, brown from caressing suns, Melenie and Maximin of La Salette, Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia of Portugal, Bernadette Soubirous, and behind them Anne de Guigne with her wistful face and her deep lace collar, and Guy de Fontgalland in his sailor suit, with his thick, golden fringe and his cry in the teeth of war: “Je veux faire connaitre le petit Jesus dans le monde entier!
With that cry in his ears the Archbishop awoke—and the wonder of the children who loved God remained in his consciousness like a light shinning in his breast.
He whispered, “Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata Mundi, dona nobis pacem!”
And then, indulging his habit of talking out loud to himself, he said, “Lord, who knows, perhaps while your old men and your theologians and bishops and politicians and scholars wrestle in vain with the angel, your battles are fought and won in the nurseries.”
And suddenly, with the same surprise that we experience when we first see an open daisy in the field—the expected, the known, the ever with us, become sudden, unexpected, new—the Archbishop remembered Willie Jewel.
The whole wearisome problem of Riverside returned not now in all its adult intricacy, but in the sharp, simple vision of a child dying and a childlike old man watching from heaven.
The Archbishop got up slowly, and knelt down. After all, he was going to take Father Perivale’s advice, he was going to risk St. Peter’s view of it and ask Father Malone to hold his hand, not to work his miracle.
He knelt there, an ascetic, beautiful old man of silver, clothed in purple, with a ring like a drop of blood on his finger, the shadow of his thick white hair on his forehead like the shadow of a crown of thorns. “Father Malone,” he said softly. “Do you hear your bishop speaking to you, Father Malone?” And he felt quite sure that he did hear, that the old man was close, leaning out of heaven. He visualized him, not kneeling at the door of heaven and removing his battered hat when he heard his bishop’s voice, his umbrella filled up with stars hanging over one arm, the other arm lifted cupping his ear with his hand as he leaned forward to hear his bishop’s request.
“Father Malone, it is Archbishop Crecy speaking. You have caused a lot trouble here, Father, with your holiness; we can’t know God’s purposes as well as you know them now, Father, but we can’t help seeing and thinking and wanting from our own poor simple angle. And it seems to me, Father, that the little child’s death is in the world’s redemption, and a miracle from you—just now, Father Malone, if you will forgive me for saying so—tending towards imprudence.”
This the Archbishop made his act of faith in the sanctity of Father Malone. It was three o’clock in the afternoon, on the last day of the novena, the precise day and hour at which Willie Jewel died.
Caryll Houselander ‘The Dry Wood’
Lyrics from a song penetrated. The ‘you’ should not be attached to an individual, rather the world in general.
“I have been to Hell and back so many times you bore me.”
The other night driving home from work after midnight an impressionable incident occurred. A police officer in an unmarked car, distinct as a law enforcement vehicle yet nondescript at a quick glance, pulled out of a parking lot right behind me, stealthily while observing. I was speeding in a twenty-five mile per hour zone so I slowed down. The police officer stayed behind. I approached a major intersection hosting the grocery store Whole Foods. Coasting through a series of green lights, I started to pass through the intersection when I turned my attention to my left. Instantly, a racing vehicle careening through a red light snapped into my vision. My brake reaction time was immediate and I brought my vehicle to a halting emergency stop. I was stunned how close the vehicle passed before me. I checked myself, observing the traffic light. It was green. I looked to my rear and saw the police officer react, pulling forward to allow him to pursue. My racing heart and clear mind turned to God, thoughts reflecting upon a guardian angel protecting. It was a near miss that rattled me while producing gratefulness. I pulled around the shopping plaza in order to see if the officer apprehended the offender. I was amazed that by the time I circled around there were three police vehicles with red and blue lights blaring. The moment left an imprint regarding the urgency of moments, and a sense of protection and authority.
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.
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.
“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’