"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

06 March 2014

Glories of the Cross

Another Valley of Vision prayer excerpt:

All these sins I mourn, lament, and for them cry pardon.
Work in me more profound and abiding repentance;
Give me the fullness of a godly grief
   that trembles and fears,
   yet ever trusts and loves,
   which is ever powerful, and ever confident;
Grant that through tears of repentance
   I may see more clearly the brightness
   and glories of the saving cross.

And from Neuhaus:

The beginning of wisdom is to come to our senses and know the fearful truth about ourselves, that we have wandered and wasted our days in a distant country far from home.  We know ourselves most truly in knowing Christ, for in him is our true self.  

It is by this world, this world at the cross, that reality is measured and judged.  That other world, the world we call real, is a distant country until we with Christ bring it home to the waiting Father.  

We are bringing it home, dragging it all behind us:  the deadlines and the duties, the fears of failure and hopes for advancement, the loves unreturned, the plans disappointed, the children we lose, the marriage we cannot mend.  And so we come loping along with reality's baggage, returning to the real -- the real that we left behind when we left for what we mistook as the real world.  "I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'" [. . .]  And Christ our elder brother takes the baggage and hoists it upon his shoulders, adding this to all that on the cross he is bearing and bringing home.  "Father, forgive them, for they knew not what they were doing."

05 March 2014

Ash Wednesday

From The Valley of Vision, excerpts from a prayer that seems appropriate for the beginning of Lent.  I am talking with some of my students about life issues this semester, and I always find myself fearful of my lack of wisdom and knowledge, praying that they won't remember all the wrong, unwise, unhelpful words that undoubtedly escape my lips.  As we enter this season, it seems the perfect time to reflect on that in me which led to the need for Christ's sacrifice on the cross.  So may I be open to uncomfortable glimpses of myself to the end of repentance and praise for mercy and grace.

Searcher of hearts,
It is a good day to me when thou givest me a glimpse of myself;
Sin is my greatest evil,
   but thou art my greatest good;
[. . .]
My country, family, church
   fare worse because of my sins,
   for sinners bring judgment in thinking sins are small,
   or that God is not angry with them.
[. . .]
Show me how to know when a thing is evil
   which I think is right and good,
   how to know when what is lawful
   comes from an evil principle,
   such as desire for reputation or wealth by usury.
Give me grace to recall my needs,
   my lack of knowing thy will in Scripture,
      of wisdom to guide others,
      of daily repentance, want of which keeps thee at bay,
      of the spirit of prayer, having words without love,
      of zeal for thy glory, seeking my own ends,
      of joy in thee and thy will,
      of love to others.
And let me not lay my pipe
   too short of the fountain,
   never touching the eternal spring,
   never drawing down water from above.

And because this is the season that leads to the Cross, some salient quotations from Richard John Neuhaus's Preface to his Death on a Friday Afternoon, reminding me of the wonder of God's great sacrifice in His love for us.

"Good Friday is the drama of the love by which our every day is sustained."

Good Friday is about "the meaning of suffering, of justice, of loss, of death and of whatever hope there may be on the far side of death."

Neuhaus says that in his book we will find "stories about people today who in their troubles find themselves, as they say, at the foot of the cross.  Sometimes they find themselves there in anger, sometimes in joy, but always in a deeper awareness of the mystery of their lives within the mystery of life itself."  This, at the foot of the cross, is where I need to find, to place, myself daily, not thinking I can possibly do the simplest thing without Him.  

"'It is finished,' Jesus said from the cross.  It is finished but it is not over.  To accompany him to his end is to discover our beginning."

May this Lenten season draw us all closer to Him as we remember why He came, so that our rejoicing on Easter may be that much greater.