Grace Given

awakenedheart

Awakened Heart, art by Janice Van Cronkhite

You drench me in your blessedness—
pressed down, compacted, flowing over,
till here I am, a child caught in a storm of love,
saturated with these discarnate ecstasies.

Your ways are masterful. Your generosity,
now captive in my starveling heart, loads me
with luxurious garments, crown and jewels—
treasures gained by you in times long past,
and yet enduring into our eternal now.

You are willing captive to my abject,
but trustingly prosaic, homeliness.

Where do we go from here?
Into some fastness of delight and fortitude,
a refuge for those wanderers, besotted by your love?

I cannot conceive (nor do I try)
what you have in store for me, but rest
in faith’s patient hope, and love’s fierce faith.

It is you who taught me how to love—
assiduous, recklessly adventurous
and all the while imprisoned deep
within your mighty stronghold of a heart.

 

~ A poem by Barbara Dent, O.C.D.S.  

Love Song

Jesus and the beloved disciple2

St. John The Beloved Disciple resting in the Heart of Jesus ~ By unknown artist

Long ago, an ordinary man called John laid his head on the breast of Christ, and listened to the heartbeats of the Lord. Who can guess what that man felt as he heard the beat of that mighty heart? None of us will ever be in his place, but all of us can hear, if we listen, the song of love God sings to us. If we meditate on the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist, we will hear, not only his heartbeats, but our own hearts beating in unison with his. We will be united with our Lord and our God.

God’s heart is our only true resting place, the oasis to which he calls us. The key to his heart is identification with all his little ones, a deep love that requires so great an enlargement of heart that we cannot even aspire to it unless God shows us the way.

Let us pray for that enlargement of heart.


“I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another. By this love you have for one another, everyone will know you are my disciples.” – John 13:34-35 


A Meditation by Catherine Doherty, Madonna House Apostolate

 

To Be Everyone

purple heart leaf

Purple Heart (photo source unknown)

What am I? And who am I? One who dies a thousand deaths yet stays alive. One who hangs upon a cross not made of wood, but of days and nights that merge and dance their endless dance of pain and of delight.

One who walks shrouded in silence, yet speaks for those who cannot speak, in an endless sea of words that storms, pleads and batters away at hearts of stone—which send my words right back to me: fiery wounding darts of painful ecstasy.

One who is torn apart by the pain of all those who hunger and who thirst, whose shelter is dusty tropic streets, or snowy desert wastes.

I am the millions who seek him, and yet I have found him. How can that be? Why must I live as I were all others? It seems to me that I am torn apart, and that each piece of me is someone else in search of him whom I possess. I must go and walk upon my God, for he is the Way—which means I walk upon Love itself.

But he who walks that way stands still, for how can one walk on feet that are nailed and hands made fast to beam and cross?

The mystery is great. I walk and yet am crucified. I am silent yet I shout. I am filled yet hungry, sheltered yet shelterless, warm yet cold, cold yet hot.

What am I? Who am I?

I am everyone, because I love him: my Lord. I am everyone whom he loves. This is my agony. This is my ecstasy. This is who and what I am.

To be everyone for love of him is to participate in the fullness of his passion.

He said: “I am the Way.” I know this is true because I have walked that Way a thousand yesterdays and walk it still today. 

~ A Meditation by Catherine de Hueck Doherty

A Season of Rebirth

Helebores - Lenten rose

Lenten Rose in a winter garden (photo source unknown)

First Sunday of Lent,
A Meditation

As we hear the story of the Fall in Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7, the same question that God asked Adam confronts us: ‘Where are you?”

In a Hasidic story, an atheist persistently tried to catch the village rabbi in theological snares but always failed. One day the atheist asked, “Rabbi, is it true that God knows everything?” “Yes, my son,” said the rabbi, “God knows everything.” “Rabbi,” the atheist continued,” is it also true that after The Fall, God asked Adam, ‘Adam where are you?’ “Yes, my son, that is also true,” the rabbi replied. The atheist smiled, thinking that he had finally caught the rabbi in a contradiction. “But rabbi,” said the atheist, “If God knows everything, then why did God have to ask Adam where he was?” “My son,” said the rabbi,” ‘Adam, where are you?’ is not a question for information but for reflection.”

“Where am I?”, a perennial question of life, encompasses many other questions. What am I doing with my life? Does it have any purpose or lasting significance? What does it all mean? These questions and those like them distill into one haunting question: When I come to die will it make any difference that I have ever lived? This question takes on a more somber hue the older we become. And if we ask ourselves what we must do for our life to have permanent significance, the answer is so simple that it evades us. We must live the one, unique life that God has entrusted to us.

There is another Hasidic story about rabbi Zossimus, who tried all of his life to be like Moses, David or one of the prophets. His inability to achieve his goal frustrated and depressed him. One night in a dream, an angel appeared to him and said, “At the last judgement, God will not ask you why you were not Moses or David but rather, why you were not Zossimus.” God wanted Zossimus to do one thing—the same thing that he had asked Adam or Eve to do—tend the garden that was given to them and not to be deceived by unreality.
“And you shall be like gods!” Tending the garden that God has entrusted to us, no matter how humble, is no mean and insignificant enterprise, for it affords numerous opportunities to love.

Each of us finds ourselves situated at a juncture of time, space, and circumstance unique to us alone; we are entrusted with opportunities to love to which no one else has been assigned. An old saying notes that there are many occupations in the Body of Christ but only one vocation—the vocation to love. Love is our true work no matter what our task; it is the only thing that gives our life ultimate and lasting significance. Regarding love, “Where are you?”

~ By Marc Foley, O.C.D.

Wishing you all a very reflective and blessed season of Lent! 

Love’s Arrow, Love’s Surrender

surrender by Janice Van Cronkhite

Surrender, art by Janice Van Cronkhite

Love, I think, is an arrow shot by the will, and, freed from every pull of earth, flying straight at God with full force, it infallibly strikes His Majesty. Once it has pierced the Heart of God, absolute Love, it rebounds with immense graces…

O secrets of God! We must silence our understanding admitting that, never of itself can it fathom the greatness of God. Let us remember here Our Lady the Virgin, how she, in her great wisdom, surrendered in this way, and to her question to the angel, ‘How shall this be done?’ , received the answer: ‘The Holy Ghost will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.’

~ Saint Teresa of Avila, ‘Conceptions of the Love of God’

The Flower Of Love

A Starlit Garden ~ Art by Charlotte Bird

A Starlit Garden ~ Art by Charlotte Bird

“Where there is no love, put love and you will find love.” ~ Saint John of the Cross

Whoever first plants the seed in any soil hitherto fallow, and cultivates the shoot with humble toil near steep or shallow…

They will be first to come upon the flower whose instant glory can recreate, in even this trivial hour, the Eden story.

Blessed are they who stand upon their vow and are insistent that love in this bleak here, this barren now become existent.

Blessed are they who battle jest and scorn to keep love growing from embryo immaculately born to blossom showing.

Primarily for them will petals part to draw and win them.
It, when the pollen finds their opened hearts, will bloom within them.

~ A poem by Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D.
Jessica Powers 

 

God is in a Hurry!

 

Art by Holly Irwin 'Country Chapel'

Art by Holly Irwin ‘Country Chapel’

God is in a hurry! The collapse of Western civilization is all around us. We are called to stand still in the midst of chaos, violence, and disorder, as we build a house of love for others in our hearts. The walls inside our hearts are breaking down.
The restoration is speeding up within us.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

Love is the only reality. We have dedicated and consecrated ourselves to gospel love, not human love. This is what our lives are meant to incarnate.
Our primary charism is to love God passionately, and to love and accept ourselves according to our God-given uniqueness. Then we can love one another. Never has it been more important that others touch the reality of God living in, with, and through each of us.

This begins at Mass.

~ Meditations for spiritual pilgrims by Jean Fox, Madonna House Apostolate

In The Arms of My Beloved

'Jesus comforting a girl in loving embrace', Art by Unknown Author

‘Jesus comforting a girl in loving embrace’, Art by Unknown Author

Easing myself into the peace
I slip over the brink of sleep,
into your arms. I lie there
my head against your breast
one hand at your heart’s steady beat
the other crooked behind me
and all is quietude and still repose.
Your arms enfold me. They make a rampart
holding all my fears at bay.

Your breathing is the universe
you recreate each second through your love.
You are that mighty Word resounding
to make creation dance and sing in procreation.

Wedded for the first time in my life,
blessed, consecrated, vowed and ringed,
I now belong with you, love’s circlet
mutual and pledged with sacramental grace.
Cherished and safe, cradled and defended
by the stronghold of your promise
I hold out in my trusting hand to you
all my love throughout eternity.

Lovers always say “for ever”…
and then betray each other.
But we have made our deathless troth
that enemies cannot destroy nor many waters quench
nor catastrophic earthquake turn to rubble.

Our “for ever” opens up eternity in us
where I lie cradled in your quiet arms
your steadfast heartbeat here beneath my hand
so that I believe, and trust, and render up my all
into your care whose dower is to me the universe.

~ By Barbara Dent, O.C.D.S. ‘The Marriage of All and Nothing’  

 

 

Mary, the eternal spring of hope

 

Art by Maria Ellenrieder (1824)

Art by Maria Ellenrieder (1824)

Desperately we seek happiness. The majority of us understand that happiness is found in love. But today the way we use the word “love” often misses its very essence. As humanity is losing its sense of its own identity, it is losing its understanding of love as well, and the pursuit of what many think of as love doesn’t bring the fulfilment that they expect. Perhaps it is because love has been equated with lust, with encounters that barely touch the hearts of those who casually have met and as casually parted.

Yes, we seek happiness and dimly know that love is happiness, but we have lost the true meaning of love. We are going around seeking it or seeking someone who can tell us where it is to be found.

One person who can direct us to love is Mary, the Mother of God. She became pregnant with the Son of God, the Incarnation of Love and gave him birth! She bore him, brought him up, watched him grow to manhood. She lived with him, followed him at a distance, and stood under his cross as he made his supreme sacrifice out of love for the whole human race.

Mary knows the way of Love intimately, deeply, and profoundly. Of all the people who have ever lived, Mary is the one through whom Love was born.
To go to Mary, as you would got to a beloved neighbor’s house, to sit down in her kitchen, and to ask her to tell you about Love and the way to it, is the simplest thing in the world! For to a Christian with faith in the communion of saints, relationships span time and extend into eternity.
Those who have died are with us, and we are with them, united in the immense bond of Love that is the Lord. And so talking to Mary should be very simple. Many have found the way easily. More should try.

She will tell you about her Son who took upon himself your pain and my pain, your sin and mine. She will tell you about the deep, strange, fantastic obedience he had to his Father, and we will know what obedience truly is, and how to pave the way to Love. She will explain that to be fulfilled and find our identity, we have to drop the pronoun “I” and live by a total attention, by constant listening to him, to her…to the other.

She will explain that no one should really do “their thing’ selfishly, but should open their heart and embrace “all good things” that the other does.

Lastly, she will speak in a low voice about her own fiat, her simple “yes” to God. And if we listen carefully to the gentle voice of the mother of Jesus, we will know what that “yes” means in our life. We will know what Love is and, having found it, we will never let it go. So let us turn to this woman who can truly liberate us.

~ By Catherine de Hueck Doherty, ‘Bogoroditza’

Happy Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

 

A Reflection on Prayer… God – or ego?

A vision, art by Yongsung Kim

A vision, art by Yongsung Kim

Prayer. We take the word for granted but ought we to do so? What do we mean by prayer? What does the word mean in the Christian context? Almost always when we talk about prayer we are thinking of something we do and, from that standpoint, questions, problems, confusion, discouragement, illusions multiply. For me, it is of fundamental importance to correct this view. Our Christian knowledge assures us that prayer is essentially what God does, how God addresses us, looks at us.
It is not primarily something we are doing to God, something we are giving to God but what God is doing for us. And what God is doing for us is giving us the divine Self in love.

Any talk about prayer, if we are to stand in the clear, pure atmosphere of truth, must begin by reflecting in firm belief on what Jesus shows us of God. Let us push straight to the heart of the matter.
What is the core, the central message of the revelation of Jesus? Surely it is of the unconditional love of God for us, for each one of us: God, the unutterable, incomprehensible Mystery, the Reality of all reality, the Life of all life. And this means the divine Love desires to communicate Its Holy Self to us. Nothing less!
This is God’s irrevocable will and purpose; it is the reason why everything that is, and why each of us exists. We are here to receive this ineffable, all-transforming, all beatifying Love.
Well-instructed Christians know this notionally but, alas, few know it really. And here I must add an important reminder that knowing it ‘really’ does imply ‘feelingly’. To know really – or really to know – means living that knowledge, living out of it. It means that our way of looking at things, our attitudes, our actions arise from this knowledge. Of this real knowledge we use the word faith. This must give us pause and make us very cautious of claims to faith. ‘Of course I have faith!’ We can feel quite indignant if someone implies otherwise! My experience tells me that real faith is rare and it is best we acknowledge this so that we may really work at believing.

Basing ourselves, therefore, on what Jesus shows us of God (and we Christians have only one teacher, Jesus the Christ, who is our Way), we must realize that what we have to do is allow ourselves to be loved, to be there for Love to love us. It cannot be a matter of our finding some way of contacting God, of making God real to us, of getting hold of a secret key with which to open the mystic door. Nor is this faith in Jesus our Way compatible with such distressed meaning as: ‘I can’t pray’ or ‘my prayer is hopeless’ or ‘I have never had anyone to teach me how to pray and therefore I don’t pray.’ When we find ourselves dissatisfied or anxious about our prayer it is worth asking ourselves the question: ‘What do I really want?’ and trying to listen honestly to the answer. We can be fairly certain that it will be some kind of ego-satisfaction.
I may want to feel I am making progress, that my prayer is ‘working’ or that I am a spiritual adept. I may want to feel I am getting something for my money! True prayer means wanting GOD not ego.
The great thing is to lay down this ego-drive. This is the ‘life’ we must lose, this the ‘self’ we must abandon if we are to have true life and become that self God wants us to be, which only God can know and ultimately only God can bring into being. We have to recognize that a great deal that goes for interest in and longing for prayer is a subtle form of self-seeking. To give ourselves seriously to prayer is to recognize this and face up to the choice it presents: will we cast aside our egotism, allow God’s love to purify it more and more whatever the cost, or will we camouflage it, give it other, more spiritual names, and look around for so-called spiritual guides who will offer us ego-satisfying techniques with the promise of an ‘experience’.
Perhaps we give up the prayer-project altogether with the reflection that, after all, what matters is living and loving and serving our neighbour.
Another very popular form of evasion is just to go on worrying and asking endless questions about prayer with the illusory aim that one fine day we will be shown ‘how to do it.’ The thing to do is, of course, to get down to praying! That will answer our questions.

~ By Ruth Burrows, O.C.D. – Essence of Prayer