Everyday Spirituality

Archive for November, 2011

New Life is Possible

Out of the rubble of death and devastation new things erupt.

Recently as I entered into our newly enlarged and renovated worship space I could not help but think about what is now new in my own life.

The death of my friend certainly left devastation within my heart,

but new life is breaking through.

As I sat in our new church I found myself reflecting on the timing; so fitting. I can enter into this space with a new sight, new light, and freshness of spirit. The months of the dark journey of her illness seem to be lighter in this new space. I can carry her in with joy in my heart…Joy and the peace in knowing that she is now also new in the Lord. She is clothed in his brilliant love.

 This new space is bright, clean, simple, inviting and welcoming to all. She would have felt peace and joy here too. When you lose a loved one it is good to create new memories…not to replace the old memories, but to keep your heart and soul in a state of growth. I read somewhere that one cannot remain stagnant; we are either moving forward or moving backward.

There were many days during her illness that I knew without a doubt, I was moving backward. I think grief has a way of making you feel as if you are literally falling backwards. As you are falling backwards time seems to move in slow motion or even at times remain as a ‘freeze frame’. It is not good to stay in this state for long.

Shortly after a forest fire there can be seen tiny sprouts of green popping up amid the charred parched land. Amazing! These new seedlings now have less competition for sunlight and rain water which enable them to mature faster.

Tiny little signs of hope;

all is not lost.

Tiny little signs that even here

new life is possible.

Tiny little signs of a powerful

unseen force.

Signs that remind us that we

are loved by a life-giving God.

Signs that we live in an environment

 filled with our Creator’s energy.

Today, as I write, marks the end of this Liturgical year. It is the end of the previous Mass translation we have used for many years. We are also on the threshold of Advent…a time of new beginnings.

We are a people called to choose life…for living consistently embraces the new.

So while I will miss some of the familiar prayers of the Mass. I am committed to moving forward integrating the new into all that has made me the person I am today.

Integrating the loss of my dear friend into the person God wants me to become; is still a difficult work in progress, but it must continue. “…you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord, my God.” (Jonah 2:7)

There is no going backwards or standing still.

There is only moving forward

however long it may take.

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Gaudi: Little by Little

Little by little things return to normal. Returning recently from a month away puts things in a new perspective; when we left people were preparing to celebrate Halloween. Now a month later, the holidays are upon us and the Christmas decorations are seasoning the neighborhoods. The stores are in full shopping mode pulling out all the stops to lure us into giving them some of our money.

The flight over to Barcelona was interesting…I saw the sun rise from the window of the plane before I had actually slept. The pilot was eager to thrust us back into the light, perhaps we would be fooled into believing we were not tired.

Many times in my life the greatest ‘pilot’, Jesus, has thrust me back into the light.

The architect, Gaudi, obviously understood the power of light. Inside the Sagrada Familia Gaudi’s careful planning and design fills the huge space with natural light. The sunlight streams through the multi colored stained glass creating breath taking views. The whole space inside lifts your spirit to think of God.

I could not stand within this unfinished masterpiece without being in awe of the magnificence of God.

God inspired Gaudi to use his talent and vision to give us this structure…a house of prayer unlike any other. Little by little construction has continued in spite of numerous obstacles over many years.

Many times setbacks and obstacles have caused me to want to give up on a project. But as I stood in this church I was reminded that when you persevere wonderful things can be accomplished.

This church is still a work in progress…just as we all are works in progress.

Standing outside is unbelievable when you look up at the tall slender spires. More spires are in the plans as the construction continues…scheduled to be completed in 2026. I hope to always have another unique ‘spire’ in my life rising high up toward the heavens. A ‘spire’ to which I can aspire…a ‘spire’ which will inspire me to desire to reach higher… to fully become the woman God wants me to become.

Standing in the center, looking up at the ceiling towering high overhead made me think about Jonah in the belly of the very large fish. The inside structure is a bit like a giant rib cage.

Our rib cage is designed to protect our heart and lungs… without which we could not survive. This stone ‘rib cage’ surrounds the space where believers come tolift their hearts and minds in prayer to God. This strong ‘rib cage’ surrounds the space where Jesus comes into the bread and wine to nourish all who come forward to receive him in the Eucharist.

The Sagrada Familia Basilica captured my attention in spite of the effects of jet lag. Surprisingly, even though there were several hundred people inside the church it was remarkably quiet. People seemed to not only recognize, but also to respond to the sacredness of the space.

I look forward to our return visit. It would be especially wonderful to be able to attend Mass there and to hear the incredible pipe organ.

“Little by little” light is returning into my life. Spending time in this unique holy space brought me great peace and joy.
I hope you enjoy watching this Youtube video I discovered. The music is not what I would have chosen, but the photos give an idea of this architectural wonder.

This magnificent work of art truly gives Glory and Praise to God.

The Gift of the Visitation

Henri Nouwen says, “Icons can become yours…guiding you in all ways at all times. They will begin to speak, he says, of the unique way in which God has chosen to love you.”

From Behold the Beauty of the Lord

This is the icon of the Visitation, when Mary rejoiced with Elizabeth in an embrace. Both women were filled with the expectant joy of pregnancy. They recognized the goodness of the Lord alive within each other.

This icon was one of several gracing the walls of my friend’s home. This one in particular she loved. She had it hanging on the wall directly in front of her. As she lay for hours on the loveseat her gaze fell upon the Visitation icon. While we never spoke at length about this icon I knew how much she loved it. Gradually icons speak silently to your inner self.

One day another friend of ours was helping her with some needle work. She noticed the icon there upon the wall and asked if it was my friend and I. Without a moment’s hesitation she confidently answered, ‘Yes’.

For months I eagerly drove to visit my friend whether at home or in the hospital. When she was in the hospital I wanted to be there for her. I’d like to believe that my being present brought her a certain amount of comfort. There were sometimes when I was compelled to intervene on her behalf to the nursing staff. Some were not able to comprehend that she was very delicate.

I think about how eager Mary was to visit Elizabeth…how their presence to one another brought them both comfort. Mary was just a young unmarried girl carrying a child…not just any child, but the Christ Child. She must have found comfort just being with Elizabeth. Mary and Elizabeth had so much to share just I did with my friend.

Last year we graduated together, along with her spouse, as Spiritual Directors. My mother brought me a most beautiful statue of Mary and Elizabeth greeting each other. Sitting with a directee is a meeting of two people coming together to acknowledge the presence of God in their lives.

This beautiful sculpture depicts Mary and Elizabeth face to face mirroring one another, holding hands. Their foreheads are nearly touching.

I often sat with my friend and all I did at times was hold her hand. When she was hospitalized I would greet her with the sign of the cross on her forehead followed by a gentle kiss.

These two loving women appear to be bowing toward each other, as if they were mutually honoring the indwelling of the Spirit. Even the designs of their dresses seem to dance with joy at their meeting. These two women reflect the excitement and joy I shared many times with my friend. I am thankful for the times we had together and sad for the future times we will not have together. This sculpture was done by Timothy P. Schmalz who says, ‘I describe my sculptures as being visual prayers’. It is true for me; this statue is a visual prayer.

Everything about the Visitation was excitement and joy. ….visits with my friend were also filled with excitement and joy; until the cloud of death came to hang over us day after day. It was difficult when she did not want to talk about her death. It lurked all around us everywhere we looked, but she did not want to speak of it. I tried to keep my fears and anxiety inside, but I know it was etched on my face.

The best gift you can give someone is the gift of your presence. I can happily say I have no regrets as to how much time I gave to my friend. My dear husband encouraged me to take all the time I needed to be with her. I thank him for allowing me this luxury; it was a blessing I will forever hold dear.

One should give not according to one’s convenience but according to the needs of the receiver. I once read that Mary’s visit was an inspiration to Elizabeth. Visits with my friend were often inspirations to me. When you visit; try to bring some inspiration into the lives of those you love.

God chose to love me through my friend and he chose to love her through me.

He also chose to love us both through the beautiful images of Mary and Elizabeth.

Together we chose to share our love of God. Together we allowed God to love others through us. I will continue to allow God to use me to love and inspire others.

We brought many blessings to each other “…For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)