Monday, 15 October 2012

Teresa of Avila

  'When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery'. 
St Paul to the Galatians- reading of the day

Today we celebrate the feast of one of my patron saints - Teresa of Avila - Virgin and Doctor of the Church. Not a Celt but with as straightforward an approach to living faith as any Brigid.

A mystic; she delighted in, and taught a openness to the experience of God's presence as a deep, personal relationship. And having had that experience she was even able to identify the loss of an awareness of God as proof of His Presence (if He wasn't there how could you miss him?)Something we still have difficulties with even now.

Paul writes of a new convenant that is a promise, not of independence but of interdependence; of a relationship bound tightly and so deeply in love that fulfills everything that we could hope for. Yet the world continues to suggest otherwise. Teresa turns away from the yoke of slavery that meant other people had the right to decide what her life would be; what her future would be. She turns away from her own desire to be part of the world - discovering that she would likely be too 'prone' to sin. In a growing faith, that seems as much seduction as anything else, Jesus drew her to him with his need for good friends and her desire to be a true lover of Christ. 

In her teaching of Contemplative prayer she says; "it is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us. The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything."

And in this we find freedom.

I feel your eyes, Lady.
Your indulgent smile
Graced upon a child,
A novice of your Way,
A pilgrim to the heart of Love.
You hear my exclamations of faith,
My delight in His glorious presence,
And, teacher that you are,
You speak your warning,
A whispered, ‘Beware’
For with the highs there is always…

Desolation, Lady?
I have also been a pilgrim along that road.
Life’s story unwinding, unheard
Neither written nor read by me.
Life once removed from love,
Purposefully drained empty,
I have lived the dread-filled nightmare
When there is no hope of sunrise.
I have lain submerged in despair
Listening to life move on around me.
Cowered in the dark from
Night stalkers that suck hope dry,
Borne days when life was merely an option.
I have sunk, sick to the stomach and
Screamed into the darkness,
To the lonely echo of my own voice.


And so, my consolation.
He found me then
And he has me now.
And, Mistress, you know as well as I,
That that is more than enough.


Thursday, 4 October 2012

Feast of Francis of Assisi

A fair amount of information about Francis is found here.  Francis is one of those saints that many people feel close to and comfortable with; especially through his dedication as patron saint of animals and the fondness that many people have for members of the Franciscan order. The deeper truth of Francis is much more challenging and a willingness to follow after Francis asks for a sacrifice of desire of everything except the desire for God. I have been blessed to walk the streets and lanes of Assisi and the countryside where he found his refuge and his inspiration. The faith of the followers of Francis and Clare has soaked into the land and left their mark. Even the olive trees have a story to tell. The blessings of the Feast:- 

Assisi - Walk from San Damiano to Rivo Torto

The afternoon sun raises a shimmering heat haze through the parched olive groves. Conspiring old hags, the ancient groves reveal their own vision in answer at my musings.

Ancient? Indeed we are ancient; twisted arthritic creatures, old even when Francis walked this way with his brothers; old when Chiara left through the door of the dead for a life much less ordinary.

Some of us kin to the groves of Gethsemane; to that garden where the Christ found a refuge for his tears; where the treachery began; in faith, our lives spanning your faith. And in our lives  -a parable.

Across the ages, from Christ to Francis to the moment we rest in – we have been a birthplace for life; for sunlit  sustenance; for the food of angels, Olives, a treasure and a fundamental part of  life in this place; food and drink; a bowl of olives, good bread – virgin oil – a feast for the senses.

 Each year, this harvest comes again - a new birth -  a new gift. For us new life comes from the newly alive. The olives ripen only on this season’s wood. And we are mad with the power of fertility. Left to ourselves in the delight of sun and rain; we sprout and shoot and become a riot of fecundity, overgrown, entangled, unmanageable – until our branches collapse from lack of water and weight of the fruit – until the winter winds tear our hearts out.

It is through need that we submit to the shears and pruning knife; branches that are cut hard, cut back into our lichen covered, ancient, seemingly decrepit torsos, wherein lies the taproot of memory, of truth, of rebirth. And there we begin again.

And here is the crux of our tale.

Your faith, childlike, seeks attention, new experience. Prosperity puts authority before service. You are meant to be poor but desire riches; you are meant to be vulnerable but want power. You become blinded by the immediacy and desire of the flesh. You think 'if there was only another path' but there is only one path.  

That is why you need this place; like us you need the sharp reminder of the knife; to stir the roots ; to be taken back to the Word; to loose the trappings of the world; to begin again.  As Chiara and Francis did, as your Celtic brothers and sisters did. To rebuild a church of souls. Our words to you – return to the source, walk in their footsteps, follow the Way.