Gloria Lux

Note: A few years ago I took the time to ponder the windows in the new Catholic Cathedral in Saskatoon and wrote a series of brief meditations on each of them. As the windows depict salvation history, a history we have been recalling during the Easter Triduum. Finally we have arrived from death through life in Christ: HE IS RISEN — ALLELUIA! Oh glorious light of resurrection, shine on us.
Here is the final reflection on the TREE OF LIFE:

The Tree of Life – Gloria Lux

In the end back at the beginning,
for the beginning matters …
Everything shall live where the river flows
with healing streams of mercy for the nations.
For God says each day in each circumstance:
it is good, very good – it can be good, very good.
Let go and let me…

Divine creating power of love and goodness
breaking through death forever.
Horrifying cross and innocent death sprouting love,
revealing divine power and majesty with delight.
Birds nesting in little bundles of fluff,
chirping and feeding and fluttering in songs of joy
while nursing tears and kissing blood into
fragile yet splendid prairie flowers
surprising in abundance and beauty
despite life’s arid soil, scorching heat
and scarce rainfall of blessings.

In city and town grass stubbornly grows
through cement cracks,
love persistently peaks through despairing spirits,
sprouting fragile trust and hope.
In a quiet stable a baby’s gentle power of love
opens the most hardened of hearts
into a vulnerable new beginning.

Emmanuel – God with us …

Where, O Death, is your victory?
Where, O Death, is your sting?

Let anyone who is thirsty come to me,
38and let the one who believes drink.
The water I give will become in you
a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.

With brightly burning, witnessing flames of joy,
and with the resounding exuberance
of Handel’s Halleluiah
creation’s chorus of life bursts forth in praise:

O Tree of Life, O Cross of Redemption;
great is our God, great is God’s love
revealed in Father, Son and Spirit
creating, redeeming and sustaining
day by day, from dangerous cliff to delicate moment
with joy and grace,
in order that everything shall live and love
where God’s river of mercy,
opened in Christ Jesus, flows eternally.
A new heaven and a new earth,
here and now — MERCY.

The beginning matters – always, always.
Original blessing in beauty and love,
clothed in both freedom and mercy.
Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone …
restored and sanctified … at last.

And God saw that it was good, very good.

Alleluia…

***

And on the seventh day
God leaned on the windowsill
and rested from all that had been created.
Looking out onto the prairie harmony
of life in all its splendour
– gopher kissing bee, thistle hugging lilies,
wheat and weeds growing together –
God smiled contentedly and hummed to himself:
All shall be well, all shall be well,
and all matter of things shall be well,
for I made it so.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
AMEN

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Window Praising

Note: A few years ago I took the time to ponder the windows in the new Catholic Cathedral in Saskatoon and wrote a series of brief meditations on each of them. As the windows depict salvation history, a history we have been recalling during this Easter Triduum, it seems fitting to share these meditations in this Holy Week, a week leading us through Christ’s death into the glorious light of resurrection. Number Four: He is risen — risen indeed! Alleluia.

RESURRECTION

Blessed, blessing, blessed
exploding the time barrier between life and death
stardust uniting in one great rush of Love.
River and dry land staging heaven’s song of praise
raising up the lowly, filling the hungry,
blessing the hurting and the mourning.

Radiant glory – cover us, infuse us, penetrate us.
Overtake us in singing your glory
in the fullness of earthly and earthy existence.
Scandal of particularity transformed into Salvation’s song
forever sweeping up creation’s imperfection,
kissing her with resurrection sweetness
as a bride adorned on her wedding night.
Flames dancing in the trees,
singing glory without destroying,
throwing heat and light
without burning to ashes all in sight.

All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,
echoes the heavenly song
in divine glory glowing from every living cell encoded with DNA.
Shout from windowsill and riverbank:
God is alive in Christ, alive in us, alive in all creation.
God rises up in Jesus, destroying death’s finality,
bringing along all living things –
he died for all, for all, for all!

When Jesus said it is finished,
new life burst forth in radiant splendour.
Blessed, blessing, blessed…
Glory, glory …


 

Window on the World

As I am re-reflecting on the Cathedral windows, preparing my meditations for public sharing, I just realized something: none of the windows depict the crucifixion … An oversight? Maybe, and maybe not … The risen Christ, whose Real Presence is given to us in the Eucharist, also reveals his Crucified and Real Presence  in the least among us, in those sisters and brothers crying out for deliverance and healing, whose death-cry “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” still echoes around the globe. Jesus’ agony in the garden, his death-cry on the cross, is still with us in chilling, shocking and horrifying ways:

in the millions of refugees walking to safety …
in the missing and murdered aboriginal women
demanding justice …
in the indigenous peoples of the world
trampled on by western interests
of consumerism and economic monopolies …
in the quiet neighbour suffering abuse and neglect
within the walls of a home
intended to be a haven of safety and peace …
in minorities stigmatized for being different
robbed of the right to fullness of life …
in victims of the sex trade and human trafficking …
in the earth crying out for justice and right relation …
in the extinction of countless species
due to human ravaging of resources …
in child soldiers seeking love and belonging
in all the wrong places and in the wrong ways …
in innocent people killed in bomb attacks
in the depletion and unjust distribution
of the earth’s gifts for all …
in death-dealing superiority of one race over another …
in merciless and cold policies from corporate board rooms …

The window depicting the Crucifixion of the Most Holy One does not need a place in churches and cathedrals. That window screams its stark truth on our television screens and media-outlets, draws our reluctant attention on our mobile phone devices, iPads and news stands, ignorantly fills our neighbourhood homes, locker room talks and coffee row gossip clubs. What have we done to our God in one another?

How can we ever reverse our collective human culpability in so much visible and invisible, subtle and blatant, local and global suffering and destruction? We don’t deserve forgiveness. When it comes to sin and evil, all of us are capable, all of us are guilty; we only differ in degree, if we differ at all.

Screaming Friday, horrible Friday, death-dealing Friday … Good Friday??!!
Of all days filled with this walk-with-Jesus
(no walk in the park, that’s for sure!)
this is the day for mass confession,
for taking collective responsibility,
especially in the western world,
for the ravages on creation and all living things,
for the exploitation and destruction
of beautiful human beings
in desperate need of shelter and safety,
food and clothing,
a future and a homeland, a promise and a hope.
Do we truly grasp the extent of our evil ways?

O God, we would have been better off
left to our own self-destruction.
You, O God, would be better off without us!
Crush us, grind us to powder, return us
to the dust of the earth where we belong.
Start all over again,
creating without any mistake this time,
which really means: don’t grant free will
to the loving creating work of your hands,
because that’s what caused all the trouble
in the first place.
Give yourself a chance, crazy God,
to re-create, to begin again,
and do it right this time …

Good Friday, Saving Friday, Redeeming Friday…
Why, foolish  and overly generous Lord,
why indeed, did you save us from ourselves?!

Because my tiny cherished earthling,
I love you, and you are precious in my eyes …
Because I desire your wholeness despite everything …
Because all is not lost, despite
what you see and hear, taste and feel.
Because you are so much more than what your 
conniving ways can scheme.

Because you cannot save yourselves,
I sent a helper to point you
in my saving, redeeming, merciful direction:
look to your Christ, my Jesus, my Son.
Why do you think he is my Son?
Look to that One who shows the way out of your
self-inflicted misery …
Look to the One who held on to LOVE, my LOVE,
amidst a death-dealing swirling tsunami
of HATE and EVIL,
and then see what power is unleashed
when you learn to do
just that …
Death itself dies, its power dismantled,
swallowed up forever
in LOVE …

I hide my face
in shame and undeserving joy …
Love won’t let me drown in the waters of death,
but washes me in waters of life,
a cocktail-potion of terrifying
Grace mixed with Mercy
prepared by a crazy Lover in love with me, with us,
a re-creating Lover who won’t take death for an answer
under any circumstance …

Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy …
I for-give … you …
Mercy within Mercy within Mercy

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
for by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Prairie Encounters

Window Praying

Note: A few years ago I took the time to ponder the windows in the new Catholic Cathedral in Saskatoon and wrote a series of brief meditations on each of them. As the windows depict salvation history, a history we recall during the Easter Triduum, it seems fitting to share these meditations in this Holy Week, a week leading us through Christ’s death into the glorious light of resurrection. Here is number three, entitled Incarnation. But what does that have to do with this day, Holy/Maundy Thursday? I’ll let your imagination play with that 🙂 

INCARNATION

Holy wholeness arrived inconspicuously
on the riverbank one day,
casting a glow of heaven on the weeds in my garden.

I laughed in disbelief – is this not the thistle choking veggies?
Is this not the carpenter from Nazareth,
or the slave girl in the brothel?
What good can come from these?

Daydreams, nothing but daydreams,
and I kept on walking along that inconspicuous riverbank
while straining to shake off the holy glow
resting on tree, thistle and grass,
emanating from water and sky…

Until, shocked into fresh seeing, I perceived
deep in my spirit an unstoppable and terrifying holy truth …

Take off your shoes, for the ground on which you stand
is holy …

Word made flesh,
prairie land shot through with heaven
manifested by the coming of the Beloved
in this world so easily drowning in cries of despair
and darkened by shadows of death.

Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone
arrived scandalously, in the particularity
of riverbank, weeds and laughter,
an embarrassing God stooping down
to hide like yeast into the mess
we ignorantly and with glee
create
each moment of each day
blissfully blind to the illusion
of our own mastery over life and death.

Jesus – flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone
as it was in the beginning when
Word, Wisdom and Beauty were with God,
were God.
Jesus – light of the world leading the way
from death into eternity
through love’s woeing and mercy’s healing power.

Imagine that – holy Word in our own flesh and bones.
Flesh of our flesh overcoming,
bone of our bone winning the victory.
Plunge into waters of love and healing
take hold of our deepest, most precious identity:
God’s own beloved son and daughter
are you, am I, are we,
in whom the God of prairie dogs, children and stars
is most pleased…

My Body, my Blood …

Drunk with delight I dance
in the field and kiss daisies …
the prairie glows with heaven.

Prairie Encounters

For those who would still like to read a couple of beautiful reflections on foot-washing, here is one inspired by 16th century Anglican Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, and this  thought-provoking one: Feet First.

Window Gazing

Note: A few years ago I took the time to ponder the windows in the new Catholic Cathedral in Saskatoon and wrote a series of brief meditations on each of them. As the windows depict salvation history, a history we recall during the Easter Triduum, it seems fitting to share these meditations in this Holy Week, a week leading us through Christ’s death into the glorious light of resurrection. Here is the second one.

COVENANT

Standing in the doorway I saw it happen …
Wild waters of despair parting,
making way for the fire of God’s love
approaching on chariots of promise.

Fished from the flood in the nick of time
by a resolute hand with a passionate grip
revealing a love so burning with tenderness
that I could not, would not, turn away.

Never, ever, will the waters swallow you whole;
Never, ever, will you die outside my promise;
never, ever, will you drift without my
cloud by day and fire by night …

My Lord and my God!

Take me into Your holy covenant
of fierce loving and tender tending to broken hearts
even if it costs my life.
For those who lose their lives will find it.

Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone … almost …
at last … says God …

Window Peeking

Note: A few years ago I took the time to ponder the windows in the new Catholic Cathedral in Saskatoon and wrote a series of brief meditations on each of them. As the windows depict salvation history, a history we recall during the Easter Triduum, it seems fitting to share these meditations in this upcoming Holy Week, a week leading us through Christ’s death into the glorious light of resurrection. I am posting the first one below.

CREATION

Each morning before dawn
my smallness eagerly crawls
into the windowsill of divine greatness
peeking out over the universe
to watch the drama unfold:
light separating darkness while
spirit hovers over waters of heavenly delight.

Life-giving creating music
swirling the earth driven by elating abandon
in a never-ending round-dance of awakening
life and love, mercy and laughter
while dispelling darkness of death and destruction
in bold claims – see, today I am doing a new thing
again and again and again ….

See and smell, taste and touch, listen and delight with me,
right here in the windowsill peeking into the universe
my beloved, my love, my all,
my creation …

The Love Potion of the Cross

Many years ago, I worked as editor for a Canadian Catholic family magazine published by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The office was located on one of the Oblates’ lovely farm properties. Most mornings, before entering the building where my office was located, I would take my walk with God through the wooded area on this beautiful slice of creation, stopping at the Marian shrine at the end of a long lane. Some of the rocks at this grotto were formed in the shape of a big cross. I would touch these rocks and pray, offering to Jesus whatever was in my heart at the time.

Every time that cross confronted me. It invited me into love, and in that invitation revealed my own inadequacy to live in this love. Some days this cross seemed to mock me, because of my unwillingness to love generously. Other days I was drawn into a depth of mystery too big for words. Every time I learnt a bit more about that liberating and healing power released when pain, suffering and death are infused with radical and uncompromising love. I would try to take that lesson with me into the day, in particular when encountering pain, conflict and death.

Back in 2002, when the World Youth Day Cross was making its way through Canada in preparation for the great event in Toronto the following year, my own little ritual at the grotto increased in meaning and power. The testimonies of those who received the Cross in their communities revealed profound lessons and experiences in love and reconciliation, forgiveness and healing. On Manitoulin Island, Ontario, the Cross was taken to the native reserve’s cemetery, to the home of a young man murdered a month before and then to all places on the reserve where tragic accidents had occurred. How I wish that the same cross could have been taken through the schools and community of LaLoche recently. The Cross stopped at the site of a former residential school, and “all prayed for forgiveness and healing for former students and staff.” In Whitehorse, Yukon, the Cross was carried to a local food bank, “where it stood inviting all to come and pray, and was a sign of Christ’s love for the poor in our community.” From Amos, Quebec, came the account that the visit of the Cross was “as if Jesus came to visit us in our little village.”The people from Chibougamau exclaimed, “For once, we have not been forgotten!”

Many who encountered the World Youth Day Cross that year reported feeling invited by Jesus to reflect on its meaning and on their own call to Christian love in places of poverty, pain, and suffering. That, in essence, is what the cross is meant to do. There is a big difference between reverence for reasons of idolatry and reverence for reasons of healing, service and love. The first kind regards venerating the cross as an end in itself, with the risk of bordering on superstition; the second kind of reverence lets the meaning of the cross penetrate us in order to change us. The perennial temptation can take us on the path of the former without necessarily touching on the challenge of the latter. Venerating the cross without making connections to our own local realities of suffering, and without committing ourselves to be Christ’s healing love in those realities, necessitates an examination of motives.

One day, a woman poured her heart out to me. Pain, suppressed from a lifetime of abuse, came gushing out so forcefully that she feared for her sanity. I witnessed that pain piercing her body like the nails pierced Christ on the cross. There before me was a contemporary crucifixion complete with the challenge of Jesus to infuse God’s love into this woman through my words and looks, gestures and touch, and ardent prayers. Offering God’s soothing presence in the swirling wind of this emotional hurricane was almost more than I could bear. Yet I knew it was the only power that could redeem her into new life.

Even casualties from war, destruction and terrorism cannot heal through violent retaliations. Even the most evil acts need the power of a forgiving love that will not flinch. An Episcopalian/Anglican writer, Gale D. Webb, caught this aspect of forgiveness when he wrote in his book The Night and Nothing: The only way to conquer evil is to let it be smothered within a willing, living, human being. When it is absorbed there, like blood in a sponge or a spear thrown into one’s heart, it loses its power and goes no further.

M. Scott Peck, a Christian psychiatrist, echoes a similar sentiment in his conclusion to People of the Lie. For the healing of evil, … A willing sacrifice is required…He or she must sacrificially absorb the evil…There is a mysterious alchemy whereby the victim becomes the victor…I do not know how this occurs. But I know that it does…Whenever this happens there is a slight shift in the balance of power in the world.

And so in this Lenten season I gaze upon the cross with renewed intensity and yearning. At we are nearing the mid-point of our slow and hopefully prayerful trek towards Holy Week, once again, in my imagination, I touch the rocks at the grotto from those morning walks many years ago and, for a moment, I feel once again the power of love in my bones, a love exploding the destruction of all pain,  suffering and death.

Prairie Encounters

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