Saturday, December 29, 2007

Mother's Tears

We are a modest country parish, but we made a big statement yesterday on the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents.

Before morning Mass, our small daily Mass group (a couple dozen hardy souls) gathered outside the church at a rock commemorating the victims of abortion. Our priest wanted to remember not only the Holy Innocents of scripture* on their feast day, but the innocent souls that are killed every day through the modern horror of abortion.

It had been raining that morning, a light fine mist, but I was pleased that it stopped prior to our little service. Our candles, all lit with fire from the Christ candle in the center of the Advent wreath, flickered in our hands with no raindrops to douse their flames. Our priest led us in prayer, and with bowed heads, we prayed for aborted babies, for their mothers and fathers, and for any who might be contemplating aborting their unborn child. It was emotional and meaningful.

And then... something beautiful happened.

We had prayed the Lord's Prayer together, and we were about to ask for our Blessed Mother's intercession. Our priest said, "
We ask the intercession of Mother Mary who sheds a tear for every child denied life. And so we pray...Hail Mary...."

At that moment, at that VERY moment, raindrops began to fall ever so gently from the sky. Our priest said that when the words about Mary's tears left his lips, light drops hit his face. Coincidence? Perhaps. But I prefer to believe it was our gracious Mother shedding tears from Heaven in solidarity and sadness.

May her tears and our prayers heal our land - our world - so the death of the innocents will be no more.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

*On the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents, the Catholic Church remembers the children killed by King Herod's hand as recorded in the book of St. Matthew 2:16-18: "When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: 'A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.'"

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

It's Just Me

A fellow pilgrim said to me today that she was surprised to learn I struggle with fear and insecurity. Based on my writings, she thought I was one together lady! (Until she was further educated, that is.)

Oh my.

Just for the record, I am entirely prone to bouts of fear... and insecurity... and doubts... and attitudes that aren't so great. The good news is that God always reels me in and somehow turns them into learning experiences and fuel for my writing fire. It is my fragile humanity that provides me with my subject matter!

So raise your glasses one and all to our weaknesses - for they lead us straight to our very strong God.

2 Corinthians 12:9 - "He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me."

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Day

Oh heart, be still
For through God's will
Love entered the earth

On a night so rare
Love pierced our air
Through the virgin birth

Love's with us now
To kiss our brow
And wipe our tears away

Oh, celebrate! Open wide the gate
To heart's empty core
Love will meet you there
With life to share
And joy on death's far shore

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Glimpses of God

When I saw the movie Blood Diamonds, it became apparent to me that Satan is a true presence in this world and behind all the evil in it. It brought home how present our hateful tormentor is. I am reading about the Nazis now, and I see the same in their warped inhumanity.

In contrast to this, there is a lot of beauty in this blog-o-sphere in which we share ourselves. I am amazed at the goodness that shines from folks' hearts through the thoughts, photographs, art, poetry and other lovely things they post on their blogs. It never fails to cheer me when I visit these positive, spiritual oases in cyberspace.

Many thanks to all of you who express the beautiful nature of God through your creativity. You help me see His face and goodness in our world.

I wish you a merry Christmas, and pray that the brightness of Christ will be as a sunbeam on you throughout the day.

Love, Esther

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Unmerited Favor

I must confess: I haven't sent out Christmas cards in years. Not that I don't want to (I do), I just haven't been good at planning ahead and making the time. Yet we get them (and they're gratefully accepted!). People continue to send cards to our home, even without our doing the same.

I was fussing with them this evening - rearranging them, taping up photos of happy Christmas smiles, and generally feeling pretty happy about them - and I realized what a metaphor this is for the unmerited favor God bestows upon us. His graces are given - new ones, each and every morning - whether or not we are grateful, whether or not we are happy about it, and whether or not we recognize it, in an amazing show of love.

I pray this Christmas my heart will long for Him in a way it never has before - and that every moment I spend with Him will be with excited anticipation, as though I am getting Christmas cards fresh from the mailbox.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Such a Fragile Package

My brother recently fell off a roof and injured himself badly. A local school counselor died in a head-on collision Thanksgiving weekend, and a young man I know (for whom I babysat many years ago) died in a construction accident this week. We're not invincible. Our humanity resides in a very fragile package. Our lives can be lost - or forever changed - in an unexpected instant.

I've been thinking lately about the corruptibility of the body. (It's no wonder!) Could every cut, ache and pain be meant to push us to God? When sin entered the world, not only did our bodies cease to be eternal, but our communion with God was damaged, forever changed. Vulnerability is our reminder that there is something beyond ourselves. This fragile temporal home pushes us to seek what is eternal - God. It calls us to Him.

To die in friendship with God is to give our soul a home long after our body has turned to dust. But first one must live cultivating His friendship, for we never know when our lease here is up.

Holy Hush

I am often amazed at the palpable nature of God's presence in an empty church.

Sometimes I rush through on my way from one place to another and feel the Lord's presence like a cloak when I enter.

The candle signaling His presence in the tabernacle flickers through red glass - a reminder that the Lord is there - but it is not necessary, as He can be felt. A thick hush, a full silence, is heavy in the room.

Many notice this their first time entering a Catholic Church - and the Holy Presence invites them to stay.

When the Blessed Sacrament is exposed and my gaze falls upon Him, I marvel that the Author of the scriptures, the One who choreographed all of creation, is there in the room before me. Amazing.

I wonder, is this how the Jews felt when the Shekina Glory of God was present and with them in the Ark of the Covenant? It was only to the High Priest - and only once a year - that God revealed Himself. Now He reveals Himself to all. The veil between God and man was rent through Christ, the God-man, and now I sit before Him.

The Winter of Contentment

Today feels more wintry than any day so far this season - the sky, heavy with clouds, darkens the daylight hours. Stark and barren branches dominate the landscape. A wickedly cold and persistent wind chills to the bones, and the feel of the day throughout is best described as heavy and gray.

Yet I know there is a heart beating underneath the barrenness of the landscape. Life is flowing through nature's hidden veins. Greenness and buds and tender leaves are waiting to arrive. Shoots will push through once cold ground. Flowers will amaze the meadows (and those of us watching on the sidelines) with their color and beauty.

Immersion in spring will tempt us to forget winter - so let us not forget the hope of spring in the gray starkness of now.

Like the tide, our well-being ebbs and flows. We are sometimes in spring, sometimes in winter. Even in winter, the lifeblood of our Lord flows within us - beneath the cold and darkness there are flowers and tender shoots ready to spring forth, promising to leave winter behind.

Do not lose hope in the winter of your days. Our Lord promises spring - it's just ahead!

"Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come..." Song of Solomon 2:12

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Stop and Smell the Gifts of Love

I was in a rush to leave work earlier this week, but even in my quick scurrying, something caught my eye. I mean this literally, for the scene seemed to focus in reverse, almost as though the object drew my attention to it.

It was a white rose, a perfect bud on a bush I've passed countless times but hadn't stopped to notice. An oh-so-gentle pink hue added to its beauty. A soft rain had deposited droplets that clung to its petals and leaves. I knew this was my "white rose of purity," the image from my dream of just a day before. All the cares of the day dropped away, replaced by the joy that comes when Someone chooses a special gift just for you.

In an effort to preserve the moment, I took the rose home with me; however, time away from the living bush diminished its sweet scent and the pristine curves of the petals. Paradise lost.

Today, while mourning my loss, I passed the bush again. Another white rose, a perfect bud, showed forth among the deep green leaves. Redemption. A second chance.

Two white roses. Though I destroyed the first one, God graced me with another. His love never fails. His subtle gifts shine with encouragement. I am glad His mercies are new every morning.

This time I left the rose to thrive on the vine, a fitting metaphor for our life in Christ.

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me." John 15:4

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The White Rose of Purity

I awoke this morning with an image: "the white rose of purity." In a dream before waking, I gave Christ a white rose, a gift to Him and a symbol of my life. The imagery spilled into my waking moments as a call to a fresh way of being. I saw the white rose not as a statement on my life, but as a symbol of what my life could be. I am now challenged to live my life deliberately and purely, with the hope each thought, word and action will contribute to the white rose I wish to present to Him in the end.