To say that the world is not worth anything ..

“To say that the world is not worth anything, that this life is of no value and to give evil as the proof is absurd, for if these things are worthless what does evil take from us?

Thus the better we are able to conceive of the fullness of joy, the purer and more intense will be our suffering in affliction and our compassion for others. What does suffering take from him who is without joy?

And if we conceive the fullness of joy, suffering is still to joy what hunger is to food.

It is necessary to have had a revelation of reality through joy in order to find reality through suffering. Otherwise life is nothing but a more or less evil dream,” – Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace.

Looking for the key to the room of celebration

Christ came and declared a wedding feast, a celebration, at the very center of life. They crucified him not for being too ascetical, but because he told us that we might enjoy life. He told us that life will give us more goodness and enjoyment than we can stand, if we can learn to receive it without fear. But we are still in exile, without wedding garments, looking for the key to the room of celebration. Perhaps we need to be just a bit more earnest and sincere when we say the words, “your kingdom come!” – Ronald Rolheiser, Prayer: Our Deepest Longing

 

unity and a prayer

To be alone by being part of the universe – fitting in completely to an environment of woods and silence and peace. Everything you do becomes a unity and a prayer. Unity within and without. Unity with all living things – without effort or contention. My silence is a part of the whole world’s silence and builds the temple of God without the noise of hammers. – Thomas Merton, Journal January 28, 1953

Roma winter

Photo: Rome, January 2005

A Note -Wislawa Szymborska

Life is the only way
to get covered in leaves,
catch your breath on the sand,
rise on wings;

to be a dog,
or stroke its warm fur;

to tell pain
from everything it’s not;

to squeeze inside events,
dawdle in views,
to seek the least of all possible mistakes.

An extraordinary chance
to remember for a moment
a conversation held
with the lamp switched off;

and if only once
to stumble on a stone,
end up drenched in one downpour or another,

mislay your keys in the grass;
and to follow a spark on the wind with your eyes;

and to keep on not knowing
something important.

Epiphany on Mount La Verna – the spiritual touchstone of St. Francis of Assisi

January 6, 2005 – The Feast of The Epiphany – The wind had blown around our barn for two or three hours before dawn. But as the sun appeared above the mountains to the east the winds stopped and wood smoke settled into the valley. Occasionally, the crack of a shotgun from bird hunters would echo through the hills. Soon, even the hunters and their dogs would be still.
It is the morning of the Feast of The Epiphany. Quiet prevails.
We are driving to Mount La Verna to celebrate Mass. It is not much more than eight or nine miles from our door to the road leading to the sanctuary – if we could drive in a straight line. But there are no straight roads in these hills so that eight or nine mile drive will take us 45 minutes. The residents of Caprese Michelangelo, Lama, Fragaiolo, Monte Foresto, and Assunzione, some no more than four or five dwellings and a small church, are still watching their children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews opening gifts, for Epiphany is the day for gift-giving in this part of Italy.
We climb out of the valley, switchback after switchback. Halfway to La Verna and we are on the spine of a ridge and can look down into the valleys on either side of the road. We are now above the clouds, mist, and wood smoke that we had occasionally driven through. Back towards San Giustino, Citta’ di Castello, Perugia, and Assisi the mist and smoke is streaming through the valley like a great river. It tumbles into deeper valleys in vast cascades.
I stop the car. We need to take this in – this blessing – this grace-filled landscape we move through.
The parking lot at The Sanctuary of La Verna is nearly full when we arrive. Children with their parents and grandparents, all in their best holiday clothes, walk through the groves of beech trees to the cluster of old buildings that make up the Sanctuary. The January sun stays low on the horizon. The shadows from the tree branches are sharp and focused. The air is cold and pure.
In the Basilica for Mass, we are all cold but happy to huddle shoulder to shoulder. I think I can see my breath as I whisper my responses in english. There are joyful faces, joyful beings gathered in line to receive the Eucharist. I eat the bread and drink the wine and my body is filled with the familiar, indescribable warmth.
When Mass has ended, we all go into the paizzalle. People are laughing. A boy is playing guitar. People gather around the great cross that seems to be rooted in the very heart of the world, singing and chattering like a flock of birds.

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Christmas at Greccio

ST. BONAVENTURE TELLS THE STORY

It happened in the third year before his death, that in order to excite the inhabitants of Grecio to commemorate the nativity of the Infant Jesus with great devotion, [St. Francis] determined to keep it with all possible solemnity; and lest he should be accused of lightness or novelty, he asked and obtained the permission of the sovereign Pontiff. Then he prepared a manger, and brought hay, and an ox and an ass to the place appointed.

The brethren were summoned, the people ran together, the forest resounded with their voices, and that venerable night was made glorious by many and brilliant lights and sonorous psalms of praise.

The story of St. Francis of Assisi and the first live nativity scene

The man of God [St. Francis] stood before the manger, full of devotion and piety, bathed in tears and radiant with joy; the Holy Gospel was chanted by Francis, the Levite of Christ. Then he preached to the people around the nativity of the poor King; and being unable to utter His name for the tenderness of His love, He called Him the Babe of Bethlehem.

Image: The Christmas celebration in the forest of Greccio | Giotto di Bondone | Fresco in the Upper Church of Saint Francis, Assisi | photo by The Yorck Project