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

 

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.

530886_2633073285264_601039757_n

darkness did not overcome it

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.     John 1:1-5

20161203_151220

Photo: Crescent Beach, Maine – November, 2016

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

 

 

 

From the Book of Isaiah the Prophet

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a woman forget her nursing child,

or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.
Your builders outdo your destroyers,
and those who laid you waste go away from you.
Lift up your eyes all around and see;
they all gather, they come to you.
As I live, says the Lord,
you shall put all of them on like an ornament,
and like a bride you shall bind them on.
Surely your waste and your desolate places
and your devastated land—
surely now you will be too crowded for your inhabitants,
and those who swallowed you up will be far away.
The children born in the time of your bereavement
will yet say in your hearing:
“The place is too crowded for me;
make room for me to settle.”
Then you will say in your heart,
“Who has borne me these?
I was bereaved and barren,
exiled and put away—
so who has reared these?
I was left all alone—
where then have these come from?”

Isaiah 49:14-21

DSCN2427

Photo: Siena, IT – January 2005 (yet I will not forget you./See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.)

The night is not endless

A single sentence, a single word, a single awareness may turn life over, and while you may not yet be found, you are no longer lost. It is impossible to express. Your dream of the world is unmasked, creating an opening. The night, however dark, is not endless, because in that smallest opening you glimpsed light moving in the dark. It was the first real thing you have known. – Paula D’Arcy

FB_IMG_1542132666111

Photo: Airline Road, Maine 2008