Monday, April 14, 2014

Lenten Icons: Mary of Egypt

"Now He had made her one who was loving,
not just the lover pulled and drawn;
and having been shaken by vicious storms
she had come into her own."*

Mary of Egypt, patron of penitents. Her story is well-enough know, a prostitute in Alexandria, who rarely charged for her services (some say because of overwhelming passion, others because she simply loved people, and decided loving them was the best was to bring happiness into their lives..I prefer the latter).  Mary bought a trip to the Holy Land this way, and when she arrived, discovered that she couldn't enter the Churches until she repented. 

What I love about Mary of Egypt most especially, is that we see so obviously that she doesn't change in her conversion, she comes into her own. She is still the passionate one, the whole-hearted giver of herself, she is still promiscuous - unable to limit herself, to be proper or restrained. Only now she is made whole, and her whole self can be loving to the whole selves of others. 

In the desert, her home for years after her conversion, Mary is taught scripture by Christ Himself. She fasts, she blesses St. Zosimas who is in awe of her holiness, walks on water to receive Communion from him, and is later buried by both Zosimas and a Lion - the lion himself stands in for her beloved Christ. She in penitential, reminding us, with Oscar Wilde, that the trouble is less in what we do than in what we become.

 "I only need seven days, I guess,
which no one has claimed or covered before, 
seven pages o loneliness."**

* Rilke. The Risen One
**Rilke. The Book of Hours 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Lenten Icons

"I'm still a novice concerning pain-
that's how small I feel in this great dark;
but if you are there, be heavy and and break through;
have your whole hand do it's work on me"*

The Three Handed Virgin is the Icon in honor of the Theotokos, healer of St. John of Damascus. St. John of Damascus' hand was cut off by the Iconoclast Emperor, Leo III, but when he took his pain to the Virgin, She restored St. John's hand, and he wrote the Icon in gratitude. Originally, the third hand hung around Her neck, but later versions have it as it is in the Icon above, a natural part of Her.

The Three-Handed Virgin, the miracle working Mother of God, reminds us always that God is the restorer of hope, and the healer of all wounds. She is magical, this Mother, offering 'a river of grace' to the children of God who come in faith to rest beneath her mantle. Restoring hands and hearts, bodies and souls, to wholeness.

"And though I am like leaves and loam, 
as often as I pray or paint
it's Sunday and deep down I am 
joyful Jerusalem."* 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Meditations on the Tarot: The Chariot

The Chariot is the card of triumph, and the card of fasting. It is the card which teaches renunciation and mastery through obedience. In it I see St. Mary of Egypt, who's feast was yesterday; the woman who gave up an entire life to follow her Beloved into the desert, where she never again tasted the wines and good foods of her previous life, and, it seems, hardly missed them. 

Mary, who turned so suddenly and so completely from her sins, was saved from the temptation that comes with renunciation, the temptation toward spiritual pride. She was saved, I think, through love. She had that rich and promiscuous love; the love that in one moment falls so completely and never looks back. Love enough to give everything to Him and never question. I picture her with water-hands, Mary of Egypt..long, thin, and brown after her years in the desert, listening to her Lord whisper His words to her in the sunlight, and laughing merrily at the thought of her life to come. 

Fasting is the means to the triumph of love over death, and in these final week of Lent, we recommit ourselves to it, in hope of finding some share of St. Mary's own Triumph.The Chariot card reminds us that renunciation requires love to succeed.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Harry Potter's Lenten Retreat Part Two

Our love thoughts have been delayed a bit..I am thoroughly distracted by friendships. I can't help it. I blame the winter, it hasn't moved on, so why should I? But today is spring-like and fresh; the sun is shining on the snow: it's time to wake up.

As we talked about the trio and the tone of their friendship in the books, we could only agree that time will tell..the later books will show Harry and his friends at their best and worst, and if you find them inspiring when it's all done, well..I'd recommend a healthy dose of Rilke and another of Joss, but Jenna might just have a hug and a cup of tea for you.

Happy, magical tea!

* * * *   * * * * 
Jenna writes:

 Hermione is the constant in the Trio, the one who—despite bossiness and a taste for following the rules that goes mostly unshared by her best friends—is never, as far as I can recall offhand, disloyal. She bickers with Ron and is occasionally rude to him, usually after he does something particularly unkind to her, but she never gives either of them up for lost causes. Both boys need that loyalty.
In Prisoner of Azkaban, Ron and Hermione don't speak to each other for weeks on account of Hermione's cat supposedly killing Ron's rat. Harry and Ron are both more heartless without Hermione, and it's her approach, trembling, with the important knowledge of a mutual friend's grief, that begins reconciliation. That act cracks Ron's pride. When Ron's pride cracks, Hermione's caves in, and Harry's might never have existed. All is forgiven.

She's right. I really liked her point, it put the group in perspective for me a bit. Hermione is never disloyal. She bickers, she bosses, she's prissy and obnoxious, and completely loyal. She definitely holds the three together. She is, in that sense, the heart of the trio. It's an unfortunate weakness that she's also the brain of the group, leaving it a bit lopsided, as she both nurtures and understands, Harry acts and directs, and Ron...? 

Jenna also reminds me that the love Rowling seems least comfortable with is actually romance. Right again! I'd sort of neglected romance because at this point because there's really no way to discuss romance in the series at this point, is there??? I mean, book three is too far away from anything really discuss-able..right Jenna??

And the know, I was sort of careless last week. I neglected them completely. Go read Jenna's thoughts on them, if you haven't already! 

* * * *  * * * * 

Familial love..

We see quite a bit of a few different families in Harry Potter. In the first three books we have the Dursleys and the Weasleys primarily, but there are glimpses of others: snatches of Neville's grandmother and tiny peeks at Hermione's parents. What's missing for me is a healthy family dynamic. Not ideal..I'm not expecting ideal, - really, honestly, I'm serious! - just reasonably attractive. I know everyone thinks I'm mean for rejecting the Weasleys..and I'll admit I've no real-world experience with life inside such a marriage. I hate-with-a-passion the 'hen-pecked husband' thing. Can't stand it. I am way too sick of the over-abundance of Father-as-object-of-Ridicule gigs to embrace yet another. I'd love to see a family where spouses share a mutual respect and nurture each others dignity, but the whole "mother as over-bearing, controlling, nag/husband as hen-pecked loser" thing repels me. Yes, I'm biased - forgive me? If you are a real-life husband who's wife regularly channels Mrs. Weasley, and that treatment leaves you feeling loved, respected, and uplifted, feel free to correct me. Or, if you're not, but you're sympathetic to their whole family dynamic, tell me about it. I'll argue with you, but not too much, because today's my anniversary(!!), and I have cute new bangs, and a husband I adore; besides, whatever the day, I pity the Weasleys more than dislike them.. It's hard to break out of unhealthy patterns; I know, it's lent and I'm craving gelato.

That face says "Bored now" me.

 The Weasely siblings are not a bad bunch though. They've got the whole mean-but-loyal brotherly bond going on..(for the most part..coughpercycough..) and they're kind of an adorable group. Bill-the-hottie was obviously the best of the lot, but his kid brothers are everything I can think of to like about siblings: obnoxious, loyal, grumble-y, companionable..and his sister is very much the 'youngest child of a large family'. I'm not a fan of Ginny..but she fits her family well, and there's a nice bundle of affection tying them all together. 
The Dursleys - even amongst themselves, ignoring their treatment of Harry - we can leave for a discussion on un-loves. Rowling does wonderfully with them. They're so distanced from proper familial love that I don't even compare them to run of the mill unhealthy families, a class of their a bad way. And I pretty much love every scene they're in in these first few books.

The tiny family pictures: Neville and Gran, Hermione's Mum and Dad..what do they show us about the theme of familial love in the series so far? Not much, really. It'd be easy to judge the relationships we see on what little is shown of them so far - another overbearing woman, belittling her grandson; distant, uninvolved parents. But that isn't the whole picture, and so we'll wait and watch. I wish Neville's gran was kinder to him now, I wish Hermione's parent's weren't so conveniently out of sight and mind; but unless any of you have thoughts on them to share, I'll leave the picking apart of their loves 'til later. 

hahaha..sorry, I couldn't help it

What do you think about all the family love we're looking at here? Link in or comment!


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Meditations on the Tarot: The Lover

My Lenten focus has been Love and yet I couldn't write about the Lover - who chooses between two very different loves. The card shows him between to women, the first "seizes him and kisses him, and with impudent face she says to him:

I had to offer sacrifices
and today I have paid my vows. 
So now I have come out to meet,
to seek you eagerly, and I have found you."

(proverbs 7:13-15)

The other holds back, she is the opposite of her rival. 

"I possess knowledge and discretion..
I love those who love me,
and those who seek me find me."

(proverbs 8:12 and 17)

It is the card of temptation. The choice between vice and virtue - and one made easier through the discipline of fasting, because we fast to seek God, to learn love more deeply from Love Himself, with minds and hearts undistracted by the seductions of the one we do not love. The one who wants us, but not as a true love does. 

It is an ideal season to keep the lover in mind, to meditate on his choice as we try to build "a spiritual monastery in relation to this world and it's god."


Friday, March 21, 2014

Lenten Icons: Blessed Silence

"Deep I go down into myself. 
My God is dark and like a webbing made of a hundred roots
that drink in silence."*

Generally considered a Christmas Icon, I can't help but run to the Blessed Silence in Lent as well - when all is quiet and waiting. At Adoration the other day, Yarrow whispered to Seth "Jesus is very, very, very, very good. And he is very fun." He is Silent, beautiful, and like my daughter, I want to surround Him with adjectives. Enthusiastic, repetitive adjectives, but He prefers the quiet of an eager soul that rises up, past the adjectives and participles, beyond all language limitations; two between whom even He cannot find a difference.

"Let your beauty manifest itself
without talking and calculation.
You are silent. It says for you: I am.
And come in meaning thousandfold, 
comes at long last over everyone."*

*Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

St. Joseph

"You are the woods of paradox. 
Though I may rock you like a child, 
Your curses ever come to pass
as dread on people's backs."*

Dear, beloved St. Joseph. I wonder at his fatherhood. What must it be to hold fresh scented eternity in arms? I pray hard to Joseph - in whose hands the dead staff blooms. He belongs to Springtime, the spring that comes after a long winter.

I think of the the tale from the desert fathers: The master gives to his novice a stick of dry wood. "Plant it." he tells the youth, "Water it daily until it bears fruit." All the branches outside my window are dead and dry, but above the altar Saint Joseph holds his lily-staff and waits, contented; the King of paradox in his arms.

"I am the father but the son is more, 
is everything the father was; and what 
he couldn't be, the son becomes as well;
the son is both the future and the past
source of rivulets and sea to which they turn."*

Blessed Feast!
*Rainer Maria Rilke's Book of Hours