Saturday, February 27, 2010

Inner Land Prayer

I come to you my Lord, that you may reign over me.
I claim the promise that you would carry me to yourself on eagle's wings
I come as one of your chosen people, your own possession.
I bring you Lord, the barren land of my being,
so that its desert may blossom like the rose.
as you drench it in the torrent of your love.
I, yield to you the inner land of my being,
that you may clear it of all that would hinder your sacred covenant.
I lay before you the closed and cluttered country of my heart
that you may break through and set me free to
walk with head held high, through the land of promise
to which you call me.
Enlighten the eye of my mind
so that I may see what needs to be set right
in the inner city where you are to reign.
Give me the sword of the Spirit
that I may set forth in high adventure
to claim nry land for your Lordship.
Cut your covenant with me
and seal it with your precious blood.
Share with me the wine,
the milk and the honey which flow in the new creation.
Give me to drink
of the Eucharistic cup of the new and everlasting covenant.
Call me to your banqueting table
and clothe me as one of your household
in the royal robe of your mercv.
May you find your delight in us, O Lord,
and give us the land.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

On Eagle's wings

Exodus 19: 4' You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession My Peculiar people among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

The Eagle in Isaiah 40:31 takes advantage of air currents to fly with little or no effort. The eagle does not escape the strong winds and the storms. It simply uses them to lift itself higher. When the storms of life come upon us, we can rise above them by setting our souls toward God allowing his mercy an faithfulness to lift us above them. It is not the burdens of life that weigh us down, it is how we entrust them to the what Deuteronomy 33:27 calls the everlasting arms beneath. The eternal God is your refuge,and underneath are the everlasting arms." We must wait on the Lord, until we catch the wind of the Spirit. Eagle believers are those who seek to find out where God is going, and then go with Him. They don’t sense fighting against the wind currents. They find out what God's doing and enter into it.

When the eagle is teaching its young to fly, it pushes the young chick out of the nest and lets it flab and flop for a while, but then swoops down and picks the struggling eaglet on its own strong safe wings. Deuteronomy 1:29-31 "The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did ... in the desert. He carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place."

And He will raise you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.

"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint." We are to run to the one in distress and not to faint or forget.

Scott Hahn subtitles his book on the Covenant: The Father who never forgets his promises. He tells of an Armenian father who told his son, Armond, “No matter what happens, I’ always be there for you.” In 1989 there was an earthquake in that country that in four minutes left 30,000 dead. The father thought immediately of his son at school and running through the streets he made for the class-room where he knew his son would be. He started digging through the rubble with his bare hands, even as a bystander muttered “Forget it , the’re all dead in there.” But this man could not forget or forsake his son. So he kept on digging and scraping for 36 hours. At last from under a wallboard, he heard a groan and he called, “Armand” and a shaky voice cried: “Papa!” When the same father had dragged out 14 more still alive, Armand hailed his classmates “See I told you, my Father wouldn’t forget us.”

The word "covenant" means "come together", as found in such words as "convention" and "communion" A covenant is a solemn agreement, whereby not only goods are exchanged but there is a commitment of persons to each other. Note the two elements in marriage. It is a contract—“This gold and silver, I thee give and with all my worldly goods, I thee endow.” But more so, there is the giving of Bride and the Bridegroom to each other. “With this body, I thee worship…” That is the covenant of marriage which binds husband and wife to each other until death do them part. Your heart and mine are one! This is what the Lord is saying to us and this too is our response to his Covenant.

The contract proposed to the Jewish people is that they would be given a land to live in and Promised Land. The Covenant promise is that they would be a Chosen people. But the contract was not to inherit a mere patch of physical territory. It was to to take possession of an inner land, to discover for themselves a land of heart’s desire,--- a place of settlement.

We all have our personal land which flows with the wine and milk and honey of the spirit. We are invited to discover that inner land where we can find rest. We must not allow strange gods to take over this sacred space. We know the hurt that comes from having forces of occupation parading and prowling over one’s native land. But more importantly there is an inner land that must not be violated or trampled on. This is were the prayer of stillness and silence as exercised in this group does its saving work.

In Bible terms we speak of cutting a covenant where blood flows and where the blood of the parties are mingled and they become a family of Blood Brothers and Sisters. Blood is thicker than water! Blood brother can refer to one of two things: two males related by birth, or two or more men not related by birth who have formed a union and sworn loyalty to each other. This is usually done in a ceremony, known as a blood oath, where the blood of each man is mingled together. The process usually provides a participant with a heightened symbolic sense of attachment with another participant.

Stanley the New York Reporter in his search for the missioner, Livingstone, tells of his trek through the African jungles. Stanley was confronted by a warlike tribe and was too weak to struggle with them. He was advised to enter into a covenant with them and was told that this would mean drinking each other’s blood. While he did not relish the idea, it was explained to him that is he did so, their lives would be one and everything that the Tribal chief had would be his if he needed it. The only thing that would be asked of him was to hand over the white milk goat.

The New York reporter was in such poor health that the only thing he could stomach was goat’s milk. This would be the end of him. But he was assured that this was merely symbolic of what Stanley himself could offer and there was no intention of withholding the milk from him. In return the Chieftain handed over an ornate seven foot tall spear. The Chieftain announced to his people, “Come trade with Stanley for we are blood brothers.” It was only later that he understood the significance of that spear for as soon as others saw the Tribal chief’s weapon they would fall over themselves to heap gifts son Stanley. They knew that the two had cut a covenant and that they could work together in confidence and fidelity.

The Hebrew Tradition associates two qualities with the idea of Covenant: They are Mercy and Fidelity. The Biblical terms are Hesed and Emet. These are the two binding forces that hold the Covenant in place. The Bible treats them as if they were Personal forces, like nouns standing up on their own rather than mere descriptive adjectives.

Let us pray that in the hour of need we may experience that Hesed and emet Jahweh--the merciful and never forgetting fidelity of our God.
But if we are to enjoy the Covenant protection in our lives, we are called to become eagles ourselves-- showing our brothers and sisters them the same mercy and faithfulness and carrying them in the palms of our hands.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

In Covenant with Mary

Mark Twain tells of the day a certain King and the Queen were bringing their new little Prince home from the royal hospital. On the way home their carriage collided with a poor man’s cart. In the humble vehicle the poor man was bringing his wife and new baby home from the midwife's house. In the confusion of the moment, the two couples picked up the wrong babies by mistake and the little Prince went home to be raised by the pauper and his wife.

As the baby grew into childhood, he was forced to go into the streets and beg for food. However, unknown to him the very streets he begged on, belonged to him because they were the property of his true father and mother. Day after day out he would go to the palace and looking through the iron fence at the little boy playing there and he would say to himself, "If only I were a Prince." Of course, he was the Prince! But he was not aware of it.

He lived his whole life in poverty because he didn't know who he really was since he didn't know who his mother was. How true this is of many Christians. They have never taken time to find out to whom they belong. They have never realized who their real mother is. Ever since the day we were born spiritually, we became sons and daughters of the God and his own Mother Mary.

We are heirs to a royal throne. How sad to think we go through self–imposed spiritual poverty and cheat ourselves out of the riches of God's marvellous grace. We must learn to live no longer from the meagre ration of self, but out of the infinite supply of the King and Queen of Heaven.

The Holy Spirit came upon Mary and made her his Bride. She has been a faithful Bride and Mother and together they continue to bring forth Christ—that is the Whole Christ—the Mystical Body. Without that co-operation, there would nothing Christian to our being. Our task is to recognise and accept this Divine arrangement, to surrender to it.

True Devotion to Mary means entering into a Contract and making Covenant with her. A Contract is an exchange of goods as we say: All I have is yours. A Covenant is an exchange of Persons as we say: All I am is yours. It is like a marriage which is not only a giving of gold and silver, but a mutual giving of persons to each other.

By reason of the contract and the covenant we have entered into, Mary’s answer is: “Beloved, I am all yours and all I have is yours..”

Monday, February 1, 2010

Rosary reply

Dear Sister,

Your experience with the Rosary, prompts me to jot down a few thoughts that have been revolving in my head for some years. Ever since hearing the story of Fatima, the Rosary has been my life-line. For more than sixty years I have prayed the Rosary as many as three times a day. However I have never become obsessive about it. If I’m tired or unwell, I am content to simply rest in the Lord. I never liked the idea: You must. That kind of thing tends to become musty!

The late Fr.Conleth Kearns whose wisdom we all treasure, told me about St. Catherine of Siena. When moved to do so, she would drop her Paternoster beads and just rest in the Spirit. When the time came she would resume the bidding of her beads. I felt welcome to the club, as indeed I welcome you likewise.

Once when researching the history of the Rosary, in San Clemente, I came across an ancient and rare book entitled: Le Triple Rosaire, where the author, Pere Bernard of Toulouse referred to the three stages of attention in prayer:
To the words,

to the thoughts and

to the presence or the person.

Something of the kind happens in ordinary conversation: When we are with strangers, words seem necessary and we are careful about how we choose them. With friends or colleagues we exchange thoughts of business or pleasure. But with the Beloved our heart, it is enough to sit in silence. Being totally present to each other is what matters.

On visiting the Carmel where Sr. Elizabeth of the Trinity lived, I was told by some of her community, that the saint could not cope with the Rosary, as it did not sit well with her contemplative spirit. I believe that the Little Flower also found it a difficult prayer to manage. So, dear Sr. you are indeed in high company! Only,-- I would invite you to take the pressure off. It is not that you can’t think or concentrate or even meditate. It is that you are gone beyond those stages. Listen to Pere Bernard: "When summoned to the royal court, do not dally along the corridors and antechambers looking at pictures of King, but walk calmly on into his presence."

Much of this wisdom has come back to me, since getting involved with the John Main meditation Group here in Tallaght. Here, they instruct us to put aside all words, all images, all thoughts—even holy ones. We are to just sit still and silently interiorly recite the prayer word.

This enlightenment came to me at the time I was taken off the Apostolate of the Rosary which had filled out over fifty years of my life. I was feeling bereft and bereaved, as indeed many must feel at a time of upheaval in life. I felt as if on the scrap-heap. As Bernadette of Lourdes remarked when the visions were over and she found herself in Nevers, it was “as if she were a broom now finished with and left behind the door.”

I found it hard to concentrate and could not get beyond the first words of the Our Father:
Thy name, thy kingdom, thy will. My own name mattered no more.My kingdom was over. My will had been thwarted. That is how it was, and perhaps how it was meant to be for so that I might have my own dark night experience. I could appreciate the lot of so many who were undergoing change or becoming redundant. The very pronoun— Thy was all I could manage and yet it was all that mattered now. For the past six years, it has become my prayer word, my mantra!

I have rediscovered the Rosary, as Pere Bernard taught it. I take up the beads each morning and pray the first Joyful mystery, slowly and almost silently, leaving myself open to the Lord’s Annunciation for this day. I do indeed say the Our Father and the ten Hail Marys, but they take a long time. All the while I linger in love over those words that are now engraved in my heart: Thy name, Thy kingdom, Thy will. I never venture out without my beads—heaven and the history of my heart locked together in my pocket. When the time is right, I pray the other mysteries. But deep down there is only one mystery -- the mystery of the Divine presence.

Looking again to the John Main experience, I observe that following the example of their mentor, there is usually a teaching at the beginning of each session, when direction is given. At the end of the formal instruction, one is told to put even these sacred thoughts aside and enter into the apophatic stillness. If one takes this model on board, it would seem that in the Rosary, it might be wise, to at first pause and ponder the particular mystery of the Divine Humanity. Then pick up the beads and use the vocal prayers as a kind mantra, while resting in the void and not trying to think of the detail of mystery being celebrated. Certainly it is not so much a thinking in the head as a lingering in the heart.

In many of the Eastern forms of prayer, meditation is accompanied with the use of beads. For myself, when I meditate morning and evening as suggested by John Main, I hold the beads in my hand or around the neck. The very sense of touch gives an added dimension of presence to the person. It is something to hold on to, and in the full Christian sense, it is someone to hold on to.

Dear Sr. I hope I have not wearied you with all that I have set down here. Those who like to get prayers said, who in a sense have the lust for getting finished are in one camp and those who want just to linger in love are in another. It is like the distinction between those who go in for spiritual exercise and those who simply opt to sit in the sun and get well. There are the two spiritualities and perhaps we need a dose of both medicines.

I have enclosed the Brochure of Retreats in Tallaght, as Fr. Donagh O’Shea, the Director has invited me to conduct a Summer Retreat around the ideas floated to you in this letter. If you can help out with any of your own insights they will be most welcome. It is your
query that has already prompted me to set something on paper.