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Friday, October 17, 2014

Peace the World Cannot Give

Teresa of Avila - Reformer & Contemplative (1582)

Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
compassion on this world
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

I feel surrounded by so much sadness and strife lately.  Beyond my job (which is a blog unto itself) and the conflicts in the the world (anybody notice how the Ukraine bit seems to have been eclipsed by the ISIS, which was in turn eclipsed by the Ebola? It's as if we have only the brain-power for one crisis at a time), I was involved in a leadership change at an organization of which I am a part, with the attendant posturing and choosing of sides.  And before that could settle down, there is the upheaval at General Theological Seminary, which does not affect me directly but has had a profound impact on many of my friends in the church, either alumni or friends of faculty and students.  Meanwhile, two of my siblings were trying to comfort their spouses and their families through painful times, and I find myself struggling to be Useful and if not Useful at least not Part of the Problem.

I can't speak with any great wisdom on any of these things.  I am not politically savvy, I have no thirst for debate or inherent desire to be right. I can only tell about the way they make me feel, wonder where Christ is in all of this, and maybe hold your hand for a minute and extend the notion, perhaps a naive one, that it will all sort itself out.

If you are not already a fan, I commend you to the earthly patron saint of the Chaos Muppets, Anne Lamott.  On a recent Facebook post (and if you're not following, you simply must), she began:
"Many mornings I check out the news as soon as I wake up, because if it turns out that the world is coming to an end that day, I am going to eat the frosting off an entire carrot cake; just for a start. Then I will move onto vats of clam dip, pots of crime brûlée, nachos, M & M's etc. Then I will max out both my credit cards."

That is my kind of prophesy.  Hold the clam dip in my case, but feel free to improvise as local custom dictates. The point is that -- as you keep reading -- you learn that she is facing an unspeakably sad situation, surrounded as many of us are with many others.  But she approaches each with tenderness and grace, humor when appropriate, and handfuls of M&M's if that's what it takes.  She messes up, as we all do, and owns up to it readily. That is the person I strive to be, and -- short of any gifts of healing I haven't yet discovered -- that is probably about as close to "Christ's hands on earth" as I am likely to get.

In the midst of all this, I was lucky to spend a few days with a dear friend at Weston Priory.  As I alluded to in the recent post "Hurt People Hurt People" this Benedictine monastery is my muster station for the zombie apocalypse, the thinnest thin place I know, where I can actually believe for a moment that I might be a beloved child of God.

The Brothers say very little in public, but their tranquility speaks volumes, and their smiles reflect an inner peace that I envy.  They work hard (maintaining a working farm of many acres, and they are not teenagers) but in prayer and song they are extremely gentle, and the very simple services (you get no hymnal or missal, not even a piece of paper... just listen, listen and repeat) are rich with moments of profound holiness for those present.

The altars at Weston are the only Roman Catholic ones where I still feel called to receive the sacrament.  All these years later, one thing I still miss about the Mass is this verse (rough recollection of how they say it):

Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles:
I leave you peace, my peace I give you.
Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your people,
and grant us the peace and unity of your realm
where you live for ever and ever.

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