Bending Holy Light

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The upstairs windows are washed, and the glass and crystal tchotchkes on the top of the sash and sill have been wiped off. Looking out, I notice the seventy-foot maple in the neighbor’s yard is tipped in dark red. Within a week, it will flash its fall color, a glowing dark-orange that will illuminate my room.

In front of the east window, hanging from the curtain rod just below the valance is a nylon string with clear multi-faceted prisms and hand-made beads. Dozens of vibrant rainbows are drifting across the butter-yellow walls in the gabled room. The prisms are bending the crisp autumn sunlight into these splashes of color, and my office feels bright, cheery and warmed.

I have been working on a manuscript for a new book and find myself reflecting on the Fruits of the Spirit, and there are twelve: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity (CCC1832). I see the Fruits of the Spirit in much the same way as the colors resulting from the prism in my window.

When sunlight enters into the prism and bends as it exits, a rainbow is seen. In this rainbow, I see an analogy: we are the prism in which God bends himself, his Holy Spirit, through us.

We have read in the Bible, in both Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-12, how each of us has unique gifts but are all of one body. Depending on how we are gifted by his design, and shaped by our rearing, we will change or bend the light of God’s Holy Spirit, dispersing his Light into spiritual colors through faith, hope, and charity, the virtues that are infused into our souls.

We are mentally and spiritually altered when we realize the Light of God is within us. With this awareness, we interact in a new way to the people around us. Those who see this light, or spiritual fruitfulness in us, may also be changed. They may open their hearts to the Light, and, once open, they too become a prism revealing the warmth and brightness of faith.

I think God wants us to be spiritually radiant, to bring his Light into a world grown dim. In order to be, as Gandhi said, the change we wish to see in the world, we first need to accept how we are changed to reveal the spectrum of this Holy Light.

I delight when I see colors and how they play about in my world, and I find joy in the colors of God’s Light. You, dear reader, are part of that glow.

Image Pixabay.com, CCO Creative Commons

10/12

 

Quiet Grace of Change in Nature

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Autumn moves in with its usual quiet grace. I took note the other day that the shrubs and trees have become peppered with color. I smile to myself and think of my own autumn-of-life with hair becoming peppered gray—and the next thing I knew, almost white! I had changed and like the trees, in due season and incrementally.

In Michigan, and throughout the Midwest, there are visual seasonable changes in nature. There are also expectations of what each season brings. The greening in spring and the coloring dormancy before winter, the migration of birds into a region and their eventual return to warmer climates as the temperatures drop, are just a couple of the things I know and anticipate each year.

I like the rhythm of it all, when everything is not always the same. This shift leads me to alter my perspective, to see things differently, to pray in different ways. The energetic prayers of springtime are not the same as those said during times of slowing down entering winter.

I find that age—young or mature—dictates my response to change. The sudden shifts that took place in my youth would be harder to manage these days. I like change in moderation and can adapt well with a show of grace. It is dramatic changes that are jolting; when the scenery becomes unfamiliar and uncertainty skews my view.

There was a time as an adult when I came to fully embrace Catholicism. It was then that I was jolted by the reality of my relativistic decisions as compared to the new scenery of faith, and found myself disoriented in my ethics.

The prayers of my early years, chronologically and spiritually, were vigorous, eager, and thrust unto the Holy with certainty of specified resolution. The prayers that I now pray are much less frenetic and are presented with fullness and patience. I have no less confidence that they are being heard, but my expectations of how they will be answered are less defined.

Like the gentle, slow and steady pace of changing leaves at the end of a season, my prayers are slowly spoken, and hopefully more graceful in their petition. Seasons change as do our lives and how we pray. We live in all our seasons with assurance of the rhythm—day by day, familiar with the pace.

 Image Pixabay.com, CCO Creative Commons

10/12

Autumn Days and Prayers in Aging

lindas oakAutumn moves in with its usual quiet grace. I took note the other day that the shrubs and trees have become peppered with color. I smile to myself and think of my own autumn-of-life with hair becoming peppered gray—and the next thing I knew, almost white! I had changed and like the trees, in due season and incrementally.

In Michigan, and throughout the Midwest, there are visual seasonable changes in nature. There are also expectations of what each season brings. The greening in spring and the coloring dormancy before winter, the migration of birds into a region and their eventual return to warmer climates as the temperatures drop, are just a couple of the things I know and anticipate each year.

I like the rhythm of it all, when everything is not always the same. This shift leads me to alter my perspective, to see things differently, to pray in different ways. The energetic prayers of springtime are not the same as those said during times of slowing down entering winter.

I find that age—young or mature—dictates my response to change. The sudden shifts that took place in my youth would be harder to manage these days. I like change in moderation and can adapt well with a show of grace. It is dramatic changes that are jolting; when the scenery becomes unfamiliar and uncertainty skews my view.

There was a time as an adult when I came to fully embrace Catholicism. It was then that I was jolted by the reality of my relativistic decisions as compared to the new scenery of faith, and found myself disoriented in my ethics.

The prayers of my early years, chronologically and spiritually, were vigorous, eager, and thrust unto the Holy with certainty of specified resolution. The prayers that I now pray are much less frenetic and are presented with fullness and patience. I have no less confidence that they are being heard, but my expectations of how they will be answered are less defined.

Like the gentle, slow and steady pace of changing leaves at the end of a season, my prayers are slowly spoken, and hopefully more graceful in their petition. Seasons change as do our lives and how we pray. We live in all our seasons with assurance of the rhythm—day by day, familiar with the pace.

Image by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl OSB. All rights reserved.

(Reprint 10/2012)

Walnuts, Thanksgiving, and A Garden Catechism

walnut shell

Image from morguefile.com

If we are busy with families, we usually prepare or share in a Thanksgiving Day fare. One of the popular ingredients for that day is often the walnut. I love it in apple or broccoli salads, autumn harvest pies, or—as my grandmother often did with her Henry Quackenbush nutcrackers—unshelled in a bowl.

The black walnut, Jugulan nigra, is native to the eastern United States and the bane of most gardeners. The walnuts we are more accustomed to eating are the English walnut, Jugulans regia, which are not native, being introduced on the west coast by Franciscan monks in 1769.

Because of its tough outer hull and woody shell, the nut symbolizes the protection of precious contents. It can also symbolize the Holy Trinity, Christ, matrimony, and fertility because of it copious amounts of fruit!

Lucia Impelluso writes, in Nature and Its Symbols:

In Christian culture in general, the image of the walnut, with its three parts, is associated with the Trinity. Saint Augustine…asserts that the nut may be considered a symbol of Jesus Christ. According to this interpretation, the outer hull represents the flesh, the wood shell stands for the cross, and the kernel alludes to Christ’s divine nature. Generally speaking, the image of the walnut in art should be read in this light.

Many scholars assume that the grove of nut trees that Solomon went into searching for love (Song 11:6) were Persian walnuts, now commonly called English.

The green hull encasing the shelled nut can be steeped to produce a rich brown dye. During Jesus time the walnut trees grew around the Sea of Galilee. Some scholars propose that his cloak was dyed, probably by his mother, from the walnut casings.

The single walnut at the bottom of this painting indicates the divine child in Mary’s arms. Wallraf-RichartzMuseum, Master of the Saint Bartholomew Altarpiece, The Virgin of the Walnut, 1500-1510. (Image public domain)walnut virgin

Jesus standing under a walnut tree represents his divine nature and the fruitfulness of his ministry. National Gallery of London, The Baptism of Christ, Piero della Francesca, 1448-1450. (Image public domain)walnut baptism

St. Anthony near the end of his life, and from his desire for solitude, had a tree house built in a walnut tree as a hideaway in Camposampiero, Italy. The tree, symbolizing the Holy Trinity, sheltered him halfway between heaven and earth. This paining, being one of many portraying his hideaway in the branches, is Saint Anthony in the Walnut Tree (with two saints: St. Jerome, St. Francis of Assisi), Lazzaro Bastiani, 1505. (Image public domain)

walnut st anthony

 

In the Shadow of Birds

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Image morguefile.com

I did not see the migrating birds as they flew past, nor did I hear their calls. What I did see was fifty, maybe a hundred, small darting shadows cross over the lawn and my arms. Suddenly I felt heavy in the shadow of birds and my heart longed for home.

Where I live is within the flyway of several species of birds. It’s not unusual in the fall to stop the car when driving along farm lanes and wait on cranes coming in low, legs down, wings cupped, landing easily in marshes or corn fields.

The timing of their migrations are controlled primarily by the changes in sunlight. The day length signals the seasonal movement from the region of spring breeding to the place of wintering rest.

There is an instinctive stirring of such birds to migrate, an internal movement of the spirit towards a home. It is not the same as a journey, which is an irregular and singular event. Migration is done seasonally, aroused by light, and usually follows a path of food along the route.

There is seasonality to my prayer life as well; aroused by The Light my spirit yearns towards an eternal home. It too follows a route of nourishment.

As daylight hours decrease, a faith-filled migration draws me towards the Feast of Christ the King and Advent, and the contemplative resting in the abundance of His gifts. I am just as drawn in a few months, in the lengthening of days, to an active Lent and will long for new life and fresh air in my faith.

Like the flock of little birds that passed overhead, I am heartened by the coming winter—seasonally and temporally—to find rest.

(Image by Alvimann at morguefile.com)