Tuesday, 31 May 2005


I love my Order dearly, but one can refer to deficiencies in one's own 'family,' and I freely admit that the homely, moving images Franciscans have given to popular devotion can make the divine Logos fade into the shadows of a carpenter's shop alone. :) It is not that I do not find popular images of the infancy narratives to be compelling. Yet I myself blush to admit that it is easy to become lost in picturing reactions and feelings of the characters at the outset of Luke's vivid gospel. Israel in worship and expectation, and the power of the Holy Spirit (overshadowing Mary, inspiring Elizabeth - and guiding the Church, as Luke tells us in his 'second book'), can become abstractions, as one pictures one or the other of Mary's joys or sorrows, or imagines her charity in visiting her aged and pregnant cousin.

The tone of the narratives in the Old and New Testaments differ markedly, of course, and it is well within my memory when preaching often referred to Jesus' instituting a 'law of love,' as if Yahweh had been persuaded to change his punishing nature. Yet Jewish scholars would see the sacred scriptures as presenting a picture of continuous fidelity from God, no matter how unfaithful his children were to the covenant. Luke provides us with an image of the continuation of salvation history - complete with angels, prophecies, temple worship and personal praise. Mary, Simeon, Anna, Zechariah, and Elizabeth are Israel not only in expectation (and fulfilment), but at prayer. They proclaim Jesus the Son of God - and the 'infancy' section concludes with Jesus Himself referring to his father's house and therefore his own divine sonship.

Yes, I know I'm falling into sounding pedantic! :) Bear with me. I have been Franciscan for many years, and seeing Elizabeth beyond her being an older woman who was distressed at having no children (yet happily visited by her charitable little cousin) is hardly an easy task.

Raymond Brown, in his commentary The Birth of the Messiah, notes that Luke has moved the christological moment (revelation of Jesus’ identity) from the resurrection to the virginal conception. Luke’s theological thought is of a new creation, wherein God’s spirit (as was the case in Genesis 1:2) is once again active in the first creation of life. Brown is careful to note, however, that too much creative theological thought has focused on Mary's feelings and dispositions - and reminds us that no one, including this first disciple of Christ, had post-resurrection understanding in advance. Mary's discipleship would involve waiting, uncertainty and so forth no less than does our own.

I so wish at times that my brothers, such as Giles of Assisi or Bernadine of Siena, had been a little less literal in their treatments of Mary as virgin. (They tended to be rather absorbed in making certain that no one thought childbirth had disturbed certain physical attributes.) No Jewish girl would have made vows of virginity (preparatory to announcement of her being the intended Mother of Jesus), nor been given 'in trust' in a marriage. I do believe that her virginity is literally true, because divine images (as I noted yesterday in relation to wheat!) often are revealed to us through what is physical and simple. Not only is Jesus' conception the new creation I previously mentioned, but Mary is an image of the Church.

We tend to forget today that any concept of virginity for the sake of the kingdom has to do, not with morality, but with eschatology. It points to that there is more to the relationship with God than the good of this earth. Israel, as the Old Testament shows us, did not refrain from painting a picture of her own infidelity. The Christian, of course, is no more faithful or laudable than was Israel - but, by divine power alone, we have a hint that creation continues, and that the kingdom, however begun, has further glory to be revealed in the future. Mary leaves us with an image of discipleship in such expectation - what Francis would call 'the virgin made Church.' (A priest friend reminded me yesterday of quite a contrary image in Hosea - Christian writers would never have the blunt honesty of Israel's prophets.) :)

A blog should contain a personal element, and I'm smiling now - suddenly seeing a contrast between Luke's idealistic images and Paul's (pastoral) realism. Acts depicts a communist Christian community of mega saints! (Luke must have known Christians who varied somewhat from those known to Paul!) If this is in any way historical (to such a great extent – Acts makes it seem that there were thousands), I would imagine it was in the ‘heat of the moment’ after the resurrection, and based on the expectation of Jesus’ imminent return to reign in glory (which they would share.) People expecting to be raised to glory shortly would not attend to temporal matters – where Paul was writing to those who had at least some grasp of that it might not be done by next Tuesday. Based on Acts, one would have the impression that Paul departed for Rome in some small glory... there is no hint of his martyrdom.

Luke shows us what the Church should be. Paul already knew, and was writing to deal with, what it is. :) Yet Luke, more so than any other writer, leaves us strong images of Jesus at prayer - and of Israel, in the persons of the faithful individuals in the infancy narratives, expressing herself in prophecy and canticle. We shall never have perfection - in fact, as Paul already knew, we'll be lucky to have anything except weakness, sinfulness, and conflict in our dealings with one another. Beyond that, we have expectation, an intention towards discipleship, and worship. Sounds like little - but it has kept us from self-destructing for 2,000 years.

Monday, 30 May 2005

I shall call this a tea interval...

I doubt that too many visitors to Gloriana's Court shall fully comprehend how frustrated I am today. :) I have been digesting the richness of Papa Benedict's superb sermon for the feast of Corpus Christi, and greatly wishing to write a meditation here, drawing on some of the related images and expounding on the 6th chapter of John. Perhaps I shall be able to do so later in the week... for now, I'm sipping a cup of Earl Grey, stroking the cat (who is indignant that I've been spending too much time on the Offices recently), and asking God to grant me patience.

I am an odd blend, of course, being at once scholar, peasant, renaissance lady and working class survivor. (Well, I suppose that Jesus could identify with at least some of that, though I doubt the renaissance was much to his liking.) Perhaps it is that blend within myself which makes me see the King of Kings in the monstrance as reminding us of divine transcendence and mystery, while equally the hand of the Creator reminds us that the symbol of Himself, and of his body the Church, and of the Eucharist which has united us since the first century (and something had to do it...) is as simple as the fruit of the field.

Currently, some of my studies centre on the worship, sacraments, and ministry of the very early Church. (I was a bit disappointed - loving the patristic era as I do, I had not wanted the studies to focus entirely on the New Testament, the Didache, and Ignatius.) Yet I can see the hand of providence in this somehow. Again and again, I am seeing the sheer evidence that what held the Church together from the beginning was the memory of a resurrected Lord - and, despite all the bickering, disagreements, lapses into idolatry of whatever kind, and eternal weakness and sinfulness of its members, the action of celebrating baptism and the Eucharist. It is amazing how divine truth was revealed to the Church in its worship before there were established forms for worship or creeds.

I am much one for splendour - for all that I love that carpenter from Galilee, I tend to focus more on the risen and ascended King of Kings. :) I love processions, monstrances, Benediction, praying in the presence of a hanging pyx. Still, my years of mediaeval and renaissance studies remind me that, glorious though such devotions are, the splendour can sometimes blind us to the essential. Those during the Middle Ages cherished the Elevation, but seldom partook of communion, and began a tradition of so focussing on the Passion and our need for forgiveness that the Incarnation in its fulness sometimes was a forgotten concept. Then, in an effort to counterbalance the excesses of the Reformation (though my pragmatic side reminds me that Martin Luther's criticisms were all too apt, and that Cranmer's snide comments about viewing the Elevation were sadly accurate), the Eucharistic devotions tended to become divorced from the Holy Communion itself - as if the church were a reliquary. We can forget our own mission to be the Body of Christ (as Benedict exquisitely expressed in the sermon to which I placed the link) if we think only of the Host - rather than recalling our deification, our being Christ's Body.

Heavens, how I can ramble at times... well, off to fix another pot of tea. Tomorrow is the feast of the Visitation - perhaps that Elizabeth can remind this one that, however sluggish one may feel in middle age, divine grace can bring about the most remarkable developments. :)

Friday, 27 May 2005


There are many frustrating periods in the basically solitary life (and for many reasons other than that one.) :) This has been one of my anxious and confused weeks, and the lovely essays I had planned on the Trinity, Corpus Christi, Philip Neri and Augustine of Canterbury never materialised. I'm trying not to let any sorrow come forth today, remembering Philip Neri, who once had a gloomy member of the Oratory have the humiliating experience of singing the Miserere at a wedding breakfast.

I may be rather shy and reserved, but quiet I am not - no 'life of the party' to be sure, but once I get on a topic, there generally is no stopping me. I suppose that is why 'words' are on my mind today. I have had the good fortune, more so than most, to have had expert spiritual direction - one of the biggest graces for keeping one in the truth, since our individual capacity for self-deception is enormous and, in those dedicated to prayer, all the more insidious because we can convince ourselves that our faults are virtues. In convent life, most unfortunately, there frequently was no individual direction at all. The closest thing, if you will, was a brief self-accusation in the context of sacramental confession - and, for all that I find that sacrament most valuable, often the matters which one most needs to 'face head on' are not what one would be confessing as sins.

For all that it contains enough horror stories for fifteen religious lives, I found that Kathryn Hulme's The Nun's Story, which was adapted from the experiences of her companion Marie Louise Habbets as a Sister of Charity of Ghent, provided some excellent illustrations of how the best-intentioned Sisters can have great confusion when left with nothing but 'live the Rule.' (Not that living the Rule is not a blessing!) One example from that text is a superb example of how good intentions can go awry, how impressions (on the part of those in authority) can be mistaken but understandable, and how genuine opportunities for spiritual growth can be missed when one has no chance to explain one's motives.

Unless one has been in the position, it is difficult to express how confusing the 'quest for perfection' becomes in many young Sisters.All too often, one's seeking to observe a practise that supposedly involves the practise of virtue is misread by the very Sisters who would have propagated the theories. In Kathryn Hulme's work, Gabrielle, a first professed who is an extremely gifted nurse, is assigned to a school of tropical medicines in preparation (or so she hopes) for an assignment in the Congo. Before she leaves for the school, Gabrielle has a frank conversation with her novice mistress (and frankness can be as rare in convent life as the apocalypse.) Both are highly intelligent and from privileged backgrounds, and there is common understanding about the difficulties of dealing with common life. The novice mistress says that her way of dealing with this was to take on 'humble' tasks, help sisters for whom one has a strong disliking, and otherwise seeking to be 'the little donkey of the community,' much as Christ endured being around simple-minded apostles who smelled of fish.

The gap between inevitable perceptions and the best of intentions is most striking in Gabrielle's situation at the school of tropical medicines. Sister Pauline, who is older and in the same class programme, is a poor student, and shows great disliking (more likely fear) for Gabrielle. Gabrille decides to be the donkey - and do so by pretending she wants Pauline to check her work, then going off to study facing a wall. The conversation with her Novice Mistress before she left the motherhouse explains much of Gabrielle's action - how unfortunate that, since explanations are never solicited, or even allowed, from the 'young,' her basically good intentions are shrouded in behaviour that the best of us would find exasperating. (Of course, the novice mistress's exhortation shows that it is not Gabrielle alone who maintains an element of snobbery, but this neither party would have recognised.)

Sister Pauline is far from an endearing character, yet anyone would sympathise with the patronising gestures Gabrielle makes in trying to perform an 'act of humility.' Gabrielle indeed is a superior student, and a direct offer to help Pauline could be uncomfortable from one much younger, yet the honesty in such an approach would be more acceptable. As many a young Sister would later blush to recall, the attempted humility in pretending to ask a poor student to review one's notes (because "I may have some mistakes") amplifies any appearance of pride to the hilt.

The superior's suggestion that Gabrielle 'fail exams to show humility' is deplorable, and out of accord with the most basic approaches to the spiritual life (humility being truth.) One cannot help but wonder why Mother Marcella made this bizarre suggestion (perhaps she, too, had memories of a younger sister's outshining her?), yet the tragedy is that Gabrielle neither recognises the blatant flaw in such reasoning nor consults anyone else. (Had she had any form of direction, both such a dishonest action and the 'donkey act' would have been 'cancelled,' yet her genuine desire to help others could have been harnessed realistically.) Of course, Marcella had ample opportunity to witness Gabrielle's ruses of humility . It is tragic that silence existed in all too many forms in convent life. Misguided though she was, had Gabrielle explained that she was trying to follow her novice mistress's counsel, Marcella's attitude may have been quite different.

Spiritual direction is not a Francican forte, yet one book on that topic, composed by a Franciscan friar, shows great common sense. He instructed readers not to tell their directors only of their weakness and sinfulness, but of everything - the good, the exciting, whatever. Wise this is - because we get into the largest messes, now and then, when we are trying to improve!

Thursday, 26 May 2005

A few minutes with A. J. Cronin

With my background in English literature, dare I admit my love for the novels of A. J. Cronin? (Well, why not? I have an MA in musicology, yet admit to a passion for 1960s rock music.) Cronin indeed had a gift for using the language well, though his novels tend to the melodramatic - Laurence Carroll, the main character in "A Song of Sixpence," sees more of the morbid side of humanity in the first ten years of life than I have in nearly half a century. His themes are solid, but the plots cry out for negative criticism. With that established, I can confess that I always did find them addictive. :)

I suppose that Cronin's best-known work was "The Keys of the Kingdom." Though Francis Chisholm, the main character, and I have little in common, I strongly identified with many of the questions he had from childhood. He could see the hand of God no less in the Buddhist or atheist than in the Christian - and, indeed, some of the Christians depicted (who, on the average, were no worse than many I observed in a lengthy church career) could learn quite a bit from those 'heathens.' Yet one particular incident in the book reminded me of a constant problem - the balance between devotion and a desire to see supernatural manifestations. I suppose that, for any devout Christian, the remoteness which we can sense at times in our relationship with God makes us wish that, perhaps, a resurrected Christ would invite us to place his hands in his side. I could write an essay (which I'll spare my readers for now) on how maturity demands our giving up anthropomorphic images, and acknowledging the inadequacy of our vision. Yet there often is another, darker side, where we so ache to see the hand of God (whom, deep down, we perhaps fear was a Deist version, who set the world in motion but basically could not care a fig for us) that we look for the magical.

In "The Keys of the Kingdom," young curate Francis Chisholm is assigned to his home parish. A young woman with an inordinate taste for smells and bells (and don't think I do not love both), Charlotte Neily, becomes quite a phenomenon. Charlotte notices that a local spring, long dry, has flowing water - and, with visions of Bernadette in her head, fancies she has seen the Blessed Mother. As a consequence of the emotional impact, Charlotte is temporarily unable to eat, and marks of stigmata appear. All who know of this, save the sceptical Francis, are quite delighted - and Charlotte's mother and their servant keep up the appearance of her living in ecstasy, needing no nourishment and so forth, until Francis discovers the deception.

Though the specific circumstances are not one too many curates would have encountered, the underlying problem is not unusual. I well remember, when my sensitive, young artiste's soul was under the influence of an excessively charismatic group (the Holy Spirit did lots of inspiring and transforming, though the theology of discernment was ignored), and I thought, for a short while, that I could probably do anything but raise the dead, and perhaps even that given time.

Oddly enough, I love folk religion in some manifestations. I wish I had the faith my mother used to bring to her devotions to the Infant of Prague, or the simplicity with which she'd scold Saint Anthony if he was tardy in answering a prayer. The more do I wish I could turn to God with her trust, believing he helped us in temporal needs. Yet I cannot say that such manifestations were 'magical' - they seemed more an acknowledgement of providence existing in all of God's work in creation.

Most of A. J. Cronin's main characters contain an autobiographical element, since he himself was the son of a mother who was Church of Scotland and an Irish Catholic father (hardly enviable in Scotland in the early 20th century.) What blends we all can be - with one part of ourselves seemingly in conflict with the other. I'm thinking of C. S. Lewis - who would know, from his theological works alone, that there was another facet who fell through wardrobes and ended up in Narnia? (I would have loved to sit in the pub with him and Tolkien...) Or John Henry Newman, the liberal Catholic (in the 19th century sense!) who dreamt of the Arabian Nights figures (presumably expurgated version), always had a hint of the evangelical pessimism, yet was bound by Victorian optimism to believe that "to become perfect is to have changed often," as if all change meant progress and improvement.

I must return to Charlotte Neily's 'vision' for the moment. A.J. leaves us with an image, not only of Charlotte caught in a fib and the other curate's dejection, but of one unexplained. A local boy, who is terminally ill and in agony, is cured when his mother immerses him in the water flowing from the well which Charlotte saw. We are left to consider how faith, prayer, love of one human for another, all can be used by the divine hand - even when we are left far more with questions than answers.

Tuesday, 24 May 2005


Behold the Lamb of God - this is my Beloved Son - the Spirit descended as a dove - the Comforter shall come - Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

I have read volumes on the Trinity, from the Cappadocians to Augustine to Karl Rahner, and much of it was brilliant. Yet what can more remind us of how love and worship reach out from the creature to the Creator, without any way of humanly expressing the truth, than the concept of the Trinity? It is the ultimate example of how what one knows and expresses in doxology cannot be explained in sermon or essay. I love the writings of Gregory of Nyssa on the subject, for example, because they lend to prayer - yet, from a 'rational' standpoint, they verge on the tritheistic.

This week, on a discussion forum, I read a thread about how to prepare a Sunday sermon, aimed at children, on the topic of the Trinity. There were various images suggested - my favourite being that of a yolk, white, and shell all making up one egg. :)

Well, I am hardly going to attempt any sort of 'sermon' on the topic here. Yet this I am coming to know in the life of prayer. Ultimately, the action of praise is all that we can offer. It was all that the first Christians could do - yet, within a generation, the Church had grasped the reality of the Trinity - knowledge which came from worship.

I would ask any reader to pray for me today - I have been in a rather difficult time, and I am weary, my mind not quite 'in gear.' Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and blessed be His kingdom, now and forever. Almighty and everlasting God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of our heart by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy Name, through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Friday, 13 May 2005

Time for a bit of silliness

I did so want to be profound today. It has been a difficult week in some ways, not aided by that my cat (who is a housecat, but gets out from time to time) proudly presented me with a dead mouse, her first, when I returned from my studies this afternoon. I attended a nice, quiet Eucharist (perhaps 10 people in attendance, some clearly tourists who did not make responses), and, to my embarrassment, found that, as the priest said the words of institution ("This is my body.." for those unfamiliar), I audibly responded, "Amen." (I should not have blushed - he himself forgot to read the epistle.)

Ascensiontide - Pentecost round the corner - heavens, I would have thought I even could have got creative about the visions at Fatima (which first occurred on this date in 1917). But inspiration is not at hand at the moment, so silliness is my current outlet.

Eternal mysteries of the Church (though hardly of the faith )

  • Were any 'pagan babies' actually baptised with the names children spent hours choosing? (If so, half of the emerging third world nations have populations all named Mary and Joseph - aside from yours truly, most kids stuck to the 'correct' answers. Then again, some nuns hogged the issue, naming the little pagans after themselves or after their novice mistresses.)

  • Why, in the once popular picture of the guardian angel leading the kids over a bridge, do the two children share one angel?

  • Why can Roman Catholics not say any prayer (save for the Paternoster and Ave Maria) unless the printed words are in front of them - even if they've said them daily for fifty years?

  • Every religious 'unit' (be it parish, diocese, religious order, whatever) has a very active member who was supposed to have died many years ago - though, whether he is 40 or 90, he looks extremely robust. He is in every parish group photo since baptism.

  • Why do those in 'authority' (normally at parish level) constantly complain that 'the people' are not open to an innovation - which they implemented supposedly because the people were insistent?

  • Why do English translations of Latin hymns and prayers bear so little resemblance to the original texts?

  • Every 'unit' has a member who seems to know everyone on earth, and who has whatever information about anyone is needed at the moment. Here I am not referring to gossips, but to those whose words are accurate and highly useful. (Of course you know someone like that - can you remember how it is that you know her?)

  • Where schools or religious houses are concerned, there will be another Sister who is quiet, retiring, and has not served in many apostolic areas - yet everyone seems to know.

And now to bed... I should have been able to think of far better items than these!

Wednesday, 11 May 2005

Self-absorbed rubbish from my Trash folder

Were Augustine to write of the effects of original sin today, I would imagine the current climate would give him the impression that self-absorption was the curse of Adam.

Occasionally, I receive e-mail that is mind-boggling. Perhaps the people who pen these gems assume that everyone with a Ph.D. is a psychologist. One which I received this week was a typical illustration of how self-centred people can become. I mention this because focussing so unduly on one's self would make any semblance of a spiritual life (which requires genuine self-knowledge - not close cousin to self-preoccupation) a far-off goal.

This correspondence was from someone I'll call "Jane," who apparently has found the answers to the problems of the universe by joining a 'diet club.' (Should you like to know why Jane thought that strangers were pining for this information, or why she was directing this missive to the webmistress of a site on mediaeval spirituality, I cannot enlighten you.) Jane, who reported her weight loss to date down to tenths of a pound, and, for good measure, explained why her programme was the best, is on verge of a "whole new life" because everything in this rubbish is connected to "achieving life goals."

However, Jane reported some serious, indeed quite distressing (ahem!), problems. Her family and friends, who probably received many yards of this material on a regular basis, are "not supportive of her efforts." This, Jane supposes, is because they are unable to "deal with change in her." She was wondering if she "needed to go to therapy" to deal with "these issues."

Keeping my usual firm grasp on Ocham's razor, I am wondering why Jane cannot see the obvious. She is not the centre of the universe, and others are hardly to be expected to direct their concerns towards her self-improvement kick. Presumably, Jane and her friends had some common interests which brought them together - and now all they hear of from her is about her 'diet club.' Most importantly, Jane is clearly so self-absorbed that she cannot pick up on their natural boredom, and is assuming that their lives are shattered by 'change' in her. I suppose she thinks she'll become all the more important and fascinating if she becomes a mental patient...

Why do I equally have the sense that someone out there will make considerable money taking her through this quasi-therapy - perhaps even more than whichever organisation put these ridiculous ideas into her head in the first place? Jane must have been quite narrow and self-centred in the first place, if the epitome of her existence is a slimming programme. (I'd be most curious as to which problems of this life would be any the less if one dropped a dress size.)

Now, back to my anchorhold, where one lives in the real world:

I spent a number of years in active ministry, and would say that most people who are dedicated to this have a genuine, quite deep concern for others. As I have noted in previous posts, because the essence of the desire to help others is loving, it is easy to be distracted by the desire to be special, to 'have all the answers,' and so forth. With consecrated life being a state wherein one has a certain detachment from those whom one serves, the loneliness, plus a longing for attention, can cloud our vision.

Of course, as I well know from experience, those (who are not in consecrated life) who are very involved in religious organisations often have the best of intentions - but, especially where 'programmes' are concerned, lose any larger perspective. I witnessed an online debate this week about churches maintaining a crèche for the little ones. (That shall be one of the last sounds that dies out on this planet at the last judgement.) One point of view will be that the children enjoy it - opposing voices will insist that it breaks up family worship - yet another is opposed to 'age segregation' on principle - the directors of the programme assume that children who do not attend have parents who are not aware of the availability - etc., etc..

There is no pat answer to such situations, of course, yet each of the arguments, valid though they may be, cuts off the awareness that other people's views and decisions are not a personal commentary on oneself.

Active ministry was quite a lonely situation - a life based on prayer and (largely) solitary is a step beyond. It is easy to become preoccupied with the needs one senses in one's own life. Yet one must be cautious in with whom, and how frequently, one shares this. Close friends can empathise, perhaps, and those very knowledgeable in the spiritual life can remind one that one's vocation is hardly based on (for example) getting attention. :) Yet most, understandably, will have no clue as to why one would live such a life - and one soon realises that the classic principle of 'reserve' is a balanced, realistic one.

I therefore am stopping here - lest truth I am seeking to express becomes an exercise in the very self-absorption which is problematic.

Sunday, 8 May 2005


The problem with the Ascension is not that I have nothing to say - it is that there is just so much one can say! I had intended to write a classic sermon on the topic here, but I'm particularly weary these days, what with all my searching for inexpensive frog free zones. So I'll just leave my readers with a few thoughts.

The strength and weakness of the Franciscan Order is the focus on Jesus' earthly life. Raymond Brown once commented aptly that most Christians tolerate only as much of Jesus' humanity as they can stand. True - but not for Franciscans. We emphasise the 'poor child / man' to such an extent that one can easily think that the Incarnation consisted of Jesus' being born and dying. The divine Logos gets lost in the shuffle, even if Franciscans can give all sorts of wonderful sermons about the simplicity of a baby or a mother's agonising at the foot of a cross.

Yet, for all that Francis himself tended to dwell a bit too much on his past sins, Franciscans never did fall into the trap of focussing on hell and our being saved from this. The emphasis was on the Creator - who 'wonderfully created man's nature, and still more wonderfully restored it.' Whatever good came of the Reformation, it is unfortunate that, concurrently, there was far too much stress on salvation as if what salvation meant was not cosmic redemption but being spared horrid torments in hell.

The Ascension is so wonderful - with our seeing human nature glorified, not only through God Himself assuming this but in the ascenscion to the right hand of the Father - that our deification shows us what salvation really means. Yet this, as with many truths of our faith, can only be expressed in doxology. One cannot 'rationally analyse' the ascension. I can just imagine a rationalist saying, "Created and then more wonderfully restored? What was wrong with creation in the first place? Why was it not created right the first time? Why are we still such a bunch of ... trouble makers if we are deified?"

Heaven only knows. Yet, when I say that prayer, I mean ever word. :)

Today is the feast of my 'good friend' Julian of Norwich. I've written quite enough on the site to give those interested a beginning - though I just may get to her a bit more this week. Yet I'll add one little reflection here.

Today, in some schools of thought, reflecting on Jesus' passion, as did Francis and Julian, is seen as rather morbid for 'an Easter people.' (Please! Did he not have to be dead first?) Yet Julian's picture of the suffering Christ, for all that it filled her with a horror of sin, is one of a God taking delight in us - and laughing at Satan's defeat. True, "all shall be well" is reserved fully to the parousia - but is Christianity not a faith that looks ahead to glory as well as back to its manifestations?

Ahhh, Easter people (of the incorrect sort I mentioned earlier - please see Father Gregory's blog for the correct interpretation, and what I assume was my dear friend's first reference to Augustine of Hippo), do not shudder at Julian's horror of sin! (Sin? What is that? Must be a lack of self-esteem!... The eighth capital sin, reserved to our own day, is self-absorption..) In the first manuscript of Julian's Showings, written at age 30 , she, in expressing gratitude for the true contrition (perfect love, self-esteem crowd!), commented, 'what a wretch I am.' Perhaps one needs to be fifty or so rather than thirty to notice that, in the second manuscript twenty years later, Julian has written "what a wretch I was." She is not writing of misery - in fact, there is not a trace of this in the entire manuscript. Julian is a woman in love, writing with gratitude. She had been transformed, bit by bit, by one who is Perfect Love.

Jesus, in his humanity, had taken upon himself fully the vocation to proclaim the kingdom. The sad but inevitable outcome was that, in our blindness and weakness, humanity showed itself at its worst - and he became a target for violence, treachery, betrayal, abandonment by those he best loved. A Messiah dying the cursed death of the 'tree' would be a bit much for comprehension.

Julian's visions, which sparked her deepest transformation and led to her exquisite writings, indeed were of the crucifixion. Yet she had grown so in love that this tortured man who laughed from 'the tree' showed her the Trinity as a warm family, evil as defeated by one who laughed, Eucharistic images, and so forth. She could hear him say 'all shall be well,' because the first stirrings of divine love within us remind us that 'what we have here' is not all that there is. We look ahead to when all shall be well.