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Like a single grain of wheat tossed upon parched ground, we feel huge discomfit: estrangement from familiar routines, isolation in lockdown homes and solitary walks, the constriction of unaccustomed silence, and starvation for vital nutrients. Gone are the predictable sources of affirmation, save for our pets. Such pain and suffering are getting old: the funny jokes, no longer funny, topics of conversation lapsing into fickle weather patterns. Each morning’s tally of the victims seems to preclude considering our own.

Yet, Kovid-19 intensifies its killing swath like trigger-happy ghouls firing into the empty night. An epidemiologist likened this virus to an unpredictable Mexican jumping bean—no telling where its contagion will next appear.

How face this crisis that seems to have longer legs than first anticipated? How remain intact before its dismembering, despite slow-burning fears roasting our innards?

Back to the single grain of wheat for a response: it must die to its shortsighted will, it must allow the combing of the new deceased, it must scour the heart of stuff, it must acknowledge its creatureliness. With acceptance, comes fresh growth—this is God’s work.

Such life lessons continue informing my hospice experience, soon to enter its sixth month of praying, listening, and waiting. There’s still much to learn.

Jesus also spoke of the single grain of wheat in the Gospel of John. We’re in good company.

 

“This is your captain speaking. We’ve had more contact with air traffic control in New York. All planes are to land at the nearest airport and wait for additional instruction—We’ll be coming down at Indianapolis International Airport in ten minutes.”

It was the morning of 9/11, aboard Southwest Airlines for our flight to Boston and the directed retreat at Gloucester. A story larger than life was beginning to spew like torn film from a projector. From the rental car’s radio, news analysts blurted surreal facts as proportions of the disaster mounted. Stops at gas stations evoked spirited conversations: no one was a stranger. In the lobby of the Best Western at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, television sets plied ghoulish scenes to the ongoing narrative.

The following seven days at the retreat center afforded a safe place to grieve and pray. Evil had burnt the psyche of our nation: it would never be the same. From the heart of that conflagration stories still flow.

And yet another huge story encircles Planet Earth like a knife-sharp, ill-fitting corset, its ties in knots. Again, I’m at a remove from its raw grief. Yet I feel the global spirit, weighted with peril as it seeks to contain the Coronavirus from further infection. As with 9/11 we’re dealing with the specter of death.

Like grains of incense glowing atop coals in a thurifer, such stories continue yielding their fragrance, continue honing the disparate experiences into meaningful wholes, with consequent psychic growth for spirited warriors. The pandemic has yet to be resolved.

The war between Good and Evil continues …

 

 

“If you love the truth, be a lover of silence. Silence like the sun will illuminate you in God.”—a trenchant saying attributed to Isaac the Syrian, the seventh-century Bishop, theologian, and monk who the Eastern Orthodox Church regards as a saint.

Simple words, if pondered, reveal the unseen caught in the flux of time. Key to this process is passion, whose firelight, like the sun, ignites inner worlds. But who cares to go there? To discipline unruly instincts clamoring for expression? That would be like dying. Such flies in the face of our cultural mores, engulfed in denial and rationalization. The predictable is more comfortable, yet soulless.

It does not take much to see who is truly alive among us: their quickening gaze, their resonant voices, their authority, of whatever age and background.

That’s what happens when you sit in the fire. It works…

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