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Behind the loud speaker the yellow splash of her tailored wool coat set off the drab attire of the audience gathered for the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden. Her caramel-smooth skin, her braids wound atop her head, her gold dangling earrings—all enhanced the cheer of the practiced cadences of the poem composed for this occasion, The Hill We Climb. Such was Amanda Gorman, the first Youth-appointed Poet Laureate of America. So young, yet so attuned to our country’s wounds, she began her recitation with this challenge:

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find the light in this never-ending shade?

Responses layer the rest of the poem, beginning with acknowledging our grief shared as a populace, not just as individuals. Despite collective harms done, some egregiously so, …we weathered a nation that isn’t broken, just unfinished. Such suffering offers incentives for change as divisiveness corrodes spirit and negates willingness.

Hope for our country’s future deepens with succeeding parts of her vision: to build bridges of understanding, to work together for our nation’s democracy, to respect others as they …sit under their own fig and vine tree, and to remember that … history has its eyes on us.

Then, Gorman postulates … the era of the just redemption… the empowerment… to … author a new chapter, …to rebuild, reconcile, and recover, …battered and beautiful, as we are. Rather than answer the challenge at the beginning of the poem, Gorman concludes with …there will always be light…if we’re brave enough to be it.

The audience’s spirited response to The Hill We Climb attests to the hidden Presence of our God and with us as our newly formed government begins to function. I hope others remember the vision of this poem, that it just not becomes a blip of yellow in front of the shady Capitol.

Easily bruised by another’s cross look as a child, I abhorred judgments of any kind lest I be skinned alive. In no way could I staunch the bleeding or remove gangrenous tissue from my psyche, already swollen with festering resentments.

Of especial terror was one of the articles of faith in the Athanasius Creed: He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. As a parochial school child, I was required to memorize the entire prayer from which it came, despite its unintelligibility. But God judging me—that I did get. Only beneath the dark recesses of my unconscious could I keep its sting at bay, but lesser judgments still immobilized me.

Fast forward to the present with its practice of Twelve-Step living and recovery.

As I continue harvesting each day’s insights related to my transition, I happened upon an astounding correction of that dreaded article of faith in the Hungarian-born Jesuit Ladislaus Boros’s The Mystery of Death – Awakening to Eternal Life (a 2020 reprint of the 1965 edition). His chaste mind drew the mentorship of his Jesuit brother, Karl Rahner and the heart-fire of another, Teillard de Chardin, both of whom opened him to the mysteries of the Cosmic Christ.

In the spring of 1959, Boros experienced a mystical revelation concerning the moment of death: its boldness, surprise, and inherent authority, a far cry from theological ruminations. Its thesis reads: Death gives man the opportunity of posing his first completely personal act: death is, therefore, by reason of its very being, the moment above all others for the wakening of consciousness, for freedom, for the encounter with God, for the final decision about his eternal destiny.

 Joy infuses my whole being alive with this decision, one that I will make.

 

How many doors do we open and close within a given day: to our homes, our cars, to our places of work, to institutions and places of commerce, to homes of friends? Are we aware of the different kinds of doors, hinged, folding, sliding, rotating, up and over, and so many more, some with locks and some without? Does crossing their threshold alter our energy? What or whom are we keeping in or keeping out?

Such questions must have influenced the earliest reproductions of both single and double doors depicted upon walls of Egyptian tombs in the Nile Valley. Here, the door symbolizes an area, closed off from the profane, similar to later ornamental doors found on mosques, monasteries, cathedrals, and temples, orienting the worshiper toward its mysteries within. And museums around the world preserve doors removed from ancient Eastern and Western homes. A set of Roman folding doors from a first century AD estate in Pompeii, ruined by Mount Vesuvius, can still be seen in the Archeological Museum in Naples.

Even more importantly, there are other doors, closer to home, the door to our hearts. Their challenge is to pray for discernment, to discipline our instincts, and to savor the new knowledge that crowns this effort. Thus we thrive in our flawed humanness and bring our unique gifts to fruition among others.

 

 

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