BATHED IN ITS KIND LIGHT: Christmas In Hastings - Eamonn Monson sac


I love the first of everything - experiencing what I haven't experienced before. So, this is my first ever Christmas in England, in Hastings and I woke early this morning with a sense of anticipation. This will be a new experience of Jesus, blessed community and holy solitude. People have been so kind and generous and it softens any sense of loss I may have. Happy Christmas Eve from my kitchen table in High Street where the seagulls are asking the dawn to break - a sound I love so well and never tire of hearing.

On Christmas morning a chink of red light breaks briefly upon the clouded horizon, a warning perhaps to shepherds of the morning. The sea is in mighty form, thunderous and dashing its churned up brownness on the pebbled shore. An islander once said to me that the sea is never brown. It is! Here! Today! With froth on it that flies about, brushing my lips. Salty froth fogging my glasses!

Seagulls play with the wind that tosses them like rag dolls through the air. I walk among the fishermen’s huts, the beached trawlers, and the fishermen's nets spread out upon the ground, all emptied of their catch. I am fisherman and shepherd for Christ born this happy morning. I’m singing Adeste Fideles as I go. “Yeah Lord we greet thee!” We greet Him, the dog-walking strangers and I. We greet Him in each other.

There are other seagulls that strut around the empty streets chasing the discarded litter of last night. Scavenging the ripped open garbage sacks, scattered chips, empty coffee cups rolling in their weightlessness.

Last night we had a beautiful Christmas Mass and carol service.  Midnight Mass at 10! This was the tranquil adult event – proud parents with returned sons and daughters. Loved ones leaning into each other in the warmth that is offered in the birth of Jesus, delightful homecomings! Few things surpass the beauty of God’s people in a church on Christmas night. Every one of us there knows that we are blessed by being there.

It is a kind of Transfiguration. Lord, it is good for us to be here!

I find myself abiding in gratitude for all that is. I’m not looking for anything for myself in prayer and I feel a completeness that is immensely satisfying.

I find myself abiding in the present – neither looking back nor forward nor away. Simply here right now, holding in my heart all who belong to me! And in this present I am grateful for the church building in which I stand and the community that fills it. The beauty of it and the goodness of those who prepared it for this night! Beautiful as a bride prepared – the cleaning, polishing, the beautiful flowers and tree, the lovely crib. All done so quietly and humbly, with no demand for praise or recompense! All I do is turn up! There is so much hidden service done here on a daily basis.

And there is the music, the exquisite singing which has been born of much labour, a labour that I have witnessed with my own eyes and felt with my heart.

All these aspects are in their way a new birth – Jesus being born for us again in them; we being born anew in Him.

Earlier we had an altogether different Christmas Mass that was no less transforming and, while the later one was uplifting in a tranquil way, the early one was shot through with joy, the joy that is to be experienced most especially in children.

And there were lots of them. The church overflowed with the young families who are so central to the life of this community. I sometimes refer to these Masses as a holy chaos but there was in fact no chaos at all – just a tumult of life. And for all the tumult we also have the capacity as a community – both young and old – to enter together into moments of profound silence. The children do my heart so much good – the delight and the joy they bring!

It was thought that people might not turn up to the morning Masses either on Christmas eve or Christmas day but they did and I have to say well done to the parents who managed to get their children out to two Masses in one day! Quite an achievement! It was an odd weekend in that the fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve came at either end of the one day!

One last lovely and unknown event was the dinner prepared by a group of mothers and some fathers down in the parish hall beneath the church. It was for a group of young adults who are in transition and have no place of their own on this day. I went down to say hi and chat briefly. The young people were so grateful to me for letting them have the hall. It’s not I who deserve the thanks and I’m truly happy for the brief pleasure it gives them.

When it’s all been said and done I take my leave of everyone. People are concerned about me being alone but I am not. There are lots and lots of people who live alone today. I am in union with them and with the homeless men I meet on the street.

After lunch I turn again to the sea that is even wilder than it was this morning. The wind helps spend my energy, breaking open the tiredness that has gripped me, leaving me lazy and utterly content.

Back in the church I sit in the quite before of the crib, bathed in its kind light and, having indulged a bit more in the sweetness of Christmas food, by 9pm I’m ready to climb into bed. Check the doors; switch off the lights, sweet dreams! 


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Postscript on St. Stephen’s Day – Boxing Day here but will always belong to Stephen for me! I was about to be sociable and go visiting when the doorbell rang. A young man, who is new to town and has become homeless, wants to stay in the Snowflake night shelter which is in our church hall every Tuesday night. It doesn’t open for another couple of hours so I brought him in out of the wretched cold and gave him tea and biscuits, plus a book and a clock that he asked to borrow. After a chat I left him to his privacy in a small room downstairs. He has in him a nature that gladdens the heart and leaves me knowing that I have had a surprise encounter with the Divine!

Eamonn Monson sac


SIMPLICITY: Kissing The Hand of Jesus 2017 - Eamonn Monson sac




I came across a painting by Fray Juan Bautista Maino called The Adoration of the Shepherds and a detail shows one of the shepherds (though it might be St. Joseph) lifting the right hand of the baby Jesus and kissing it.

It strikes me that this is the purpose of our Advent and Christmas - to arrive at a point where Jesus is born for us again, born within us and we are called to come to Jesus and express our love for him in such a gesture.

John the Baptist goes into the desert for clarity and focus. The desert is a place of simplicity where we have nothing but the essentials to deal with and focus on. With this focus on the essentials John is able to recognise Jesus when he appears.

Last Christmas I celebrated Mass with a group of special needs adults from St. John Of God Carmona services, an experience which brought me face to face with the essential meaning of life in all its simplicity.

When I arrived in the hall I went to greet each person - 30 or 40 in all -  and when I came to one woman, the man beside her said to me, "don't be surprised if she hits you." It's an involuntary movement. I gave her my hand anyway. She took it in hers and, without a word, she kissed my hand. It was for me a repeat of what the shepherd did with the hand of Jesus and in that moment Jesus was born for me again.

At the Our Father I invited people to hold the hand of or touch the person beside them. I put my arm around the shoulder of the man nearest to me. He was very very pleased. And while we were praying, a woman shuffled up from the back with her right hand stretched out to me, looking directly into my eyes with her own beautiful, silent eyes. I took her hand and then she reached up and kissed me and, without a word, returned to her place. Jesus was born for me again.

It has occurred to me that I have aspired in these days to kiss the hand of Jesus but it seems now that he is saying to me in these two lovely women, "it is I who will kiss you." Briefly, profoundly it is done!

Janette@50




Portraits of a Lady and an Angel
Happy 50th Birthday Janette

Click HERE or on the photo above to view slideshow

DECEMBER NIGHT (Shelter)


Snowflakes
For the chosen
And the fragile

God's own
Frailty
In them

In Christ

Weakness
Stronger
Than strength

Wiser
Than human
Wisdom

He is
Virtue and
Holiness

There is no other
Hope save
In Him

God knocks
On the basement
Door of my life

Enters in
A homeless
Woman and man

To sit with us
At table
And sleep there

In the temporary
Shelter offered
On a cold December night

We bathe
In the blessing
Of this Arrival

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"Hide those who have been driven out, do not betray the fugitive, let those who have been driven out of Moab come and live with you; be their refuge in the face of the devastator" (Isaiah 16:3-4)

PATIENCE


I live by night. Something in me comes alive when walking in the dark by the sea. It sets me thinking - free of the distractions that teem in daylight. There's an ascent, a transcendence that happens here in this place at this time.

Waiting! God waiting patiently for me to change my ways and i wait impatiently for the consolation promised in the prophecy of Isaiah - not so much for myself just now but for all Who desperately need it's fulfilling, for the whole world that needs it. I am perhaps impatient for the fullness of Christ to be revealed. I would dearly love it. Dearly love to be ready for that moment!

My impatience nowadays is generally reserved for the computer in the Office that is impossibly slow. It used to be driving that threw me into a rage but I drive less now and do so with relative calm.

So, it's the computer I get mad with now, shout at it, say things that I shouldn't and am somehow diminished in the process.

It's a useless and futile impatience - except maybe it's a way of letting off steam. But there is a call to find an alternative, to prepare in my heart a place for something better, to prepare a way for Jesus to redeem whatever it is that makes me react as I do.

If the truth be told I'm impatient with myself for not being who and what I could be. Like Poirot in the recent version of 'Murder On The Orient Express' I see the world as it should be, not as it is. That's how I see myself and, though that might appear to be something of a curse, I see the blessing in it because it keeps me striving, moving.

Thankfully I have arrived at the wisdom of the addict, knowing that I cannot save myself. There is only One Saviour and it is for me to prepare a place for Him within myself, to clear away what I can of the interior clutter.

The Prophecy of Isaiah and John the Baptist; the Good News of Jesus is for our time, our society, our community and family. But it begins where all change, all justice, all peace begin - in every single human heart and soul and mind.

The clutter that needs to be cleared in me is the futile impatience that I've spoken about and I sense that the alternative, the solution is already within me.

God seems to be leading me to a childhood experience in Aran, a place that is one of the central sources of nourishment in my interior life. It is an experience of peaceful patience, a patient watchfulness that is the call of Advent.

This is not a return to former innocence; it is not simply something of the past. It is here and now that I am led to access a present interior alternative.

I am the boy who is shepherded by the warm and saintly Mary Ann McDonagh. I play alone on the beach in Kilronan. She calls to me from the front door of her pub and takes me to her kitchen where we pray - with her sitting in a chair by the table and I kneeling, hands resting on her lap.

After prayer there was tea and Kimberley biscuits and then she would take me to the window in the pub that looks out over Galway Bay. My job was to watch out for the steamer, the ship that sailed the three hour journey from Galway.

No one knew the time of departure because there was no timetable. The Naomh Eanna left when she was fully loaded with the food and other supplies that were necessary for life on the island.

So my waiting was a long process which I undertook obediently and patiently. For a couple of hours I would simply watch the sea until the ship appeared as a tiny dot on the horizon. I got to know the sea and my gazing became the training for the contemplative part of my soul.

I go back to that experience in order to reawaken the childhood patience that still resides within and I come to peace now when I go back there.

There is of course an impatience that is good and holy such as our impatience for the rights of the homeless and the poor of our town; an impatience with the system that keeps them there; an impatience with ourselves to do something more than provide the night shelter and food we offer once a week. This kind of impatience needs to be expressed effectively so that the right thing is done for those who need it.

SHELTER (A Cold December)


i

Snowflakes
For the chosen
And the fragile

God's own
Frailty
In them

In Christ

Weakness
Stronger
Than strength

Wiser
Than human
Wisdom

He is
Virtue and
Holiness

In my
Sinfulness
There is

No other
Hope save
In Him

ii

God knocks
On the basement
Door of my life

Enters in
A homeless
Woman and man

To sit with us
At table
And sleep there

In the temporary
Shelter offered
On a cold December night

We bathe
In the blessing
Of this Arrival

Until we release
Our Saviour child
To a cold December day

Wandering
Displaced again
Waiting

Until
When and what
And where?

This is our question
And ours it is
To give the answer.


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"Hide those who have been driven out, do not betray the fugitive, let those who have been driven out of Moab come and live with you; be their refuge in the face of the devastator" (Isaiah 16:3-4)

Maranatha: Hope for the Hopeless - Eamonn Monson sac



In the early 1980's the famous Benedictine monk John Main came to Tanzania to give a retreat and teach his Maranatha method of meditation. It's a simple method of sitting still for 20 minutes morning and evening, repeating the Word 'Maranatha' over and over in silence. The word is referred to as a mantra. Maranatha is the great prayer of Advent and it means 'Come Lord Jesus', expressing the profound yearning for God that is in the heart of every person. It is the Advent prayer of the whole Church. 

The retreat was attended by the Medical Missionaries of Mary and some Pallottines and it's safe to say that the sisters were more enthusiastic about it than the priests.

One day, a long time after the retreat, one of the sisters was on her way to Arusha and she stopped for a break in a Pallottine Mission house where she asked the priest, "how is your mantra going?" "Well sister" he replied, "it's like this! Every morning I get up and I sit down and I say to myself, 'hopeless, hopeless, hopeless!'"

Hopeless - this is something we often feel in relation to prayer and our spiritual lives; people feel hopeless about a lot of situations. Hopelessness affects the sick, the old, the addict, the sinner, the child at school, the student, the unemployed. It affects many people coming up to Christmas.

Last year more than ever I had been affected by the early darkening of the evenings of winter. It comes in so fast even on bright days and it will continue to get darker a bit earlier every day until near Christmas. It's like the darkness tugs at the darkness within myself, tugs at my depression, seeking to bring me down.

One day at home in Mervue, Galway I was standing in the kitchen, looking out the window into the back garden. It was so dreary and damp and cold. And it touched the dreariness within me, seeking to take hold of me.

Like my mother I like to go out into the garden first thing in the morning, just to look at it, but that day I thought 'I can't go out into that misery'. Still something persuaded me and as I walked I saw in the midst of all the dreariness a fuchsia in full bloom. It was one I planted there earlier in the year, one of my very few successful plantings. And it struck me that God was reminding me that it is always necessary to be on the lookout for signs of hope and beauty.

We are one with Jesus who is saying to us in the gospel - stay awake, be alert! Be aware that, as this fuchsia is the work of God's hand, so are we - even more so. And God is our Father as He is the Father of Jesus. He is hid from us in the mess of our lives and He is there to be found, to be waited for and searched for. This is an essential of our Advent, our preparation for Christmas, for the coming of Jesus who is always Hope for the hopeless!