The silence of flowers in a wild patch of garden, the graceful way of nature giving birth to what was not. Newly sprung forth on the Feast of the one who was sprung forth from earth into heaven, drawing our gaze upwards to the fullness of grace, earth into heaven, body into soul. The Assumption of Our Lady.
The passage of all things is on my mind, all that I treasure in this world. I am passing through. Gifts of Nature fading away, Grace remaining. Word of God enduring.
"Are you down for the football?" he asks. The inevitable question. One man being friendly to another. Like it happens when you sit in a barbers chair. "I know nothing about the football", I reply. He nods his head in the direction of Liam Mellows Sports grounds. "It's the kids" he explains.
I've seen them every morning. Lines of SUV's arriving to deposit their children into caged, controlled play. The odd father who stays on to watch, standing outside shouting "Hit it Jimmy! Run Jimmy!" And I look down at the beach on the other side of the track and think of the uncontrolled, unmanaged play of our childhood. The sheer pleasure of it.
I'm standing at the mobile kiosk where the man sells coffee on Saturdays and Sundays in a corner near the railway track. So, I'm having myself a cappuccino and, even though it's still only 9 in the morning, I'm also having a Kit Kat. What a pleasure it is to relax a while on a bench gazing out to the tranquil sea! Savouring the beautiful blend of coffee and chocolate before taking up my walk again.
It's my habit to say good morning to everyone I pass. Sometimes you can't catch the other person's eye as they walk on staring into the space ahead of them.
There is the face of a sad looking man with his head bowed low. He seems not to hear good morning and perhaps a good morning is impossible for him. So I pray for him a blessing. To his credit he is out there in the air by the sea. Doing something about his life.
Beneath the railway bridge a young man comes cycling fast down the road, whistling his delight, facing into the adventure of the day.
Here there is Grace. The grace of contentment in the pleasant greetings of the many women and men passing by. We don't fully wake up until we have encounterd and greeted another.
Grace! That sacred gift that is not a zen-like tranquility achieved by our own effort. But something that is sacred because it is a gift. A gift of God that has been given birth to, with all the struggle that birth entails - psychological, spiritual, emotional, physical. In the way of Grace we do not get a life free of suffering. Suffering is the furnace, the fire of Divine Love in which we are purified, made perfect with the perfection of Love.
I'm thinking of my cousin Ann who was cremated yesterday. Praying for her husband and children, her sister and brother. She donated her body to science, to the silent teaching of young medical students. How graced they were to learn from her even in death. I think of the happy days of our childhood visiting them in Raford. She is sorely missed, a big loss. The grace of peace to those who miss her most.
I'm thinking also of the lovely couple whose first anniversary is today. A joyful wedding. I send them a text while drinking my cappuccino. They are by the sea in Cornwall swimming and eating ice cream! How lovely.
Yesterday I watched the movie 'The Tree of Life' having a fondness for the work that Terence Malick does, particularly his movie 'A Hidden Life.' I love the monologues that take place in the heads of the characters. Words whispered, whispered so often to God. The monologue about Grace and Nature, ending with hope and trust in whatever may come. Questions quietly asked of Him - "where were you?" Grace born out of the trauma of grief, a childhood that was too strict.
"...there are two ways through life, the way of Nature and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow. Grace doesn't try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries.
Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things.
They taught us that no one who loves the way of grace... never comes to a bad end. I will be true to you. Whatever comes. My hope. My God." (Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life)
Feast of the Assumption, Lady's Well day in Athenry where our Kiltullagh relations would go in former times.
My mind goes back to the Dormition Chapel in Jerusalem, September 1999. We had visited the Mount of Olives, the Ascension dome and the Pater Noster church were the apostles asked “Lord teach us to pray”. We prayed the Our Father in Irish and sang it in English. From there we walked down the Kedron valley which is mostly a cemetery, to Gethsemane and the Church where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. A flashy looking Australian woman in her 60’s came up to me and said “darling, you’re from Ireland. Don’t just pray for peace, create it. You must create it! Darling.”
We went on to the church of the Assumption which has the tomb of Our Lady. It belongs to the Orthodox Church and they were praying the Novena of the Assumption which they celebrate on August 28th. It’s a dark place but the steps all the way down to the tomb were covered with lighting candles. Again I felt at home in the tomb! Confinement seems to suit me! And when you come out the back of it there’s a table with an icon of Our Lady in repose, covered with a white cloth. The practise is you go under the table and renew your vows to Our Lady, through her to God. You emerge on the other side into new life. It’s lovely.
I sat down in a corner and it had the feeling of an old kitchen, like that of Mary Ann McDonagh in Aran - very homely. A place of Grace, a safe place to be.
“Hail full of Grace! The Lord is with you!”