Viaticum

This week’s post has been difficult to pin down. Glimpses if ideas floating just beyond my reach and I wonder, again, why I have set myself this task.

A message popped up on facebook a couple of days ago from a friend, a woman of faith whose presence blesses my journey. One of a group of women with whom I pray more often online than face to face as distance and life means we only get together every few months.
We know that we are held in prayer by one another and yet it is easy to take this for granted.

Many years ago the headteacher of my children’s Primary School, gave us a talk as part of our children’s Holy Communion preparation.
Although I have forgotten much of the talk and can only vaguely recall the topic (something about being a Catholic Parent), well over a decade later I still carry with me one of his remarks: the power of offering to pray for someone.

In the face of someone’s suffering we can often feel helpless, wondering what we might do to help, wanting to take away their pain, fill the space of their loss, needing to fix their demise. Often of course we can do none of these things.
But there are things we can do. We can accompany them, walking with them over this painful terrain. We can listen to them process their pain through the telling and retelling of their story. And we can pray for them.

Offering to pray for someone is often said with the feeling that it is not quite good enough, or practical enough, (or maybe even embarrassment),  to be of any real help, ‘I wish I there was something I could do but all I can offer is a prayer’ or some such phrase that speaks loudly of our feelings of inadequacy.

And yet holding another in prayer is so very powerful.  When we offer to pray for someone we show that we take their concerns seriously, so seriously that we recognise that we can not rely on ourselves. When we are in the midst of illness, heartache, grief, worry, stress or anxiety, prayer is often our last resort. When all else fails…

I do not think that is what we mean to do but rather in the midst of the messiness of life we turn to ourselves rather than God. I know from my own messiness that I try to fix it first and only when I fail do I offer it to God. Not that I am espousing an interventionist God, far from it. But I do think that offering up what ever troubles us to God before we do anything can help us to see things differently. I know that  when I (eventually) remember to come into His Presence I change. As CS Lewis says ‘Prayer doesn’t change God, it changes us’

Recalling how loved I am, how the Lord’s grace is ever present and abundant enables me to place myself in His trust, letting go of the outcome even if it is painful and difficult.

To offer to hold in name someone’s life and worries before the One who loves them is to trust that the Lord will and does concern Himself with them and their lives. Offering to pray for others when they are least able to pray for themselves is a great gift.

It is also a great witness, a gentle reminder that we are not alone, that the Incarnate Christ is our constant companion even if familiarity can sometimes breed contempt. Offering to pray for those we know is an explicit expression of our faith, of our trust in the Lord and a reminder that we are held and loved beyond measure.

‘Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the child of her womb?

Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. 

Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands’ Isaiah 49:15

And to know that you are being prayed for when the messiness is not as messy as it has been? Well that makes the heart soar and fills one with joy.

Oh and the message…’Thinking and praying for you’. Thank you my dear friend, thank you.

prayer

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Gearing up for Epiphany

Epiphany is my favourite of the Christmas Feasts. So much so that the kids and I all have a set of Kings and camel to move around the room throughout the 12 days arriving on the 6th of January.

Or at least that was the theory. You know how these things go… the idea of making memories, each child choosing their set of Kings to accompany the ones that come with the Crib, re-enacting their journey in Matthew’s Gospel, moving the Shepherds and sheep on to a nearby shelf to make room in the inn (not in Matthew’s Gospel), culminating in the grand arrival to us all singing ‘We Threes Kings’ and opening a final present after dinner.

It worked well for a few years.  Now it is left to me to move all 15 Kings, 3 camels 1 servant and the gold pot of myrrh and frankincense to each  allotted place until they arrive in  the Crib.

For the past 5 or 6 years our parish has taken on the tradition of house blessing. This tradition, practiced most often in Eastern European countries, takes place on the Feast of Epiphany. Blessed chalk is distributed after every Mass with a sheet which as well as explaining the tradition also has the prayer for blessing the house . When the house has been blessed the following would be chalked upon the lintel (or somewhere near by)

                                20+ C+M+B+14

 The initials of the 3 Kings surrounded by the year of the blessing, signals sanctuary to all those who flee persecution. . C M B also stands for “Christus Mansionem Benedicat,” meaning “May Christ bless this house.”

But what I really love about this Feast is the beauty and symbolism of the story. It is a story of wonder, yearning and trust. It is a story of pilgrimage, inclusivity, awareness and insight. It tells of Mystery, transformation and action. A group of people outside the Jewish community, convinced that what they sought, yearned for, would be found when the stars aligned, watched and waited. When the Star showed itself, without hesitation they packed up, left their land and followed. They trusted their beliefs, their knowledge, their experience and opened themselves up to possibility and adventure. They bring gifts which announce to the world who this Christ child is: gold for Jesus who is King; frankincense (used in worship): for Jesus who is God; and myrrh (used in anointing at burial) for Jesus who is man.

Led by a star to the Christ Child, the Light of the World. Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) echoes this in its very first sentence ‘

Christ is the Light of nations. Because this is so, this Sacred Synod gathered together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature,(1) to bring the light of Christ to all’

And so the Light of the World is revealed to each one of us. Never again will we walk in darkness, we may not comprehend the Light but it will never leave us, God-with-us, now and always. And it is up to us to witness to Him, to mirror His Light in our lives.

I’ll leave you to ponder how while I get to the shops before they close. They might not be bothered to move their Kings but  they still like their presents!

Christmas 2010 (12)

Happy Feast.

 If you want a copy of the sheet just ask, meanwhile here is the house blessing…

A Blessing for the Home.

Oh God,

You revealed your Son to all people

by the shinning light of a star.

We pray that you bless this home and all who live here with your gracious presence.

May your love be our inspiration, your wisdom our guide, your truth our light,

and your truth our benediction:

Through Christ our Lord.

Amen.