Sunday, September 18, 2005

Mountain Return

Returned from the mountains I have been attempting at prayer to stand still so that everything I experienced and learned might permeate my being before resuming this writing.

The two priests I was with are from a country in Africa which has been at war with itself for decades. In that war there is a complex series of alliances and broken alliances between tribes and religions.

It is one of those countries which is supplied by arms by characters and nations such as portrayed in the film “Lord of War”.

Indeed oil and blood-diamonds, depending on who has control of those, affects directly which group is in the ascendance in the latest round of terror.

The telling by  these two good men, good priests, of the miracle by which they escaped the horror, how they yearn after their post-graduate studies are completed to return to their homeland to serve their people, humbles this priest.

That we in the so-called developed world are so deaf to the tears of those who suffer should shame us.

It seemed, before I headed to the mountains, that in the aftermath of Katrina we at least began to stir from our stony overfed inability to hear, but since my return I have been struck by the exhausting vapid rhetoric of the blame-game.

Thanks be to God for a remarkable woman and writer I once had the joy of meeting, Margaret Visser, and her sheer joy at being human, alive, which permeates all her writing.

I have rediscovered her book “The Geometry of Love”, from which I give this little taste as it is germane to what else is on my heart since the return from the mountains:  “God’s loving light strikes down from above, illuminating all of life with its transcendent glory.”

She is writing here about the Cross of Christ, and much more.

This reaching down of the beloved is constant and personal.

Having breathed us into existence and gifting us with free will He does not, in a sense cannot, force us to love Him, or each other for that matter.

Hence there is a certain, albeit perverted, logic if you grew up in the horror and blood of that country of my brother priests, or were fleeing the dust clouds as the towers fell on 9/11, or clawed your way through an attic roof as the waters rose in New Orleans, to assume either there is no God, or if there is He appears to disdain us.

But, again as Margaret reminds us: “…God, becoming human, suffered the worst that human beings could devise. And through His submission and forgiveness, Christ transformed the instrument of pain and infamy into a revelation of love and hope.”

Standing at ground zero with a dear friend from the NYFD I recall realizing if in front of us I had not seen two remaining parts of steel beams in the form of a cross upon which a molten piece of steel had hardened like a draped piece of cloth, the sound of the tears of the thousands who had died there would have driven me insane.

There is no modernist logic to the cross.

There simply – from abortion to terrorism and every anti-person act in between – is so much human blood soaking the earth, so many human tears running like rivers of prayer cascading upwards in hopes of piercing the clouds to the very throne of God, we could not go on had not the Father given for us His only Son.

Standing on the summit of one of the mountains I watched my two brother priests, who’d never seen snow before in their lives play like little children.

Up on that mountain the air is pure, the silence sweet, light bathes you and colour itself is tender.
Up there the absence of war, violence, blood, hatreds allows you to suddenly discover a lightness of being.

I stood on the very edge of the mountain {safe because I was behind a huge rock which I assumed is securely part of the mountain face – maybe not! } and looked down and towards the mouth of the valley below at the small village filled with people and wondered how many of the diamonds in the village shop were blood-diamonds.

Did anyone care?

Sunlight bounced off the cross I wear and suddenly I was ashamed at my stony deafness:

“Father! Abba! Forgive them, they no not what they do!”[Lk.23:34]

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