- Holy Spirit
- Black Friday
- Passing Over
- This is my body it will be given up for you
- St Francis ~ Follower of Christ
- Spirals with God
- I confess
- A Pope With One Lung
- Teardrops Composed
- Gorecki Symphony No. 3 “Sorrowful Songs” – Lento e Largo
- St Catherine of Siena
- Anthony and the Johnsons
- The Franciscans, St Francis, and God who is Love
- The Dominicans, Mary Magdalene, and a New Charism for Women
- The human Soul made Immortal through Love †
- —————-†he Line Crossed
- The Gift of Bad Spelling
- Wild Flower in the Ice
- Friday Is Sandwiches 4 †he Homeless day. (F I S H)
- Ode to my Beloved
- Epiphany 2013
- The Kiss of Life .3
- The Kiss of Life .2
- The Kiss of Life .1
- a Miracle, a Baby, a Miracle
- Bleak Mid-Winter Solstice
- . . . . Divine Office
- And So . . . The Beat Goes On
- A Prayer Tree
- The Art of Abuse & Forgiveness
- The Litany of St Mary Magdalene
- I Owe
- Beautiful Suffering
- The Glass Tabernacle
- Holy Holistics
- She May Be Weary
- A Weak Under a Rainbow
- Response ability to Love
- Seeing the Wood for the Trees
- Waiting to Receive
- Friendship & St Vincent de Paul
- An Obligation to Love
- April 2013 (1)
- March 2013 (16)
- February 2013 (5)
- January 2013 (7)
- December 2012 (9)
- November 2012 (7)
- October 2012 (10)
- September 2012 (8)
- August 2012 (2)
- July 2012 (8)
- June 2012 (7)
- May 2012 (8)
- April 2012 (5)
- March 2012 (8)
- February 2012 (5)
- January 2012 (5)
- December 2011 (7)
- November 2011 (8)
- October 2011 (6)
- September 2011 (6)
- August 2011 (6)
- July 2011 (8)
- June 2011 (9)
- May 2011 (9)
- April 2011 (13)
- March 2011 (6)
- February 2011 (1)
“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”
This first saying of Jesus on the cross is traditionally called “The Word of Forgiveness”. It is theologically interpreted as Jesus’ prayer for forgiveness for those who were crucifying Him: the Roman soldiers, and apparently for all others who were involved in the crucifixion.
From the cross Jesus looked at the soldiers casting lots for His clothing, at the priests pointing to Him derisively, at the crowd yelling their insults. The evil in humanity was at its greatest height. While Jesus could have summoned legions of angels to bring vengeance on all of them, instead He pulled Himself up and, with all His strength, offered a prayer on behalf of those who mocked and crucified Him.
“Father forgive them for they know not what they do”
Song of Solomon 1:7 Tell me, you whom I love, where you graze your flock and where you rest your sheep at midday. Why should I be like a veiled woman beside the flocks of your friends?
Revelation 19:8 And to her it was given to be clothed in delicate linen, clean and shining: for the clean linen is the righteousness of the saints.
The Renunciation of the Family
‘St. Francis’s father was a wealthy cloth merchant in Assisi. Francis grew up to be a privileged young man-about-town, indulging in quite a bit of merrymaking and revelry with his cronies. When a war broke out between Assisi and Perugia, the idealistic Francis marched off to fight for his city. He was among those captured and held as a prisoner of war for a year. During Francis’s captivity, his compatriots questioned his loyalty to Assisi because he was always so cheerful.
After he was released and returned to Assisi, Francis’s behavior grew strange. He began walking alone all over the hillsides, singing and praying. He spent time in caves. There was talk that he had gone crazy. During this time Francis experienced a spiritual visitation. He heard God’s voice commanding him to “Rebuild my church.” Francis took the command literally to mean that God wanted him to rebuild the dilapidated San Damiano, which is set on a slope outside the southeastern gate of Assisi. In order to purchase the materials for the repairs, Francis sold some cloth from his father’s shop without permission. The priest at San Damiano thought it best to inform Francis’s father, who became enraged.
On a winter day, Francis’s father arranged for Francis to be called out into the town square in order to lambaste him. After this public humiliation, Francis said to his father something like this: “You are no longer my father. God is my father. I give you back my name, all of my earthly belongings, even the clothes on my back.” With that, he removed all of his clothing. Some accounts say he was wearing a basic loincloth underneath; some say he was wearing a hair shirt; and others say that he was naked.
Then Francis walked off barefoot into the snow to begin his life as a monk.’
His rule was “To follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps.”
Being Lambasted in a public square feels somewhat familiar to me.
This Wednesday I want to go to my Cathedral, it is the Chrism Mass. I want to strip naked and ask to be clothed in a diocesan robe; a robe that is of Magdalenian cloth with Dominican/Franciscan/Carmelite thread, made with Marian Love. I already call all fathers by their Christian name, because my Father in Heaven is my One Father. Just as my Daddy is my one Dad. And then I am going to spend my earthly life in intimate relationship with my Beloved as Mary Magdalene did with Jesus.
St Francis left us with many words of wisdom ~ here are but a few –
“It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”
“While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.”
“Preach Christ — and if necessary, use words.”
. . . and I too will leave you all with a few last words ~
~ God is Love and Spirit.
Love tenderly my friends, for this is the only key that will open doors beyond doors beyond doors within the Eternal Kingdom.
Worship in Spirit and Truth.
I Love you †
On my apple laptop, if I am operating too quickly for the internet connection, a little spiral circular Catherine Wheel appears. It is a rainbow spectrum of energy which whizzes and spirals around and around. It is a radiant energy.
I have just discovered something most beautiful.
When that very same spiral spectrum of energy is moved by my cursor to the central point on the design on my magsmuse page header, it is exactly the same size as the central circle of the design. And when I left it whizzing around right there at the centre, its energy became One with the mandala, and this beautiful rainbow energy spiraled and splayed outwards and outwards, making my header become quite Alive.
We are too often subliminally moved and energised by what we view without us even knowing else realising it. But when we learn to tune into everything in a consciously unconscious way with our extra-senses, we see beyond what others believe is possible to see. And we understand in great detail the secret movements of the world, and often the collusion to assisting God in His plan.
But if YOU had real True faith in God, no collusion would be necessary. Just to live in Love and kindness, is to live in Him. And right there the beautiful spirals of miracle energy that radiate outwards – be all that is needed to be
One with God.
During moments in the past few weeks, and on certain occasions before hand, it has been as if I am outside of myself, in a situation but outside of it, contemplating it whilst it is happening. Observing it, and then responding from back within it, in a different manner than I would have responded to it, if I had of been unconscious of Gods presence. This doesn’t make anything contrived about my response, because the inside and the outside of the situations were happening simultaneously to each-other.
The humiliation and the humility were simultaneous to each-other too. My passive response which by its very passive nature was absolutely active in its submission (when at the height of my being) was not passive to the person being dominant, but to God, whom I was consciously in commune with. The passive response to the situation was a herald of Truth to the other party. At one point I was not at the height of my being, and my response was at best a polemic accurate accusation in anger, but then retreating in prayer I was held in my Truth with the strength and conviction and protection of God.
It was most amazing to trust Him so fully, to feel His hold so securely, and His presence so guidingly, when usually my nature would be reactive to any given situation instead I felt Him working through me. I was surprised to say the least by my own calmness in such a hostile and nuclear situation, and then this week I came across this saying ‘anger is one letter short of danger’.
The same happened again at university on Saturday afternoon when we brushed over the topic of Christology, my lecturer was talking about the beautiful nature of Christ and the qualities that He possessed, and the authority of His Love and humility with which He carried out His public ministry, and I was passively silent and in my passive silence God allowed a single tear to well up and burst forth from my left eye and bleed salt water down my cheek, no sound, no nothing, just spilled salt. And my tutor looked right at it, and God spoke.
Yesterdays reading in Church spoke to me, Jesus did not condemn the allegedly adulterous woman, and in the end others could not condemn her either because of their own sins committed. She was free to go and sin no more. The reading spoke to me a thousand decibels, because to be banished from your Cathedral and therefore from receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion at the mother temple, is still to be a woman condemned. I always knew that God made me a temple of spiritual communion for a reason, I was just unsure why. And now I know He did it for Love.
Todays reading also spoke to me in clashing cymbal decibels. Daniel 13;1-9, 15-17, 19-30.
As I walked up Kensington Church Street on Saturday afternoon after my lecture and after some time in the chapel with the Lord, I felt outside of the life which I was walking in. Like He was choosing to reside in me, and I was choosing to reside in Him, together as One. It was like I wasn’t walking at all, but was slightly transcendent of the pavement, which all sounds very conceited, but it wasnt. I felt full of goodness and light as a feather, and my yoke was light, and it was as if that feeling illuminated, poured and radiated out of my very being to everyone around, nothing mattered at all. I was wearing what looks like a handmade brown wool Franciscans peasant blanket, wrapped around me (which I acquired before Pope Francis was elected). It is very unimpressive, and yet I felt beautiful and eternal and radiant, and not tired, or hurting, or haggard, or purposefully and cruelly broken like I have been feeling of late, but alive, and full of Love, and full of Him.
And then in my sanctuary what comes to mind whilst writing this blog-post is this;
Matthew 10;5-15; Mark 6:7-13
‘Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece. And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart. And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them. And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where.
‘The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.’
Matthew 16;13-20; Mark8;27-30; John 6:66-71
‘And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am? They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again. He said unto them,
‘But whom say ye that I am?’
It is impossible to any longer crucify somebody who has already been crucified and has ascended to their Father †
I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
I confess to spiritually loving my beloved, and for desiring to be with him bodily as well as spiritually. I do not consider it a sin to Love him, for that Love was bestowed by You God. Neither do I consider it a sin to show him affection else Loving kindness and friendship. I confess to having confessed and shared with him spiritually on occasions my erotic affection, but You already know this my Heavenly Father and for this I beseech Your mercy. I Love him.
I confess to having been harsh and unkind in conversations that I have exchanged with my co-habitatio – and I confess to having married him a decade ago, knowing that we both went to the minister and announced that we wanted to marry in our local church, but that we did not believe in God, whilst with hindsight, feeling inside on the wedding day that something was amiss/missing. I confess to having neglected and to no longer being an adequate wife to my co-habitatio ‘husband’ and for this too Lord I ask your forgiveness and mercy. It was never my intention to hurt another being.
I confess to having used foul, profuse and undignified language in my anger and for this too Lord I ask your forgiveness. I ask for your forgiveness too, for not concealing the Truth from my children whom I Love, Lord may you keep me, and bathe me in your light your mercy and your peace everlasting. Please dearest beloved Heavenly Father, may You turn everyone’s hurting into Love.
God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of Your Son You have reconciled the world to Yourself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through Your ministry and Love please may You God give me pardon and peace, and absolve me from my sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son † and of the Holy Spirit.
Dearest Heavenly Beloved Lord, because I Love you above all, I am sorry that I have sinned against You, and with the help of Your grace, I will try not to sin again, but will promise to Love others in a way that will bring me ever intimately closer to Your Love.
. . . and a triune heart.
A church with one bell – Glory box.
A reason . . . . . .
. . . . . . . because God is Love. . . . .
. . . . .and spirit
. . . . . . . and truth.
“Behold, I shall lead her, that I may make her male, in order that she also may become a living spirit like you males. For every woman who makes herself male shall enter into the kingdom of heaven”
St Francis of Assisi on Love of God
“Love has cast me into a furnace, love has cast me into a furnace, I am cast into a furnace of love. My new Bridegroom, the loving Lamb, gave me the nuptial ring; then having cast me into prison, He cleft my heart, and my body fell to the ground. Those arrows, propelled by love, struck me and set me on fire. From peace He made war, and I am dying of sweetness. The darts rained so thick and fast, that I was all in agony. Then I took a buckler, but the shafts were so swift that it shielded me no more; they mangled my whole body, so strong was the arm that shot them. He shot them so powerfully, that I despaired of parrying them; and to escape death, I cried with all my might: ‘Thou transgressest the laws of the camp.’ But he only set up a new instrument of war, which overwhelmed me with fresh blows. So true was His aim, that He never missed. I was lying on the ground, unable to move my limbs. My whole body was broken, and I had no more sense than a man deceased; Deceased, not by a true death, but through excess of joy. Then regaining possession of my body, I felt so strong, that I could follow the guides who led me to the court of heaven.”
. . . I think this is where St John of the cross must have got his inspiration for his poetry.
. . . and I think too that St Francis’ spirit is well and truly living.
Love tenderly my friends t’is everything. Live in kindness.
This is the beginning of forever . . .
. . . . . and ever. . . . .
. . . . and ever . . . .
Papa Franci, I’m all His, lead me!
St Catherine of Siena has been sending me friendship requests for a while now, I don’t know why but I made myself otherwise engaged. I first brought her book The Dialogue about 3/4 years ago, and I promptly put it on my book-case without reading it. I have been occasionally conscious of it swimming up and down the bookshelf as I have added books and taken books away, to move them to the read section.
Today I picked it up and put it in my bag, and read the opening pages in the car, in the sunshine, despite the fact that I already have open C.S Lewis’s essays and another St Térese book. Maybe I’ll let you know if/how I get on. I was not surprised, but knowingly half-smiled and half-rolled my eyes to myself (as I am getting used to these daft revelations); to read that her birthday is 4 days before mine, she’s an Aries. St Teresa of Avila’s birthday is even closer still, one day before mine, an Aries too. Their inherent nature and personality is intertwined with the late March nature. Mine is twined with it too, so I know.
I am an Easter Sunday baby. My special day is intimately entwined with Jesus †
Blessed be me x
St Catherine of Siena was made a doctor of the church in 1970, the year that I was born.
St Catherine of Siena Pray for us x
Yesterday it was my eldest sons 13th birthday. We had a wonderful mother/son day in London. I took him to the Lichtenstein exhibition which was just great for him, right up his street! It was a retrospective of comic strip and American pop art, with iconic mass culture imagery, so much fun and quite dotty. We walked the Southbank, ate out, and then lavishly enjoyed the wonderful and humorous Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace Theatre. It was the first time I have been back into a theatre in Victoria, years ago I came here to the Apollo Theatre, to audition for Starlight Express. Theatre and dance have always been (and will always be) a very important part of my life. Before I came to the church, it was my working class way of reaching a level of transcendence unknown to the working classes of yesterday. We had a brilliant day, Billy Elliot is a brilliant show which captures the culture and the hardships of the working classes perfectly. It was inspirational. People’s aspirations whichever their social background must be exulted.
In between our excursions we went for some repose at Westminster Cathedral. It was my sons first ever visit, I gave him a ‘me tour’ filled with whispering stories. We tiptoed past all the people waiting to confess, seeing them turn the corner always fills me with a sisterly knowing delight, at their inner hidden, outer disguised, contradictory emotions, as they await reconciliation and restoration. We said hello to my favourite, St Thérese of the child Jesus, whose charcoal sculptured plaque I Love, and then we took short repose in the Mary chapel beneath the golden breath of the angels.
In the blessed sacrament chapel we prayed for St Benedict, whose last sundown as the pope was this evening. We went to St John’s chapel and prayed for my sons daddy, and we pretend hunted for invisible fallen pieces of golden mosaic treasure, from some of the most beautiful ceilings I have ever seen in the world, which I said might just land at our feet, if it were God’s Will. When my grand tour was over we sat in the Cathedral facing the high altar, whose beautiful huge altar stone is carved with Jesus. My fingers before now have caressed that altar stone, as if reading Him in braille. We spent time just watching and counting the arches, and the arches, and the arches, and the arches, like an echo of portals, transmitting holograms of prayer to somewhere beyond. . . . . . Then we got up and left.
I wonder what journey of the spiritual, my children will endeavour to take, and how their pilgrimages will pan out. Mine went via working class secularism to wild theatreism :O) then cast an eye mildly observingly over tarot readings to paganism and people of the earthism, to white wiccanism to new ageism, to chillaxing yoga to Buddhism . . . . . ism ism . . . . . to observing uninspiring forms of united Christianity. . . and then in a much more serious vein, to my beloved Catholicism :O) And there we have it; mysticism seems to have threaded throughout. Funny ole world.
At the same time as wandering on my pilgrimage and feeling at times chargedly charged and intimately inspired, at other times I have also felt broken circuited, dispirited and dis-inspired. At times I have felt embraced and included in a community that felt not dissimilar to the warmth of an inherited, else adopted family. And at other times I have felt exclusion that equalled a painful lonely cold isolated death. I have learnt to listen with an extra depth to God calling me and reaching out to me, evoking the spirit upon me, making the earth touch me, keeping me real.
As you would have seen if you read my last blog, I was recently touched and inspired by Anthony and the Johnsons, so I invested in his latest album Cut the World. I first discovered him and was inspired by his talent on the Jools Holland’s show. He is a most compelling performer. His existential hurting profoundly inhabits his songwriting, and his wounds are emptied of their pain and filled with hope. I was taken aback when I first listened to the album on my iPhone whilst on one of my walking with God walks; between the heart-melting tones and orchestrated harmonies, there was a polemic rant about the pope and his message of gay marriage, which clearly opposed Anthony’s transgendered Wiccan views. Dispite his rant, Anthony’s rejected Catholic upbringing has given his songwriting a contradictory complex, and I think, Christian spiritual edge.
But still his search for truth, through the beauty and order of the universe, and the spiritual contradiction of his search, ring with the poetic injustice of life. I think this makes his searching most valid and fragile, like being thrashed through a furnace, mailable, shaped, forged, and tempered, emerging stronger and harder. The transcendental experience of God for Anthony is incarnate in all created earthly matter. For him, we are not destined for a spiritual kingdom beyond this world, but spiritually and fundamentally reincarnate of the earth. For him the female birthing, menstruating earth ruled by the tides and the moon, are a fundamental characteristic of God, whose presence is evident in creation.
So I am leaving this post with a couple or so relevent songs. Having felt hung drawn and quartered, feeling forever free in dance, loving st Francis and the natural order of the world, and loving too the cosmic order of the universe. Being in Love with our beautiful humanity and with our beautiful God designed and brought to life bodies, whose chargedness searches for God, through Love, I leave you with a little contemporary food for thought- inspiration through Anthony and the Johnsons lense.
Wonderful, wonder full world.
And just a little overflowing with surreal artistic licence
Lucy Mangan examines that sense of longing on the cusp between pleasure and pain.
And then beyond something understood, beyond all-yearning, beyond all-hope, beyond all-knowing, is something quite other; it is extraordinary, it is supernatural, it is unquestionable, it is beautiful and spirit full, and alive. It is Truth. It can not be denied for one can not deny the undeniable in oneself. There is nowhere else for it to go, there is nothing else for it to be . . .
It is LOVE.
Ponder this question and by the end of the post it shall be answered; If Jesus were to come to your home tonight for dinner, what would he be looking for, or what could he expect to find?
Today I spent a beautiful frosty brightest sunshine day on retreat at a convent in Chigwell in Essex, in the diocese of Brentwood. It really was a very special day. I seriously have considered moving to another diocese; but in my heart I can’t, for reasons I shall tell you about.
This was an annual retreat for all members of the St Vincent de Paul Society across the Brentwood diocese. I have to be honest I did not want to go. I have struggled with my commitment to being a fully active SVP member, and of giving so very much of myself to others, when at times I feel as if I have nothing more to give.
My prayer is so strong, but so is my hurting, so strong that it leaves a physical aching putrid knot above and to the left of my abdomen. It is a deep hurting that aches and swells in my stomach and travels up through my rib cage to behind my chest, where without conscious recall it chokes in the back of my throat and then spills out of my eyes, when I least want it too. It’s a silent then guttural pain, which is fierce and unrelenting. That pain be my apartheid.
I have never known this pain before.
I was obliged to come on this retreat. It was a pre-booked affair. People were dropping out like flies and not committing themselves, numbers were required for the minibus. In the distant past it was an easy blasé commitment to make, and one that meant that now after so many defectors I could not break. So I went . . . . reluctantly.
Icy cold glittery pavements led the way to the pickup point. The sunshine so bright on this early February morning, a welcome burst of much-needed tonic for the spirit. As of today the snowdrops are all so beautifully radiant and pure, like snow dripping from strong healthy green stems, all bowing their heads for the seasonal blessing.
It was a gentle Sunday, and an hour and thirty minute long journey. I am usually the driver on similar journeys but today I was quietly the passenger, observing the sugar frosted countryside kissed by the not yet melted frost. The beautiful gleaming fields accompanied us for much of the way, as did the sunshine.
We came off the main road at an unexpected junction having passed under bridges which 20 years ago I walked over on my way to work. This part of the land now a stranger was once so familiar. As we passed by I could see some tower blocks (three) in the distance and then the minibus turned off the main road and double backed on itself. Within a short distance from the tower block landmark, I spotted the little row of shops, and then the side road leading to the private houses behind.
And all at once I was sharing with my friends the place where I was born almost 43 years ago. Flat number 7 Chalford Walk, Woodford Green. This for the first year of my life was my home. This flat was the very place where I was conceived and received into this world when I first left my mother’s womb. This is the Bethlehem that saw me come into being. So there it is, me, Essex through and through. I may come from East End stock, but God first brought me to life in Essex. So you see, this be my belonging and my home. It is part of me.
We came to the convent by sat-nav the long way round, but going home the right way, it’s just about a five/ten minute drive to my mother’s home, this home is where I spent most of last week in solace, whilst she is in India. It was a peace filled very still week. I spent 24 hours of it hardly moving, being comforted by a beautiful fresh white bed, watching the odd film, praying, thinking, crying, and being close to God. Had I been aware that the Catholic Chapel was so close I would have spent some time there too, but I had never been to the convent before, and I didn’t realise that the public could attend Mass there.
The church was beautiful, the colours in the stain glass were electric, the reds and blues were penetrating, intense. There was a beautiful soft carpet in the church with reds and creams and pinks, and I visualised myself being able to worship bare foot on the softest threads. And to feel the prayer coming through my feet, purifying and cleansing my body and my sin, as it washed upwards beyond my physical posture, leaving behind any scratch or trace or shard of thorn, before weightlessly transcending through my form to the air above, where all heaviness is forgotten. Prayers given this way are a little like going fine weather sailing on a little day boat, leaving behind all worries and cares on the land, and watching that land recede into the distance as one heads towards the horizon, forgiving any time wasted fretting over things earthed. Free like birds perched on an electric wire, and not being electrocuted because they are not grounded.
By default because of another priests sickness we had a beautiful elderly wise Franciscan friar lead the retreat. Fr Austin took us on three talks, each talk a spiritual journey in its own right. Gentle, humble beautiful soul. He talked about sin being only a small part of the incarnation, for before there was Original sin there was Original grace. He gave us the metaphor of a giant white board and in the tiniest corner he described writing the word sin barely visible, such a small part of the message, the whole of the white board being left pure white and unblemished after the sin was atoned for. He said that because Jesus came for sinners, wherever you find a sinner, it is an entitlement to Jesus Christ. Thank God. Wherever there is helplessness, there is God waiting. He described God like a helpless baby clinging to the human breast.
He talked about purgatory being like a box of tissues to take away with ourselves, until we have regained our self-respect and can come back to the fold, tissue less. He said to refuse to be forgiven is to sin against the Holy Spirit. Jesus never pointed the finger at anyone, he never looked for someone to blame, and what a waste of time it would be for us to do so. He said like us Jesus made mistakes, he said Jesus choosing Judas was not a good move, but that each mistake made is a lesson whereby we learn not to make that same mistake again. He said Jesus had no chance of survival on this road, because when people don’t go quietly they are removed, so Jesus was removed. But not before he had freed us from fear, for fear can stop us being fully alive.
Fr Austin said that God did not send Jesus to be killed, but man killed Him by sin. He also said that Jesus did not ‘only’ die and then rise, but that Jesus is at once dead and risen, and that by His self-giving and resurrection, death has been emptied of its power. We see this when we are desperately grieving the imminent death of somebody we love, and yet when our loved one (who is ill) has accepted their imminent death, by their very acceptance they become the comforters of us in our grief. It is then something that in the world of translation becomes evidence in Love. A new kind of humanness, an otherness. Grace. We came into existence without our consent; we can only go back with our consent; we do this by the way we live. This is grace.
Grace is Love.
I spoke to him on my own for a short while about all the different inspirations and how they inspire and differ. Apparently St Dominic and St Francis were friends, he said that different orders have different structures, and they often view God from a different view-point. The Order of Preachers looks from the point of view that ‘God is Truth’. The Franciscans look from the point of view that ‘God is Love’. This resounds with me. For me God is Love . . . and spirit and truth.
I have always lived by an acute truth, so I have often in contradiction wondered whereby that truth was ever distorted, and then Fr Austin hit the nail on the proverbial head. He said providing you are honest you may not be right but you wont be wrong, he said if you genuinely walk up the road to reach your destination the wrong way, and you believed you were heading the right way, even if it were wrong, you were doing what you genuinely believed to be right. He said conversion was then turning the right way. The way of honesty and truth equals the way of conversion.
He said God doesn’t make copies, there was no blueprint, we are all unique, every life is unique never lived before, never to be lived again. Apartheid means different – apart, we are all infinitely different, and we are to celebrate, respect and enjoy those differences. Every aspect of otherness must be a reflection of the supreme otherness of God. Every single person has a part of God in them, don’t let it lay dormant.
He talked about having this eternal empty space within each of our beings that our nature constantly tries to fill up with vocations, work, study, activity and the like, but this space is infinite, it can never be filled, only the spirit will come upon us and fill us full. And when the spirit has filled us full, then we are to bring others to God, not by being a signpost, but by being a living example of the beloved of Abba. St Francis said ‘goodness is Godness. Whenever you find goodness and celebration; enjoy it. Whenever you see goodness is broken; mend it. Whenever you see goodness is missing; bring it.’
He told us he did not believe, else agree with people when they tell us ‘Not to follow our hearts desire’ because they fear our selfishness. Instead he told us with great humility and authority to go into the deepest depths of our heart and try to locate our hearts desire, and to centre our life around this, for this be the transplant that our hearts desperately need. To live life with this transplanted heart is to feel like the sunshine, the brightest white light, warming right through us. I go into the deepest depth of my heart and there it is . . . . Love . . . . in spirit and truth.
By knowing and living this way, we are called to be the beloved of Abba by grace. We are assured that through being One with Him in His humanity, that we may share in His Divinity.
If Jesus came to your home tonight . . . .
He would be looking for a bowl of water with which He could wash your feet.
I recently discovered that the Dominicans have a deeper Love and devotion for Mary Magdalene. From the very beginnings of the Dominican Order Mary Magdalene has been recognised for her special place as True friend of Christ. She is patron saint and protectress of The Order of Preachers.
‘It is a joyous thought to realise that the whole Dominican Order has from the time of its foundation, sung during Easter Week the Victimae paschali laudes, which expresses the mission entrusted to it: “Speak, Mary, Declaring/ What you saw, wayfaring/ The tomb of Christ, who is /living/ The glory of Jesus’s resurrection/ Bright angels attesting/ The shroud and napkin resting/… Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining/ Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning/ Amen.
“And all who heard her were in admiration at her beauty, her eloquence, and the sweetness of her message…and no wonder, that the mouth which had pressed such pious and beautiful kisses on the Savior’s feet should breathe forth the perfume of the word of God more profusely than others could.” (Blessed Jacobus de Voragine O.P. The Golden Legend, Readings on the Saints, William Granger Ryan translator, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991, 1:376-77).
I found this beautiful meditation on Mary Magdalene when I was reading on-line one day. I Love everything in Truth that she stands for. And I pray that one day her mystery which seems so unmysterious to me, inspires a charism that makes way and leads me and other women and men in discipleship, to become like herself the closest apostles of Christ. May Mary Magdalene’s very humanity, ways of the spirit, and Love for Christ be our teacher and guide.
(whilst I have no desire for there to be women priest, I have every desire for there to be a formal contemplative/active ministry for women apostles within the secular parish.)
This was the Address delivered by the Revd Lucy Winkett, Minor Canon at St Paul’s Cathedral,
at the Go Tell! celebration of Christian Women, July 2000.
‘We are here to reflect together on our own place in the world as Christian women and to celebrate the ministry that we all – lay and ordained – share.
Christian women minister within and outside the faith community and have done from the beginning. It is the public identification and recognition that is part of our story today.
And it is such a public woman that we celebrate today; Mary of Magdala. For this talk, I should like to trace briefly the story of Mary Magdalene – her story – and explore how we can interpret her for ourselves, and then to suggest three themes that arise from her life and from the way Christian tradition has seen her.
Mary Magdalene – the woman who loved too much – the woman who’d been a prostitute but was saved from her past by Jesus. The woman who was slightly dangerous, sexy; a penitent temptress who had turned away from her many sins and found Jesus Christ more compelling. The woman who injects a different kind of passion into Holy Week.
Mary Magdalene has given her name to homes for fallen women, to the Magdalen laundries; popular as workhouses for women pregnant with the children of priests (with all the attendant imagery of sin and stain). She has given her name to a charity which currently exists to assist women who have had or who are having relationships with priests who have committed themselves to celibacy.
The penitent sinner, the reformed prostitute, has been the prevailing characterisation of Mary: and her part, particularly in the story of Holy Week is always in the context of a grateful fallen woman, probably in love with Jesus, devoted to him and devastated by his death, as a deserted lover would be.
There is, in fact, no clear Biblical evidence for this character Mary Magdalene the penitent sinner. The Bible introduces us to a woman Mary of Magdala about whom it tells us very little. We’ll return to her later – but first let’s look at this character of Mary Magdalene and how she became so deeply embedded in the Christian story.
Mary of Magdala has been for centuries conflated with other Gospel characters.
There is an unnamed woman in Mark’s gospel who comes to anoint Jesus Christ’s head. She has an alabaster jar of expensive oil and scandalises the disciples who argue that more good could have been done by giving money to “the poor”. Mark 14. 3-9.
There is an unnamed woman in Luke’s gospel who is described as “from the city” and “a sinner” who anoints Jesus Christ’s feet, washes them with her tears, kisses his feet and dries them with her hair. Luke 7. 36-50.
There is an unnamed woman from Samaria in John’s gospel – John 4 – whom Jesus talks to at the village well. She is told by Jesus that she is not living with her husband and that she has five husbands behind her. Despite modern scholarship suggesting that this was in fact political code for the alliances Samaria was making with Israel’s enemies, even if it is taken at face value and accepted as a description of the woman’s personal past, she is not named as Mary of Magdala.
The false equation Mary of Magdala = woman with ointment = woman at the well = “loose woman” = prostitute has produced the composite figure Mary Magdalene.
The man generally credited with sanctioning this piece of Biblical imagination was Pope Gregory the Great who delivered himself of an opinion in 591 in Rome.
“She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary, we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected, according to Mark, And what did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices? It is clear my brothers that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts. What she therefore displayed more scandalously, she was now offering to God in a more praiseworthy manner. She turned the mass of her crimes to virtues, in order to serve God entirely in penance, for as much as she had wrongly held God in contempt.”
In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church officially overruled Pope Gregory’s interpretation but it dominated Western interpretation and tradition – and still does.
By the 10th century Mary Magdalene the holy harlot was fully formed. Abbot Odo at Cluny Abbey wrote that after an existence devoted to ‘sensual pleasures’ Mary Magdalene helps, by a reformed life and zealous ministrations to the daily needs of Jesus, to rescue females from the condemnation Eve brought upon women at the beginning. The description of Mary of Magdala as the new Eve with the parallels of Eve’s disobedience in the garden of Eden, being redeemed by Mary of Magdala’s obedience in the garden by the tomb also associated both women with the sexual sin and temptation that only women bring into the world!
The contemporary scholar, Marina Warner writes
“The Magdalene, like Eve, was brought into existence by the powerful undertone of misogyny in Christianity, which associates women with the dangers and degradation of the flesh. “
And she illustrates the double edged nature of the character Mary Magdalene by adding “For this reason, she became a prominent and beloved saint. “1
The Roman missal in 1570 described Mary Magdalene on her saint’s day as “penitent”; this was her defining characteristic for exactly 400 years until 1970 when the label was removed.
In most paintings of the character Mary Magdalene she is depicted lying down, kneeling at Jesus’ feet, clinging to him in the garden, listening in Bethany, weeping at the cross.
Mary Magdalene is so often, as Ingrid Maisch calls her “the woman on the floor” – shamed, humbled, moved: she is often naked – or at least her breasts are uncovered – and there is a jar of ointment, a skull and crucifix – illustrating her immersion in the suffering of Christ and her own humiliation and shame. She is, according to the artists, despite her rehabilitation, “available”.
In preparing for this talk I asked several people who sit in both Anglican and Roman Catholic churches regularly what they knew about Mary of Magdala. All of them mentioned her licentious part, most thought she was the woman who kissed Jesus’ feet and only when prompted did they remember that she was the first to receive news of the resurrection.
Yet this view of Mary of Magdala is not substantiated by any of the New Testament writing about her. The stories associated with her: the two anointing stories, the Samaritan woman, even suggestions that she was the woman caught in adultery, listening to Jesus in Bethany, are all stories about unnamed women except the Mary in Bethany. The gospel writers all give Mary of Magdala a unique and prominent position in their accounts, they name her when she appears, and so it is now accepted in the believing community of the Church that these stories are not about Mary of Magdala. (She certainly can’t be the Samaritan woman at the well as Magdala isn’t in Samaria). These characteristics of a sinful past combined with current sexual power are not defining elements of the Biblical Mary of Magdala.
The Eastern Church has not suffered from this false picture of Mary; it is almost totally a Western misinterpretation. Ironically, since women do not take leadership roles in the Orthodox Church, plenty of writers associate Mary of Magdala not primarily with sexuality and penitence but as the bearer of the good news of the resurrection. Gregory of Antioch, writing in the 6th century, has the risen Jesus saying to the women on Easter Day “Proclaim to my disciples the mysteries you have seen. Become the first teachers of the teachers. Peter, who has denied me, must learn that I can also choose women as apostles. ” 2 This is writing from one of the early church fathers!
It is this picture of Mary of Magdala that is rooted in the Biblical story. So what do we know about her from the New Testament?
- Luke 8. 2-3: she is introduced to us as one of a few women who obviously had money to support Jesus in his itinerant ministry. She has had seven demons go out of her – but these are not explained.Each age has tried to explain them: Medieval theologians interpreted them as the seven deadly sins, with emphasis on lust. Martin Luther interpreted them as seven devils. Modern theologians interpret them as convulsions, similar to the man who lived among the tombs, a form of disability. Others write of a goddess cult contemporary with Jesus, which had seven steps of initiation.[One important point here is that Luke who makes this comment about Mary of Magdala often describes women as needy and requiring healing contrasted with male disciples who choose to follow Jesus. It is possible that Luke’s only explanation for a woman being authoritative on matters of faith is that she is possessed or grateful, (e.g. the slave woman in Philippi. Acts 16.16-18)] (Esther de Boer p.50)
- Whatever the truth, the second thing we know for certain about Mary, is that she came from Magdala.Magdala was probably a prosperous trading town by the Sea of Galilee. It was probably on the modern site of Mejdel – Jesus would certainly have visited the town, it being six miles from Capernaum.The inhabitants of Magdala were probably farmers who cultivated the fruitful plain of Gennesar, and fishermen active on the Sea of Galilee. It is possible that fabric was sent to Magdala to be dyed.Mary, assuming she was a youngish woman when she travelled around with Jesus, would have heard about the terrible battle in Magdala during a rebellion put down by Romans in 53 B.C.E. when 30,000 prisoners were taken. The historian Josephus describes this costly encounter.She may well have still been alive during the later battle (67 C.E.) of which Josephus writes“The entire lake was stained with blood and crammed with corpses, for there was not a single survivor. During the days that followed, a horrible stench hung over the region.” 3Mary would have seen violence in her life and Jesus’ crucifixion was one part of that. She would have suffered from the Roman occupation of Magdala – a town with a reputation for bloody uprising.
- She was probably, almost certainly Jewish – as she is named by the Jewish name for the city (the Roman name was Tarichea), and she is the only woman who is not described and defined by her family: Mary, mother of Jesus; Mary, mother of James; Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus.(Incidentally, the only reference to sexual licence is not in the Bible itself, but in a Rabbinic midrash on the Book of Lamentations, where Magdala is mentioned as somewhere where adultery is practised.)
- Mary of Magdala was almost certainly in the inner circle:-When the women are at the tomb on Easter Day, in Luke’s account (24.7-8) the angel says to the woman “Remember how he told you that the Son of Man must be delivered up…”If we look back in the gospel, we see that it was when Jesus was in a small intimate group that he did indeed say this (Luke 9. 18-22). It is clear then that Mary of Magdala was a disciple of Jesus, even without the title.
Why had Mary followed Jesus? Leaving aside Luke’s only explanation – of need or gratitude –
- She grew up in a city that had suffered and was yet to suffer terrible bloodshed – she could then have been receptive to Jesus’ non-violent message of “Blessed are the peacemakers”.
- In Magdala, Jewish and Greek culture lived side-by-side under Roman occupation. Different nationalities came to trade in Magdala – perhaps she was drawn to Jesus’ teaching on unity bonding people across external differences.
- The natural surroundings of Magdala were rich. Jesus’ nature metaphors and farming stories would have chimed in with her experience of a rich natural environment. 4
It is clear that she was close to Jesus and was a key figure in his inner circle. His imminent torture and execution must have caused her great grief. Yet a reclaimed picture of Mary of Magdala, rather than the composite “holy whore” Mary Magdalene, gives us a model of discipleship for our lives particularly through times of suffering, that is remarkable and unique.
Unlike the artists’ depictions of Mary across the centuries where she is bowed down and shamed, she is a woman who stands her ground and lives courageously.
She is “standing” watching as Jesus is crucified in both Luke and John’s accounts (Luke 23.49, John 19.25) and in the reading from John 20 we heard this evening, she is standing and she turns repeatedly, indicating that she is still standing. She is not “the woman on the floor” of art. She, along with Mary, Jesus’ mother, steadies her gaze on the suffering of the man she followed. She stays when other disciples fled or denied him. She was, in being present at Jesus’ crucifixion, undoubtedly in personal danger – although she might have hoped that as a woman she would be less prominent than if she had been a man.
Mary of Magdala is a woman of independent means who was faithful to Jesus beyond his death. The reading from John 20 is a core text for our reclaimed understanding of Mary of Magdala. Directly contradicting Paul’s instructions to Timothy in his first letter “I permit no woman to teach or have authority over a man: she is to keep silent.” (1 Tim 2.11-13)
Mary is given a new role. Jesus tells her
She is not to be silent, she is to speak.
She is explicitly to teach her brothers by speaking of her experience.
She is to be an agent of God’s revelation to the world. 5
“Mary of Magdala is a Biblical saint who speaks to us in our modern world:
There is a text, written at the latest in 150 C.E., discovered at the Nag Hammadi site, known as the Gospel of Mary. In it, Peter, Andrew, Levi and Mary of Magdala discuss the path of discipleship after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. In this, and other early texts discovered this century, such as the Gospel of Thomas, and the Gospel of Philip; she is depicted as a person with great insight and an intense spiritual relationship with Jesus.
One of the sayings in the Gospel of Mary is that “the fetter of oblivion is temporal.” This is a saying that could well be applied to Mary herself. She has been trapped in church tradition that has very little basis in the Bible, and is contradicted by other contemporary writings.
In the Gospel of Mary, she addresses Peter, Andrew and Levi.
“They were grieved and wept greatly, saying “How shall we go to the nations and preach the gospel of the kingdom of the Human One? If they did not spare him, how will they spare us?”
Then Mary stood up, embraced them all, and said to her brothers –
“Do not weep and do not grieve, and do not make two hearts, for his grace will be with you all and will protect you. Rather let us praise his greatness, because he has prepared us. He has made us Human Being.” 6
For Mary of Magdala, it is her very humanity that is God’s preparation for suffering and for praise. She embraces her humanity in this way, and so it is doubly ironic that she has become a symbol for particularly women, but men too, rejecting what can loosely be called “the flesh” and preferring “the spirit”.
I am not of course claiming that these events actually happened as portrayed in the Gospel of Mary but that in her arguments with Peter, it is clear that in the 2nd century, issues of male/female leadership were live.
The ancient tradition of Mary of Magdala as apostola apostolorum (“apostle of the apostles”) is used today by Pope John Paul II. However, her place as a Biblical saint, as an apostle, as a woman who spoke with authority about what she knew of the suffering and pain of life, is still in doubt in churches today.
Mary of Magdala is a constant figure in Jesus’ last days. She is standing close by as he dies, and she visits the grave after his death. She is not “in hiding for fear of the Jews” as John describes the eleven disciples.
Mary of Magdala draws us closer to the events of Holy Week. She shows us
- Solidarity with the dying Christ and thus with the suffering of humanity in our world today.
- Sympathy, even empathy with those who are tortured and executed in our world today.
- Fidelity to a person beyond death : she faces his death courageously and unflinchingly.
- She is a public person, not hiding her allegiance to, or her grief for, Christ.
- She displays imagination to overcome personal resignation and global fears that may have paralysed her : that is, she is receptive to the news of Jesus’s resurrection, and her interpretation of her meeting with the ‘gardener’ set her free, and set her feet on solid ground.
- She displayed endurance and courage when her good news and her new insights had to be defended – when she was not believed.7
A central question of any culture or community is; Who has the power to tell the story of God? As the tradition of Mary Magdalene has been handed down, she has been handed over; to betray her has been easy, as she has, with Mary the mother of Jesus, fulfilled two stereotypes of women: virgin and whore. Only last Sunday I heard a man describe Mary Magdalene as the fallen woman with a hint of excited pity. She is still proclaimed prostitute.
So what does this re-claiming Mary Magdalene mean? Perhaps it doesn’t matter that we made a mistake about her past; we can put it right now. Is it just a matter of scholarship?
No it isn’t; because just as the tradition about Mary Magdalene as holy whore led women and men to believe in a particular way about their respective roles, so this reclamation can infuse and inspire Christian women today.
Mary Magdalene spoke publicly about what she knew to be true, about her own experience of faith.
Down the centuries, a few women have followed her; Julian of Norwich, Catherine of Sienna, Teresa of Avila being three of the headline names – and the truth is that women’s experience of God, prayers, thoughts and dreams has always been there but not spoken out or recorded as authoritative in the way that men’s experience has.’ ~ by Revd Lucy Winkett.
What an inspiration these women are, and how important it is for us to follow the call which they too followed, as an example to girls, women and men alike. Like Mary let’s be the visible and true beloved of Christ.
A formal female presence in todays Parish/diocese within the Catholic Church is so passionately required, one of a contemplative/active ministry which supports the different gifts of those dedicated enough to take up their call, regardless of whether it be lay or consecrated, in order to keep the message of the Gospel relevent and alive in today’s world.
Mary Magdalene beautiful sister Pray for us, that by God’s Will and by your beloved inspiration, a universal diocesan/parish charism for women may unfurl, and that by your example we may share in your devotion, your witness and your ministry.
It would be so very easy to believe that something inside has died. But being me I strive to believe that although for me St Valentine may have lost his earthly appeal, he has shrouded and enveloped me in his eternal, saintly cloak. An invisible cloak to mind my life.
Sonnet 14 from Sonnets from the Portuguese
If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love’s sake only. Do not say
“I love her for her smile—her look—her way
Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day”—
For these things in themselves, Belovèd, may
Be changed, or change for thee,—and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry,—
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love’s sake, that evermore
Thou may’st love on, through love’s eternity.
Sonnet 43 from Sonnets from the Portuguese
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
(6 March 1806 – 29 June 1861)
One of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era.
Sometimes I have been known to cross the line . . . Whoops!
On occasions in a lesser way, my children have too. It’s tricky to know when to let them fall and when to catch them, and when to let them bang to the ground with a thump. It’s all a learning curve. Still even today I have been known to thump to the ground.
But hopefully it is rare.
One learning curve is modern technology, and its dangers. I am always on my children’s case about internet safety, especially as one of my children got themselves in a potentially compromising pickle. However I failed to take my own advice. When I was exploring Christianity online (before I joined the Catholic Church), I regularly used to go to a Christian forum and engage with the community. This community I eventually got bored and frustrated with and so I left. Having been a little slow on technology I never had at that time a Facebook page, so my 60+ year old mother talked me into opening one, however I did not take my own advice which I gave to my children.
I have had two friends on Facebook for the past few years, one of them to the outside world would have appeared to be a very good friend of mine, and yet they were personally unknown to me, one was male and one was female. I friend requested them initially through another mutual friend (who I do personally know), because we had been exchanging conversation for a year or so all together on this Christian forum site. For over two years these ‘friends’ have followed my Facebook page, and I their’s. My home address, mobile number and email address is known to them. It feels harsh to cut people off dead that you have built up ‘friendship’ with, even if ‘only’ on-line, and they were only ever kind, but yesterday I pulled the plug. I do not physically know these people, even though the false sense of security in them being ‘friends’ made me feel as if I did, and so they went. I consider myself a good judge of character and something felt uncomfortable because one of them was too frequently over-familiar. I am very good friends on Facebook with a policeman and his wife and after chatting over my concerns with them, I thought it best and more authentic to ‘unfriend’ the two ‘friends’.
When we were children these dangers were of course never a problem.
We had other ways. I remember my Dad once introducing us to his friend as his 3 special daughters, my big sister was introduced as the pretty one, my younger sister was the intelligent one, and I was introduced as the one with the personality. My Dad made each of us feel uniquely special and being bright of personality was my unique gift, but from that day on I never felt quite as academic as my little sister, or quite as pretty as my beautiful big sister. And whilst I never attracted a boyfriend like my big sister, and never had great school reports like my little sister, I was thought to be always the cheerful bright, happy-go-lucky friendly person. And this made me popular. It was only latterly that I had any idea that my personality attracted attention, even at times when it wasnt wanted.
Once adolescence had past I was no longer protected or camouflaged by my tomboy ways. My body took on its more adult form, with its more feminine posture and softer gestures, which left me all at once in a different place, even from other women. I was largely unaware of these characteristics, being slow off the starting block and to me it seemed that all the boys liked all the other girls. I was just a cool friend, whilst they were girly and pretty, and besides, they seemingly had much girly practise with their makeup and their hair, and their love of clothes and shopping, all things which I detested. Instead I had my hair french cropped (once someone said I looked like Jean Shrimpton), although on the outside with hindsight I must have looked like a ‘girl’, on the inside I still felt like just a quirky tomboy. Thus It took me an awkward long age to grow into my new skin.
Then life happened upon me . . . .
The years they pass by quickly . . . .
Last November when I read through the witness statement of my annulment, I was absolutely shaken and moved to tears. Because my 3 different witnesses (who didn’t know one another personally) all summed up my character with matching perfection. It was a touching revelation to see myself through others eyes, rather than through my own critical eye. They were very generous with their warmth and their kind words. It was for me an unexpected character reference which blew me away, because they all know me in deepest truth, from different times over a period of 20 years. One was a Christian chap, from a couple who lived in the flat below us, we were very close with them twenty years ago when we first were married. One was a best friend from a later stage in our married life, who we met after we had children, and the third witness was my mother. This revelation, of their witness to my character was so poignantly moving for me, as at the time I was feeling absolutely persecuted by somebody whom I cared for deeply, who I felt had portrayed me in the wrong light, and left me feeling devastated. My witnesses matching accuracy astounded me, they coincidentally also perfectly summed up both the lovely, and the complex part of my former husbands character too.
However the most heart-wrenching statement came from my mother, who said something along the lines of, (this is from memory) ‘we were concerned for Amber when she left home at just seventeen, because she has such a friendly, outgoing, trusting and warm nature, that we feared someone might take advantage of her.’ This was a massive shock to me because up until then my Mum had never ever said such a thing to me, neither had she shown that prophetic concern directly to me. She wasn’t really one for being emotive or soft or expressive, in fact even to this date she doesn’t know that I have read her statement. Its one of the sweetest things I think she has ever said. My mum is lovely and much fun, but she is not one for warm compliments, and she is not maternal and cuddly, but is practical and forthright. When I read her kind words I burst into tears.
I am a happy bright personality by nature . . . however I am also street wise. You do not grow up on the fringes of the East End without a certain amount of knowing, especially as a tomboy child, who is the second of 4 children, the last one being a brother. The girls at school were quite tough on me with my artistic quirky tomboy ways, so I learnt to be creative and to defend myself the hard way. I was never bullied because I fought back, I became the fun one of the crowd. I am not proud of my non-pacifist school moments, in fact at times I cringe, but they were good for character building. I was for a while kind-of one-of-the-lads, I preferred my skateboard, and footie, and going over the woods with my bike and my dog. My Dad was a big man and well known and liked for his presence, people didn’t mess with him or his family, and as a result of his willingness to protect his family, I remember him teaching us how to defend ourselves should somebody try to harm us, especially as from the age of sixteen I regularly travelled from home to the centre of London where I went to college. Its ironic that as a young nineteen year old woman I protected him, by choosing not to tell him something that I probably should have. I choose now however to teach my children a different way.
I refuse to let the ugly side I have seen of mankind make me shy away from my own bright personality and gift, and therefore my nature has every intention of being absolutely herself to the end. I will not allow my trust in people to become unnecessarily cynical and fractured despite it having been challenged on more than one occasion. I am happy to be warm, out-going and friendly still today, and to live in loving kindness. But I do also have an acute sense of danger and falsity, and the minute that line is crossed, I am confident in acknowledging that line will never be crossed by that person ever again. And when I sense an over familiarly that is not mutual, or wanted, or encouraged, then I will follow my instincts regardless. With five children of my own, getting the balance right between education and awareness without making them over fearful is a fine line to tread, but one that I am happy to tread with honesty, open dialogue and at times, when necessary, by sharing my own experiences, mistakes and example. As from today my Facebook page is two ‘friends’ down, taking me back to a perfect 113.
And just in case you were wondering what a young Jean Shrimpton crop looked like;
This is Richard Rohrs daily meditation, today:
‘All of Jesus’ rules of ministry, his “tips for the road,” are very specific and interpersonal (see Matthew 10:1-42). They are putting people in touch with other people which becomes his very school of conversion (no hint of monasteries, universities, or seminaries yet!). We are essentially social beings, just as the Trinity is both one self and yet three selves at the same time. Person-to-person is the way the essential message is communicated: person-in-love-with-person, person-healing-person, person-forgiving-person, person-touching-person, person-crying-with-person, person-surrendering-to-person—all become the opening of the floodgates of both soul and Spirit, the waterwheel of Trinitarian grace.
When you see life being created between people and within people too, you see God. Restraint and passion—are the paradoxical experience of the Holy. Holding the self and then giving the self away are equally important, but it takes time to learn how to do that properly. You grow into your ability to love another in a way that totally gives yourself and entrusts yourself to them, and yet honors their boundaries and yours too. In my opinion, Jesus does both very well. He teaches us how to hold ourselves, lose ourselves, and paradoxically find ourselves in the process. He surely learned this as part of his own Trinitarian life. He is the Son who receives the Father totally, holds this identity proudly, and yet hands this Mystery on to all of us as Holy Spirit! God is a verb called relationship more than a noun called monarch.’
And then a week or so later this comes to me . . . . Holy Spirit ??
“The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.”
The Scriptures very clearly teach what we call today a “bias toward action.” It is not just belief systems or dogmas and doctrines, as we have often made it. The Word of God is telling us very clearly that if you do not do it, you, in fact, do not believe it and have not heard it (James 1:19-27) and much of the rest of this primitive letter, which likely precedes the later theological emphasis in Paul’s letters).
The only way that we become convinced of our own sense of power, dignity, and the power of God is by actually doing it—by crossing a line, a line that has a certain degree of nonsensicalness and unprovability to it—and that’s why we call it faith. In the crossing of that line, and acting in a new way, then and only then can we really believe what we say we believe in the first place. Lifestyle issues, like non-consumer living, non-violent actions, community building, service, and volunteerism, ask much more of us than mere belief systems ever do.
I am not a very good speller; you may have noticed. One of the comments on one of my assignment submissions said “Rather marred by grammatical errors”. This was on the one paper which I never double checked with another, before submitting. It is not that what I have to say is not intelligent else full of knowledge, you don’t after all have to be an academic to live, feel, observe or understand intelligent things in an intelligible manner. If I went through the school system today I would almost definitely be diagnosed with mild dyslexia. I know this because when I was enrolled on an art course, I was tested as part of a university’s research paper on dyslexia in those with an artistic nature. I did a test, it became evident. If I type fast I frequently get my letters back to front, I mis-spell the same simple words over and over again, even though I have taught myself the correct spelling, and when I type a blog, you have never seen so many red lines! Literally thank God for spell check!
This causes a few embarrassing problems, sometimes spell-check changes my words to words that I did not mean to use, and I don’t always notice. On rare occasions this can change the whole meaning of a sentence. Sometimes I use words that I think mean one thing only to find out it was a similar sounding word that meant something else all together, I think this causes people much enjoyment. Thankfully I am almost sure that much of the time I remain ignorant, and am relieved from much of the embarrassment that would be caused with knowing. I’s and e’s, and s’s and c’s are continually muddled, double or single letters are too. This is why frequently I correct/update/make changes to my blog and put the number of changes in brackets. Even blogs from years back and I can still find mistakes today. Usually I publish and then I sometimes see the previously unseen errors. My school reports were all average, I was to watch my spelling.
I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is a gift;
Despite what could be a humiliating flaw. I have had to learn to question and engage and listen intensley, and question again where others would remain quiet. I am often the person in class that asks the question that everyone wanted to ask, but wouldn’t dare through fear of being judged. Despite the spelling flaw I still know that I am very bright. (Go on, go and look up the definition of bright). I have had to learn to shine in other ways, else I could have been mistakenly judged as dense. As well as being bright by nature, I can also seemingly read someone elses piece of work and spot the errors/typos a mile off. It also means like a child I often look up words in the dictionary to double-check the accuracy of my understanding, this is where all number of wonderful discoveries are made, and new understandings are discovered and gleaned. It means I get away with some things, it also means I have a blessed skill in word play which is perfect for my poetic mind.
It has been put to me before that I must feel else see things ‘in Technicolor’, when I have reflected back on certain moments by painting the experience into a picture made with words. I feel things deeply, it provokes great compassion within. Often in my descriptive writing I can paint a picture like an artist, a complete holistic picture drawn upon by gathering evocative moments from the world around me, and then describe what it is that I ‘see’. Having to describe the knowledge received makes for great poetry. Just like all people of faith, who see things not necessarily academically, but instead feel them through the senses, and beyond, through extra sensory ways, provoked into awareness through inspiration. My personal understanding is measured and relayed with the unfailing integrity of my deepest intuition, secured by my poignantly lived experience of Truth. The Word heard and seen through the spirit is True and beautiful and of God, and once written can not be unwritten.
Numbers are fascinating to me. I Love their order and magic, I can basically add, subtract, times and divide, the same ‘average’ as everyone else. I am skilled with money, and canny when it comes to survival. My proudest financial moment was rescuing a very special broken property (which even the builders rejected) as a single mother with two children under 3. I brought it for cash at £40.000 renovated it on a £15.000 mortgage, and sold it for almost triple the buying price 2 years later. I can take risks with/without money as I did in purchasing the property, because when you have nothing and have to survive, you have nothing to fear in loosing. However one does have to have finance, else to be in a position to buy a property in order to take the risk in the first instance, and it is no easy route. It takes bartering and creativity and skill and stamina and accurate judgement and much Love. Bless St Francis who rebuilt that church with his own Love.
However ask me to help the children with their maths homework and I am flummoxed. Ask me to add many figures or mathematical puzzles in front of another person and I go blank, something switches off, shuts down and looses. And yet as a child, put me in front of a class at school and ask a tricky random question, and by pure fluke and not by conscious understanding I could come up with the right answer when no-one else could. My twin daughter has the same blessing too. Yesterday she came home from school with a ‘Golden Headteacher’s Sticker’ she got all 25 questions right in the verbal reasoning paper, and yet her twin brother is the academic mathematician, who excels in the classroom (he won a sticker too). But she for once by the most artistic sweetest nature, triumphed. She is quietly uncompetitive, unlike her twin and happy and confident with her own successes and abilities, and so being happy with her lot, she feels as though she wins even when others beat her.
Yesterday I was looking online for some extended meaning of words, and I discovered an amazing tool. It is the brilliant Visual Thesaurus. It works perfectly for my kind of brain. There is only one snag, it was a freebie (an example of which is below), and on further investigation you have to purchase the tool. Imagine if this tool was available when I was at school, maybe I would have learnt in a dynamic way, but then maybe my bad spelling would not have highlighted and heightened my precious gift of seeing the world other. It looks like a little map of a constellation of stars.
Operating on a different level beside the beguiling disguise of a learned intelligence, shines another brightness. It may or may not be academic, but it is rooted right back to Love and Truth, and it seeks the Love and Truth in others, in fact in All things. And it is of God.
It’s daytime and I’ve got the cold in my bones. And yet still there is a speck of warmth somewhere hiding within, cocooned. A speck of warmth biding its time, waiting, daring to break through the hard-set icy ground to the surface. I should be out there in training for my 40 days walking throughout Lent, but its icy, snowy and freezing cold. I long to return to my fresh crisp white bed linen; which has a call that no other call can fulfill. But the daytime and the crisp white bed linen don’t go together.
Here in the darkness, there is silence . . . and stillness . . . and presence . . . and it infuses me . . . and suspends me in God. But here in the morning there is to be another way, a way that needs carving out as if through blocks of ice, or sculpting so as to make a softness and a perfectness of sharp edges. I think of ‘footprints in the sand’ in a summery languid vain, and I am reassured that ‘footprints in the snow’ are of the same stirrings, but with the prettiest bitter-sweet intimacy of Winter’s kiss.
And then out of the frozenness comes a little melting; I just had one of those moments, where a coincidence or three, jumps out of life and says notice me! For anyone that reads my blog, you will know that this has happened before on more than one occasion, and no doubt mirrors similar incidences in your own lives. I am by every means (as recorded on my childhood reports) boringly average. However . . . I am a boringly average mags and not a boringly average someone else. Boringly average does not use a capital m for mags because she knows her place, all initials in the anagram of her name sit in equal measure side by side, supporting and distributing the weight of each ‘I call you by name’, to make all One, in a single syllable called mags. Therein lies the person named at birth. The mother. The person challenged to bear a name which brands me with its commitment. And above all else the person called to God and to Love. Made whole by a new name; the name of a Saint.
When I went on holiday in the summer-time, I was delighted and surprised to discover we were living for the week, virtually on the Saints-Way, an ancient 26 mile rural pathway through Cornwall. In the house there was no reference to Christianity at all apart from on the side in the kitchen where there sat two little Saintly plaques. These Saints gave a poignant ‘little miracle’ welcome to me. These Saints are my friends, St Francis and his tender nature whom I so Love, and whom so inspires me – with his open Love for St Clare. And I think the other one was St Phillip Niri, whose feast day it was at Pentecost, when I was received into the Church. If you recognise this Saint to be a different one please let me know, as I was absolutely mystified by the little miracle welcome, although a little confirmation might concrete it for me. I would not want to be inspired after all by a misconceived little miracle, and it may just be a new saint to discover. This cottage had much Love within it. God clearly presided here in the very nature and the very spirit pouring in through the windows and doors.
On Saturday a special poignant and inspiring moment happened at university in connection with an assignment I had submitted, and in connection with the deeper conversation I had been having with my Maker. And then I connected with another blog in utter dubious alignment within the same coincidence, and just happened to mention a film which inspired me on the Saints. And then just now the conspiring human powers that be, that often dilute the faith in my faith, in their contriving to strengthen it, were suddenly all called into focus – I clicked on todays reading having been too cold and iced up to care a less; else not being bothered to make it to Mass in the neighbouring next-but-one village away.
The reading God decided was to speak to me here instead . . . just to reinforce the conversations and the coincidences!
Tuesday of week 2 of the year
God would not be so unjust as to forget all you have done, the love that you have for his name or the services you have done, and are still doing, for the saints. Our one desire is that every one of you should go on showing the same earnestness to the end, to the perfect fulfilment of our hopes, never growing careless, but imitating those who have the faith and the perseverance to inherit the promises.
When God made the promise to Abraham, he swore by his own self, since it was impossible for him to swear by anyone greater: I will shower blessings on you and give you many descendants.
Those Saints have got me good and proper!
mags – Mary Apostle of Gods Soul.
On Saturday on the way to uni, outside Notting Hill tube station, at 8.00 in the morning, in the freezing temperatures, lay what looked like two bodies asleep on the glittering pavement, with nothing but an open sleeping bag strewn over the top of them. People going about their early morning business, busy with living, whilst below their feet and eye line, some people are lying low, barely surviving. I am sure that many hearts are wrenched at this sight, because hearts forever see, even when the eyes may not.
I am sure that many of these hearts, just aren’t sure what they could possibly do to help in such desperate circumstances. I am often not sure what to do myself in order to help these people, who seemingly have rejected life as we know it. On Saturday morning I purposefully had a flask of hot Campbell’s soup with me, but I didn’t leave the polystyrene cups filled with the steaming broth for the sleeping bodies, because they had no lids, and I didn’t want to disturb their sleep which was offering repose from such desperation. So frustratingly I walked past, hoping that they both would and wouldn’t be there upon my return at 2.30, when the soup no longer has it appetizing heat.
When I came out of uni I passed by a lovely homeless man whom I have fed before. I stopped to talk to him, he wasn’t in such good form. I asked him if he remembered me giving him soup previously, I asked if he would like some more. He said ‘no thanks, I have trouble with my stomach, I can not eat’. I asked if he could get help for his tummy, he wasnt clear, just stated again he wouldn’t take the food because his stomach couldn’t cope with it. This man is an X soldier who fought in the Falklands War, for our country. As he spoke I noticed that all his teeth had rotted away to nothing more that brown stumps. He was cold and poorly, and still he was polite and gentle. I told him that I remember him in my prayers, and I do, because that is all I can do. Then I said ‘bye bye, try not to get too cold’. The hollowness of my words annoyed me, he already was too cold.
The big Issue seller did not want the soup either on Saturday. I have decided not to take soup in anymore. Its heavy, though that in itself is not a problem, but it goes cold throughout the day. It often gets wasted and I simply can not bear to waste food, especially when that food was to feed the hungry. So I have swapped tactics! Occasionally I buy an extra sandwich from Pret a Manger. Pret a Mangers egg mayo sandwiches used to be £1.10, and that was a bargain. So I started buying freshly made sandwiches, box packed, and placed in the nice crisp fresh white take out bags, with serviette. I gave them instead to the homeless person sitting outside the station, this worked really well. Then Pret had a mammoth price increase by 50p, which is still good value at £1.60, but it limits me to feeding only one homeless person instead of a few with my soup. But this way there is no waste, and if I spot no homeless people, I eat it for my lunch instead, and then if I spot another homeless person I buy them a fresh one. If the homeless people are sleeping I can just leave my bag right next to them for when they wake. It works. Its futile, but it works. On days when things are too tight, I make them at home and pack them in thick foil, and its cheaper . . . and this works too.
Its only futile because I am one. Others are doing so much more, shelters and soup-kitchens, kind people and charities etc etc, all doing so very much good. But I have decided that if all of us could possible offer one single sandwich and a few kind words to a homeless person, they might just gain enough strength to see that there are people who care that they are hungry, and they might just have a little more hope. Thats why merely as a beginning, I am putting forward a suggestion, that throughout the world we could make Fridays a F I S H day. If (Friday Is Sandwiches 4 †he Homeless) day, and if we all could embrace this the world over, then we would at least be highlighting the plight of the hungry and homeless people on our streets. Even if a Friday passes by, where we see not one homeless person, even if we only offer one sandwich, it might just raise a little more awareness.
In almost 18 months of soup and sandwiches, the food I have offered has only ever been rejected a handful of times, and always with kindness. Why not plan now what sandwiches you could take into work on a Friday, and give them to the homeless person sitting outside the station, the homeless person sheltering or sleeping in a doorway, or the homeless person selling the big issue!
Friday Is Sandwiches 4 †he Homeless. day
(F I S H)
Why not make your Friday a (F I S H) Friday, and then what at present is futile, may just become something else altogether. . .
If you see someone sleeping rough give their location to 0870 3833333 or email@example.com so they can get them indoors.