From the Treasury of the Church’s Saints

thumbnail17This morning, the day after Ash Wednesday, this is the opening hymn (by Thomas Troeger, Oxford U.Press, 1985) in Magnificat:

Before the fruit is ripened by the sun,/Before the petals or the leaves uncoil,/Before the first fine silken root is spun,/ A seed is dropped and buried in the soil.

Before we gain the grace that comes through loss,/Before we live by more than bread and breath,/Before we lift with joy an empty cross,/We face with Christ the seed’s renewing death.

I am moved by this good poem because it speaks so well to the loss of a loved one.  I’ve never been so close to that possibility for so long a period of time as I am now, with the situation of a loved one who is “too young to die.”

On the page before Morning Prayer today, there is a one-page meditation by a mother who lost her child in the brutal elementary school shooting in Connecticut a few years ago.  This reality makes the Reality within Troeger’s poem strike one very deeply.  No matter what the circumstances, no matter what the age of the person who has died, the grief is so perpetual, so overwhelming at some level of the soul, that the ability simply to get out of bed in the morning and decide to stand upright is definitely a felt gift of God’s grace.

One keeps weeping, and yet stops before weeping again, by God’s grace.  One continues to see and meet the needs for care and love on the part of the others nearby, through the strengthening grace of God and by His gift of a growing union with the hearts of Jesus and Mary.  One’s own human strength no longer even exists.  We have come to know we are dust.

If, at some point, I am powerfully tempted to doubt the reality of the eternal life of which Troeger’s poem based on the teachings of Jesus speaks, I will recall that even Saint Therese, at the end of her short life on earth, was battered with such fears for awhile.

And I will receive words, containing the Living Word, of someone like Saint Francis de Sales (in Roses Among Thorns, Sophia Inst. Press) who said in a meditation I read just this morning as I was awake for an hour about 4AM, “Fear is a greater evil than evil itself. O you of little faith (see Matthew 14:29-31): What is it you fear?  Do not be afraid.  You are walking on water, amid wind and wave, but you are with Jesus.  What is there to fear?  If fear takes hold of you, cry out strongly, ‘O Lord, save me!’ He will hold out a hand to you.  Hold on tight, and go forward with joy.”

Shalom, JC