The Space We Live Most of Our Lives

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, March 31, 2018

And so we wait. With whatever is unfinished. With whatever is incomplete. With whatever is held captive by fear, imprisoned by anxiety, entombed by despair. With whatever seems unable to move forward. With whatever longs for wholeness and fullness of life.

Empty tombThis is the waiting of Holy Saturday, which occupies an unusual place in Holy Week, sandwiched somewhere between the wrenching grief and horrific suffering of Good Friday and the exultant confirmation and hope of Easter Sunday.

Absent on Holy Saturday are the dramatic elements of the day before: the sun disappearing and the sky turning black; the curtain in the Temple rent in two pieces; the outpouring of blood and water; the women standing beneath the cross in their collective grief; the earth itself quaking and trembling.

Now that same ground is eerily silent. Now it seems that the last word has been spoken, the final chapter written. Now it appears that the dream of the kin-dom is a song whose end note has been sung. This is Holy Saturday, described by Steve Garnaas-Holmes in Unfolding Light:

“Poor Holy Saturday,
hung out to dry between
Good Friday’s drama
and Easter’s miracle.
Not much going for it,
this empty day bereft of tradition,
just an in-between time.
A day of waiting around,
a day of thinking we knew.

Welcome home.
This is the day we live most of our life in,
the wide space between tragedy and recovery,
the emptiness between the pain and the healing.

Only later, not on this day, do we know
we’re not waiting for a future;
we’re watching God unfold.

That is enough.
That is why this day,
drab and ordinary,
is holy.”

So let’s not be fooled. This day is its own kind of extraordinary. Here in this in-between time, this liminal space, this place where life is already now and not yet, is the where and when of our everyday living. We wait not only with our own stories, but with a global community that also longs for the fullness of God’s dream.Dock to lake copy

In Following Jesus on the Way to Calvary, Joe Nangle, OFM writes that Holy Saturday is a metaphor for where we often find ourselves today, in the in-between times, between life and death, sadness and joy, between what has been and what will be.

He notes that our call is to wait with the world. To wait in the tomb, what he calls “the womb of solidarity”, the place where we are in communion with our neighbors around the globe. At that tomb, in that space, we wait with all those in our world who are longing: for justice, for freedom, for relief from their suffering. In that space, we feel the desire of those who live in deprivation. We’re bruised by the wounds of those who are imprisoned by fear or oppression. We stand with those who are overcome with despair.

“The tomb is cold, dark, and lonely,” Nangle observes. “It smells of death. It is not a comfortable place to be. But it is where the Christian community is called to be.”

Called to be and to wait in the in-between times. Called to be and to wait as carriers of hope. Called to be and to wait as followers who refuse to bury God’s dream for our world. Called to be and to wait as disciples who live resurrection.

Takeaway

Sit in stillness by the tomb of Jesus.
Listen to what he has to say to you as you wait with him.
At what other times in your life have you kept vigil?
What did that waiting feel like? look like?
How did the Holy One companion you at that time?
Sit in solidarity with all those in our world who, at this very moment, are waiting and longing to rise.

Images: fotolia.com

Happy Easter, and thank you for following Mining the Now. Know that I wish you every blessing of new life this Easter and all through the days ahead!

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Searching for Home

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, March 18, 2018

Call it convergence. Call it repetition. However we might name it, we know that having the same message present itself to our consciousness over and over in myriad shapes or formats demands our attention. Sometimes the invitation calls to us in print, in sound, in image. Whatever form it takes, it is persistent and will not retreat until we’ve either treated it as an intruder and slammed the door shut, or  approached it as a visitor and accepted its invitation for a closer look. So it was for me recently with the word, home.

Homeben-tzion.comcopy Home seemed to pop up in multiple commercials and advertisements. Then I noticed how many times I pressed the “Home” key while writing on my laptop. Next, home arrived in my Inbox in an email from Catholic Relief Services about support for Syrian refugees who live in a kind of limbo, a neither here-nor-there space. They exist between a war-torn country to which they can never safely return and a temporary shelter providing for their basic needs, but with no sense of a permanent residence. The headline on the email about these refugees was, “Help them know home.” Not find home. Know home. To know home is one of the deepest desires of the human heart.

Home was also referenced for me in a video clip where Oprah Winfrey interviewed Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creative genius behind “In the Heights” and “Hamilton.” Miranda noted that being born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents, he very early in life had to navigate different cultural, linguistic, and artistic worlds. He spoke of traveling to Puerto Rico years ago to stage “In the Heights” and coming to the realization that, even though he was of Puerto Rican heritage, his mainland Spanish was sometimes inadequate or made him feel a bit unsettled and out of place in the land of his parents’ birth. In speaking of that experience of being in-between, Miranda observed, “That’s a great way to make a writer—be a little out of place everywhere.”

To be a little out of place, to be not fully at home. Many immigrants, even those who are second or third generation, feel the psychological homelessness that raises its voice in questions: Who am I? Where do I belong? What is truly home for me?

Most probably, all of us at some time have had the experience of being emotionally or geographically distant from the place we love, the place where our heart resides. Perhaps none have expressed this separation, this sense of not-at-homeness, as poignantly as Psalm 137:

“By the waters of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered you, O Zion. On the willows nearby, we hung up our harps. There our captors asked us for a song and called for mirth: ‘Sing for us one of the songs of Zion.’ How could we ever sing God’s song in a foreign land?”

In an online E-course, “Exploring the Psalms,” Barbara Crafton reflects on this same psalm and invites us to imagine what it must have been like to be forced to sing a song of home by the very persons who took home away and changed the understanding of where and what home was. She notes that, even years later when the Israelites were allowed to go home, not everyone left. They’d been in Babylon for years, put down roots as much as was possible, learned the language and customs. “They experienced the peculiar pathos of the immigrant,” she writes, “Fully at home in neither the old country nor the new.”homechristianchroniclecopy

In the gospel of John, Chapter 14, the beloved disciple writes of the tenderness of Jesus who, even in his last moments among us, loved us to the end. Jesus named our deep longing for home as he spoke of the house of Abba God where he was going to prepare room for us.  A dwelling place being lovingly fashioned. A home where all would be forever welcome.

As we stand at the edge of Holy Week, we remember with gratitude how Jesus made his home among us and embraced our human condition with both its glory and its wounds. May we enter into the sacred days of Jesus’ suffering, dying, and rising and accompany him with tenderness on his own journey into homecoming.

Takeaway

Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Reflect on your sense of home.
What contributes to a sense of well-being, wholeness, and welcome for you?
Who or what do you cherish?
Hold in your prayer the many in our world who are right now searching for safety, security, belonging.
Give thanks that you and all people are held in the tender heart of the Holy One, where every person finds a lasting home.

Images:
amppob.com
ben-tzion.com
christianchronicle.com

NOTE:
Thank you for your continued support of my mobile spirituality ministry. Please now hold in your prayer the last of the Lenten events, a retreat weekend, “Standing at the Edge of Holy Week,” that I’ll be offering at the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth in Wernersville, PA, March 23-25.

My deep gratitude for your accompanying this blog through every posting. Know that my prayer is for every blessing for you and those you love as we enter Holy Week and the risen life of Easter.

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The Things We Carry

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, March 4, 2018
Perhaps it’s an arena to which you’ve never given any time or thought. But the recently released official portraits of President Barack and Michelle Obama open the door to this line of imagining and thinking out loud. Suppose you were having an official portrait done. Or suppose your likeness was about to be added to the collection of holy cards that depicts the saints.

What symbol, or image, or object might best sum up your life? What would you be drawn or painted as holding in your hands that would illuminate the core handswithworldcontribution or direction of your life, something for which you were known or remembered, something that would make those intimate with you blink with recognition and say, “Yes, that’s it!” or “Exactly!” or “That’s so you!”

Some years ago, an issue of Outside magazine (April 2011) included an article, “The Things They Carried,” where people close to six daring but departed icons of the sports world told Ryan Krogh their remembrances of elite athletes who didn’t come home alive. Their stories featured the most cherished relics, the signs of the sport they excelled in, the tools or instruments they carried with them. “The Things They Carried” included the hat and ax of a mountain scout; the paddle of a kayaker; pontoon skis; a surfboard. Each thing these lost ones cherished was accompanied by a story to expand on its symbolism.

Slip into many Catholic churches today and you’ll likely see a statue depicting the namesake of that church. Many times, the statues will show the holy ones holding something in their hands that speaks to their life and witness: St. Therese with a bouquet of roses underscoring the blessings she continues to shower on our world; St. Francis of Assisi, surrounded by his relatives in the animal family—a wolf, a dove, a deer; martyrs holding the instruments of their deliverance to death; saints carrying a basket filled with bread as a symbol of their lifelong tending to empty hands and empty bellies.

All of these invite the question: what about us? What are the things we carry? What would best capture the essence of who we are? What might an artist discern and select to memorialize as the best of what we have shared, the most significant of what we have carried into our beautiful, yet wounded world?

Might we be pictured as a person immersed in awareness of the Holy One while at the same time listening and ministering to the needs of family and friends and the cries of our collective wounds? Do we perhaps grace those around us with wisdom mined from our own journey of brokenness to wholeness? Do we embody audacious hope for those whose steps are faltering? Is our spaciousness of heart so large that it can offer welcome even to those who represent the worst aspects of the human condition?

How to image what we hold interiorly in our hearts as being offered to others. Quite challenging, isn’t it? How to symbolize the interior movements of our soul, the stretching toward inclusion, the struggles–both public and unspoken–that have called us to become who we now are. How to illustrate how our lives bless this world.

handsyoungoldAs we take up the call, with God’s grace, to move towards fulfillment whatever is unfinished and incomplete in the lives of our ancestors, might we pause to reflect on how we are also furthering God’s dream for our world in this time and place?  Not an easy practice, but potentially a rich and revealing one.

How about it? What are those things we carry?

Takeaway

Sit in a space of stillness.
Give thanks for all that the Holy One has birthed in your heart and that you have also carried into our world.
Prayerfully gaze at and reflect on your hands.
What have they held, cherished, or shared?
Give thanks and ask that the work of your hands and heart may continue to bless our beautiful, yet wounded world.

Images:
pinterest.com
mariabenning.com
huffingtonpost.com

NOTE:
Thank you for your prayerful support of my ongoing Lenten offerings. Please hold in your prayer these next gatherings that I’ll be leading and all who will be part of them:

March 5–11: Directed Retreat at the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth, Wernersville, PA
March 16:      Lenten retreat day for the faculty and staff of St. Mark’s High School, Wilmington, DE
Thank you!

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