Monday, March 29, 2010

A Beautiful Waste

Today (Monday of Holy Week)
the gospel reading is the story
of the anointing at Bethany. (Mt 26: 6-13)
Here is my reflection on the experience
taken from my book, Seasons of Your Heart.

On some days, my heart fills up with questions,
and the gift of my life makes no sense at all.
I can still see that woman, bent over Jesus,
pouring out her expensive flask of perfume
for seemingly no reason at all.
What a silly thing to do!
Do not the scoffers have a legitimate complaint?
What is the point of such extravagance?
And who would think that one would become
so extravagant and wasteful,
as to pour out, not only perfume, but life itself?
It is what we are all asked to do
in our ministry. It has never made sense.
It’s a little bit crazy, as is all love,
to pour out your life like that.
On some days, when my hope feels small,
I want to scream out with the scoffers,
“Why such waste?”
But on other days, when my eyes and heart are clear,
…I feel immensely lavish. I feel extravagant!
And with gentle conviction I proclaim:
“What a beautiful waste this is?”

A jar of perfume
poured out over Jesus
and a question is born:
What is the point of such extravagance?

Why this waste?
I don’t know.
I honestly don’t know.
But if this shocks you so,
prepare yourself
for you’ll see more
more than costly perfume poured out.

You’ll see lives poured out
given freely
used up
spilled out
for no reason at all!

Extravagance unlimited!
Lives poured out
handed over
thrown away
for Jesus!

What is the point of such extravagance?
Why such waste?
Beautiful questions with no answers

and how sad if no one
has ever asked us:
why this extravagance?

Aren’t you wasting your life on Jesus?

--Taken from Seasons of Your Heart, page 179-181
Macrina Wiederkehr--HarperOne Publishers

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Mirror of Light


by Rainer Maria Rilke

Any angel is frightening.
Yet, because I know of you,
I invoke you in spite of myself,
you lethal birds of the soul.

Fated to be happy from the beginning of time,
creation’s spoiled immortal darlings,
summits of the cosmic shining at dawn,
pollen from heavenly blossoms, limbs of light,
hallway, stairs, thrones carved from existence
shields of ecstasy, shrines of delight—

and suddenly,
each one, mirror:

where our own evanescent beauty
is gathered
into an enduring countenance.

-taken from a Year With Rilke (HarperOne)

On this Feast of the Annunciation is there anything you would like to enunciate? As for me, I have angels on my mind. Having read Rilke’s luminous poem I see mirrors everywhere and sense the lovely truth that each of us is a reflection of Divine Light. We, too, can be messenger angels bringing fresh heart to one another.

Stand before someone who is knee-deep in discouragement and tell them: “Something is ripening in you. Can’t you sense it about to burst forth in radiant blossoms? You, too, can be an angel of light for others. All that seems to be ephemeral in your life is in reality growing wings. Take heart! Lift your wings.” --- Feast of the Annunciation, March 25 , 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Heart of the Hunter

Today I am beginning my Hunter’s Retreat at our monastery center. I offer it as a retreat for hunters: hunters of God, hunters of the deep self, hunters of meaning and mystery. I call it THE HEART OF THE HUNTER because the tool we are using for the our hunt is the heart. We will be praying with our aboriginal hearts, our seeking hearts, our undivided hearts, our broken and compassionate hearts. There will be space also for the joyful heart.

I love this retreat. I think it is because I am a bit nomadic by nature and probably belong to the hunters. That’s my tribe! (as opposed to the gatherers who settle into one place, tend the crops and wait for the harvest). Belonging to the Hunter Tribe fits me quite well spiritually; for I am always on the move: searching, seeking, reaching beyond what I can see with my visible eye. My hunt is for spiritual food and deep meanings. My hunt is for The Great Mystery. Jesus, the Christ, is my guide. I feed on eternal questions. In spite of being a hunter I long for solitude and have even taken a vow of stability of life which may not seem to fit with a hunter’s heart. Yet even hunters are called into solitude and quiet. As we wait for our prey we learn to keep vigil in the deep forest of our lives. The Hound of Heaven is also tracking us. And yet, to be hunted by God is not to die but to fall in love.

This evening, then, as I attempt to lead the retreatants (the hunters) into the deep forest of themselves to wait in silence for the mystery to be revealed I, too, will journey with them tracking the Mystery. May you, whoever you are, have faith in your aborginal heart!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

All About Cows (sort of)

People sometimes tell me that I am too intense and serious so I have decided to share this little essay about cows, written by a ten year old. I hope this information is helpful and perhaps gives you a good laugh since laughter is wonderful medicine.

All About Cows (sort of)

The cow is a mammal and it is tame. It has six sides: right, left, fore, back, and upper and a below. At the back it has a tail on which hangs a brush. With this it sends flies away, so that they will not fall into the milk.

The head is for the purpose of growing horns, and so that the mouth can be somewhere. The horns are to butt with. The mouth is to moo with.

Under the cow hangs the milk. It is arranged for milking. When people milk, the milk comes, and there is never an end to the supply. How the cow does it I have not yet realized, but it makes more and more.

The cow has a fine sense of smell. One can smell it far away. This is the reason for the fresh air of the country.

The man cow is called an ox, and it is not a mammal. The cow does not eat much but what it eats, it eats twice so that it gets enough. When it is hungry it moos, and when it says nothing, it is because all its inside is full up of grass.

----taken from World Agriculture, written by a ten year old.

I’m sure this is exactly what you’ve been wanting to know.
Taking a little trip; see you when I return.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


A few weeks ago one of my directees looked at the sign laying beside the empty bowl on my Lenten altar with a perplexed look on her face. The sign says, "Free to be Nothing." It is the name of the spiritual reading book I've chosen for Lent and it is written by Ed Farrell. It's an old book--not even in print any more and yes, the title sounds somewhat bleak and uninviting. However, if one peers more deeply into the meaning it isn't as austere as it sounds. It may even be liberating.

I believe the author borrowed the title from Mother Teresa who says that when you are free to be nothing, God can do anything and everything in you. For me it means that I don't have an agenda set in stone. I'm flexible and open for continuing creation. Rather than being a sealed-up space, I am a breathing space for God. Everything about me sings out, Welcome! I am free to be nothing and thus I am free to be everything. A Holy Paradox! Perhaps this is what the poet Rilke is trying to express in this poem


Extinguish my eyes, I'll go on seeing you
Seal my ears, I'll go on hearing you.
And without feet I can make my way to you,
without a mouth I can swear your name.

Break off my arms, I'll take hold of you
with my heart as with a hand.
Stop my heart, my brain will begin to beat
and if you consume my brain with fire
I'll feel you burn in every drop of my blood.

Praying with the poem I found myself asking, Would the beloved do all this to me and expect me to still be the beloved? However, having allowed the poem to become my dwelling place for a few days, I now see it as a metaphorical icon of the terrible beauty of extravagant love—so extravagant that the lover is free to be nothing for the Beloved. Then, too, I have to remember it a poet speaking. Poets often speak in riddles even to the point of a sacred exaggeration that gives birth to a beautifully wild truth. The truth here seems to be the freedom that comes from a prodigal/wasteful/extravagant love. It is the freedom of belonging to Someone—not in a doormat kind of way—but by way of a liberating/passionate leap in the dark.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Winter Reprieve



-Lilia Royers

I have been traveling
bumping into both winter and spring
As you daily celebrate the weather of your heart
may you be willing to have tea with both.