Vulnerability - some Maundy thursday thoughts...

Me and my promises... I will get around to talking about the death of Bro. Edward, but not just yet.

At the moment I'm coming towards the end of our (the English De La Mennais Brothers) annual Holy Week retreat. This one has been particularly powerful for me. I've felt less constrained by habit and duty this year and much freer to do my own thing, to go where the Spirit has led me, eg. to go and stand outside, Maundy Thursday night, for 45 mins. from 11.00pm, on the edge of a field, on a hill, listening to favourite Christian + non-Christian tunes on my iPod with my eyes closed, arms outstretched, occasionally dancing on the spot - he leads you to some damn funny place this Holy Spirit if you let him! In the end I listened to music for 20 mins. and then spent a further 25 very emotional minutes still with my eyes closed, in silence, just listening to the wind, the traffic in the ditance, the occasional animal. This time I spent reflecting on the loneliness that Jesus must have felt that night in the garden of Gethsemane. Or to be more exact, I tried to feel some of that loneliness. That was when I got emotional (as is my wont). At the same time I was filled with a most beautiful feeling of peace. I've never tried that before, standing outside with my eyes closed at night. It was a kind of a trust exercise, I suppose. In the end I didn't want to open them again. I just wanted to stay in that spiritual place with Jesus, sharing (ever so slightly) in his suffering, but at the same time knowing that I am being held in God's palm and revelling in that sensation of shelter and warmth.

I often use music as a way into a type of prayer that is unstructured and which is fundamentally about opening my heart to God and with it listening to what he has to say to me. Some would call that contemplation. I see it more as a spiritual vulnerability (a theme that has come up frequently in the talks given by our retreat director, a Franciscan, and in my reading and reflection this week); vulnerability because if we abandon ourselves, our lives to God, who knows what might happen. The sky's the limit! I dropped French, R.E. and History at the age of 15, never to study them again (or so I thought) after having taken them (with Maths) as O-Levels a year early (as often happened in our school). I was particularly pleased about leaving the French behind. And now I am a member of French-founded teaching order of Brothers, I spent 5 years training in France, so had to learn French - 4 of those years were spent studying Theology + Philosophy in French (in Paris), and I ended up teaching French for a few years (and wish I still was... thoroughly loved it).

God really does have a sense of humour. Open your heart to him, offer him your very self with all its weaknesses and wounds, and he will take it and refashion it, using your very woundedness as a source of grace for yourself and for others. By his wounds are we healed. It is our mission to be Christ for others, to continue God's incarnation in creation.

Timothy Radcliffe o.p. indirectly describes what I felt there tonight in his book "Seven Last Words", p.19 (funny that I only read this passage today):

"The opposite of happiness is not sadness. It is being stony hearted. It is refusing to let yourself be touched by other people. It is putting on armour that protects your heart from being moved. If you would be happy then you must be drawn out of yourself and, so, vulnerable."

Another coincidence... I brought a few films (including "The Passion") with me on dvd. One of them was "Chocolat". I did not realise that the end of the film relates to the preparation for Easter, nor did I realise that the theme would tie in so well with what Radcliffe says. If you haven't seen it, get it and see it for Easter. If you see "The Passion" as well, you will get two films apparently poles apart, but that show complementary aspects of God's relationship with humanity.

Happy Easter!
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