Sunday, December 17, 2017

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

This is to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year with a painting, a poem and a lesson: all discovered this year.
Image result for rouault
Nazareth by George Rouault. 
This is a bit chronologically late for Christmas because it is the Holy Family back in Nazareth, growing up, after an adventurous birth and flight into exile but a reminder that of the whole of Jesus' life the vast majority of it was spent in what St. Charles de Foucauld called, 'the hidden life of Jesus at Nazareth' - daily, domestic, vulnerable, growing in learning and leaning into the life of things and their reality; and, suffused by the kind of love that the poet, U.A. Fanthorpe, captures, so beautifully and well, here in my favourite poetic discovery of the year.
Atlas
There is a kind of love called maintenance
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;
Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;
Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes; which deals with dentists
And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds
The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living, which is Atlas.
And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dry rotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in air,
As Atlas did the sky.
This reminds me of my favourite lesson of the year. 
One of the most instructive and moving books I read this year is 'Neither Wolf nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder". Here, amongst much else, was a description of the difference in a handshake between a 'white' person and a 'native American'. The former tends to grip hard to assert their existence and possibly the lack of security about that presence. The latter holds softly, allowing two persons to meet in the 'between'. I had noticed this myself especially in Central America amongst the indigenous Maya- and, if I gave it any thought, it was probably a quick dismissal of what a 'weak handshake' people have!!! Suitably corrected, alerted, made attentive, I modified my behaviour on my next trip in October and, lo, what a different response I received from this simplest of acts - more relaxed, open, friendlier, less resonant of the imbalances that undoubtedly remain. The good is done in minute particulars and the beginning is a deepening of attention and the right kind of curiosity; and, a vigilant maintenance within the everyday of the sensible side of love. 
And, lo, you get your photograph taken too...


Not all love offered through the Incarnation might be deemed sensible given that it will spill into the extravagance of death and resurrection and complete forgiveness but you have to start somewhere:-) on the winding road of accepting the bigger package!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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