Tag: Mary Mother of God

Christmas Day – “O hush the noise ye men of strife and hear the angels sing!”

Christmas Day – “O hush the noise ye men of strife and hear the angels sing!”

Christmas morning! We’ve arrived. Christ Our Lord gives Himself to us in tender love and mercy. Come, let us adore Him, the Christ Child in the manger.

What a year it has been, personally for me, for my loved ones, for this whole world. Falling over the same stumbling blocks and falling into the same sins, or losing sight of hope in the face of fear, flashbacks, overwhelming emotions that can block out everything I want to believe in, it does not take much to make me despair and think God’s mercy has run out for me and He will cast me aside and say I do not know Him. Looking at what’s happening, here, in my family, in the UK, in stricken countries like Syria, never have I felt so helpless here and now faced with such need, fear, suffering, the very present threats of acts of terrorism, the devastation and loss wracking so many people. It is so hard to know how to respond and easy to feel very afraid.

At the vigil Mass last night, we sang “It came upon a midnight clear” after Communion. This is not one of the carols I know best but never did this verse seem so apt:

Yet with the woes of sin and strife, this world has suffered long;

Beneath the angel-strain have rolled two thousand years of wrong,

And man at war with man hears not the love song which they bring –

O hush the noise ye men of strife and hear the angels sing!”

So often I, we, cannot hear the song that Our God sings to us His beloved. Shame, fear, despair, self-disgust, pride, all can make this “still small voice” harder to hear. I was praying, feeling despair and the voices were saying to me, how could God look at me now, how could He look at my foul disgusting weak lazy heart. The Lord answered me in prayer, “My gaze is longing Love.” And He called me to draw near in prayer to the manger at Bethlehem, with His Holy Mother and St Joseph’s protection.

The nativity is the sweetest song of love for us. God who brought this whole world into being, who shaped the seas and land and skies, who brought each of us into being in love, is come in humility, even vulnerability, as a little Baby, reaching out to us, fully sharing our human lives. He was born into darkness, poverty, homelessness, a world confused and at war. The Priest told us in his homily last night, when we look at the Christ Child, we see the certain knowledge that God never gives up on us. He delights in each of us. He delights in us so much that He chose to be born as one of us. And I think He chose to be born, needing us, needing our simple answer “yes” to receiving Him, yes to resting in His loving gaze, to holding Him in our minds and hearts, to carrying His hope into the world, to encountering Him anew each day but most especially this Christmas morning. So we learn to “give back the song which now the angels sing” in the words of the carol.

You are in my prayers today. I feel deeply thankful to you for reading, commenting, your thoughts, prayers and support and the experiences you share on this journey. I know that for many of us Christmas and New Year is not an easy time and it gives rise to deep, erratic emotions and maybe painful memories. I struggle at this time. Through all the joy of the gift of God this day, I feel overwhelmed and unstable, emotions heightened, the pain of losses and traumatic effects associated with this time and deepened, and the needs, expectations and rush of the holiday period are not easy to face. I’m very blessed not to be alone, to have two special friends to celebrate with quietly today, and to have these couple of friends and the blogging community here with whom I can share honestly. Thank you.

I’m wishing you plenty of moments of happiness; peace deep in your heart through whatever path you are on; that you can experience friendship, care and support; that in the hardest times there are little things to give you hope bit by bit; most of all, that you know the love of God who delights in you.

“…And ye, beneath life’s crushing load
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!
For lo! The days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
The blessed angels sing.”

[From “It came upon a midnight clear” by Edmund Sears (music by Richard Storrs Willis) – see here for full lyrics ]

Wishing you a blessed Christmas.

Ginny xxx

[Image from “The Nativity Story”]

 

 

Saying a last goodbye to my dear friend

Saying a last goodbye to my dear friend

The dear friend I wrote of in my last post, Father S, passed away last Saturday, a day after I had last visited him. Today was his funeral. It was a very hard but beautiful goodbye.

Father S was a Priest at my friend’s church. He was long retired however continued to serve and minister to his congregation – and to so many more, such as me. I came to know him through another good friend (the same who initially brought me to the faith); I have never lived in his Parish however he took such care of me and I know he prayed for me daily.  I can only imagine how much he is missed by those who knew him longer and more than I did.

Father S was an extremely humble, quiet and private person. He drew no importance or attention to himself. He worked, prayed, cared and gave of himself generously, not seeking recognition, never appearing discouraged, astoundingly giving continually even when there came nothing tangible in return. I think, indeed the Priest who gave the homily at the funeral said, that Father S has no doubt reached and helped far more people than we yet know or than he himself even knew.

I do not think his path was ever smooth. He moved between continents. He converted between churches and subsequently felt the call to become a Priest and dared to answer. I do not think he had many people to care for him in his early life, and he has lost and left behind many family members since. He suffered greatly, physically, mentally and emotionally, throughout I believe, the majority of his life, particularly in his later years. He faced intense physical pain and weakness, major health problems, increasing fatigue, struggles to get around. He suffered not only the mental cost and hurt of those things, but also deep distress, fear and sadness. Through all this, he continued to work and to give so much in friendship.

Only very occasionally did he brush the surface of what he went through, physically and psychologically. I knew and gathered a little from prayer, conversations and letters exchanged with him, and learned more today at the funeral. Though he did not make much of his suffering, he did not sugar coat things either. He did not pretend everything was fine, or not to care, or that he did not struggle, or that he had all the answers, or that we must be strong and healthy, or that all is happiness when we walk in the way of Our Lord. He lived and gave in every moment, acknowledging what exactly it brought, never turning his gaze away from Jesus and never fleeing. He taught me to begin to hold fast to Our Lord of love – seek Him in whatever is happening right now and hold fast (rather than running in fear from an image of a God I have created from all my fears and the torment going on in my head in my illness).

When I visited him the day before he died, all the more than ever, I sensed that he was very close to God. He had become much sicker very quickly at the end. On the way to see him that last day, primarily I was desperately hoping I would be in time. I was not afraid, but I did feel some uncertainty and anxiety as well as the sadness. How would I find him and what would be the right things to do? I have sat with the dying before, having worked in a hospice and having lost other elderly friends at a nursing home I used to volunteer at. Time somehow seems to change; it is not a bad thing, but indescribable; perhaps it is a result of so much that can pose a barrier to communicating, giving and loving, being stripped away. We are left bare and vulnerable faced with the finality of the separation of death. It need not be all sad. Somehow, in precious time like that, what we cannot express as we may wish to in words, can perhaps be communicated between our souls as we are held together by the Love that encompasses all of us. In our defencelessness, the stronger hold the love of God has.

In that visit as I talked with Father S, knelt and prayed with him, I felt I knew heaven was near and Mother Mary’s arms were around us. Kneeling beside him I told him some of the truest things I have been so afraid to admit. I thanked him as I should have thanked him much, much earlier and more often. Father S is one of the people whose encouragement, prayer and friendship has held me up when I have been at the very darkest times and he has played no small part in saving my life when I was at a point that I was going to try to end it. Kneeling beside his bed I prayed as I have not been able to pray for many long months. I felt that already, in the footsteps of Our Lord Jesus, Father S was drawing me after him, just as Jesus draws us after Him. In his prayer and his life that he had offered totally to God, he was drawing me out of fear to learn to know, perhaps for the first time, a God of love.

There was no ceremony, no astounding event in the moment when Father S passed. There were no visions, no glorious rays of light, no voice from heaven, no odour of roses. There was quiet, and love, and friendship, and hearts reaching out in prayer and thanksgiving to God alone. In the same way as he lived, he died, quietly, with those who loved Him, everything offered and united to the God of love He told us so plainly about in his words and his life. He died on the feast of St John Paul II (whom he loved), just before 3.00pm, the same hour at which Our Lord Jesus died. I feel that Our Lady and St John Paul came to carry him to Jesus.

I pray that now he knows in heaven the fullness of joy with the Lord he has reached out for, for so long; that he also now sees all the good he has done, especially that which remained hidden whilst he was on earth. I know so many hearts here below are full of thanks for him.

May the choirs of angels come to greet you,

May they speed you to paradise;

May the Lord enfold you in His mercy,

May you find eternal life.

(From Song of Farewell, by Ernest Sands)

Image thanks to pixabay.com – https://pixabay.com/en/banner-header-christmas-candles-880323/

This is My Body broken for you – Good Friday of the Passion of Our Lord

Today is Good Friday (for another 40 minutes anyway, as I’m so late posting!).

Today we remember Our Lord Jesus’s suffering and death and begin the watching and waiting with Him – in His prayer in Gesthemane, in His arrest, scourging, crowning with thorns, trial, carrying the Cross, crucifixion, death and burial. At the Cross and at the tomb we wait and watch with Mary his Mother and the disciples.

Today tells us Love came down to us. Our Jesus suffers with us and we with Him. He too cried out in desperation, feeling forsaken. He too wept. He too hurt and bled. Today tells us that in the hardest and darkest times when everything seems lost, everything covered in darkness, everything of you poured out – in that very moment love can still be at work and hope, though yet unseen, can be falling to the earth. At the Cross, all seemed lost, all seemed hopeless, in terrible pain Jesus our hope – died. Yet in that moment His love is poured out and His saving work accomplished.

We wait. We kneel with Mary, watching and waiting. Hope is hidden. Our Lord is in the tomb.  Yes, we wait.  We trust. Today tells us, even in this darkness, even in despair, hold on, because you are beloved of God, and nothing is lost. Love and hope fell to the earth and was hidden – but then love arose! We wait in sure and certain hope of the resurrection on Easter morning and when Jesus is lifted up He calls us to Himself.

When we see so much suffering as there is throughout the world right now, when we are struggling with our own pain, when darkness covers everything for us, we don’t know how to respond. It can seem so huge our efforts seem to be of little worth. Perhaps first, part of holding on is learning to wait, and kneel, not in a passive waiting, but in certain hope that though we cannot yet see it, through our time of darkness, love is at work.

We are never alone. We the church are the Body of Christ. As He suffered so do we. At times He draws us closer to His Cross. Just as He is fully present with us and fully sharing every moment of our lives, so He gives us an active part in His Father’s saving plan. In His suffering on the Cross His love poured out and so in the suffering we – His Body – go through,  so His love also pours out. We cannot see the way out of the darkness but we can be sure love is at work and love has won the victory.

“I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and noone will take your joy from you.” John 16 v 22

Group and no more trust

Tomorrow is MBT (mentalisation based therapy) group. I don’t know whether to go.

All trust I had in the service has gone. It’s been completely wiped out by the lies and let downs of the past months, the proofs they don’t believe me, the tricks, the cuts that open me more and more vulnerable then leave me with nothing and noone.

I don’t really want anything to do with a service that does this, but I’m desperate and have nowhere else to go. I’m desperate for help but it’s denied, it’s promised then withdrawn, or I’m deemed not in need or not believed. I want to do the therapy but I can no longer go forward safely with it. I cannot cope between sessions except by overdosing to black everything out and self harming to punish myself, temporarily quiet the voices, temporarily be something other than the utter pain. I’m not allowed any of the things that would keep me safe between sessions.

If I go tomorrow, I will be so angry. I can’t say I’ll keep it under control in the session. I can’t say I’ll stay “stable”. Nothing keeps it in anymore. I can’t mentalise like this and really I don’t want to. These things just are as they are. There’s nothing to be “curious” about or explore my feelings or someone else’s thoughts. Their thoughts have been made totally clear – they don’t believe me, I’m not allowed help, they’re tricking me, they’re cutting me open then leaving me and finding more and more ways to do it. My feelings are exploding and total. Fury. Hurt. Trapped. Over the edge. Liar. Fake. Fraud. Pain. Screaming.

If I go to group I can’t avoid it being clear I have no hope and no trust left. If everyone or anyone else does trust the service and does believe they’ll help them, then maybe that gets them through and helps them and is a lifeline for them. I don’t want to destroy that.If I say what’s happened to me, even in the last couple of days, I could destroy it.

I could go and just try not to talk about anything to do with me and just be there for other people and listen to them and try to mentalise about what other people bring. But I’m so far gone over the edge I don’t think I can trust myself not to explode.

When the group started committed to do it all. I committed to not leaving. I committed it to everyone in the group – not out loud, we didn’t do that, but in my head I did. I promised to God and Mother Mary too. If i leave I break my commitment to everyone, not just the service. I really don’t want to do that.

Yet at the moment I’m just ending up in more and more danger. It seems as if I should just accept this’ll never end, dissociate as much as possible, hope for something sometimes bearable…. but I think I’m too far gone for that. I wish I’d never trusted them.

Not that far from Bethlehem

Underneath the stars, just a simple man and wife,

Somewhere in the dark, his words cut the silent night –

“Take my hand, for the Child that you carry is God’s own,

And though it seems the road is long,

We’re not that far from Bethlehem.”

(Hopefully the above link works. It’s supposed to link to a video for the Christmas carol “Not that far from Bethlehem” by Point of Grace – see the footnote!)

It’s just a week til Christmas. I have very confused feelings around this time of year. Advent has passed so very quickly. It’s a time I really wish everything would slow down. I struggle all the more with relationships, especially in the family, and the knowledge that I am not what I should be is all the more painful. This must be normal for everyone, to some extent, I think. I think the more expectations there are, the more distance and emptiness hurts.

Feeling so weak, though it’s one of the most (if not the most) abundant times of hope and grace. It’s the time that Our Lord Jesus came to us, to love and heal and forgive us. It’s the root of our faith. Yet, this time of year it’s harder day to day and I feel all the more that I’m failing precisely because of my fear and emptiness.

Prayer and hope can seem nearly impossible and just as I feel a terrible darkness that seems to black out everything else when I’m distressed about interpersonal relationships, losses and so on, in the same way I can enter this state if I start to fear my God. The faith that at other times sustains me becomes a source of utter pain, “knowing” that I’m bad and can never be “enough” or with Him.

I start to make my God a sort of compilation of all the terrors and obsessional thoughts in my head, making God a punishing judge, who is angry with me and knows I am evil inside and cannot wait to punish and reject me for it.

This is so very dangerous. God is not the sum of my fears. My relationship with God does not depend on my thoughts, fears, hallucinations and sickness. When I read God’s Word in the Bible, He tells me that “perfect Love casts out fear”. He does not say we must be enough, but only “come to Me”. He does not say we must perfect ourselves to earn His love, but “you did not choose me but I [Jesus] have chosen you” and that we love because He loved us first and lifted us up in His arms.

So, this time of year, I try to answer His gentle voice, “come”. In prayer, I meditate upon drawing close to Jesus, Mary and Joseph at the stable in Bethlehem that first Christmas. Jesus Christ, who is all Love, is come to us as a helpless little baby, to share with us every joy, every suffering, every need, every feeling. He chose a young and poor woman, to be his Mother and to answer “yes” to God’s call, and through her “yes” and through her body, He came into the world. He was born in the “stable so bare” as the carol says, laid in a manger. He did not ask riches or a palace or great astounding things. He asked only love and a place in our hearts.

As Christ was born in that poor empty stable at Bethlehem, so He will come into our poor empty hearts. It does not matter if my heart is empty – there is the more space there for him to fill. It does not matter that I feel I have nothing to give him. A baby asks nothing but love and to be with us always. So does the Christ Child. He will fill my heart and He will be everything I am not. No amount of pain that I may feel can change that.

So I say yes, and in prayer and meditation I kneel close to the manger, and I wait and watch and hope and rejoice, with Mary and St Joseph. There we gather united with everyone who struggles, longs and hopes. However dark it seems, however long this road is, even in the midst of this most awful pain, we can never be far from Bethlehem.

 

We’re not that far from Bethlehem, where all our hope and joy began

For in our arms we’ll cherish Him,

No we’re not that far from Bethlehem.

Lyrics and score by Point of Grace – film extracts from “The Nativity” – with thanks to Crisen de Guzman for the video – all rights belong to the respective artists