08 Apr From Bedside Blear to Kingdom Come
by Fr. David May
When the Lord rose from the tomb, he brought forth in himself the template for a new humanity. And when he sent the Holy Spirit 50 days later, the transformation of humanity into the new creation began.
Hey, wait a minute! Doesn’t the word “transformation” imply a radical makeover of whatever or whoever is being transformed? In other words, an end-product versus a beginning?
How can one speak of just a beginning as a real transformation? After all, the risen Lord was completely transformed—at least his body was—no longer subject to the exigencies of time and space.
But you and I are still at some partial stage of spiritual growth. Transformed in that full sense—we ain’t. Reformed? Somewhat. Deformed? In some ways yes, especially as the body ages!
On the other hand, the prayers of the Church at Easter do imply a great work of God within us. For example:
“Grant, we pray, almighty God, that we who have been renewed by paschal remedies, transcending the likeness of our earthly parentage, may be transformed in the image of our heavenly Maker…” (Monday, 2nd week of Easter)
“Grant, we pray, almighty God, that putting off our old self with all its ways, we may live as Christ did, for through the healing paschal remedies you have conformed us to his nature…” (Monday 3rd week)
“Grant us, Lord, we pray, that being rightly conformed to the paschal mysteries, what we celebrate in joy may protect and save us with perpetual power…” (Friday, 5th week)
We are transcending the likeness of our earthly parentage (that is, Adam and Eve) and are being transformed (that word again!) into a heavenly image. Putting off the old self with all its not-so-admirable ways, we have been conformed to Christ’s divine nature.
We are being saved by perpetual power exercised on our behalf. Many other examples can be found among the collects (opening prayer at Mass) of the Easter Season.
Back to the Lord at the tomb on Easter morning: he comes forth ready to plant the seeds of eternal life in the hearts of the human race.
He will do that primarily through his own disciples, who in 50 days will receive the tongues of fire, which one could also call seeds of the Holy Spirit that will enable them to live a new existence, at least the beginning of that new existence, both by bearing witness to Jesus in their preaching, and by their manner of life.
Perhaps we can say that our life on earth bears in seed form what one day will be a fully mature “tree” of eternal life. So, we do well to nurture those seeds of the Spirit we receive in this life, with their transforming power that is virtually limitless.
The other day, as I dragged myself out of bed around 6 a.m., I wondered how I could feel so tired at the end of a night’s rest and at the beginning only of an ordinary day in Madonna House.
It wasn’t that I abhorred what I had to do that day. It wasn’t that I am 69 and not 29 at this point in time.
Bored with what was happening in my life? Not really. Worried about the state of the world, particularly my native lands of Canada and the USA at this point? Yes, but that didn’t explain the weariness, as I hadn’t lost sleep over it all that particular night. Tired of hearing news about the pandemic? Yes, but that still didn’t explain what I was feeling.
Since I couldn’t figure it out very exactly, I decided just to get up and get moving. The poustinia needed a fire started as the temperature was -22 C. (-4 F.) outside and rapidly dropping inside since the fire had been out a few hours by then.
I had to bring in some fresh water from across the bridge, take dirty clothes to the laundry as it was a washday, get some food provisions at the Main House, and then wash up and so forth before beginning the prayers of the day.
I also needed to check my schedule book for the day, which can often be rather packed with appointments, to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anyone or overbooking.
An article for Restoration would soon come due. There are some letters I haven’t gotten to for too long that needed answering. I had a class to prepare, a retreat talk for staff. Put that all together, and 17 hours from now the day will be done and I’ll be ready for sleep, not counting a brief nap somewhere in the middle it all.
On the other hand, I carry the struggles and cares and anxieties of the world right in the poustinia, particularly of some individuals I know well, but in another way, of the whole Church at this time and of the world in general.
That can be a little wearying for sure. There seem to be a lot of negative forces for evil at play today, and you wonder at times why the whole thing doesn’t just disintegrate under its own weight.
Then there is the realization that the world is also in me as much as outside me, and those forces of destruction can be unleashed in my own heart if I’m not careful.
Lately, a new dimension of the Lord’s Prayer has been opening up to me. For years, I found myself most attentive from give us this day our daily bread to the ending deliver us from evil.
But lately, the line thy kingdom come, has been coming to the fore. I find myself looking up and around with eyes open at that time, as if I’m expecting to see that kingdom at any moment. How I long for this!
How we all are encouraged by the Lord’s own prayer to ask for this to come about on earth as it is in heaven! I wonder: when will this happen in glory and in a way that the whole world might feel its might and its beauty?
But then the Lord seemed to drop a seed in my heart recently while I was on a mini-retreat with members of Madonna House. What did I see?
I imagined my heart being bombarded by all sorts of events, people, and situations—everything from sunlight to wind to tears to cries of distress; questions, anger, confusion, falling trees, mountains shaking, children lost; also laughter, absolute stillness, dust—all of it smashing up against my heart of stone, breaking down its walls, piercing its protective shield, until broken in resistance, the granite gave way, and from inside my heart flowed out compassion and mercy for everyone—enemies, friends, strangers.
I knew that these healing waters (or was it blood and water?) were not of my own manufacture but came from Another living in me. He was planting divine seeds of the Spirit of love in me, so that I, in turn, could be a vessel pouring out what he was giving.
Then I understood why I was a bit tired so early in the morning. I was carrying God’s kingdom—or some portion of it—inside me, and it was seeking a way out. How? By my living an ordinary Christian day in these anything-but-ordinary times. And by being open to whatever the day(s) will bring, for somehow the Risen Lord is in it all working mysteriously.
So I proceeded on as planned, giving myself to it as I was able, while begging God to give so much more, till his heavenly will be carried out fully even here on this struggling earth, until all things be made new. (Rev 21:5)