A House Blessing and the Holy Trinity

A few months after we had moved into our new home, one of my favorite monks, Fr. Thomas Leitner joined us for a special dinner and house blessing. After the introductory prayers and Scripture readings, Fr. Thomas sprinkled Holy Water that had been blessed at the Easter Vigil in each of our rooms—the living room, bedrooms, kitchen, upstairs, downstairs and even next door at Al and Beth’s house, our townhouse roofmates—and a little extra splash for our loyal Dachsy-Poo, Bailey. Our daughter, who was finishing her last year in college, would spend a few months living in our new home, but mostly it would become our empty nest. This blessing for our home was also a blessing for the next chapter in our lives.

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Fr. Thomas also gave us a special gift, a replica of Andrei Rublev’s Holy Trinity Icon. An icon, an image or religious picture, communicates a deeper spiritual meaning often used in prayer and meditation for Christians throughout the world. It was a special image for him, used as the holy card for his ordination and First Mass in 1992.*  He enthusiastically shared with us why he also felt it represented how we would welcome those who entered as guests and the hospitality we would extend in our new home.

Fr. Thomas Holy Card

The three angels in the icon symbolize the three strangers that Abraham welcomes into his tent in Genesis.

Abraham’s Visitors

The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oak of Mamre, as he sat in the entrance of his tent…he saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them …He ran to the herd, picked out a tender, choice calf, and gave it to a servant, who quickly prepared it. Then he got some curds and milk, as well as the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them, waiting on them under the tree while they ate (Genesis 18:1–8).

The three angels wear different colored garments representing their distinct role in the relationship of the Trinity. Viewed left to right, the angels represent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “The first angel wears a blue undergarment, symbolizing the divine nature of God and a purple outer garment, pointing to the Father’s kingship. The second angel is the most familiar as he is wearing the clothes typically worn by Jesus…The crimson color symbolizes Christ’s humanity, while the blue is indicative of his divinity. The oak tree behind the angel reminds us of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden as well as the cross upon which Christ saved the world from the sin of Adam. The third angel is wearing a blue garment (divinity), as well as a green vestment over the top. The color green points to the earth and the Holy Spirit’s mission of renewal…The two angels on the right of the icon have a slightly bowed head toward the other, illustrating the fact that the Son and Spirit come from the Father.” (Source: The Russian Icon that Reveals the Mystery of the Trinity, Alteteia, Philip Kosloski, May 21, 2016)

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A chalice sits at the center of the table representing both the literal meal the strangers were invited to and the table of the Eucharist we are invited to. It appears the Holy Spirit points towards an open space at the table, perhaps as an invitation to each of us, to all, to sit at the table—to be welcomed and received as Christ.

“At the front of the table, there appears to be a little rectangular hole. Most people pass right over it, but some art historians believe the remaining glue on the original icon indicates that there was perhaps once a mirror glued to the front of the table. It’s stunning when you think about it—there was room at this table for a fourth. The observer. You!” (Source: Take Your Place at the Table, Tuesday, September 13, 2016, Richard Rohr)

Fr. Thomas’ gift was a perfect expression of what Joe and I desire our home to be—hospitable and welcoming. Ironically, or providentially, a nail hung on an empty wall near where we opened our gift, so I placed the icon on it. It is the perfect place for it—in our living room where friends and family gather, and at the entry to our kitchen where most entertaining takes place.

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Holy Trinity Sunday is celebrated in many churches this weekend. It is an opportunity to remember, “…this Table is not reserved exclusively for the Three, nor is the divine circle a closed circle: we’re all invited in.” (Source: The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell)

St. Benedict insisted that hospitality be one of the highest values for monasteries, writing “Let all guests who arrive be received as Christ.” (RB 53:1) Being hospitable is our opportunity to respond to God’s great generosity towards us.  If we are truly made in God’s image, lovingly invited to the Table and to dance with the Holy Trinity, then we are meant to extend that welcoming invitation to others.

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*A note from Fr. Thomas: This icon, which is used to depict the Holy Trinity, originally was meant to show the three Divine visitors to Abraham (Gen 18:1-15). The day of my First Mass in Noerdlingen was the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C. On this day, Gen 18:1-10a is in the Lectionary in conjunction with Luke 10:38-42, Mary and Martha. The topic of hospitality, that we find as we combine these texts lent itself so well for the homily (preached by my former novice master, Fr. Meinrad) and also for my little speech at the reception. We practice hospitality and, perhaps without being aware of it, receive God in the guest.

Read more about Icon of the Holy Trinity by St Andrei Rublev

Made for Goodness: A Child of God

struggle made for goodnessA few years ago, in our attempt to downsize and declutter, I attacked the hundreds of books I own with an attitude of discernment. Where should this book reside? Where would it’s best home be? Shall I keep it to read again or send it along to be enjoyed by another reader?

I was particularly torn about one book, Made for Goodness by Desmond Tutu. It was a book my Circle read and discussed together. When I thumbed through the book, discerning, I opted to take a few photos of the pages that had truly made an impression on me, save them and send the book on where it could be loved by another. (Disclaimer: Some books are wistfully retrieved from the send-to-another-home pile and placed back on my bookshelf. With books – and life – this letting go is a journey.)

Yesterday, I came across a photo from this book, a poem written by Tutu for his daughter as seen through the eyes of God. I immediately thought of a friend who could use the comfort and encouragement of this message and started drafting an email to forward the image.

But, wait….I read it again and thought, “This is such a comforting message. I wish every child, every person, knew how loved and special they are; that they need not be so hard on themselves.” I thought of my daughter and my cousin’s daughters. Taking a little detour from the poem (summer days allow for such excursions), I started looking at baby photos of my little cousins, my daughter….and I stumbled upon a baby picture of myself.

I returned to the poem a third time, this time finally realizing that it is meant for me too.  I hear, “Walk slowly. Listen, for God is speaking. You are accompanied. You are known; uniquely created. Be faithful. Trust and it won’t matter how the road may turn. It’s not where you are going, but how. God is with you.”

Perhaps you need to hear this message today too. Here are the words of Desmond Tutu:

Don’t struggle and strive so, my child.
There is no race to complete, no point to prove, no obstacle course to conquer for you to win my love.
I have already given it to you.
I loved you before creation drew its first breath.
I dreamed you as I molded Adam from the mud.
I saw you wet from the womb.
I loved you then.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. ~Psalm 139:13baby

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Stop racing ahead at your own pace; you will only be exhausted, flamed out and spent before the task is accomplished.
Pace yourself with me, walk alongside me.

Do you think I don’t know the demands of your life?
I see you striving for perfection, craving acceptance.
I see you bending yourself out of shape to conform to the image that you have of me.
Do you imagine that I did not know who you were when I made you, when I knit you together in your mother’s womb?
Do you think I planted you as a fig tree and expected you to bloom roses?
No child, I sowed what I wanted to reap.

Be still and know that I am God! ~Psalm 46:11

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You are a child after my own heart.
Seek out your deepest joy and you will find me there.
Find that which makes you perfectly yourself and know that I am at the heart of it.
Do what delights you and you will be working with me, walking with me, finding your life in me.

My precious child, I will call you to account for nothing more than I have asked of you. Just be faithful to the task I have set before you.
Whether you succeed or not is no matter to me.
Live as you hear me speak in you.
Live in the truth you learn from me, then it won’t matter how the road may turn.
The goodness you live will set you free.

I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. ~Psalm 131:2

baby love

May you recognize in your life the presence, power and light of your soul.
May you have respect for your individuality and difference.
May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here.
May you not disrespect your mystery through brittle words of false belonging.
May the frames of your belonging be generous enough for your dreams.
May the expectation in others eyes never decide how you are to be.
May you be blessed with good friends and learn to be a good friend yourself.
May you have friends who can see you.

Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.
Respond to the call of your gift and have courage to follow its path.
May your outer dignity mirror the inner dignity of your soul.
May anxiety never linger about you.
May you have the courage to speak for the excluded ones.
May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.

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The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul. He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. ~Psalm 23: 1-4

Baby photos: Hadley, Harper (my cousin’s babies),  Jessica and me.
We’ve got good genes in our family. All beautiful babies 🙂

Follow the Star: For the Directionally Challenged

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?  For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” ~Matthew 2:2We are kings and queens

For the past four months we have lived off the radar, so to speak.

We live in the city, but we can see the city limits boundary from our backyard. There are empty lots behind us, next to us and across the street. Our address is finally recognized by the U.S. Postal Service, but is not listed on Google Maps or detectable by other forms of GPS.

For the first four weeks at our new address, the local cable company claimed there were no lines laid in our neighborhood to connect us to internet and television services (much to the disappointment of my sports-loving husband.) When people have come to visit us, we need to provide them directions, not just our street advice. No Google maps, no Siri will find us; just good, old-fashioned directions. “Head south on ___street.  Go three more blocks until you reach ___street. Turn right. Go to ____ street, and turn left.”

This hasn’t been an easy task for visitors to our new house. We’ve received phone calls from lost friends and have had some late arrivals. We really have no idea how long we will be technologically unlocate-able, but we kind of enjoy being out in the boonies. (Picture of old barn less than 1/4 mile away from our house)

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So, who has had the most difficulty finding us, you ask?  The answer: the directionally challenged and/or people 30 years old and younger, the Millenial generation.

So many people have become accustomed to using GPS to navigate, not just on trips to unfamiliar destinations, but the cities where they reside as well. I love young people (I teach them; I have one…a daughter), but they just don’t know their directions very well, having relied heavily on technology to navigate from one place to the next.

GPS has become a crutch….perhaps a tool that is used instead of problem-solving for oneself or following one’s natural sense of direction. Getting turned around in a neighborhood can be a brain-teaser without knowing which way is north, south, east or west; what direction you came from; and what direction you need to be going. Relying on GPS precludes the possibility of finding a short cut or a more scenic drive. Sometimes we just need to make decisions about what the best route is on our own, without advice from GPS.

What if you were told to just follow a star to get where you were going?

epiphany1“Follow the star” was the only direction given to the Magi seeking the Christ-child over 2000 years ago. They didn’t have a road map and they certainly didn’t have GPS. But sometimes that’s all you need—just a general idea of where you are headed, especially when you are aware of being guided by something Greater. They watched and listened and followed the Light… and they found Jesus. When they were headed back home, the Magi were instructed to return by another route. They learned new information that could help them on their return journey.

“They listened to a voice deep within, which led them to follow that light. The star guided them, until they found the King of the Jews in a humble dwelling in Bethlehem.”~Pope Francis, January 6, 2016

Perhaps this is the only road map or GPS we need—follow the Light, listen, watch, rely on the Divine to give you cues, clues and the guidance to end up right where you belong. And every now and then, take a different route.

Things to ponder: What or who do you listen to for direction in life? What or who is the “star” you are seeking?  Are you following the Light?

Happy Epiphany and continued Christmas Blessings!

“…go to Bethlehem, to find the Child and his Mother. Let us follow the light which God offers us!”~Pope Francis, January 6, 2016

The Creators Hand

Cards made during Christmas and Epiphany seasons, 2015

Giving Up to Gain: Selling, Decluttering and the 68506

Phase one—Selling Our House: Surrender to Surprise!—was the decision to sell our house without knowing where we might move, trusting that our leap of faith would be an interesting exercise of self-awareness and surrender.

Phase two—Decluttering: Taking Off The Top Layer—was eye-opening. After a few weeks of the decluttering process—making decisions about what to throw, keep, donate or save—it became apparent that the last nine years had been ACCUMULATING years. I realized we had far more stuff than I thought.

Just put it in the basement     If we were paid a dollar for every time one of us said, “Put it in the basement”, we could pay our next month’s rent. Continue reading “Giving Up to Gain: Selling, Decluttering and the 68506”

Decluttering: Taking Off The Top Layer

We’ve taken off the top layer of knick-knacks, wall hangings and books—twenty years of pictures of Jessica growing up, snapshots of vacations, dozens of refrigerator magnets holding senior pictures, expired coupons, newspaper clippings and birth announcements—and loaded up two trailers-worth of boxes and furniture that we can live without for a while (and perhaps longer).  The stuff that we can live without has gone to a better home. Continue reading “Decluttering: Taking Off The Top Layer”

Selling Our House: Surrender to Surprise!

So…we are really going to put this surrender idea into practice. Or at least we are going to give ourselves the opportunity to practice. We are putting our house up for sale. And we have no idea what we are going to do when it sells.

It’s an adventure—kind of exciting, a little scary, a definite opportunity to Continue reading “Selling Our House: Surrender to Surprise!”

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