Archive for December 11th, 2008|Daily archive page

Great Expectations

I went to bed last night amidst a discussion of Nixon, on release of a movie about the David Frost interviews.  The discussion by the author who played Nixon in what first must have been the Broadway play:  Nixon and his immortal leanings, his desire for greatness……and the loneliness.  The vast loneliness.

God in his vastness. I had struggled yesterday with a liturgy at a cathedral in the neighborhood.   I always struggled at this place of worship, in its vastness, in its darkness, with its emptiness visible.  There must have been a message left by the architecture.  It was the empty tomb effect.  The same message left throughout Europe in their vast cathedrals. 

God  who in His subtle ways appeared every day, however fleeting. God, in the darkness.  God, visble at dawn and again in the sunset.  God in the night, before the days of electricity.  It was the time of year, in darkness that we decided to let God come closer and closer. In need of me and you to fill the emptiness. 

God, in his subtle mundane ways, was in the food.  The food that I had had each day of my life.  There was an intimacy to the food.  To eat is to intimately trust.  Trust that the food was not tainted.  There was care-giving in food preparation.  I heard on Sunday a radio show where an author of a bookd spoke of teh aftermath of melamine-tainted baby formula.  The same things had happened here in the middle of the 19th Century in North America, with swill milk.  

Food.  Grown.  Distributed.  Purchased.  Prepared.  And shared.  It will nourish and ideally do no harm.  Even to a human who did the cooking, there was a mystery beyond the ingredients that went into the food, of the things we put in our mouths.  There was a trust every day, and that food determined for a large part our health.  That was the intimacy of food.  Of health. 


Within my own home, there was a realness of food in the struggle amidst all His mystery, to know God.  Whether in this cathedral, his home, or even my home.  In His vastness, with my emptiness.  To feel the hunger.  Babies cried over the lack of food.  I think that humans did the same, over issues of spiritual hunger in their lives.  From those who have never heard that God is love.  Those without hope.  In tough time, the seriousness of all varieties of hunger was better understood.  The lack of understanding was the cause of conflict.  The secular versus the religious.  The Crusades and the crusaders.  There was not much generosity in war.  Sharing food, real food, involved a grace that comes from food.  Generosity.  From where ever it had come.  Humans had little control.  Mostly food came from the earth and favorable climate conditions. 


Last week I watched a movie on the Turner Classic Movie channel.  I have never read Great Expectations, so I watched the movie.  In one scene, in attempting to become a gentleman, the main Charles Dickens’ character, poor as a peasant, asked a sponsor who sent him to London, “Why have you done so much for me?”  And after he was recognized in his adulthood to be a gentleman, he felt like too many gentlemen of his age, that he had become a snob.


It made me reflect on the strangers along the way that had helped to try to form me into a gentleman.  When I was very young for most of those years it had been by nuns.  In my experience, these nuns had welcomed the stranger, given their gifts, shared their lives, so that a bunch of kids could be educated as gentlemen and ladies to learn the same generosity.  It seemed pretty mundane to teach kids each day, year in and year out.  Too many of us with our desire for greatness had become snobs along the way, blind to the splendor of their generosity, blind to their vastness, with our own emptiness too often filled with materialism.


It was a week that the church used to ask for support for the retired nuns who in their old age did not have much.  And they have been on my mind each day.  By 2023, religious orders may face more than $20 billion in unfunded retirement liabilities.  There had been no special collection this year.   The sadness was that too many of us had become snobs along the way.  And there no longer were many nuns.



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