Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, March 25, 2010

It could be said that God’s foot is so vast
That this entire earth is but a
field on His

and all the forests in this world
came from the same root of just
a single hair
of His.

What then is not a sanctuary?
Where can I not kneel
and pray at a shrine
made holy by His

Catherine of Sienna, Dominican tertiary,
mystic, patron Saint of Italy,
born on this date, 1347.

I may have mentioned it before. I was enthralled, at age 50, on my birthday, to be for the first time in the duomo in Sienna. How I love those spaces! Big, no chairs or, worse, pews! Decaying frescoes but at least preserved to the best of modern technology. I’m wandering through, lighting candles, enthralled by the ancient iconography, the art, the sense of History. And then I come to an chapel. People are held back by a marble enclosure. There is a marble altar. And above it is a frame. In the frame is a ….. skull. Yes, a skull, draped with the headgear of a Dominican tertiary nun. St. Catherine herself. I sat there for many minutes. Staring at it. Thinking. I have never had any sense of revulsion about such displays. I have long ago learned to embrace the human body, including after death, and to “appreciate” the “gruesome“ display of it. I think it is a tiresome Puritan unearthliness to pretend aversion. The reality and life and death of the human person is just that: realilty.

Catherine’s poetic truth is simple reality. She got it right. Forget what the tight-assed theologians have had to say about “pantheism”. It’s just to protect the control of people and “church”.

“God” is everywhere. Truly anchored Christians know this. “God” pervades all things. Everything that exists participates in the Mystery of Being.

Oh. I have thrilled at worship in grand liturgical places, with movement and incense and rich colour and elegant words and order and music that ravishes the Soul. But none of that has been “better”, i.e., more evocative of “God”, than gazing across the Caribbean Sea as the sun sets. Awesome Wonder lifts me to Eternity.

Where can I not kneel
and pray at a shrine
made holy by His

There is no place that is not such a Shrine. Alas, we are such desecrators.


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