Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

This is the last day of 2009. This is also the first morning of my stay at home that I've woken at a reasonable hour (8 a.m.). Because of the latter, I enjoying the opportunity to be alone in the quiet of the morning, reflecting. I read a blog post from a friend that highlights her experience of 2009, complete with dates and photographs. It reminded me that I always want to do that but never actually do.

Perhaps when I've returned to Chicago I'll work on that. For now, I am sitting on the back porch with two of the cats, a chorus of birds, and the fresh dewy chill of this new, climactic day. The past year has been one of great change for me; some triumphs, some sadness, a strange but fruitful shift in geography/employment/community.

January was the month I had originally planned to leave life in Kentucky, not for Chicago, but for Palestine. I pushed that back to March and then never went at all. Instead, I began to treasure up my time with the women and staff of Healing Rain, with my darling roommate and other volunteer and former volunteer friends, with my sweet Kentucky home. I had no idea, when I first moved there, how my heart would be wed to its hills.

I trained for and ran a half-marathon (though, in all honesty, I couldn't run the whole thing)in Nashville with a few dear friends who would soon be setting out on their own, separate, adventures. I paid a visit to Israel while he was living in Tennessee with his brother and sister-in-law whose lifestyle I admired and tried to not covet. I flew down to Florida for Easter and a chance to visit my family before entering the unknown.

Chris and Amanda drove up from Knoxville when the day for moving arrived and helped me transport my bedroom's worth of belongings to Chicago. Over half of the latter end of '09 has been spent in that city; no telling how many more months/years will be lived there. Before I left it for this holiday trip, Chicago was the location of monumental transpirings. Sitting here though, in flannel pajamas at my childhood home with the majority of my family slumbering nearby, my life in Chicago seems faraway and small. I know that won't be the case when I return. It is a peculiar thing, the effect that perspective can have on one's vision.

Since being in Chicago I have already had a number of visitors (Grace & Sarah, Kristen and Shannon, Kosch) gone to visit others (Amblyn-WI, the Rommelfangers-WI, Rebecca-TX, the Nees-FL). I have reconnected with dear old friends from former seasons (Laura-Ky, Azuree-WP) and made a passel of new ones (Cat, Chrissy, Catholic Workers & Co., Laura F. the yet unmet but greatly beloved Laina, Dan & Angela, etc.). these encounters have led me to realize that relationships are the essence of being. They are life's fullness without which, even the most beautiful landscapes, the most exciting experiences, are flat.

In addition, I have begun to find acceptance of and in the Catholic church. I miss Aaron and Ann Marie very much. My feeling of being responsible for and connected to the world has been reinforced. My sense of wonder has returned. My love for the Nee family abides. And I wonder, with anticipation, what we will become and what we will create in this new year.

Be well and blessed dear friends, and yet-unmet fellow travelers.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Are You My Mother? (a reflection on learning how and who to follow)

The Daily Office readings for Tuesday paralleled our first mother, Eve, with our second, Mary. In Genesis, the presence of God is in the garden, asking man how he happened to notice his nakedness (Gn 3:9-15). Adam points to Eve who acknowledges, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.” Eve rejects the first divine imperative, conceding her will to that of the serpent as if his understanding of the way things are (“it’s good to eat the fruit”) exceeds and nullifies her understand of what God had spoken (“don’t eat the fruit”). Implementing her freedom of choice in this manner, Eve diminishes her power by submitting to the serpent’s suggestion and not acting out of her own conviction. Responding to the woman’s deviation toward passivity, God puts a name to her action in the form of a curse, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” It reads like an accusation and an allowance of what she herself has determined; more consequence, “look what you’ve done to yourself,” than curse. This was not the pattern of relationship for which we were originally formed. It is the result of an aberration, one that has continued as each successive generation accepts the “curse” as an indelible aspect of reality and not a consequence renewed by each individual’s chosen course.

With Mary, we have an example of one who walks another way, returning to the original pattern before it was distorted. Initially, this “new Eve,” looks to be following the same formula as her predecessor. An outsider, the angel Gabriel, enters her guarding, so to speak, and delivers a message. This message (you will conceive and give birth to a son), is to her understanding, contrary to the proper order of things; “how can this be?” Mary’s understanding is based on a broken way of being initiated by the first false move and perpetuated by those that followed. Mary accepts the contradiction. In doing so she is like Eve, believing that the assertion from this outside source supersedes what she previously accepted as truth. She is different though in that her acceptance signals a restoration for woman/humankind, to the position in which she was originally created. That is, in direct relationship with God, choosing to act in alignment with his intentions; whereas Eve’s obedience was an act of submitting to an authority other than God to rule over her. Mary and Eve are placed in the same position but on opposite sides. Eve, from a place of union, chose division. Mary, from a place of division, chose to be reunited. Hence Mary is called, “Holy Mother,” not just because the one that she delivered through childbirth was holy, but also because she is in a sense a deliverer as well; restoring for those with the vision to see an example of how we can relate and respond to God, even when Word God speaks stands in contradiction to our understanding of how the world works. We all, like Mary, are presented with that choice of being filled with the Christ and delivering him to the world or otherwise rejecting the claim that “with God all things are possible,” and saying, “This cannot be.” The latter is a sensible response. It makes sense to look at the overwhelming, destructive cycles that encircle us and to submit to resignation. “This is just the way the world is.” There are those, however, with ears to hear and eyes to see that that become aware of way that while not new is surely different. They know it looks impossible, and that is sounds crazy, and in response the say, “I’ll take it.”

I read these passages on Tuesday morning and they triggered a replay of a question a classmate had posed during her presentation the previous night; “If government authorities came to your home and commanded you to do something you believed was wrong, would you say, ‘no.’” I raised my hand, along with about a dozen others, indicating that I would. If this same question had been asked of me a year ago, I don’t know what I would have said. Even now, my confidence wavers. I am uncertain of my own judgment and feeling diminished by my ignorance, inclined to obey, if not trust, those who display certainty. More and more, I learn to question and to recognize that the common way is not always the best. I believe that I am beginning to understand what it means to be free.

Hail Mary, full of Grace; blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb…pray for us…