Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Icons! Wesołego Alleluja!


This week we greet the Risen Christ and He reaches down to lift us to Himself. 

"I am the proud city of the Lord
and I proclaim him with a hundred voices;
in me the praises of David resound. 
I lie reclining in the twilight of the harp
while breathing the evening star."
(Rainer Maria Rilke)


Monday, April 14, 2014

Lenten Icons: Mary of Egypt

"Now He had made her one who was loving,
not just the lover pulled and drawn;
and having been shaken by vicious storms
she had come into her own."*

Mary of Egypt, patron of penitents. Her story is well-enough know, a prostitute in Alexandria, who rarely charged for her services (some say because of overwhelming passion, others because she simply loved people, and decided loving them was the best was to bring happiness into their lives..I prefer the latter).  Mary bought a trip to the Holy Land this way, and when she arrived, discovered that she couldn't enter the Churches until she repented. 

What I love about Mary of Egypt most especially, is that we see so obviously that she doesn't change in her conversion, she comes into her own. She is still the passionate one, the whole-hearted giver of herself, she is still promiscuous - unable to limit herself, to be proper or restrained. Only now she is made whole, and her whole self can be loving to the whole selves of others. 

In the desert, her home for years after her conversion, Mary is taught scripture by Christ Himself. She fasts, she blesses St. Zosimas who is in awe of her holiness, walks on water to receive Communion from him, and is later buried by both Zosimas and a Lion - the lion himself stands in for her beloved Christ. She in penitential, reminding us, with Oscar Wilde, that the trouble is less in what we do than in what we become.

 "I only need seven days, I guess,
which no one has claimed or covered before, 
seven pages o loneliness."**

* Rilke. The Risen One
**Rilke. The Book of Hours 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Lenten Icons

"I'm still a novice concerning pain-
that's how small I feel in this great dark;
but if you are there, be heavy and and break through;
have your whole hand do it's work on me"*

The Three Handed Virgin is the Icon in honor of the Theotokos, healer of St. John of Damascus. St. John of Damascus' hand was cut off by the Iconoclast Emperor, Leo III, but when he took his pain to the Virgin, She restored St. John's hand, and he wrote the Icon in gratitude. Originally, the third hand hung around Her neck, but later versions have it as it is in the Icon above, a natural part of Her.

The Three-Handed Virgin, the miracle working Mother of God, reminds us always that God is the restorer of hope, and the healer of all wounds. She is magical, this Mother, offering 'a river of grace' to the children of God who come in faith to rest beneath her mantle. Restoring hands and hearts, bodies and souls, to wholeness.

"And though I am like leaves and loam, 
as often as I pray or paint
it's Sunday and deep down I am 
joyful Jerusalem."* 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Meditations on the Tarot: The Chariot

The Chariot is the card of triumph, and the card of fasting. It is the card which teaches renunciation and mastery through obedience. In it I see St. Mary of Egypt, who's feast was yesterday; the woman who gave up an entire life to follow her Beloved into the desert, where she never again tasted the wines and good foods of her previous life, and, it seems, hardly missed them. 

Mary, who turned so suddenly and so completely from her sins, was saved from the temptation that comes with renunciation, the temptation toward spiritual pride. She was saved, I think, through love. She had that rich and promiscuous love; the love that in one moment falls so completely and never looks back. Love enough to give everything to Him and never question. I picture her with water-hands, Mary of Egypt..long, thin, and brown after her years in the desert, listening to her Lord whisper His words to her in the sunlight, and laughing merrily at the thought of her life to come. 

Fasting is the means to the triumph of love over death, and in these final week of Lent, we recommit ourselves to it, in hope of finding some share of St. Mary's own Triumph.The Chariot card reminds us that renunciation requires love to succeed.