Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

In the Lenten Spring ~ Mother of God, Enlightener of Minds

The spring days are lengthening. Since the Winter Solstice the daylight has increased by over two hours and will continue to do so until the middle of June (the Summer Solstice). Here is an icon of the Mother of God whose title invites us to pray about inner light: Mother of God ~ Enlightener of Minds. 

The literature proposes the Enlightener of Minds be invoked for those with weak, disordered or unstable minds, or that we might improve our study, classroom attention or test-taking skills, or know how to make a right decision to solve a problem. 

But I would suggest there is something more fundamental going on here for anyone who has set out to walk the path of Christian discipleship. It's my mind (your mind) that is in need of enlightenment - an enlightenment that will lead me to possessing a Christ-mind - which is an evolved, en-spirited, renewed, changed mind.

  • From thinking they ought to do it my way - enlighten me, O Lady.
  • From thinking I understand why he is that way - enlighten me, O Lady.
  • From thinking there is only one way - enlighten me, O Lady.
  • From so much disapproval - enlighten me, O Lady.
  • From the curse of negativity and self pity - enlighten me, O Lady.
  • From being blind to the people closest to me - enlighten me, O Lady.
  • From racist, prejudicial, fearful, stereotypical assessments of people - enlighten me, O Lady.
  • From thinking I have to comment on everything - enlighten me, O Lady.
  • From defensive, protectionist thinking - enlighten me, O Lady.
  • From I can't be bothered or That's far away thinking - enlighten me, O Lady.
  • Enlighten me, O Lady, what Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid, means. Jn 14:27
  • Enlighten me, O Lady, what Love one another as I have loved you, means. Jn 15:12
  • Enlighten me, O Lady, what As you wish that people would do to you, do so to them, means. Lk 6:31
  • Enlighten me, O Lady, what Whoever does the will of God is my brother, my sister, and mother, means. Mk 3:35
  • Enlighten me, O Lady, what For God so loved the world, means. Jn 3:16

Monday, March 19, 2018

Spring Growth Starts In The Low Place

Here are some low-to-the-ground tulip shoots breaking through frosty ground. There's a Tibetan saying:  When the spring bloom comes, where does it start? Does it start on the hilltops or down in the valleys first? Growth begins first in the low places.  

The low places. Humility comes from the Latin humus: soil or good earth. It doesn't mean we're dirt but:

  • Stay realistic about yourself. 
  • Come down to earth about yourself. 
  • Always remain a student. 
  • My life is on loan to me. 
  • I am not indispensable; I can be replaced.

"Oh, you're special!"  No, I'm not; I'm like everyone else. But while I'm not special, I am needed, and God has given me all I have to make my contribution.  I have a role to play, and only I can play it. The Down Syndrome child who gives smiles and hugs all day is giving what he/she has to give, and it is of great value in an often scowling world of loneliness and alienation.

There was a piece on the morning news about two little elementary school girls who throw birthday parties for kids who never get a party.  While excitedly tearing open boxes of party supplies one said, "I think not having a birthday party means you are not loved." Everyone has a contribution to make. Humility is knowing it, and doing something about it.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Suihan Sanyou ~ The Three Friends of Winter

Because of their ability not only to survive but flourish through the severe East Asian winter weather, pine, bamboo and plum together symbolize steadfastness, perseverance and resilience. Pine and bamboo are evergreen, and plum can bloom in February, as I discovered in a nursery this past week where young plum trees, pots standing in snow, are already flowering.

When everything else has withered or gone dormant, these three signal hope and call us to lean into the face of adversity and challenge. Of course, the Lenten Christian may have in mind the determination of Jesus, who, in Luke's Gospel, is always on his way to Jerusalem, where he will be rejected, die for love of us and rise from the dead on the third day.

When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. Luke 9:51

He went on his way through towns and villages teaching, and journeying towards Jerusalem. Luke 13:22

"Nevertheless I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem". Luke 13:33

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.  Luke 17:11

And when he has said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. Luke 19:28

Jesus passing between Samaria and Galilee by choice (he could have gone by a different route) is notable, because Samaria was unfriendly territory. We all have a winter-way, a Samaria-way to walk. Take heart, and consider the Three Friends of Winter. 

If I were president of the United States, I would personally deliver pine, bamboo and plum trees to the people of China, Japan and both Koreas - late winter signs of a tenacious and unwavering desire and committment to build a peaceful world.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Spring is a Deep Breath

This is British Landscape artist Mark Preston's painting titled: Breezy Day. The flowering tree, swayed in the stiff breeze, suggests early spring, but if that's purple heather in bloom, it could be June or July. Perhaps the artist couldn't make up his mind which season he likes best, so he combined the two. Small matter. For our purposes it's the alive air at the top of the hill and the invitation to breathe deeply!

We were made for breathing: "Then God shaped man from the soil of the ground and blew the breath of life into his nostrils, and man became a living being." Genesis 2:7.  Not only have we been made for breathing, but breathing is a sacred thing. God's own life is in our breathing. 

And then there is the breath of the Easter Jesus carrying our second birth, sharing heavenly life: "After saying this he breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit..." John 20:22

Maybe Spring, with its opened windows and outside walks, invites us to consider the gift of breathing. Lots of people don't breathe well for a number of reasons: perhaps they are out of shape or suffer from asthma or emphysema. Maybe their lungs have been weakened from smoking.

Or we don't breathe well because we're always running around. "I'm totally out of breath," the frenzied person complains. So much running around makes for shallow, unconscious breathing. 

But also, when we're running around all the time, we've left the present moment and are in the past, mulling over yesterday and its fear, anger, panic and disappointment. Or we're in the imagined future, worrying, stressed, managing and overwhelmed. 

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who invites us to sit each day for twenty minutes of deep and conscious breathing. Many people will immediately say, "That's impossible! Who has twenty minutes!? Only monks have the luxury of twenty minutes." Maybe that's the point he's making - it's a problem for first world people. Anyway, we do what we can. So maybe stop for ten minutes - five minutes. Just sit, attentive to God's first gift - breath.

In this conscious breath, I receive God's gift of life.
In this breath, I am nowhere else.
In this breath, I am here in this single moment.
In this breath, I am right where I am supposed to be.
In this breath, I inhale all that is good.
In this breath, I exhale negativity.
In this conscious breath, I inhale the renewing Holy Spirit.