Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Mary's Light-Receiving Eye

THE BEARDED IRIS are finished blooming for the summer and now it is time for the Japanese Iris. These are blooming in the garden here at the retreat house. They might strike us as birds taking off in flight. In Greek Mythology, Iris was the winged messenger of the gods who traveled from above to earth along the rainbow.

In my first assignment, as a young priest, if the weather was with me and I had the time, I'd do my calls on bicycle. One warm July day I visited a home that looked like a French Chateau  on a large property with formal gardens. As I peddled  through the gates I noticed that the Japanese iris were blooming. A few minutes later, when I entered the room of the elderly and dying woman, I saw the private duty nurse had placed one  in a glass on the bedroom nightstand.

The lady died soon after, and in preparing for her funeral Mass I sensed that the presence of the iris had some significance for me. So I did some research, (one had to go to the library in those days) and found a paragraph about a Medieval Italian cardinal who in his coat of arms featured a single stylized iris and on the banner beneath it read, "We grow with God's help."

I suppose any flower could remind us of that, but the iris does it in a particularly lovely way. We grow in goodness and with God's help, so we must be patient with ourselves and each other. We shouldn't take the heavenly help for granted but look to discover heaven's growth-producing assist along our life way: to be better people: more healed, sober, kind, more open to learning, more surrendered, less a victim of haste, less compulsive.

Then recently I discovered this marvelous reference to the Iris as symbolic of Mary's Light-Receiving Eye. Of course this isn't about Mary's optic sight but rather as the first disciple and model of the Christian life, her inner sight. But our eyes are only light-receiving when we are awake. This is what Mary did at Bethlehem - she was awake to Christ: awake to his presence in her arms, awake to his cries, his need for comforting, 

Mary awake at Bethlehem invites us to wake up to the One who calls himself Light - awake and out of the cultural slumber - news clips, slogans and opinions we call truths. Cultural sleep is constantly looking for the new product with new and even better promises, the new star in the new movie, the new scandal, the new advice from the next new expert, the new sensory excitement.

Thomas Merton writes that waking up means discovering God's presence where it wasn't expected. Waking up is the intuition I know didn't come from myself. Waking up is something we each have to do for ourselves, it isn't information someone hands on in a book or lecture. Gratitude grows out of the awakening and gratitude itself is an awakening. Both!


  1. I feel such the presence of God in your recent posts. Maybe it is the way you relate the beauty found in nature to a vital message, or some thought provoking words to live by. I am genuinely at peace when I read them and am so happy to have found this captivating spark of light in the dark.

  2. We need some light, don't we? God knows. The first thing God says in the creation account: "Let there be light." But the light is God's - because only later does God make the sun and stars. We need God's Light. Thanks for following the posts.

  3. May we read this and all be awake to Christ. You have a way of waking me up to God's presence in my life. I agree with the comment above wholeheartedly.

  4. These beautiful flowers do wake us up to the presence of God, a kind God. He inspires you to relate them to His Mary. How neat!

  5. How blessed are the people who attend retreats that can also see the beauty in your garden. There is nothing like the beauty of nature to aid in reflective thoughts and meditations. And it is obvious that you are someone who can send people into contemplation.