Sisters in Scripture
Daughter of Jerusalem    03/31/2021

Daughter of Jerusalem

A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 12: 27-31). 

Only Luke's passion narrative contains this touching scene. We hear it every third Passion Sunday (next year) and the scene has been immortalized as the Eighth Station in the Way of the Cross, "Jesus Comforts the Women of Jerusalem." In WITNESSES ON THE WAY, our recent online retreat, participants created and spoke in character for each Station. Here is a sample from this Eighth Station, A Daughter of Jerusalem:

Tikva called out to me to hurry when she came running to my home. In the company of other women, we have begun the practice of intentionally witnessing executions under Roman rule. To comfort the dying is an act of mercy in Judaism so the Romans, though they scorn us, tolerate our presence. We know the comfort it gives to the condemned to see us and we also know that our presence indicts the injustice being done. So we do what we can.

Today, however, my mother-in-law had left for market and I had no one with whom I could leave my toddler son and I am still nursing my infant daughter. I hesitated but a moment and then bundled them both into my arms and followed Tikva to the road that led to Calvary.

There the other women told us it was the gentle healer, Jesus, who had been condemned. I prayed they were somehow wrong. They were not. We saw the crowd approach and began, as official mourners, to cry and wail above the noise. Suddenly silence fell over all. Jesus had stopped before us and turned to comfort the ones who'd come to comfort him. "Do not weep for me." The mouth of my infant daughter went slack at my breast as she turned toward Jesus, a smile playing at the corner of her lips. With my one free arm, I grabbed my son's hand as he began to pull away and reach out to Jesus. "Weep for your children." The tenderness of his gaze upon my children melted my mother-heart even as his words struck cold fear. 

His words still rang in my ears as I tucked in my little ones that night. I blew out the lamp and sat in the dark, rocking back and forth, trying to ward off the horror I had seen and the dire prediction I had heard. Ever so slowly, my heart quieted and something began to stir inside me, a resolute assurance that the witness of women was powerful, that Jesus had acknowledged that. I looked at my sleeping daughter and prayed that she would live to have a daughter who would have a daughter. 

When I slept I dreamed of daughters, a long line of daughters, granddaughters and great granddaughters. They were many and different--fair faces, dark faces, speaking languages I did not know, but they were all my daughter's daughters. Shoulder to shoulder they stood with babies in their arms and they did not turn their faces away from evil but evil turned from them. For they were strong and they were not alone. Jesus was with them.

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Irish Eyes    03/17/2021

Irish Eyes 

I remember my dad’s voice starting out soft and low as he bent near…

There’s a tear in your eye, and I’m wondering why, for it never should be there at all. With such power in your smile, sure a stone you’d beguile, so, there’s never a teardrop should fall. With your sweet lilting laughter like some fairy song, and your eyes twinkling bright as can be, you should laugh all the while and all other times smile. So, now, smile a smile for me….

Then came the part everyone knows, loud and sing-song, When Irish eyes are smiling…  

But I love the less familiar, early part. Sometimes Dad would cup a child’s quivering chin in his hands for the song. For the older ones, it was often a look across the room and then he’d start. How could we not end up singing with all our might, even if tears glistened while we did it…”in the lilt of Irish laughter you can hear the angels sing.” 

Irish songs, that’s what I remember of St. Patrick’s Day growing up, along with a generally festive air and sense of aren’t-we-the-lucky-ones-that-we-were-born-Irish—plus as a genuine sense of pity for those who were not. History and young adulthood introduced me to the Struggles and the shadow side of the Irish experience. But later in life, I went much farther back in time to explore my Celtic roots and its spirituality, something that became an integral part of who I am and how I pray today.  I have given over a full 4-5 feet of my bookshelves to books on Celtic Spirituality, pages that I hope are also written on my heart.

I especially like the pervasive sense of blessing that is a part of that spirituality. Late in the 19th century, Alexander Carmichael traveled through the Hebrides Islands to record in Gaelic, the blessings and prayers of the Celtic oral tradition that had been handed down over centuries. On my shelves I have his Carmina Gaedelica, or Song of the Gaels, a volume thick enough to serve as a booster seat, as it sometimes has for my grandkids. Every aspect of life was blessed from early waking to light of moon, birth to death and all in between, no matter how common: sweeping the hearth, milking the cow, working the loom. This sense of ever-present blessing has become, for me, a tangible part of living. The late John O’Donohue brought this awareness to his poetry, further crafting the art of blessing. 

If I could, I would sing for you, as did my father, the prelude to Irish Eyes. What I can offer you is a sample from John O’Donohue’s generous donation of blessings—with the promise to bless you in prayer this day of St. Patrick. Dia Duit! 

A Blessing of Solitude 

As we rise from Covid isolation into a new sense of self, purpose, and connection 

May you recognize in your life the presence, power, and light of your soul.

May you realize that you are never alone, that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.

May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here, that behind the façade of your life there is something beautiful, good and eternal happening.

May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God see you in every moment. 

Donohue, John, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, (HarperCollins, New York, 1997), p. 125. 

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What wonders do you work as we, so silent, sleep    03/03/2021



The sign greeted us as we were driving along the Acadian Coastal Drive, a provincial road hugging the western shoreline of the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada. We passed through small fishing villages, alongside salt marshes and beaches. Fishing boats of every color jauntily leaned upon the wet sand, awaiting the return of the tide that had stranded them a-tilt. Nova Scotia held interest for me as the place from which my grandparents had come, but also for the 50+ foot tidal range that means a dramatic changing of the guard whenever the tide turns. 

That night we camped just over the provincial line and into Nova Scotia. It was only in the morning that I understood the sign. I hadn't noticed the noise at first. Perhaps I thought it was distant traffic. But as I headed to the shore, it grew increasingly--rumbling, clattering, a growl that pulled me forward. My dog, too, pulled on his leash, compelled and curious--he, perhaps, thinking it was another kind of animal. I have certainly known the sound of surf upon the shore and this was cousin to that. But without the rhythm of wave, it continued a steady build until at last, I glimpsed the water's edge. Glistening in the slant of morning sun, the sloping, rocky shore was alive with movement. We had arrived as low tide was turning! Rocks tumbled, jumped, ground over over one another in a strange hurl toward land. The swift surge of water mounted giant boulders and carried large stones like straw. I yelled above the roar--or tried to, but I could not outshout the moon. 

There before my eyes I saw the naked power of the enigmatic moon. From a quarter million miles away, it reached down and, hand-less, rearranged the earth, tugging at the blue marble's liquid blanket. And earth, the larger orb, could be heard to groan at this pull from her smaller sister. 

Scientists believe a large, Mars-sized body collided with earth long ago and the resulting debris formed the moon. That collision also tilted the earth's axis 23.5 degrees, an angle that brings about the seasons we experience as earth orbits the sun. All of which makes me wonder...Do I then, have the moon to thank for the burgeoning of Spring? Who knew the moon did anything but float silently across the sky?

What wonders do you work, Lord, as we, so silent, sleep?

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