New World In The Morning
The Dying Swan (ballet)!
It happened a week ago. The Spire of the Annunciation Church in Finglas West, Dublin, came down. We saw the barricades surround the church over recent weeks. The great stained-glass window came out. Then the Spire toppled on Thursdays. It was captured on film. It was like a coffin being lowered. Our response was visceral. This great landmark was gone. A whole history was smashed at that moment. This bold symbol of God in Finglas had died. Everyone who came into Finglas was always greeted by this statement: ‘God is here. Reach up and reach out. God has come down among us and we have stretched out to the heaven.’ Something deep inside us was savaged. We have become small again. All those characters of the past who built that Church; who crowded in the home of the church (sacristy); who were full of faith and colourful as the great community of the West – something very rich had died. We feel lost, lonely, bereft. The death of the Spire screams at us – we must build a new church in a different world and we feel very inadequate and almost helpless. It was the funeral of a whole culture.
Lavinia Fontana’s painting: The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon is in the news these days. She was probably the first female career artist. I hear that her husband remained at home to mind the children. Jack Yeats had a programme called ‘The man who painted Ireland’ last week. His outlook/attitude was contrasted with his brother, the poet William, Butler Yeats. Jack was quiet. William wasn’t. Both loved Sligo. Jack was in love with the ordinary. He loved to paint. He saw the water and the hills and heard them speaking. He saw the artist’s role as painting the human dilemma. My fellow town’s man Fergus Lyons, has an Exhibition in Kilcock Gallery, these coming days. Fergus’s work is magnificent in its vitality. The colours take over the onlooker and become a partner in the dance of life. His father Peadar taught me. His sister Nuala was a very special friend in our family. Despite all my schooling, I know so little. I still wonder how did I find my way through so much education and remain so ignorant! Those artists teach me. The poets teach me. Music teaches me. Nature teaches me. God speaks through those who actually see something more and see it differently.
Doing a new thing:
Is 43.19. ‘No need to recall the past. No need to think about what was done before. See I am doing a new deed even now it comes to light; can you not see it? ‘ It is a mighty line. As we age; we can get lost in the past. As the Church appears to be dying; we can take refuge in other days and so called better days. The death of the Spire (in Finglas) is not the end of the world even if it feels like that. The vicious virus which has hijacked the whole world hasn’t locked us up completely. The closed churches and the disappearing priesthood is not the end of faith. The incarnation occurs daily and if we don’t see it, we are without faith. The Synodal Pathway is a new language. If the reality seeps into our consciousness, rather than be used for linguistic gymnastics, then this new thing will become obvious in our daily lives. I fear a take-over by the theorists on this Synodal thing. In so many ways, it is simple. Respect. Listen. Travel together. Believe in the God within the experience of every person. Share the companionship of the journey. Be in Communion. Listen and learn. Be humble. Eucharist then couldn’t be the preacher’s monopoly or his podium only. It would be a shared listening and an exchange of graciousness. It has to happen for all leaders but must especially happen locally. It isn’t another version of a voting democracy. It is the cruel and demanding word called discernment. It is steeped in Godliness. It is graced. It has to be practical. Be real. Be local. Be sensible. Look in the mirror to ensure that each of us is doing what it takes.
MND and lack of control:
Charlie Bird announced that he had MND (Motor Neurone disease). It is a bad one. The helplessness; the disappearance of control; the progressive nature of it. It is very cruel. Charlie was a permanent on RTÉ for so long (38 years). He definitely spoke with authority! His apparent certainty was irritating. But he did a great job. I have known too many who have suffered with this disease. Ruth Fitzmaurice with ‘I found my tribe,’ tells the story well. The disease attacks the very fundamentals of life for many of us. We like to be in control. MND leaves the mind alert and the body helpless. Poor Charlie. He has a tough path ahead and so has his wife.
A little Covid thought
The days were always busy. No days off (never bothered anyway). No holidays. Where would you go? Funerals difficult. Yet we managed. Speaking to a camera for a time and then trying to stretch the mind to discover new ways of celebrating Liturgy. Worship needs people. People need to participate. There has to be an exchange. Yes. All of this was troublesome. But it is was the ageing that got to me. So many got old. Many got sick. Many got dementia. The contact with people at home stopped. The calling to the houses and the callers to the house here changed. The work in school was limited. Somehow we began to hardly not know the teachers. The masks don’t help. We don’t recognise people. How can we reconstruct a Community of faith where there is less contact? The fall off of those who attend and even the fall off in the collections…. Everything pushes us to rethink how we live as people of faith; how we celebrate as church; how we look at things; how we reach out; how some of the structures that seemed so important are irrelevant…..
The trees strip off for the winter. We usually put on more clothes. Before stripping, the leaves put a dramatic display of changing costumes. The catwalk is an ever-changing drama. All my artist friends can only hint at what nature achieves.
I have caught glimpses of Sky Arts – Portrait artist of the year & Landscape artist of the year. My heart is stirred with what they achieve. I seldom agree with the choices made by the judges but the versions produced are quite wonderful. But the chatter of nature is powerful. What do you see? Hockney said that an artist is about ‘looking.’ He then said, that ‘a lot of people don’t look very hard.’ Somehow, the artist of faith is forever searching to put on an Exhibition of Godspeak. The rigid, fixed, frozen view of God matters, is an affront to the incarnation.
Should I tell you? I don’t know. I will whisper it. Indi and Gracie had their Christening on Saturday. It was beautiful until something went wrong. All 11 children were ever so good. And then there was an explosion. The volcano spewed lava everywhere. Of course it wasn’t lava even if it was a volcano. Poor little Indi got sick. Her da and ma were beautifully attired until she decorated their outfits. It was a crisis. She was baptised hurriedly. They rushed home for showers and changes. Indi appeared later after several changes. She was then very hungry. She made a dash for any food she could get. She was allowed dry bread and water. She was very hungry. She went foraging for more bread. It was an exercise as a hunter-gatherer. She was no longer interested in meeting anyone or talking or playing. She wanted food.
Seamus Ahearne osa