The Divine in the Ordinary
Amos and John Moriarty:
John Moriarty came to mind last weekend as I listened to Amos. The maverick and the whimsical struck me. Somehow I could hear John from long ago speaking. He was looking out at the hills and the clouds and the waving bushes and the trees. He has been asked how he was, in a radio interview – his replies soared. ‘What do you see? What can I see?’ There was an outburst of eloquence. The poet took flight from the philosopher. Like Amos, he didn’t have much and needed very little. Like the disciples sent out with nothing but their enthusiasm.
Amos wasn’t one of the schooled prophets. He hadn’t been patronised by royalty. He didn’t have the education. He was free of conformity. This shepherd knew what justice was, and how precious the poor were to God. He knew the poor. He knew God. Moreover, he had the language wherever it came from. The din of worship didn’t impress him. It was heart-stuff that motivated him. He didn’t have to humour anyone. He was a loose man on a mission. And in many ways the disciples were similar. They had nothing. They had to rely on God. They had to bring the message and let it land where it would. They had to let go too if it wasn’t accepted. That feeling is familiar!
The God of Small Things:
I was thinking too of Arundhati Roy’s book The God of Small Things. It is the idea and the title rather than the contents. Little things matter. If we notice. To look out like John and Amos and then notice. To appreciate. Air. Wind. Water. Sun. Darkness. Health. Friends. Family. Encouragement. Laughter. Community. Mountains. Fields. Clouds. Colour. Gestures. Warmth. Chatter. Smiles. Kindness. We can see so little. We miss so much. Every day is not a moan. Every day is not a problem. There is a wonder in living. There is a pain too. Life is very rough for many people. It may be a bed of roses but the thorns do lots of damage. John was an outsider, who caught the divine in a most unusual way. Amos was an outsider who told us that “the sprawlers’ revelry is over.” He got to the heart of faith, where all the formal neat tidiness of public worship, was scuttled. This faith-business is very dangerous. So for us then – how do we squeeze out the inner and essential juice of faith and find the explosive God, in the little moments, little places, in the little people in life? Appreciation leads to gratitude which in turn leads to a real Eucharist. ‘What do you see?’ It is an adventure and a mission and we have very little. ‘We let go and let God.’ (AA).
The beauty of Sport:
I think it was Paddy Agnew (Irish Times, in Rome) who used the words from some Italian papers: ‘You wanted out of Europe; you are out now.’ (Connecting Brexit with Sunday’s evening’s match). I think the Euros was a brilliant tournament. Italy somehow or almost deserved, to win. But it was close. The English team did a mighty job. Young Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bakayo Saka will be blamed but that is profoundly wrong. There was delicate music in all the play of the team. I was a fan of the English team. Some of the play was balletic. The tennis went on almost without many of us noticing. Ashleigh Barty was brilliant. Novak Djokovic got to his twenty Grand Slams on par with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. I heard an interview with Novak and it was magnificent. He was so reflective and took us back to his childhood in Serbia. Young Emma Radacanu stirred the hopes of Wimbledon. All of these artists showed us application and genius. What was that story of a lassie going for an audition to Carnegie Hall? She asked a man on the street, how to get there. The answer was: Practise. Practise. Practise.
Thomas Hampson and Stephen Foster:
Before Mass, I sometimes put on a CD. My recent one is from Thomas Hampson singing Stephen Foster. I find it very soothing. It is like Lyric or Classic for me. The sounds waft over me and my mind settles. It is prayerful. Such music often takes me back into the past and I am surprised at how little I ever learned. I could ramble into what I wish I had done, but that is quite irrelevant. The most important thing for me is this: I am here. It is today. The world around me today is good. I am privileged. With John Moriarty, I look around. My every day is pulsating with life. There is music everywhere. The little things. The asides of life. The small talk. The banter. The beauty of nonsense. The touch of love. We have to forage for clues and find a few ferrets to search out the hidden spaces. It is tantalising.
Covid and the Church:
I am very confused with Covid. 60,000 could attend Wembley. Celebrations could happen in Leicester Square which were a crude expression of humanity. Every place can open up in England. Ireland agonises over hospitality. Vaccine certs are on their way. Some church people were very upset when they heard that religious services were confined to a throw away remark from Leo. However, the Government is very reasonable. Their Guidelines matter. It does upset me that some churches have still gone ahead with First Communions and Confirmations. A few spoke of Churches being safe and that the church had nothing to do with the parties afterwards. That convenient argument is casuistry and tendentious.
Bezos v Branson:
The billionaires are in a race into space. Jeff Bezos v Richard Branson. Richard got there first but was it space at all? It is a surprise that Elon Musk hasn’t joined in. Is this a game? They should try hot air ballooning. But then Branson has done so. It is the space around us that needs noticing and celebrating. We may not have a ‘burning bush’ but there are moments and places and people, that stir the air of mystery in us every day. The shoes have to come off. The sacredness of life has to be noticed. We are a highly educated populace in schooling and in religion but I’m not sure how much we have learned or how much we see or notice. Real education opens the mind and imagination. Somehow not much of that aspect, is true for many. The divinity of life is not very obvious to most people. Any renewal in church has to be open to seeing and discovering – the God is in our own places and in the ordinary. The Tolka was a soupcon of miracle for our photographer Máire. This was one of her ‘burning bush’ experiences. “I watched the swan parents bring the cygnets come off the island for the first outing and I blessed myself automatically.” I had a double fly- past this morning by the heron. It was rather special. We never stop learning and discovering. Or being astonished.
Has her first shoes. She liked trying them on in the shop and staggered around the shop. The red ones appealed to her. I’m not sure which ones fitted her eventually. She didn’t tell me.
As she plucked up courage, she took off on the grass afterwards. She rather liked that. But after a while, she wanted more freedom and shoes restricted her. She threw them into the toilet. Later, she was telling me about her nearby river. The Blackwater. She has heard on the news that it was polluted and it had featured in a recent report. She is shocked. She also told me that some ten cars were found in the river near Cappoquin. She is appalled that her river is in trouble.
She migrated from Tallaght for the wide open spaces along the Blackwater and the beauty of the overhanging Knockmealdowns. She rather liked the animals too and most of the people. Anyway, she whispered to me on the phone: “Those shoes now tell me that I am free; I will walk away. I am independent. No one can stop me.” There was a determination in her eyes.
Seamus Ahearne osa