A Far Green Country


And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass    and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.

But to Sam the evening deepened to darkness as he stood at the Haven; and as he looked at the grey sea he saw only a shadow on the waters that was soon lost in the West.  –J.R.R. Tolkien, from The Return of the King

I watched “The Hobbit” this weekend.  It was a fun movie, full of tension and action and humor and stunning costumes and scenery.  My favorite scene was the one set in Rivendell–the secret valley that is the home of the beautiful, noble elves.  There is something in those scenes–in all the intricately flowing lines of the architecture, in the sunlight reflecting off the waterfalls that line the valley, in the simple, elegant dress of the elven characters–there is something that calls to my heart. It both excites me and makes me sad.

I get excited because I want to go home and recreate those scenes in my own life–to surround myself with beauty like that.  But I get sad because I know that I will never have a home like that in this life.  And yet, someday I know I will have a home of the most incredible, breathtaking beauty…

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” –Jesus (John 14:1-3)

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem,coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  –Revelation 21:2-5

Oh, for the day when Messiah returns and all things will be made new!!!  Right now I’m living “in the meantime,” literally.  This is the in-between season.  The longings of my heart are real and oh-so-deep, but not yet fulfilled.  It is tempting to dull the longings, to hide from the ache in my heart.  But that is such a gray existence–so lifeless and tedious.  So, rather than numbing myself and ignoring that unsatisfied desire for a place of beauty, I will instead try to look for glimpses–for the reminders that there is a place of beauty beyond what I now see and experience, and that someday I will live there and partake of all the things that my heart longs for.

One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun–which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in some one’s eyes.” –from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett


Loving Baby Jesus

mary-baby-jesusFor some reason, I have long held a fascination with Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Particularly at this time of year I find myself thinking about her, wondering what it was like to be her, to love a child who was also God.

Yesterday, while I was in church, I had a sudden feeling of affection toward Jesus that was unlike any affection I’d felt for him before.  From the time I was a child, I have known Jesus to be my closest, most trustworthy, soul-friend.  When I was in my late teens, I grew to have an affection for him as the lover of my soul and my one-day bridegroom.  But never before have I felt love for him like this–I found myself feeling love for him as a mother for her child.

I could almost picture him as a baby in my arms, utterly dependent on me.  Now, I know that this goes against most of what we’re taught in church–Jesus is Almighty; God, as trinity, is self-sufficient; He doesn’t need us, he simply chooses to use us for His glory.  And yet, I think that something is missing from that picture.

In Matthew 12: 46-50, it says:

 While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?”  And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers!  For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”

As I read this now, it occurs to me that maybe Jesus was saying that we all get to play these roles in his heart–just as we all get to experience friendship with Him, perhaps we all get to experience him as sibling and child as well.

An article by Deacon Keith Fournier on Catholic.com says about this scripture:

 This passage reveals a framework for an authentically human and relational spirituality, a spirituality of communion….This interchange was recorded for all time for a purpose. Through it, Jesus teaches us something about the interior meaning of our personal redemption, the redemption of the whole human race and the redemption of the entire created order. The message is simple but profound; God is a God of love and relationship. He has invited us into an intimate and eternal communion of love.

Could it be that God’s love extends so far that He lets us love Him and minister to Him just as He loves and ministers to us?  As a mother of human children, I know that I will always have a special place in my heart for the infants that my children once were.  No matter how old they grow, I will always love the baby that I held in my arms, that looked up at me with total dependence.  I think that perhaps Jesus allows us to love Him not just as the man who healed the sick and cleared the temple and died on the cross–but also as the baby who laid in his mother’s arms, as the toddler who played in Joseph’s workshop, as the boy-becoming-a-man who stayed in the temple for days to talk with the scholars and was surprised that his parents were worried about him–just as most impetuous twelve-year-olds are clueless about the world from their parents’ eyes.

I don’t know about you, but I want to know Jesus in every way that I can–I want to know Him as God, and as a man, and even as a child.  He is altogether lovely, and I want to learn to love Him in every possible way that my human heart can manage.  And now, during this season when we celebrate His birth, I am learning–just beginning to comprehend–how to love him as the squirming, squalling baby that arrived in a stable to be Savior to us all.