The Fragrance of Love

Image

The scent of Mary’s nard lingers down the centuries, a glorious sweetness, both of giver and of perfume.  Only her hair, her crowning glory, was soft enough to wipe those feet in adoration…
Something awaking in her soul, the profound understanding (in that singing height beyond words) of this Son of God.   Son.   of God.     The bursting, impossible joy of knowing…   Nothing is now finite…   near-silence stretches into eternity… and there comes awareness that THIS is the Awaking, this is the heaven of all our searching.

and that will be heaven
and that will be heaven
at last    the first unclouded
seeing
to stand like the sunflower
turned full face to the sun        drenched
with light    in the still centre
held    while the circling planets
hum with an utter joy
seeing and knowing
at last   in every particle
seen and known  and not turning
away
never turning away
again      Evangeline Paterson

The picture is Stanley Spencer ‘The Awaking’

I will follow

My heart is hammering like a piston as I stand still, the grey cloud swirling around me. Silent white wraiths are blocking my vision, the fine mist forming dancing banshees, confusing me and disorienting my sense of direction. I started the day in good spirits. I waved goodbye to my friends full of laughter and excitement. I had been looking forward to wandering the plateau of this distant mountain tucked away in the remote west Highlands.

But here I am, where I thought I wanted to be- but the memory of this morning’s confident conversation and laughter is now so faint. It is nearly dark now. I look all around me. No horizon. No outlines. I feel dizzy and nauseous, as though I’ve danced an Orkney Strip the Willow with a blindfold. I know there are cliffs all around me, frozen jaws displaying razor sharp teeth. They wait for me patiently, hiding behind the swirling, dancing clouds. Waiting for the final embrace. The ridge is narrow and I am lost.

Suddenly, the mist in front of me parts. It is cleaved in two by a man. Grasping his crozier he strides past me, smiling to acknowledge my presence as he descends the steep hillside to hearth and home in the glen below. I glimpse the twinkling lights in the glen far below. I hear the sound of dogs barking as the sheep sweep by me on all sides, down towards the figure even before he is swallowed up in the gathering gloom. The mist closes in as quickly as it parted.

My heart leaps for the love of life. Eagerly, I follow.

Transfiguration

Glen Coe feb 13

Finding God at the top of the mountain
is not so very surprising.
Mountains are bigger than we are.
They put things into perspective,
lift us above the humdrum,
remove us from what is routine.
Mountains are never trivial.
They take our breath away.

Finding God on a mountain
is not so very surprising,
though once, they say,
the devil took Jesus to the top of one,
to show him all the kingdoms of the world,
to make their people seem so very small
and easy for his taking.
But then the devil never did understand mountains;
they never took his breath away.

What was surprising
was the God we found up there,
for we had heard him many times before,
for we knew his tones of voice,
the looks in his eye,
the limp in his gait
(as though he had wrestled with an angel
through long hours of the night).
He was our fellow- traveller,
our master and our slave,
father to us, mother, too,
healer, teacher, brother, friend.
We knew where he came from
and it was no heavenly city
of jasper, gold and clear as glass,
but Nazereth, a nowhere place.
We knew where he was going:
Jerusalem, to torture and to death.
You cannot have God killed, for God’s sake!

And yet, there, up there,
on thetop of the mountain
we walked straight into God
and recognized him,
for the first time.

part of The Transfiguration
Trevor Dennis ‘The Easter Stories’

Journey Into Stillness

The curmudgeonly old man from Jericho sat by the busy, dusty roadside leading from that great city. Sounds were magnified as women, men, children and animals bustled by him. Scratching life from begging, unable to see since birth, he was as blind to them as they were to him. He swore under his breath at the noise, the heat and the dirt, and cursed loudly at the mocking children. He had been shouting out the name of that crazy carpenter from the north (he had no idea why), only to be mocked and told to shut up by the crowd around him. The noise was unbearable and the heat more oppressive than he could remember it ever being.

Then it happened. The world fell silent. Crouching in the dirt, he trembled in fear at the sudden silence that pressed in on him. A cool, refreshing breeze swept over him. He heard a muffled voice and a name. An old, familiar name. “Son of Timaeus, what do you want from me?”  The old man opened his eyes. As he scrambled to his feet he saw the silhouette of a man, behind whom and from whom radiant colours blazed in hues of the brightest, rain washed rainbow. As the carpenter spoke, the old man saw the glory in those infinite eyes, brighter than the sun. He stared as Jesus carried on along his way, down towards Jerusalem. To Jerusalem, where the scent from the gardens of olive groves embraces the fragrance of the Madonna lilies of Old Jaffa before they waft out over the Great Sea…

Net curtains billow into the hushed room, flapping wildly. Her breathing is quick and rasping. Through the open window she can hear the distant sound of children playing and laughing in the street. The sweet scent of lilies wafts in from the garden. She cannot open her eyes. Even if she is able to, the bright, blue sky outside and the golden light caressing her wrinkled face will be enveloped in the grey, swirling mists of her blindness. The extent of her physical world is here, in this room.

Not long now. The doctors have left. An angel has arrived, bearing a silver bottle. As the lid is removed, the room is filled with the scent of olive oil. She smiles. She hears the rustling of thousands of feathers, and can feel the caress of a cool breeze on her face. Urgent, tender fingers touch this young woman’s brow. Be calm; be still. The oil is calming. Eyelids flicker open, the dark and the grey give way to the light. The figure appears to her as through a bright, summer cloud. The face staring at her is glowing like the sun itself. A myriad of colours dance and weave around them both. She laughs with joy, with peace.

In our busyness, in our quiet, in our illness and in our health, in our fear and in our joy; where is God in our lives? Do we listen or do we block?

Be still for the presence of the Lord.

And the Trees of the Field

Scots Pine_edited-1

Dust and the seed embrace. From the earth spring the tendrils of life.

Reaching upwards and forwards, we face the storms.  Nourished by the soft spring showers, enriched by the summer’s glow, we ready ourselves for the trials of autumn and winter.

How deep are our roots, how strong the anchors? Have we prayed together; like the rustling of leaves through the forest down the years?  Have we worshipped and loved together, so that our roots entwine and in God run deep and true?

So that, as the forests around us fade into the mist and we stand alone, wiser and blessed, facing the One who loves us, have we matured, have we been all that we were called to be?

Now is the time to open our hearts and reach out to God. For nourishment, for understanding. Now is the time to stand and to listen. So that, at the last when we lean forward to hear the beat of the earth’s heart, as we stoop down to embrace the dust, we can clap our hands with joy.

Photograph courtesy of Gordon Nichol