Friday, March 01, 2013

Saint David's Day

Today is St David's Day, and while the melody of the haunting lament 'David of the White Rock' is by a blind Bard named David Owen (d. 1749 at the age of 29), who was married, and not the great Welsh saint, who was a monk, it does not seem inappropriate to remember it today. A lovely, simple, authentic harp performance by Mark Harmer may be found at The words were added after Owen's death.

"Bring me my harp,"
was David's sad sigh,
"I would play one more tune before I die.
Help me, dear wife,
put the hands to the strings,
I wish my loved ones
the blessing God brings."

"Last night an angel
called with heaven's breath:
David, play, and come
through the gates of death!
Farewell, faithful harp,
farewell to your strings,
I wish my loved ones
the blessing God brings."

For anyone who has played the harp and has known the intimate, physical relationship that develops, this song has a special power. When, in Alaska, the lid was nailed on to the crate containing my harp to ship to Seattle to sell—there is no space in my tiny Oxford aerie to have one—it felt as though the lid on my coffin were being nailed down.

In Alaska the wilderness welcomed me, and whales sounded my bones. Sometimes my harp settled so sweetly into its tuning that alone it played the music of the spheres. It is always trying to play, even if it risks destroying itself. That is the nature of harps. (Writing the Icon of the Heart, p. 104) 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looking forward to Easter - the light at the end of the Lenten Tunnel - I’m eager to ‘die’ as Jesus did on Good Friday and then rise again into a more intimate, playful relationship with God. Somewhat paradoxical because the Lenten Journey is characterized by temperance – before I can “wish my loved ones the blessings God brings”, I must humbly decide to stop being eager to do so.

2:47 pm, March 01, 2013  
Blogger happy pearl said...

This is such a poignant blog. The tune is beautiful, and it brings to mind those special occasions when ordinary things come together and say something divine. You must really have missed your harp, and I hope you have found something else to fill that gap. The prophetic nature of the task you have taken on must be very hard without SOMETHING to tell you that it is all actually worth while

8:30 pm, March 03, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Thank you, Happy Pearl. I do miss my harp, and St David's day—well, it just hit, that's all. But at this time I cannot allow *anything* to distract me from the task at hand. Words like yours help me keep going. Bless you.

9:14 pm, March 03, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot by my disciple." Luke 14:26

As part of my Lenten Journey I've been reading "Un-Comfortable Words" by Joost de Blank (1958). Chapter 3: Family Loyalties …

Pg 19 "Man's first allegiance must be to God. It must take precedence over all lesser loyalties. Though of all earthly ties those that bind a family together come first, yet there is a divine loyalty that demands man's primary obedience even at the cost of unity and solidarity."

De Blank provides clear examples of when one must 'choose' God over family but I'm struggling with the muddy waters. In my commitment to follow Jesus, I've come to recognize behaviors as fueling either positive or negative momentum along the Christian journey. Is it purely a Newtonian view, this 'allegiance to God'? Just as any vice that asserts a negative momentum on one's Christian journey must necessarily be rooted out, should one 'root out' a family member - a mother or father - who is, perhaps unknowingly, asserting a similar momentum?

9:23 pm, March 03, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

There are at least three questions here. First, we have to take the hyperbole—the 'hate'—with a very large handful of salt. I haven't read de Blank's book, but it's pre-Vatican II and therefore almost certainly full of Counter-Reformation distortions of the old texts and understandings. For example, not realising that 'lose your life to gain it' meant a shift in attention, some of the manuals talked (and some still talk, sadly) very wrongly about destroying or killing the self. What happens in the shift of attention is that the construct of the self seems to be 'forgotten' but instead it is being submitted to the grace dwelling in deep mind where it is gradually transfigured.

Second, the gospel is referring to motivation, and perseverance. There is no conflict between God and family: God can come to us through family, even if the family is negative.

Third, some of us are born into destructive families. Probably the family members don't mean to be like that or aren't even aware that they are, but if you are on the receiving end, it can cripple you until you make a clean break. If you are in this situation, it's important to do it peacefully, so that they know you wish them well. And finally, the break must be clean. It's hard for the first couple of years and they may try to re-establish contact, but it's important to stand firm. Gradually your new life, your real one, will appear, and everyone will eventually realise it's for the best.

9:38 pm, March 03, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Maggie,

I presume (and hope) you are feeling a little better now.

I wanted to say 'thank you' for your perseverance with this blog. I find it a great help in keeping my own perseverance in Silence! I also am grateful for the books you occasionally point to: I think I've begun to learn a lot from Barker, Fenton and Danaher. How is your own new book coming along?

All Good Wishes


11:09 am, March 04, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Hi Theo,

Thanks very much for your kind words. Yes, I am feeling better—the sun has come out!

The book is going well; I have finally turned the corner and can see the end in sight, although it is still several chapters away. But the most difficult problems have been solved (touch wood!)

Also, a couple of publishers have expressed interest
without a query from me, always a good sign!

Blessings and thank you,


11:14 am, March 04, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie,

Called in sick to work today, will feel better tomorrow. Went to 8 am mass this morning, helped a little. So nice to have your blog to pass the time.

The sermon dealt with readings from last week when the Jews, having been delivered from slavery in Egypt, fell on hard times and expressed a desire to return. Surely they remember how miserable they had been there?

What is this human instinct to revert back to previous states of suffering? Why do we mourn/fear positive change? We take a leap of faith - why are we scared? (We jumped because we weren't scared.)

We keep saying that the faith is in the silence. We pray and we listen until God calls on us to jump again.

Happy the sun is out where you are.

3:09 pm, March 04, 2013  
Anonymous BR said...

Maggie, I just saw this on Iain McGilchrist's site:

You likely already know this, but he's presenting in Oxford as a part of a conference on "the Soul" in late June. That's your neck of the woods, no?

4:11 am, March 05, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Hi BR,

I knew about the conference but I didn't know about McGilchrist's being there. I hadn't seen the conference site so this is very helpful, thank you. One of the organisers has said he will get me in—I'm too involved in my book to do another paper, but it looks like one of the more useful conferences (very few and far between!)


4:16 am, March 05, 2013  
Anonymous AM said...

Iain McGilchrist on Youtube:

Praying for you Maggie and your work...

Been into neuroscience plus Darwin these days plus Alan Lewis's Between Cross and Resurrection and Margaret Barker. It seems i'm on a journey also in a very unique way because of your work. I can't thank you enough of course and you know that :-).

6:34 am, March 05, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie,

Wanted to share this, found it written in the front of my bible last night:

"Return, my soul, to your rest; the Lord has been good to you."
Ps 116:7



10:23 am, March 05, 2013  
Anonymous AM said...

Wow! Nancey Murphy is one of the lecturers in this Oxford Conference. I just read her Cambridge book last week, leaving me with lots of questions about the "soul" and the human body. Then i read John Haught's Deeper Than Darwin and other neuroscience books. Still, i have all this general of synchronicity in what i'm doing...

3:09 am, March 06, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Thanks, Isabel, I did just that: had 24 hours at Mt St Bernard Abbey seeing my old Cistercian friends who are gathered for Regional Meeting.

5:48 pm, March 06, 2013  

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