Monday, September 23, 2013

Sister Water

Laudato si, mi Signore, per sor'Acqua, 
la quale è multo utile et humile et pretiosa et casta.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
 she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Water is, or should be, high on everyone's agenda, as it may soon become very scarce in some parts of the world. Climate change means that prolonged drought is often broken by torrential rain and flash floods, which, far from relieving the drought, wash away precious topsoil and the seeds that lie dormant in it.
But in this post I want to talk about water from St Francis' point of view and from the point of view of the story of the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11).
St Francis' adjectives are telling: useful, humble, precious and pure. Water is useful: life cannot exist without it. It is humble: its ubiquity in some parts of the world tend to make the inhabitants take water for granted. It is precious: water may be ubiquitous in some areas, but potable water is another question altogether. In the ancient world and in the Middle Ages, it was often dangerous to drink water: water was made into 'small' beer, or mixed with a little wine to make it drinkable. Water is casta: chaste. The word is really untranslatable: it can also mean austere, severe, stark, simple, sober, virgin, innocent. As so often in medieval—and biblical—literature, all meanings are meant.
I would like to introduce yet another nuance: it is indicative of the soul, and, in certain circumstances, the soul infused by the Holy Spirit. The Bible and other religious texts are full of images of springs of water, fountains, rain, dew used in this sense; and in an arid environment, the falling of rain can even induce a kind of inebriation, another term used for the Spirit-filled person. It is this last sense of inebriation that brings to mind the story of the Wedding at Cana.
It is no accident that the jars that Jesus instructs the steward to fill usually contain water for washing, the most humble sort of water, fine for this purpose, but not for drinking. Though it may not be drinkable, this water retains something of its 'innocence', if you like; it can be made pure. But Jesus makes it more than pure: he makes it into wine, and not just any old wine, but the best wine.
It's hardly necessary to labour the point: that as water flows through the filter of the Word it is purified and filled with the Spirit. It is still liquid, it is still water, but it is infused water, and it is made for rejoicing at the marriage of heaven and earth.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such groupings are always so useful. One Buddhist one I read was, "precision, gentleness, and the ability to let go".

Humble AND precious -- seem to be static qualities
Useful AND pure -- seem to be kenetic qualities

Hunble and useful -- choices we make
precious and pure -- how God made us

Think I'll go sit in the sunshine for a minute and drink some water.

7:10 pm, September 24, 2013  
Anonymous MS said...

Hi Maggie,

OK. I'm still on my kenosis path, still approaching the 'event horizon'. This morning I started to get frustrated because I realized that it's possible the 'event horizon' is still REALLY far away and that things could get harder before they got better. There was a momentary struggle, some tears welled up, but I pulled myself together and reminded myself of the following things:

1) God did not bring me this far to forsake me now.
2) God has perfect timing and perfect efficiency, so there must be a perfect reason for everything.
3) I have more to learn.
4) I have more to give.
5) Even if it's true that things will get much harder before they get better, nothing has changed - I'm still making gestures toward God, I'm still taking things a day at a time. It's still my effort and God's strength. I still get to bathe in the sunlight of God's love whenever I allow myself to.
6) Teresa of Avila always welcomed suffering because it's often pain that cracks the surface of understanding.
7) Abraham waited a VERY long time, as did Jacob, and God never let them down.
8) I've come so far, I have confidence in my ability to stick to my vows - I'm not concerned about my own resolve.

And yet part of me is scared of the immensity. What if I never escape? How can I escape, there's nowhere to go?

God is here. My plan is to just see what the day brings. I love God so much. Some things you don't have to like, you just have to endure. "He who endureth to the end shall be saved."

And I ask myself, "What do I want?" And the answer is that I want to be close to God. But it might also be nice to have some of life's comforts. But I am not willing to sacrafice God for life's comforts. Can I not have both? I guess not right now.

2:45 pm, September 26, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MS -

Did you try the suggestion from the last go-round about taking out the "I" statements?


8:24 pm, September 26, 2013  
Anonymous AM said...

Hi MS,
I do not know you personally. But i have faith that when i hold your two-lettered name up into the Holy's mercy, following the advice of Maggie, i open up possibilities for your own transfiguration according to your own mysterious rhythm. I do not necessarily aim for the "event horizon" you're aiming at but i have faith even while riding a bus that my own attempt to be still before the only One who can change me, and the stillness of others as they "intercede" for me actually sustain me wherever i am in my beholding and seeking of this mercy.

Way to go but do not take the "event horizon" too seriously...

10:27 pm, September 26, 2013  
Blogger changeinthewind said...

Hi again MS,

Try this on.

An event horizon is an idea, it is NOT actuality. Any idea, for all you know, could be "located" behind you as easily as it could located in front of you. What would being behind you already do to the approach your kenosis path is so certainly taking towards its event horizon? How do you know the event horizon is not behind you and the whole thing was just fizzle?

Another ponderable. Kenosis and path are also ideas, having in themselves no thing settled or for certain. If this is not so, please take either your path or your kenosis out from where it is now and set it somewhere else.

If this is not possible, why insist that any of this is yours at all?

1:20 am, September 27, 2013  
Anonymous MS said...

This has helped me a great deal. I think a big part of this process is totally killing off all of the old, rotten stuff so God and I can start building a new life (resurrection).

There was a point last weekend when I actually heard the words, "It is done." But I think it's still processing - the significance of that moment.

There are still some concrete things God has promised that I'm still waiting for. But I'm trying to just enjoy this peace. Today is a big day but I'm hoping time will prove it similar to all my days from now on. The rotten stuff has been killed off. And, I understand the need to "make friends" with my past - it reminds me how far I've come as well as serves as a deterent for potentially destructive choices.

Right now I feel like I'm surrounded by God's cocoon but I've learned sometimes God doesn't feel so close. I just need to remember that God is with me whereever I go. God is in the silence.

And for all those who are being still with/for me -

"and the stillness of others as they "intercede" for me actually sustain me wherever i am in my beholding and seeking of this mercy.

- thank you so much. =)

My plan for the rest of the day is to see what the day brings but first and foremost to continue to "chop wood".

6:48 pm, September 27, 2013  
Blogger changeinthewind said...


Perhaps the "It is done." voice was/is in company with what is called a mountaintop experience. If so, you are in good company!

Now, can you let go of it? Dismiss it? Think of doing so as a test. All experience can be tested for validity and should be so tested.

However, and this is IMO only, when an experience contains the feeling "very sure", when there is embedded in the feeling a sense of deep abiding affirmation, of most welcome Joy, it is wonder full indeed! :) It is also useful at such a point to leave "space within" it that you can watch (the feeling) for ... quite a while. To see what happens with "This is It Certainty" over much time. If it is truly bedrock stuff it will not break up, even if you work at (testing it) doing so. Trust this as a "kenosis" process as Kevin suggested.

So, keep at it, for who among us truly knows why rain falls as it does!

8:34 pm, September 27, 2013  

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