Tablet - April 2012

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There are few greater pleasures than coming home to a place you love and where you feel loved. And, as Jane Austen once wrote in a letter when she was moving home, ‘you don’t love a place any the less for having suffered in it.’

Moving house, they say, is one of the greatest sources of stress. Instinctively we are settlers rather than nomads - the desire for change and variety is almost as strong in some people. It depends on how you handle it. Moving can be a great, rejuvenating life teaching, especially in the Easter season. We are moving our Meditatio Community house after Easter to another part of London so we are theologizing this week from experience at a very domestic level. Packing, sorting, throwing out, prioritizing, remembering, letting go and moving on.

The community is composed of Benedictine Oblates of The World Community for Christian Meditation some of whom spend their year’s novitiate there and others who make a longer commitment. Daily life revolves around the times of prayer and the work is hospitality and the contemplative teaching mission of the worldwide community.  Community is built on the same experience that every change of home involves. To join a community means to move from a familiar base to a new one and to undergo a process of settling in. Only with time and repetition does the strange become reassuringly familiar: angles at which furniture is arranged, corners of rooms, wobbly lights or creaky stairs.

The member of a community like someone getting married has to ‘hate father and mother’ – in other words separate from them at a radical level  - for the sake of the new way of life they are beginning. One home dies by receding into the archives of memory and another is born. Or at the deeper level, perhaps the self we are dies and rises again in this physical and psychological process. Most of us have more than one home during our life but through this eternal cycle of losing and finding we understand where we really have come from and where we are really going.

By the end of life no one has not known death. Everyone will have suffered, lost and found, loved and lost. Maybe the birth canal is the primal way of the cross. So the Cross – the moving from the old and familiar - is relatively easy to understand and identify with. For some Christians it is so meaningful and powerful a symbol that they say ‘it is enough’. It is universal. It gives dignity and beauty to human suffering which can so often seem humiliating and sordid. The Resurrection places more demands on us. It stretches our imagination beyond what we recognise and even makes the act of recognition something strange and wonderful.

To get at the full meaning of suffering and of life and death itself we have to combine the perspectives of the Cross and the Resurrection. This is more than even the best mind can do alone. If the disciples could not recognise the risen Jesus because they had not used all their powers of perception, why should we? This Holy Week we are webcasting the talks of the Bere Island retreat and we are playing with the bandwidth and hoping that the broadband speed is fast enough. So our minds and hearts have to be stretched to their capacity to reach their full potential and to see what is really there.

I met a man once in a cavernous school building he had spent some nightmarish years.  I realised he was still trapped in the worst of those dark days of bullying and assault. He needed to die to them and to move his things to a new place where he could feel alive. The cross we carry every day is not meant to last forever.

In his death Jesus moved house (as we all will). In his Resurrection He passed from a world where we could sit and break bread and drink wine with him around the kitchen table and talk about yesterday and tomorrow to a more unfamiliar world where we break bread and drink wine in order to see him in the present within and among us. The oddness of his new home is that he has taken up a dwelling ‘in us’ and so touches us awake in dimensions of our humanity where we had not realised we could even exist. The new home he has moved to is the place we are looking for in our lifelong search for home and security, for love and belonging. The cross of dying and letting go is the way;  so, equally, is the rising to life that can frighten us even more because it bursts all boundaries.

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Laurence Freeman OSB

The World Community for Christian Meditation, of which Laurence Freeman OSB is director, has recently opened a new outreach program – “Meditatio” (www.wccmmeditatio.org)

 

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