Saturday, May 14, 2011

Terra incognita…

Much of what we find in the eyes of Jesus must first have been in the eyes of Mary. The mother’s vision is powerfully communicated to her children. Mary had to be his first “spiritual director,” the one who gave the vision to Jesus, who taught Jesus how to believe. What was in Jesus’ eyes was somehow first in hers. And in both of their eyes is what they both believe about God.

Mary holds us naked at each end of life: the Madonna first brings us into life, and then the grief-stricken mother of the Pieta hands us over to death. She expands our capacity to feel, to enter the compassion and the pain of being human. She holds joy deeply, where death cannot get at it. Jesus learns by watching her.

The mother teaches us by the way she suffers his birth and then stands at the foot of the cross. Not a word is spoken in either place; she simply trusts and experiences deeply. In other words, she is present. Faith is not for overcoming obstacles; it is for experiencing them.

Richard Rohr, adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations,
pp. 153-154, day 163

I’m only too well aware how long it is since I updated The Mercy Blog, and this passage from Richard Rohr goes some way towards explaining why I don’t seem to have been able to bring myself to write anything here.

This Lent was most definitely a time for experience rather than words. I wrote quite a bit in the weeks leading up to Easter, and when Easter Day came, with its joy and new hope, I posted the few photographs I’d taken at the dawn service on the beach, had breakfast, went to Mass at St Mark’s, and found myself incapable of writing a word. The time after Easter was a time of extraordinary joy, and a deep, unexpected, at times painful, cleansing.

The lengthening spring days have been filled with laughter and sunlight, and the nights with complex, baffling, often distressing dreams. There have been no words for this process, no way to describe it to myself, nothing for the mind to grasp and handle. I have had merely to let God – and it has been hard enough at times even to name him – get on with it. For almost the first time in thirty years I have found it hard even to pray the Jesus Prayer; or should I say it has been hard to bring myself to begin. Once started, my heart has often clung to the Prayer as to a lifeline, and I have found a thread of light on this dark ocean. Mary herself, I think, has been the Sea Star. I have discovered her waiting sometimes, at the edge of vision, when I was least looking for her. “Hail Mary, full of grace…” She is.

I have never known this before, a time of light, and growing peace, when my rational mind was dark, not with “dark thoughts” but with an absence of thought, and an inability to comprehend the changes God has been working in me. Truly this has been a time when the glory has been God’s alone, for I have not been able even to understand what he has been up to.

Time and again I have turned to the Psalms, to Psalm 131: “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvellous for me.” (v1)

and to Psalm 145: “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.” (vv8-9)

Of course I don’t quite know where I am in all this: since I have no maps for this terra incognita I have no idea of the extent of this land. God’s goodness to me continues to astonish me, his faithfulness is absolute. Here are blessings I never imagined, depths of love I cannot sound.

I will try to post here more regularly, try to find words at least to indicate the edges of what is quite beyond words.

“The Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfils the desire of all who fear him; he also hears their cry, and saves them.” (Psalm 145.17-19)


  1. Oh, Mike, thank you for posting here what you have gone through these past weeks. It sounds and looks very beautiful from where I am -- while a bit scary too, I am sure.

    What you are writing here is very powerful, as in filled with Godde's power.

    Thank you again to share with us this terra incognita that you are slowly discovering.


  2. Claire, thank you! I is a bit scary sometimes, but then I suppose it can't be anything else really, can it? We humans are awfully little, in the scheme of things... but blessed, loved more than we can know.

    Every blessing to you too!

  3. I'm with Claire. It is easy to look on someone else's experience and see the absolute beauty, because of that extra bit of distance.

    No need to rush to write on this blog, Mike. All those who love reading your words will be here when you get back.

    Thanks for this beautiful post.

  4. I have wondered at your silence and feared the reason, and prayed blindly for your protection. But am so glad that your silence has had a different reason. Thank you so much for making an attempt at words.

    blessings to you

  5. Thank you, both, so much - Sue for your patient wisdom (as so often, though you'll say it doesn't feel like it...) and Gaye for caring, for praying blindly (oh, I know that so well). I did need it, your prayers were answered. Sometimes I thought I might be losing it altogether, being so used to the continual whirring of mental gears!