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Mary’s Call, Our Call

What we know of Mary’s life is fragmentary, and yet her story holds the power to illumine and grace our lives.

When we first meet Mary in the Gospels, she is being offered an invitation. Here is how the Irish poet John O’Donohue imagines the scene:
Cast from afar before the stones were born
And rain had rinsed the darkness for colour,
The words have waited for the hunger in her
To become the silence where they could form.

The day’s last light frames her by the window,
A young woman with distance in her gaze,
She could never imagine the surprise
That is hovering over her life now.

The sentence awakens like a raven,
Fluttering and dark, opening her heart
To nest the voice that first whispered the earth
From dream into wind, stone, sky and ocean.

She offers to mother the shadow’s child;
Her untouched life becoming wild inside.
Where does our story touch Mary’s? Where are the meeting points? What are the words waiting for the hunger in us “to become the silence where they could form”. This might be a question to ask in our daily contemplative time… when our hearts open, will they also become a nest for a new birthing of the Holy?

From Jean Houston, I have learned that now there is no time for us to modestly refuse any call that smacks of greatness. The urgent needs of our time require a “yes” to the conception, followed by the birthing, of newness.
Here are Jean’s words, reflecting upon the call of Mary, the call of each of us:
Just think of the promise, the potential, the divinity in you,
which you have probably disowned over and over again
because it wasn’t logical, because it didn’t jibe,
because it was terribly inconvenient (it always is),
because it didn’t fit conventional reality,
because… because… because….

What could be more embarrassing than finding yourself pregnant with the Holy Spirit?
It’s a very eccentric, inconvenient thing to have happen.
(Jean Houston in Godseed p. 38)

Eccentric. Inconvenient. Perhaps. But nonetheless it is our call. Mary’s story gives us the courage to say “yes” without knowing where that “yes” may lead. It is enough to know that certainly our own life will become, like Mary’s, “wild inside”.

Like Mary, we are called to birth newness for our time. The beautiful image from Christine Lore Weber, to be “a cup to catch the sacred rain” is like Mary’s call. We respond, as Mary did, with a commitment to be actively engaged in this “catching”. Each day we make a time, choose a space, and open ourselves to be recipients of the sacred rain. Rain which will be drawn into the earth of our being where it might bring about miracles of new growth.
We hold ourselves in readiness for the more that will be asked when the time is right. That “more” is compellingly described in the teachings of Jean Houston:
“We are godseeds planted in a space/time vehicle….always yearning, and questing, and drawn by the lure of becoming until we reach the destiny that has been guiding us all along.”

This requires us “to present the availability of an unobstructed universe both within and without”.

And Jean promises: “When you do this, you become a beacon, an evocateur of new patterns, new relationships, new discoveries, bringing new mind and new matter to an old world and serving as a catalyst of change, a pathfinder of deeper realities.” (Jean Houston in “The Holographic Butterfly Retreat” December 2012)

Mary Waited

As we approach the Feast of Christmas, Mary, of whom the Gospels say so very little, is herself a silent figure. She who said “yes” to the call to bear a Son whose coming would alter history, is given no lines in the First Christmas play. Luke writes of angels singing, urging shepherds to go to seek the newborn Child. He adds,” As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Gospel of Luke 2:19)

How was it for Mary in the months, weeks, days as she awaited the birth of her Son?

It is not possible for me to imagine myself into this time in her life, nor to summon up any experience in my own life that might help me to understand what was in Mary’s heart as she waited.

Frustrated, I put on high boots and a warm jacket. I go outdoors on this snow-melting day to walk along the Nature Trail that winds between stands of evergreens to the ruined railway bridge above the Bonnechere River.

What I notice first is utter stillness. Not only the trees, their limbs, branches, twigs and needles, but even the left-over tall weeds of autumn are motionless.
Waiting, I think. They are waiting. But for what? for whom? and why?

As my boots sink deep into wet snow, creating a fresh pattern beside the marks left by animals, I continue to wonder about the trees. There is a quality of presence in these woods that speaks of quietly-held strength, invisible energy.

A memory returns from late last winter, when there was still no visible sign of spring. I was standing beside a delicate silver maple that hovers just at the river’s edge. I had placed my palm on the strong slim trunk that erupted above me into a rack of apparently dead branches. I wondered how the tree felt knowing she appeared to be so lifeless. As though she were responding to my question, I suddenly knew that the tree’s sense of herself came not from this barren outer form but from her inner life, her sap already rising, preparing for the new life of spring. She knew herself by her energy, by the movement of life within, only barely contained, ready to push beyond this apparent death out into fullness of life.

That evening, I came across a poem from Hafiz, a promise to the tree, to me:
Light
Will someday split you open
Even if your life is now a cage,
For a divine seed, the crown of destiny,
Is hidden and sown in an ancient fertile plain
You hold the title to.
Love will surely bust you wide open
Into an unfettered, blooming new galaxy…
A life–giving radiance will come,
The Friend’s gratuity will come…..
(Daniel Ladinsky trans. in “The Subject Tonight Is Love”)

Today as I begin the walk home, the early darkness already rising around me, I feel I have begun to understand something about waiting: the trees’ waiting, Mary’s waiting and my own. Expectant waiting is an active experience. It is rich with joyous anticipation, strengthened with deep trust in the promises given, and busily engaged in the work of nurturing the “divine seed” that Hafiz speaks about.
For “Love will surely bust (us) wide open into an unfettered blooming new galaxy” bringing “a life–giving radiance”, bringing “the Friend’s gratuity”.

This time of waiting in Mary’s life invites us to wait with her, companioned by her barely-contained anticipation. But there is more.

For, if we can begin to know that Mary has become for us in our time, when our need is so great, an expression, a manifestation, a presence of the One in whom ancient peoples lived and moved and had their being, our waiting is turned inside out! Then we might glimpse that the winter trees, the snow-covered earth, the entire aching planet, and we ourselves are held within a womb, nurtured from the life, the body, of the Great Mother. And that what we are each awaiting is our own birth into the fullness of life to which we are called.

The mystic-poet Jessica Powers expresses this beautifully:
I live my Advent in the womb of Mary.
And on one night when a great star swings free
from its high mooring and walks down the sky
to be the dot above the Christus i,
I shall be born of her by blessed grace.

I wait in Mary-darkness, faith’s walled place,
with hope’s expectance of nativity.
I knew for long she carried me and fed me,
guarded and loved me, though I could not see.
But only now, with inward jubilee,
I come upon earth’s most amazing knowledge:
someone is hidden in this dark with me.
(Jessica Powers 1948)

We. Wait.

The Gift of the Baba Yaga

Vasalisa’s mother (see previous post), gives her daughter a doll that holds the great gift of the motherline: intuition.

Though it was lost to me, buried deep, forgotten in my life until I was well into my adult years, I have learned that inner guidance, woman’s great inherited gift, can be refound. Then a woman need only take time to ask that hidden knowing, Which way now? and way will be shown to her, or, as my Quaker friends like to say, Way Will Open. When a woman is about to ask the wrong question or say more than can safely be said, she will feel a movement within her, not unlike a tiny doll dancing, warning, No. Sometimes the guidance will take the form of a suggestion or even clearly-understood words.

But the mother’s advice to Vasalisa to keep the doll hidden, not to tell of this gift, is wise. In a culture that not only fails to honour, but frequently derides and devalues intuition, the experience of being ridiculed, laughed at, can lead a young girl, who does not yet fully value or trust her own intuition, to bury the gift. Then, as happened with me, it may take many years for her to recover and reclaim the gift.

Have you also had such an experience?

The Baba Yaga is revealed as a great power, one who is in command of dawn, of sunrise, of night, an aspect of the ancient goddess. Yet when I first heard this story I was amazed that she was so very fierce, so cruel and unkind.

Now I do not think her so. Fierce, certainly. Demanding. But notice how Vasalisa becomes stronger in her time in the house of the Baba Yaga. She asks for what she needs. She stands before the power of the Crone and does not flinch. She questions the old one and understands that some mysteries are not yet hers to know.Though she roughly sends Vasalisa on her way, the Baba Yaga gives her the one gift the girl asked of her: a burning coal of fire. This gift proves to be far more than Vasalisa requested.

Did you wonder why the doll persuaded her not to fear the fiery skull, but rather to trust it?

What Vasalisa carried home with her was the gift of deep seeing. When she reached her home, the eyes in the skull pierced through the deceit and the pretence of the three false ones who greeted her.Even had they lived, their power over Vasalisa was diminished. Never again would the girl be able to persuade herself that, at heart, they really did care for her, and wished her no harm.

Vasalisa received from the Baba Yaga an initiation that many women never gain, or else come to only far later in life. We all carry dark mothers and cruel step-sisters within us. The tale warns us that being kind and accommodating, listening politely to their attacks when their voices rise from deep inside us, enduring, accepting, even believing the deceits of these inner critics, is not the way to peace. We need to turn the fierce light that is the crone’s gift upon all that seeks to diminish our lives, our birthright of love and strength. Whether these abuses come from persons in our outer lives or from inner voices we have somehow absorbed into our being, we must focus the flame of the burning coal within the skull. “Leave me and never return”, we say, as we turn our deep-seeing crone’s eyes on them. Watch them burn to cinders.

Have you ever seen a woman, submissive all her days to others, suddenly fiercely refuse to bow to oppression? This is the wisdom of the crone, not a comforting wisdom to achieve, for one must endure seeing truths that make life harder to bear. The crone knows it all, sees it all, and is beyond fooling herself with the tissue of half-truths and bare-faced lies, the fabrications that ooze from political promise, and assurances of economists that we’ll soon recover prosperity, that the collapse of capitalism is merely a temporary slowdown, that the impending death of much of our way of life is merely an afternoon nap.

The crone has no time for fools, for those who insist there is no imminent danger in the myriad of threats to life on our planet, that climate change is myth and the hourly extinction of species just a natural process, that things will right themselves in no time at all. The crone recognizes that in our own living rooms, weapons of mass distraction dominate our lives, luring us and lulling us. Their stories, no less than their commercials, promise us that beauty, health, and eternal youth are commodities that can be bought with a plastic card.

At whatever age she achieves her wisdom, the crone knows that the cycle of life is threefold, a never-ending spiral dance of life, death and rebirth. There is no pausing forever in life, no need to despair that death is ultimate. The rhythm of life is unstoppable. The crone knows and accepts the life/death/life cycle. This knowing sets her free for the fulness of joy, and frees her as well from the deception of those who traffic in false comfort.

When you are held in the embrace of the cailleach’s tough mother love, you may look deeply into the darkness in yourself, and in your culture. You are ready to ask the questions that need to be asked, to face the destruction that results when masculine energy runs rampant without the wise restraints of the feminine. You can begin to imagine the new life that will come when a mature masculine energy works in harmony with the cailleach’s power of renewal. The crone offers you the burning coal within the skull that will lead you towards transformation for yourself, for the planet. Seize it, not pausing for words.

Begin the journey into wholeness.

Seeking the Sophia

I long for You so much

I follow barefoot Your frozen tracks

That are high in the mountains

That I know are years old.

I long for You so much

I have even begun to travel

Where I have never been before.
(in Hafiz The Subject Tonight Is Love trans. Daniel Ladinsky)

As we set out to find Sophia, the missing feminine aspect of the Holy, we prepare for a long journey, following tracks that are millennia old. We learn to be adept at time travel, at exploring deep dusty caverns of pre-history, at unravelling, then reweaving, threads of ancient stories.

Sophia is nowhere precisely, yet everywhere subtly. Mythologies of many cultures abound with tales of her presence, her power, her sufferings, her diminishments. Old fairy tales hold glimpses of her that are both tender and terrifying. We will need to look into sacred wells, old ritual sites, ruined temples and sanctuaries. We will carefully examine fragments of poetry, shards of pottery, pieces of drums, tiny perfect feminine figures carved of stone, buried in the depths of the earth.

We are living today in the time of the great recovery. What has been hidden is being revealed to us. Scholars of ancient civilizations are writing of their findings: the traces of a sacred feminine presence within the stories, myths and ritual practices of people long vanished.

In “A Brief History of The Celts”, Peter Berresford Ellis writes of the Great Mother Goddess of the Ancient Celts, revealing the connection between the Celtic Goddess and the great rivers of Ireland, a sacred connection also found in India’s mythology:
“… the Celts believed their origins lay with the mother goddess Danu, ‘divine waters from heaven’. She fell from heaven and her waters created the Danuvius (Danube), having watered the sacred oak tree Bile. From there sprang the pantheon of the gods who are known as the Tuatha de Danaan (Children of Danu) in Irish and the Children of Don in Welsh myths.” (p. 162)
The story associated with the Danuvius, which is arguably the first great Celtic sacred river, has similarities with myths about the Boyne, from the goddess Boann, and the Shannon, from the goddess Sionan in Ireland. More important, it bears a close resemblance to the Hindu goddess Ganga, deity of the Ganges. Both Celts and Hindus worshipped in the sacred rivers and made votive offerings there. In the Vedic myth of Danu, for she exists as a deity in Hindu Mythology as well, the goddess appears in the famous Deluge story called “The Churning of the Ocean.” (p.7)
Celtic writer Jen Delyth writes further of the goddess Anu, also known as Danu and Aine:

An ancient figure, venerated under many names, she is known as the womb of life. She is the spark and vitality of life. She is the seed of the sun in our veins. The Great Earth Mother is more ancient than the god of the Celtic Druids. She is the Mother whose breasts are the Paps of Anu in Ireland. Her hair is the wild waves, the golden corn. Her eyes are the shining stars, her belly the round tors or earth barrows from which we are born. Like the cat, the sow, the owl, she eats her young if they are sick or dying. She is the cycle of life, the turning of the seasons.”

In rivers, waves, and corn, in stars and earth barrows, in the very seasons of our land, this sacred presence is embodied, immersed, implanted in the universe, around, above, beneath, within us.

In “Women of the Celts”, Jean Markale offers an overview of the decline of the Sacred Feminine presence as the Jewish/Christian religions became dominant, but he also hints at how her presence survives:
Within the patriarchal framework (goddesses) were often obscured, tarnished and deformed, and submerged into the depth of the unconscious. But they do still exist, if only in dormant state, and sometimes rise triumphantly to rock the supposedly immovable foundations of masculine society. The triumph of Yahweh and Christ was believed sanctified forever, but from behind them reappears the disturbing and desirable figure of the Virgin Mary with her unexpected names: Our Lady of the Water, Our Lady of the Nettles, Our Lady of the Briars,
Our Lady of the Mounds, Our Lady of the Pines. But in spite of the veneration accorded her over the centuries and the public declaration of successive dogmas related to Mary, the authorities of the Christian Church have always made her a secondary character, overshadowed and retiring, a model of what women ought to be. Now the pure and virginal servant of man, the wonderful mother who suffers all heroically, she is no longer the Great Goddess before whom the common herd of men would tremble, but Our Lady of the Night.”     (Jean Markale “Women of the Celts” p. 86)

Our Lady of the Night! What a lovely, appropriate name for the presence we seek, the One who has so many different names… yet is being rebirthed now in our time, from the “womb of this present darkness”.

The ways we are to seek her may seem arduous, but the starting place is deep within our souls.

As Hafiz hints in his poem, the search begins with our longing for her.

Mary, Companion in our Present Darkenss

Egypt. November 2008. With my co-travellers on this spiritual journey, led by Jean Houston, I am on the Island of Philae in the Nile River. As we stand crowded together in the tiny sanctuary dedicated to Isis, Jean is reading aloud from the writings of Lucius Apuleius, a second century Roman, not a Christian whose tale, “The Golden Ass” I referred to in my first blog, “A Promise Born in Light”.

The hapless magician, Lucius having turned himself into an ass, cries out to Isis for help. Shining like the sun, she comes to him saying:
“Behold, I am come to you in your calamity. I am come with solace and aid. Away then with tears. Cease to moan. Send sorrow packing. Soon…shall the sun of your salvation rise….Eternal religion has dedicated to me the day which will be born from the womb of this present darkness.”

After the reading that day in the sanctuary of Isis, we are invited to call out all the names by which we have known the Sacred Feminine. I hear voice after voice calling out wonderful names. Many of these names are familiar to me, titles I’d learned as a child, and they refer to Mary. I listen: Mystical Rose. Tower of Ivory. Gate of Heaven. My own voice calls out: Star of the Sea. I hear Jean’s voice, strong, certain: Mary in all her forms.

If you grew up Catholic in the days before the Second Vatican Council, Mary was at the very heart of your faith. You prayed the “Hail Mary” many times daily; you sang hymns to Mary as you walked in May processions carrying flowers to decorate her statue; in every trouble and doubt, in every dark moment of your own life, you turned to her as to a mother whose love for you was unconditional. You probably knew by heart the “Memorare”, a prayer to Mary that says, in part, “Remember…Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession was left unaided…”

At the call of Pope John 23rd, 2600 Roman Catholic Bishops gathered in Rome for the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960’s. Believing they were restoring a balance, they invited Mary to step from her throne, and guided her gently to a place among the faithful, the followers of her son, Jesus. The “excesses” of Marian devotion were curbed… and then what happened?

Over the past fifty years we have seen a burgeoning of interest in the “Sacred Feminine”; a recovery of ancient stories of the Goddess; archaeological finds that create renewed interest in the time when the Sacred One was honoured as a woman; an explosion of writing among theologians, historians, cultural storytellers, seeking to understand the power and presence of “Mary” in the Christian story. I will cite a few here: The Virgin by Geoffrey Ashe; Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak; Untie the Strong Woman by Clarissa Pinkola Estes and Truly Our Sister by Elizabeth Johnson.

I have a consuming interest in the many aspects of this mystery. What I glimpse is this: the human heart longs for a divine mothering presence. Ancient cultures honoured a feminine divine who over millennia was called by many names: Isis in Egypt; Inanna in Sumeria; Ishtar in Babylon; Athena, Hera and Demeter in Greece; Anu or Danu among the ancient Celts; Durga, Kali and Lakshmi in India; for the Kabbalists, Shekinah; for the gnostics, Sophia or Divine Wisdom.

Christianity had no “Mother God” to put in the place of the Goddesses whose worship it was determined to eradicate. Geoffrey Ashe’s theory is that Mary’s gradual ascension in Christianity was not an initiative of Church Leadership, but rather a response to the hunger of the early Christians for a sacred feminine presence.

How it came about is less interesting to me than the reality that Mary became for us an opening to a loving feminine sacred presence. Or, put another way, a loving sacred feminine presence responded to the cries of her people when they called her “Mary”, just as that presence had responded over the millennia to other names cried out in love or sorrow or desperate need.
Over these darkening days as we descend to the longest night of the year at the Winter Solstice, Mary is our true companion in her own waiting, her uncertainty, the doubts of those who love her, the trust that sustains her while she opens Deeper into the ripple in her womb That encircles dark to become flesh and bone, as John O’Donohue has written.
This is profound mystery. For Mary. For each one of us who carries the Holy within us, seeking a place of birth. We walk the dark road, with Mary, in trust.
We walk companioned by one who knows our struggles to maintain our trust in the face of inner doubts and outer calamity. We walk with one who loves us and encourages us until we are ready to welcome “the day which will be born from the womb of this present darkness.”

The Womb of This Present Darkness

The call to awaken to the presence of Sophia comes at a time when much of our planet struggles with darkness. Live-streaming news gives us an immediate knowing of disasters, disease, wars, weather-related devastation that can be overwhelming.

Yet the greater the darkness, the greater is our awareness of the need for light, the deeper our appreciation for it, the more compelling our own call to be co-creators of light.

Our ancient ancestors, who knew almost nothing of events beyond their immediate homes, knew about the rhythms of the earth, the apparent movements of sun, moon and stars, the cycle of the seasons, with an accuracy of observation that fills us with awe. The early peoples of Ireland were so deeply attuned to the shifting balance of light and darkness that they could build a monument to catch the first rays of sunrise on the winter Solstice. The Newgrange mound in Ireland, predating the Egyptian Pyramids, receives the Solstice light through a tiny aperture above the threshold.

Like the Egyptians and other ancient peoples, the Celts wove their spirituality from the threads of light and darkness that shaped their lives. Their spiritual festivals moved through a seasonal cycle in harmony with the earth’s yearly dance, associating the bright sunlit days with masculine energy, the darker time with contemplative feminine energy. For the Celts, the days we are entering this week, days we name Halloween, All Saints’ and All Souls’, were one festival known as Samhain (Saw’ wane). These three days marked the year’s end with a celebration that served as a time-out before the new year began. The bright masculine season with its intense activity of planting, growing, harvesting was over. The quieter days of winter were ahead: “the time of darkness, the realm of the goddess where the feminine energy principle is experienced and the season of non-doing is initiated.” (Dolores Whelan: Ever Ancient, Ever New pp. 98-9) www.doloreswhelan.ie

We in the twenty-first century may still draw on this ancient wisdom to live in harmony with the earth as the Northern Hemisphere of our planet tilts away from the sun. We can welcome this time of darkness as a season of renewal when earth and humans rest. Our energy can be gathered inwards to support what is happening deep within the earth and deep within our souls. The energy gathered in this season will be used when the winter has passed and spring has brought new life to the land and the people.

We too can accept the invitation of Samhain to release whatever is not completed at this time, letting go of the light and the activity of sun-time, surrendering ourselves to the restful moon-time, the darkness of holy waiting. Living within the wisdom of the earth’s seasons, we move towards the rebirth of the sun at the winter solstice, embracing a journey of deep surrender.As these shorter days in autumn prepare us for the yearly plunge into winter’s darkness, we are entering into the sacred time of Sophia. Within her sacred cauldron, our lives and our desires for our planet find a place of gestation, a safe darkness where, as with the caterpillar in a chrysalis, the great work of transformation of our souls and of all of life can happen.

Sylvia Shaindel Senensky writes:

We are being called upon by the sorrowing and powerful Dark Feminine to know our own darkness and the profound richness of all dark places, even when they are laden with pain.  Through her we know the mystery of existence and the sacredness of the cycles of life.  We learn how important the destruction of the old ways is to the rebirth of the new.  When she steps into our lives and awakens us, we can be shattered to our core, and we know, as we see the tears streaming down her face, that she too is holding us in her compassionate and loving embrace.

 …. She is calling upon us, each in our way to do our inner work, to become her allies, to become the best human beings we know how to be; to allow our creativity, our compassion and our love to flow to ourselves and to all life forms on this planet….  Love attracts love.  If we flood our planet with loving and transformative energy, our actions will begin to mirror our feelings.  We will come home to ourselves. ( in “Healing and Empowering the Feminine” Chiron Publications, Wilmette Illinois 2003)

 Let us enjoy this sacred season, this womb-time, as we curl up near the fireside of our hearts. From Sophia’s cauldron, we shall emerge in springtime in an interdependent co-arising with the earth, knowing ourselves renewed in soul, body and spirit.

A Promise Born in Light Part Two

This is what I have learnt from my contact with the earth — the diaphany of the divine at the heart of a glowing universe, the divine radiating from the depths of matter a-flame.     Teilhard de Chardin

Restless today, unable to settle to any task, I walk outdoors. Surprised to find this day in late October warm, sunlit, lovely.139

Yesterday’s events in Ottawa are still stirring within me: unmixed feelings, understandings, reactions, slowly melding together into what is close to gratitude, even joy. Like the beauty of trees reflected in the Bonnechere River, the beauty of my country shines back through the ripples of the stone thrown into our peaceful existence. The stone sinks, forgotten. The river reflects what lasts.

Alone here by the river yesterday, I listened to the voices that came to me from CBC Radio. I heard Tom Allen on “Shift” offering comfort through the timeless beauty and strength of music: Beethoven and Samuel Barber blended with contemporary music about home. I turned to the news, heard voices that called into the Ottawa CBC Radio station. I heard reminders of what we value about our country; I heard compassion rather than anger; I heard gratitude for those nameless ones who rushed to help the fallen guard at the War Memorial; I heard of strangers reaching out to offer directions to safety when people were walking around the area unaware; I heard the good-humoured pride in the report that the Mounties who called people to move, stop, stay, added the so-Canadian word, “please”. I heard voice after calm voice resolve that one deranged/radicalized young man would not change our country. I heard the welcome reminder that Canadians were once peacekeepers, that we need to reclaim what we really value most, what best matches our national soul….

This morning, wakening to a day suddenly brilliant in autumn sunlight, I feel the return of life. Parliamentarians are in their places. Most telling, the Prime Minister crosses the floor of the House of Commons, reaches out to hug both leaders of opposing parties.
Yes, there are voices that call for reprisals, but there are many more that call for wisdom, calm, seeking to redress the deep causes of radicalization among our young.
I remember the tale of the Native elder whose grandson spoke of two wolves within him: one of fear and hatred, one of courage and love.
“Which one will win, Grandfather?” the boy asked.
“The one that you feed,” the elder answered.

Teilhard de Chardin, the twentieth century Jesuit paleontologist and mystic who intuitively saw that a cosmos in evolution revealed a God who calls us forward into a future full of hope, spoke of the universe as unfinished.

Neither scientist nor theologian, I am a storyteller. I know how a change in the story has power to alter and illuminate our lives. Changing the story that once shaped our lives changes everything. If we live in a story of a completed universe where once upon a perfect time our first parents, ecstatically happy in a garden of unimagined beauty, destroyed everything by sin, what have we to hope for? The best is already irretrievably lost. Under sentence of their guilt we can only struggle through our lives, seeking forgiveness, trusting in redemption…. The suffering around us will still speak to us of punishment for that first sin, and the burden of continuing to pay for it with our lives…. Despair and guilt are constant companions. Hope in that story rests only in release from the suffering of life into death.

But if we live the story as Teilhard saw it, seeing ourselves in an unfinished universe that is still coming into being, everything changes. In a cosmos that is still a work in progress, we are called to be co-creators, moving with the Love within the universe towards a future filled with hope. We know ourselves held in love by a God whose yearning for our happiness, our fullness of life, is greater even than our own.

Our human hearts long for joy, and we love to hear stories where suffering and struggle lead to happiness, to fulfillment, to love. The possibility that there could be peace, reconciliation, compassion, mercy and justice to an increasing degree on our planet is a profound incentive for us to work with all our energy for the growth of these values.

Yesterday we were offered a glimpse of what a future full of hope might look like, a future we grow towards with each act of courage, forgiveness, compassion and rootedness in deeply-cherished values.

A promise born in light that emerges out of darkness.