Fr John Allen Green OFM: A Personal Ash Wednesday & Lenten reflection
Franciscan Reflections From The Hermitage – Mystical Union within the Song of Genesis – An Ash Wednesday & Lenten reflection
At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of God?”He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of God. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of God.
Now fast forward to THE YEAR 1957… and Israel hands over the Gaza Strip to UN forces, the USSR launches Sputnik, and Great Britain explodes a thermonuclear bomb. 1957 was also reported as the happiest year … happiness levels rose after I945 and peaked in I957 before declining during the 1960’s and l970s until a nadir in l978’s Winter of Discontent. There was then a recovery but never to the levels of the 1950s.
The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, created in 1947, made its first pronouncement against racism in 1952 and in 1957, condemned apartheid as “intrinsically evil”.
Also in this year of 1957, I am 5 years old and my brother, Kenneth is 4 years of age. We are being escorted by our African nanny, Anna, to the local ‘Kindergarten’. On the corner of Kitchener Avenue and 5th Street, Bez Valley, Johannesburg, I manage to break free from the nanny’s hand and run into the busy traffic on Kitchener Avenue. The speeding dry cleaner truck did all the damage that can be imagined… a bit like the dis-assembly of a doll… legs unattached… insides re-arranged… crushed skull and perforated eardrum. There followed many months of surgery and recuperation… and a new awareness of expanded consciousness and the power of words linked to that shared consciousness… experiencing in my own body the pain of those around me.
My first remembrance as a little child not yet able to walk is clearer in the glass than this morning’s prayers… Pulling myself up into a standing position to gaze between the wooden slats of the cot, looking down at that beautiful, multi-coloured, patchwork quilt… looking down on mother and father sleeping. This child remembering… this child knowing that I am this new beginning that continues the past… I remember the joy, and the awe… but also the terrible power that was within me.
The seven-day-old child is yet without a name, without ego, without separation. So, many of those who believe that they are ahead of others, older, wiser (the first), will find themselves behind (the last), because they have lost the innocent, carefree, trusting attitude of the newborn. Yet first and last are temporary illusions, just characters in a play where all is well that ends well, as all are one and the same and all originate from the One and will return to the One (will become a single one).
Who am I and what is the purpose of this, my life journey? Am I the teacher, the pastor, the priest, the Franciscan or perhaps more the hermit? But no, this is not who I am, these are all things that I do! And so I go back to the child who remembers, and this is who I am… always that child.
The taste and colour of words, beyond the power to invoke images, the resonance of the sweet blueish-gold tinged words that caress, uphold, and transform despair into hope, through the dissonance range of the bitter yellow gorged angry words that belittle and destroy.
Here I discover Love that is one, first, the resonance of the Song of Genesis… the I AM that proclaims “Let there Be…” Here, beyond empathy, I wince and recoil at the experience of the pain and suffering of others and of all creation within my own body resonating with the Body of Christ. Here I gleefully rejoice in the experience of joy of others and all creation also within my own body resonating with the Body of Christ. This is the Multiple mirror-touch synaesthesia that so many find both a curse and a blessing.
Here in this Genesis of Love, I discover healing from the direct seed of love through parents, grandparents, and carers that came to us through woundedness. This is our original woundedness, the generational burden of intentions that are muddied and unclear and formed by self-interest, selfishness, and disordered love.
Now I gaze once more at that encounter in the garden, the beloved with me, before me. Being known and knowing, become one. The face of the beloved, awesome, yet so familiar. So I become the beloved disciple and my heart echoes the heart of the beloved. This is the gift of hearts joined, hearts that are one. This is the greatest joy of my life, this is who I am in the heart of eternity.
Darkly hushed the early morning,
when gently calls the Lord.
‘Come and walk with me awhile’.
The gentlest touch; a lover, a friend
who speaks my name, knowing.
‘The path we are to walk is steep and slippery.
But be not afraid; Trust me
I am your guide; I am your strength.
Lay your sandals aside.’
Word and touch;
a heart that breaks for burning love.
The whisper of the moment,
two hearts that beat as one
two souls touch, knowing.
Too quickly turns
the dappled light of night
the darkness of the day.
O, how the heart does ache to remember every word.
Yet still remains the gift,
the promise and the call.
Seated in the firelight
an easy union, the reflection of my life
in the eyes of the Other, knowing.
But can anyone claim
the gift of the mountain as their own.
An invitation: ‘Come aside and rest awhile!
For when you return there is work for you to do
by the strength of my love’.
Remember always ‘My love for you will uphold you,
will guide you, will comfort you;
I am your only one sure foothold’.
all else is but the barest shadow,
In Christ, we have re-established the lineage of our ancestors to our very first ancestor, who is both our father and our mother. Through Jesus the Christ, we, therefore, have the courage to pray, “Jesus, Master, have mercy.
– We acknowledge our pride in our deceit.
– We acknowledge that we have sought other gods before you.
– We acknowledge that we have feasted while our brothers and sisters, in your new family, have gone hungry.
– We acknowledge that envy has taken hold of us and our people, and we have become bitter and angry.
– We acknowledge the suffering we have caused to those we have scapegoated, those outsiders, those foreigners, those who are different and all those we have judged unworthy.
– Yet, Jesus, in you we trust, in you we have hope, in you, we find the face of Mercy. Hear us and intercede for us so that our joy may once more be complete, and we may once again give glory and thanks to God.”
- 2nd Sunday of Lent Reflection: Transfiguration Through Woundedness - February 23, 2024
- 1st Sunday of Lent Reflection: Desolation and Confusion - February 16, 2024
- Fr John Allen Green OFM: A Personal Ash Wednesday & Lenten reflection - February 13, 2024