Holy Thursday 2017: Service and Love

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Image: “The Washing of the Feet” by Ghislaine Howard (2004)

Service and love – two key themes for reflection on the feast of the Lord’s Supper, that we celebrate today, this Holy Thursday.

To love without service is not really love, because love calls us out of ourselves and into the other. To serve without love might work for a little while, but it inevitably brings difficulties, because the mere doing of tasks that do not come from a place of love eventually bears nothing.

It is my personal prayer for each one of you, and in holding the memory of Marie Madeleine whose feast was 5th April, that love and service be part of your daily activity. My own heart is filled with love and gratitude at being able to serve in my own way, through these blog posts. With blessings for you, this Triduum, and toward Easter.

Sincerely

Geralyn

FCJ Mission and Identity Promoter

Holy Feast: Holy Thursday 2016

Holy Thursday. The feast of the Lord’s Supper.

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“Did you know that Holy Thursday is a special feast for the FCJs?” I commented.

My daughter replied, “That’s clever!”

“Why is that clever?”

“Because the FCJs were founded on a holy day.”

I probed a little further for her to tell me what Holy Thursday is about. The body and blood of Christ. Jesus’ gift.

I asked if she could explain it to me as if I hadn’t heard of this person called Jesus. “What words could we use to describe it that were universal?” We thought about it together and we both agreed on:

Love and friendship
Communion and community.

It’s about fellowship and companionship and relationship.

As we enter this holy space of the Triduum, perhaps you too, might ask yourselves how you would explain Holy Thursday to someone who hasn’t even heard of Jesus.

Happy Feast to all, and especially to the FCJ family.

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Jesus in daily life with this painting on an urban wall.

Video: A Very Special Easter

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It was my son who brought this video to my attention. He had watched it at school before the Easter break and it has stuck in his head all this while.

Watch this video and you’ll see why it has struck a chord with so many.

Which part moved you the most?

Video: I Love You and You are Mine

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Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a time of solemnity in Lent where the focus is on repentance.

For your prayer and reflection, I offer you a chance to listen to the song,  “You Are Mine”, by David Haas. I invite you to focus on the words:

I love you and you are mine.

Recall a relationship where you felt loved. Savour what it is like to feel such intimacy. Know that in that experience, God continually calls you by name, and calls you into union with him.

The video can be found here, with lyrics and contemplative visuals, from YouTube.

10 Ideas for Lent

Our friends at IgnatianSpirituality.com have compiled a list of ten ways you could choose from to deepen your Lenten journey.

As we begin with Ash Wednesday, a heartfelt wish and blessing to each one of you. May God enter your lives and may your hearts be close to God.

10 Ideas for Lent

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On Canonisation, Happiness and the Catholic Faith (A Personal Reflection)

You know that spark of energy you sometimes get in the morning (perhaps after coffee)? When you open your eyes and feel so grateful for another day? I had that today, and it’s not even my birthday. Though the morning has worn off, I’m still bursting to share my joy with you because it involves you too. True story: I woke up feeling especially good about being Catholic.

Making headlines the world over is the canonisation of two of the twentieth-century Church’s most influential Catholics, the late popes, John XXIII and John Paul II, on this Divine Mercy Sunday. I’m not old enough to remember the ‘good pope John’ and have a smattering at best, of the significant events of John Paul II’s pontificate. But today I rejoice in celebration with the millions of faithful worldwide as the current pope, Francis and his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI officiate at the ceremony in this historic event. What’s there not to be happy about?

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Photo: Reuters. Pilgrims pose with cut-out pictures of the two pontiffs in Vatican City.

Feeling a little left-out of the events in Rome, I rummaged around before Mass this morning, for a photo of John Paul II that I had kept from among my grandparents’ snapshots. It shows the then-spritely pontiff descending a plane which had landed at the miniscule dot of an island-nation known as Singapore. The year was 1986. If memory serves me right, it was one of the proudest days for my grandfather, who often told us stories of his pilgrimages to various holy sites around the world, including Europe and the Holy Land. With the pope in his hometown, my grandfather must have been over the moon that a part of that world was now in his backyard.

John Paul II, Singapore 1986. (C) Keeping-Company.com

It is this precise universality of the Catholic faith that I treasure today. I recalled the funeral Mass of John Paul II that was televised internationally. I remember seeing the masses of people, from all over the world, notable and unknown alike. I recall the reported conversions and return of many Catholics to the Church attributed to the death of such a holy man. I remember that this man installed World Youth Day, the largest international gathering of Catholic youth in the same place at the same time.

Yes, as crowds gather, and news reporters, photographers and videographers prepare their devices to record this day in phenomenal numbers, it is easy to say that the Catholic faith is a beautiful thing.

But in truth, this feeling of joy and pride at being Catholic came about on Saturday at some point. I know we are in the season of Easter, typically marked by hope, rejuvenation and joy, but yesterday was especially so, at the ordination of some friends in the Redemptorist congregation (CSsR) to the Order of Deacon. Both provinces of Australia and Vietnam were united in prayer. Members from the Kew community of FCJ Sisters were in attendance, in support of their Vietnamese neighbours, whose monastery they frequent for daily Mass.

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Photo: G. Anderson, 2014. Stole and Dalmatic (liturgical garments) laid out, ready for Investiture.

I have written about this topic before, but I will say it again: to be present at a public profession of faith is something remarkable. To witness and pray with and for a candidate – and friend – is a humbling experience that makes the presence of God almost tangible.

PicsArt_1398482807411Officiating the ceremony was Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, Vincent Long OFM Conv. who spoke an impassioned and heartfelt homily to the congregation. Bishop Long’s speech lamented the current climate of Catholic identity in Australia as “a seriously damaged brand, at least at the level of public perception in the wake of the Royal Commission Hearing.”

But he goes on to say that despite the “battered, bruised” image of the Church, we are nevertheless at a “critical juncture as the new exile.” He called for the congregation, but especially the deacons, to be as prophets at this time, “prophets who accompany their people and point us to the sign of the new kairos (reign/kingdom of God), and lead them in the direction of the kingdom” with humility, service and simplicity.

What gave me hope is that these are words that I, an ordinary member of the Church, can believe in. Bishop Long acknowledged the real brokenness of our time, but not with despair. “Our wilderness [as Catholics], our exile is daunting, disorienting and challenging. And in the pope’s words, we are bruised, hurt and dirty.”

For all our efforts to promote the mission and identity of the Church, and the gospel at large, such a statement speaks from a place of truth, from a place of reality that we cannot ignore. Yes, this wilderness Bishop Long speaks of can sometimes feel like a rather isolated place, and that “the wind of secularisation has blown away what’s left of our defenses.” But more so are we encouraged to band together, and “…not to retreat fearfully. Not to disengage with the world, not to, as [the] pope says, not to engage in self-referential pop, but a time of faith, a time of courage as we are called to accompany our people in the new exodus.”

I draw emphasis on the themes of accompaniment and companionship that the FCJ Sisters live by. I thank most graciously, our friends at the Redemptorist community, especially to the new deacons, who have shown us by example, what beauty, grace and joy there is in professing our faith. May God’s blessings continue to be upon Pope Francis and his fellow leaders, and all the faithful. May we, like John Paul II and John XXIII, all aspire to sanctity – the radical sanctity that comes from true humility, selfless service and love for Jesus Christ.

How is that for challenge and inspiration? If I have not convinced you, let me end here, with a quote from a saint:

Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and ‘Hallelujah’ is our song. | John Paul II

By virtue of our internationality and universality, in what joins us and in what diversifies us, may we continue to true to the gospel as members of the faithful. For all Christians, this is indeed a happy day. Alleluia, alleluia! Not just this day, but every day.

An Easter Greeting

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Chapel Interior, FCJ Convent Moonbria | Photo courtesy of Sr M. Merlo fcJ

I was sent this photo on Easter morn of the sacred space in one of our community houses. Thank you to Sr Joan Cartlidge for the beautiful display. On behalf of the FCJ Mission and Identity Team for the Province of Asia-Australia, we wish all a blessed holy and Eastertime. May the life and light of the Risen Christ fill our hearts with joy! Alleluia!

Poem: Going Back to Galilee

Dear Pope Francis preached at the Easter Vigil on Galilee. Curiously, I dabbled in writing a poem a few years ago on the same theme.

PS: I’m not a confident poet, so any helpful comments are appreciated! Happy Easter!

Sea of Galilee (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica)

Going Back to Galilee (2012)

Going back to Galilee,
to where it all began.
My heart was alive, inflamed with love,
It was there I met a man…

His eyes were hazel, amber-like
And his face had lines of life
He had a past with shadow self
But a lightness of hope in time

I met him there, along the way
Unbothered in my stride
I sought him not nor noticed much
Until he was by my side.

A gospel of love he longed to preach
A heart-space of truth and light
The setting sun and the morning moon
With his words, now coincide.

Miracles did happen and
His stories gave me to peace
They challenged me, I was alive
And freely I followed with feet.

These feet, sometimes patted
Sometimes shuffled, sometimes stride
But follow all the same I did
With wings I could not hide.

Where is this man now of whom I write?
This vision of inner peace
This beauty, this beloved companion of mine
Is he only in Galilee?

Not true, not so, it cannot be!
Galilee was only the start
So many places we’ve travelled since
In spirit, in word and in heart.

From the Archives: Mary came to Jesus in the dark

Originally published 1 April 2013. Reposted 20 April 2014 for your reflection.

Easter Moon Photo: Geralyn Anderson, “Easter Moon Through the Trees” on Easter Sunday Morning (2013)

The Rev David Lewicki has the following reflection to read on the reality of Easter. He makes the point that the women who went to the tomb did so in the dark.

Biblical scholar Raymond Brown is quoted:

In this [John’s] Gospel, where light and darkness play such a role, darkness lasts until someone believes in the risen Jesus.

Yet it is also true that faith travels in darkness. Many people will not experience the lightness of Easter or the hope it proclaims. Illness, disease and malady are in our faces. Death and destruction continues. But still we are challenged as people of the gospel, “to walk by faith and not by sight,” as the song goes. There is darkness around. It is still dark. But nonetheless, our beloved friend in Jesus still needs us, wants us and calls us out of ourselves to bring light and truth in the world.

And so I share some symbols of Christ’s light from a dawn service I attended over Easter.

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May the courage of Mary be ours, may she show us the ways of joy and peace. And may our goings-out be in the warmth and gentle glow of Christ’s light. Peace.

From the Archives: Awaiting the Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Feast of Easter

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If you will allow me, I have written here a personal reflection. It is 6 pm local time and in a little while, I will make my way to the church to celebrate Holy Thursday. Those who are acquainted with the FCJ story will know that Holy Thursday is an especially significant feast, marking the foundation of the Society.

It was last year that I did the Nineteenth Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises, a grace of the Spirit and a fruit that my work with the Sisters of the Asia-Australia Province has brought. It was during the Third Week that I had made a profound personal connection in the reading (prayer) material.

In the gospel passage for Holy Thursday, we hear that Jesus “took off his outer robe” (NRSV). He then picks up the towel and begins to wash the feet of his disciples. (John 13:4) My experience with biblical exegesis is basic at best, but what I did pick up on was that the word in the original Koine Greek is the same word that John the evangelist uses in his discourse on the Good Shepherd in chapter 10. Please note that I have yet to recover the sources from which I gathered the information that lead to such a conclusion, but significant enough for now is what it means to me. When Jesus lays down his outer garment, it is symbolic (as John’s gospel likes to be!) of his coming death, where he would lay his life down on the Cross. Jesus, after all, is the Good Shepherd, which by the way, is another section of our faith tradition that is found only in John’s gospel!

Fast-forward then, to the present moment. Something was stirring inside of me – I could not (cannot) let go of that connection between Jesus washing the feet of his disciples (the role of the servant) and laying his life down for us. From this perspective, they are both one and the same. What’s more is that Jesus calls us to do the same: ‘”So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also out to wash one another’s feet.”‘ (John 13:14)

But still the stirring would not go away. I did what any person of my generation would do these days when I wanted to do some research: I googled it. I typed in “Jesus takes off his outer robe”, and sure enough, I came upon a reflection by L’Arche founder Jean Vanier.

I have included the following section and have highlighted what spoke to me as I read it, bearing in mind that there are only hours in the Easter Triduum, only hours between one feast to the next. Only hours between celebrating the institution of the Eucharist with a living, breathing, foot-washing Jesus, and the one who we will crucify (as is traditional among the congregation to voice the role of the crowd in the Good Friday service). It is only hours from that horrific and disturbing account of death and when we celebrate new life on Easter morning!

So here is Jean Vanier, with layers and layers of wisdom and depth:

We had also welcomed into that house, Eric. Eric had lived for 12 years in the psychiatric hospital. He was blind, he was deaf, he couldn’t walk, and he couldn’t feed himself. He was a man with an immense amount of anguish — a man who wanted to die. In the psychiatric hospital the nurses rather avoided him because he wasn’t gratifying, he could do nothing.

He came to our community, and in him there was this terrible desire to die. He vomited everything that he ate. He was just in immense anguish and immense pain. (I mentioned this afternoon Moses with his pain.) But with Eric it was even more painful. His anguish and his desire to die were evident.

I said that, for us in L’Arche or in Faith and Light, our mission in welcoming Eric is to help him to move from the desire to die to a desire to live. We want him to move from a feeling of being no good to a sense of his value and his worth — from a feeling of guilt to a feeling of trust.

I said this afternoon that the only way…[is through] the transforming power of love. Through that love which reveals that you are beautiful; love that understands your pain and your needs; love which celebrates; love which empowers and calls you to be and to be yourself; and a love that forgives.

But for Eric, how will this be revealed to him? He is blind and he is deaf. So the only way of communication with Eric is through our hands. These are the incredible hands that we have been given by Jesus — hands that give security; hands that give peace; hands that manifest love. But hands that also can hurt; can take; can abuse.

I had the privilege of giving Eric his bath every morning. … This was a fragile little man of 16. And through our hands (because it was not just me, but those of our community together) we revealed to him that he is beautiful.

We are to touch people with a deep respect — to touch them with tenderness. Our hands, and not just our voices, may become vehicles of the love of Jesus. The Word became flesh, that our flesh may become word. Our flesh, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can reveal to people their value — that they are cherished and loved by God.

Our hands are, in some mysterious way, a source of revelation of communion. Jesus, as he knelt down in front of the feet of his disciples, knows that tomorrow he will be dead. But he wants to have with each disciple a moment. Not just to say goodbye.

Up until now he has just talked with the group. When you talk with a whole group you don’t have that individual contact with each person. Jesus wants that contact with each one of these people. He wants to touch them — to touch their feet; to touch their bodies; to touch them with tenderness and love. Maybe to each one he says a word; maybe looks each one in the eye. There is a moment of communion.

So there is communion through the Body of Christ, where Jesus says “do this in memory of me.” But there is also this communion as he kneels at their feet. And later he will say “I have done this as an example for you. And what I have done to you, you must do one to another.” So this is a gesture of communion, of tenderness.

For the full article, please click here. And as we move into Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, let us remember that wherever we are, whoever we are and however we are, we are to touch people (and let people touch us) with deep respect and reverence, the same kind of reverence shown to the body that is then laid in the tomb.

G. Anderson, 2013.

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Editor’s note: I wrote the above reflection last year, but it remained unpublished. Here it is now, as it was then, for your consideration. All viewpoints are strictly my own.

Blessings for your journey into Easter, from all of us at Keeping Company and the FCJ Mission and Identity Team.