Friday, 20 November 2015

Breathe In Mercy

I never thought much about mercy. Compassion. Love.. Justice. Not mercy. Hmmm...

When I was at the convent long ago, we used to say (corporately) the Litany of the Holy Name. One of the Sisters used to lead it in such a way (no affect) that I gritted my teeth and wanted it to be over - feeling guilty, of course. The response to the petitions "Jesu, most wonderful" ... or "Jesu, Lover of the poor"  (I think) was, "Have mercy on us."  Over and over. I prefer "Jesus." At any rate, it was, I hate to admit as it may indicate a lack of something major - that the Litany of the Holy Name with its repetitive "Jesu, ... " was not one of my favourite prayers. 

Then there's the memory of St. Mark's, Longueuil, the choir - "Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us." I'm singing as I type. I love it. But never thought much about the mercy part in any depth - what it meant.

Mercy. I looked it up. 

Mercy: compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm.

The Biblical meaning from :  
Mercy is a concept integral to an understanding of God's dealings with humankind. In English translations of the Bible, it comes to expression in phrases such as "to be merciful, " "to have mercy on, " or "to show mercy toward." The corresponding term, "merciful, " describes a quality of God and one that God requires of his people. The noun denotes compassion and love, not just feelings or emotions, as expressed in tangible ways.

Several Hebrew and Greek terms lie behind the English term "mercy." The chief Hebrew term is hesed [d,s,j], God's covenant "lovingkindness." In both the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the LXX) and the New Testament, the term behind "mercy" is most often eleos [e[leo"] in one form or another, butoiktirmos/oiktiro [oijktirmov"/oijkteivrw] (compassion, pity, to show mercy) and splanchna/splagchnizomai [splagcNIVzomai] (to show mercy, to feel sympathy for) also play roles.
OK. So ... how is it I've missed the boat? Never too late ... I see a study beginning. Jesus lived mercy. It was/is a verb like love. And compassion - which I guess is close to mercy. 

I signed up to receive a daily email of Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation. It's wonderful.  Challenging, peace-giving. Spirituality, psychology and more... At the bottom of each of this week's meditations is: Gateway to Silence: Breathing in -- receiving mercy; breathing out -- letting go. 

Mercy. Pope Francis has called for the next year to be a year of mercy. The devastating violence in Paris, Beirut, Baghdad, Nigeria, Kenya ... and on and on ... leaves us reeling. The millions of refugees. Calls for a ban on refugees entering our countries in the West in case one of them is a terrorist. Never mind that the KKK and others continue their hate crimes which fit the terrorist definition. 

In the sermon last Sunday - we kept St. Hilda's Day (of course) and tied this feisty, wise woman who struggled for balance in the Church (whether or not we think she was right to go for the Roman option)   - with the violence ... and I asked people how they were feeling. First there was silence. Then ... afraid... and on ... and there is a sense that we aren't safe.

Well, we aren't safe. I've spent much of my life looking for safety.  69 years into life in this realm, and I'm realizing on a deep level that living isn't a safe occupation. We can take precautions. But accidents happen. Illness. Bombs. No one can save us in the sense that we crave a sense of safety. So, what do we do?

We breathe in mercy. And then we act mercifully. Towards ourselves and towards others. Imagine if the world's people were breathing in mercy rather than hatred, division, revenge. 

We can't save the world; we can make a difference. We accept suffering (I don't say this lightly). Nor have I finished learning the lesson. Obviously. We all have our better moments and I imagine our moments of terror.

Don't you love Rumi?  Well, maybe not. This is hard. 

Mmm... very helpful these days. We all have turning points in our lives. Big things. Small things. Planned things. Surprises that catch us off guard. Times of growing up. Breakdowns and breakthroughs (if they are different from each other).

48 years ago today, November 20, 1967 I walked down the St. Margaret's Convent chapel aisle at Vespers and was received as a postulant in my little black dress. This story is told in another post. It was the beginning of a new life. A journey of letting go and opening up. Of moving away from home and family and beginning to grow up. Emphasis on 'beginning.' 

Then there was Haiti that turned my life inside out and upside down and both broke and transformed my heart. 

Then the breakdown that became breakthrough. And I eventually moved back home to Montreal and completed my studies - official studies that is. 

More breakthroughs as I finished a degree in child studies and education before going on to theology. Anxious. New. 

Patricia Delaney taught drama in education that first semester in 1983 I was back at Concordia. More life-changing moments. Freedom offered - or at least glimpses of what freedom could look like. Patricia asked us to move around our smallish class room like elephants. Everyone's elephant was the 'right way' to be an elephant. No external judges of the best elephant. Just be - be an elephant the way you imagine an elephant moving. WOW! Thank you, Patricia. 

Our present new bishop, Mary, told me when I was a theology student (c1989) that going shopping with parishioners is also ministry. More freedom. St. Paul's, Lachine - Alan who gave me the freedom to develop W.I.N.G.S. (Women Initiating New Growth Successfully) and other forms of creative ministry.

A year unemployed - Mum was dying... and then Mile End Community Mission - ahh - lots of freedom there... and opportunities to learn and live mercy.  St. CHL is our beloved little parish where we also dance and sing to a different Drummer (and jazz musician) and share the faith and grow together with a whole passle of children in Love in Motion. We might also call it mercy in motion.

And woven in-between and around and under and over - discovering freedom - there has, as in all of our lives, been suffering along with joy. Finding and/or creating a balance between holding and letting go. Learning mercy. Breathing mercy. When I knew not mercy, and was not merciful with myself, I was held in mercy.

And now, I say: Jesus most merciful. Have mercy upon us.

Breathe. Mercy. 

And - it's always a good idea to be ourselves - and to keep a sense of humour.

I hesitate to use this image ... it can seem facile.  So many are suffering beyond comprehension ... but for some of us at some moments, this may be right on. 

1 comment: