16 October 2013 | Words from the Heart
We celebrate the feasts of various Benedictine Saints throughout the year and they are always a source of great joy to me. I even like choir practice when we prepare for the liturgy of these great days! So often our antiphons at the various Offices are the words of the particular Benedictine Saint or they are words so closely allied to him or her that they may as well have been said by the saint in question! I never struggle to get their meaning and understand it at once. There is something so familiar in the essence of these feasts that makes me feel so at ease. It feels to me the way one feels at a familiar house, where one is always welcome, the kettle is always on to make you a cuppa, the same seat is set aside for you, the conversation is always recognisable, the language easy and your place in that home unquestioned, as though it was your right to be there. And so it is with me. I have no difficulty sitting at the feet of these Benedictine saints and feeling myself to be part of the long Benedictine line that fits me so very comfortably. One of the great benefits of this is that I never leave these days without having something in me renewed, some new insight, and some deeper conviction.
There are familiar things in all our lives, to a greater and lesser extent. So often we can dismiss them, we can call them boring and can be on the lookout for something new, thinking that the familiar has said all it can. There is of course nothing wrong with that and we need always to move forward, but when the familiar calls to us, when we are invited to go on roads we have travelled before, to listen to things we have heard before, to sit by the same fire, then I believe the familiar has the capacity to reveal more of “our story” to us. Furthermore I believe it is the “familiar God” calling to us in language He knows we will understand.
Fr. Ed Farrell in his book “Prayer is a Hunger” talks about an instance from his own life. He had an accident playing football when we was a seminarian and broke his leg. He then had to spend a deal of time in the infirmary during which his mother came to see him. He said it was the first time he had actually been still long enough to really look at her face, especially her eyes. He found them to be very familiar and he could not work out why. It was only after she had gone that he realised they were his own eyes!
When you and I go to meet God, won’t we find something very familiar about Him? When we look into His eyes I believe we will see our own. We are after all, made in His own image and likeness so it is rather inescapable! And I venture to suggest that our capacity to recognize those “familiar eyes’ will be determined by how familiar we have become with Him while in this life. It is not hard to be familiar with God, especially since He is “over the top” in wanting to be familiar with us! It is only a matter of engaging with things that spell “God”, reading things that catch our “God attention”, being with people who talk “God language”, responding when we feel the impulse to talk to God in whatever way we do. Once we start this kind of living, it is amazing how familiar we become with each other and everything then simply explodes with God. He becomes inescapably, wonderfully familiar!