2 November 2022 - CITW
2nd November 2022 A Candle in the Window Peter Millar
O Lord, our Lord, your greatness is seen in all the world.
Every day is a messenger of God.
Search for God where you lost him or her.
Adapted from Tony de Mello, well-known writer on spirituality
The people in prison whom I visit have honoured me with the gift of their vulnerability. Many of them are able to discern the true freedom that comes when one is stripped of all status, and it is thus that they can teach me something about the meaning of spiritual poverty. In coming to serve the poor, so to speak, I am discovering that I am poor.
Joyce Gunn Cairns, good friend and distinguished Scottish artist
There will be no peace among the peoples of this world without peace among the world religions.
There will be no peace among the world religions without peace among the Christian churches.
The community of the church is an integral part of the world community.
Hans Kung, German theologian
One of your recent Candle reflections reminded me of my trip to the tiny island of Staffa, close to Iona, and to its world famous Fingal’s Cave. I was sitting deep in the cave and the woman next to me asked a man who had been playing a pennywhistle if he knew the round, Dona Nobis Pacem (Give Us Peace). She explained that her husband had died two weeks before and she had promised him before he died that she would sing Dona Nobis Pacem for him in the cave. The man did not know the tune so she started to sing. After the first Dona Nobis Pacem line I joined her in canon. It is a beautiful harmony when sung in canon. It is ethereal, out-of-this-world, when sung in canon deep in the echo chamber of Fingal’s Cave. I will never forget it. Even now tears stir behind the dam of my eyes as I recall that brief moment – as much for the circumstances of the singing as for the beauty of the music. God does, indeed, plant goodness and hope in the human heart, far deeper than all that is wrong. Do we ever need continuing reminders of this, given the bitter, contentious spirit that pervades this country’s political and social atmosphere?
From Dick Waddell, a good friend in the United States
Accepting life’s unfinished symphonies
The theologian Karl Rahner spoke of the fact that most of life’s symphonies remain unfinished. Many of our hopes never come to fruition. So much about our journey through life appears incomplete. In terms of our relationships, our health, our jobs and our friendships, there are always unfinished parts. It is true of us all. A fact of our amazing, rich humanity.
Sometimes it takes many years for us to recognise this essential incompleteness and when we do, we may feel resentment and disillusionment. Waves of frustration flow through our days. Somehow deep down – away beyond words and even thoughts – we had hoped for more. The child that abandoned us; the job that became a total disaster area; the intimacy that eluded us: the sorrows and illness that burdened us. And at one level or another we all experience something of this along life’s path. The ‘finished symphony’ just never happened.
Ronald Rolheiser, who is a spiritual guide for many of us, speaks clearly about the fact that such recognition of life’s unfinished symphonies has to be mourned. It is a reality which elicits grief within us. He wrote:
*When we fail to mourn properly our incomplete lives, then this incompleteness becomes a gnawing restlessness, a bitter centre, that robs our lives of delight. Because we do not mourn, we demand that someone or something – a marriage partner, a sexual partner, an ideal family, having children, and achievement, a vocational goal, or a job – take all of our loneliness away. That, of course, is an unreal expectation which invariably leads to bitterness and disappointment. In this life, there is no finished symphony. We are built for eternity, Grand Canyons without a bottom. Because of that we will, this side of eternity, always be lonely, restless, incomplete – living in the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable.*
In learning to mourn our unfinished symphonies and to move on, we sometimes discover a comforting truth. A truth which silently appears within that often fragile framework of our understanding. Perhaps we can put it this way. We recognise that we have not quite so many unfinished symphonies after all! The very fact of mourning them places them in a wider, more helpful perspective. We can become inwardly more aware as we view that basket which holds a more mature estimation of our lives. We can then begin to recognise within ourselves the basic fact ‘that we are as we are day by day.’ We can still work on inner change and new direction, but with a greater calm in our heart and mind. Adapted from a chapter in my book Waymarks.