Sunday, 4 March 2012

Lenten dream

I've been so tired over the last few weeks that when I've slept, I've slept deeply, remembering only a very few in full, but many fragments. Last night I had a very full, very vivid dream about being in a castle with one of my best friends, who was dancing off on her own everywhere about the castle. There was a sense of...crossroads and chaos, with the odd person - fire-eater, juggler, and so on floating through the dream.

There was a huge suspension bridge on the grounds, one that felt so vast that it was terrifying to cross. There was always a thrill stepping onto it, an awareness that it led far beyond just another point on the castle grounds. As soon as I stepped on it, I was in conversation with an angel, one who never materialised, but was very present. I wish I could remember the conversation I was having with him when I crossed the first part of the suspension bridge one morning, carrying a package across. The bridge zigzagged across the grounds in labyrinthine fashion, in what seemed to be an infinite number of gleaming white sections.

The next thing I remember is a dark night, a new moon. I needed to cross the bridge; I knew that. The section I had crossed was no problem, and I was sure that I could cross the next one. The angel's voice was muffled now, though I could hear him questioning my need to cross it at night, my need to prove I could do it at night, at the darkest time.

I crossed the first part of the suspension bridge, came off it, and approached what looked like a darkened guard house, one that housed something that terrified me more the closer I came to it. But despite the immense resistance, I doggedly moved forward until I hit an invisible wall and I heard/thought, 'Why do you always need to push yourself too far? Maybe you need to stop.'

'But I need to cross.'

'Do you need to cross now? Or can you step back and wait?'

For once, I listened.

As I walked back down the suspension bridge, I looked up to where I thought the angel should be and sobbed, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I know my faith isn't great enough. I'm sorry.'

'Or maybe,' came the gentle response, 'it wasn't time - you weren't ready.'

Friday, 2 March 2012

Lent Stations of the Cross

During Lent, my church has stations of the Cross on Friday evenings at 17.30, so I hurry down after work to take my seat by the confessionals, between the station where Jesus is nailed to the cross and the one where He dies on the cross.

My experience of stations varies widely - some weeks I'm right there, others I struggle to stay focused, occasionally, I'm just stressy and angry. But no matter how I feel, I go.

Today, I felt grounded into it, enfolded in the entire experience. I particularly love the prayer:

O God, we love thee with our whole hearts and above all things, and are heartily sorry that we have offended thee. May we never offend thee any more. Oh, may we love thee without ceasing, and make it our delight to do in all things thy most holy will.

I love the emphasis on love, the prayer to 'love thee without ceasing' and to make God's will 'our delight'. Not a duty, not acquiescing to a demand, not out of obedience, but out of delight.

Yes, there will be sorrow, anger, ennui, grief, the darkest of places. But the foundation, the anchor, the source of our relationship with God is the love of our whole hearts and delight in His presence.

That whole-hearted love and delight in God, in our neighbour, in our daily life is our prayer. And as we know, the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him.

As I felt that love ache through the suffering of the stations as we moved towards the crucifixion and death, I looked up to see the darkening sky through the far windows and my heart sang. I finally understood why I loved the Lenten stations, why I kept coming, no matter whether I felt them or not.


I know the Christian sabbath is Sunday, but growing up a Muslim and teaching at a Jewish school - which brought me into deep resonance with and love for the Jewish faith, the root of all Abrahamic faiths - means that in the depths of my being, Shabbat begins Friday, though every day belongs to God.

For me, the Lenten stations are the doorway to Shabbat - time in simple, deep prayer to God. However I feel: deeply engaged, disconnected, teary, angry - during the stations, it is being brought to God in prayer during the stations. No matter how I feel, God is holding me then, and I feel our connection. Love and delight, even through the pain.

And I step through the doorway. Baruch Hashem.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Lucifer - an epiphany

I'm currently watching 'Catholics', and the kids at the Catholic school have just had a lesson on Satan. The priest just asked them for another name for the Devil. 'Lucifer' was the answer he was looking for.

'Lucifer, light bearer,' he said when he got the answer.

I've heard it a million times before, but suddenly, it was like getting hit by a lorry.

I know the usual understanding is that the name is from his days as an angel living in God's glory. But the moment I heard the priest say that, something fell into place for me.

When Satan tempts us, when he stands in our way, when he taunts us, pushes us to the edge of what we can bear - does all those things attributed to him... he not being a light bearer? Is he not shining a light in those darkest places, on those darkest impulses, forcing us to face what we try to hide from?

Is he not our ally, rather than our adversary?

Is he not still God's Lucifer?