St. Junipero Serra, pray for us, that we may find courage to persevere in the midst of all of life’s storms.
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. -Hebrews 13:2
This year the word “brave” kept choosing itself to be my word for 2016. Really…I hesitated…maybe courageous would be a better word to ponder. But, no, alas! the word brave which has at least 9 different manners by which it can be used kept popping up all around me. At a quick glance through the synonym finder, I was immediately drawn to the verb form, as in “he turned to brave the onslaught”. However, according to Webster’s Dictionary (1922), brave is also linked to one of the seven liberal arts…music—
Bravura connotes spirit, brilliancy, or dash of execution…commonly confined to its technical musical sense, which is sometimes applied, by transfer, to other than musical composition; as, “That careless fling of the voice, that happy rapture, that bravura, which makes the listener’s heart go near to burst with…joy…” (emphases mine)
Joy was my word for 2015! And joy it was I found by way of studying classical education this past summer and continuing those studies with newfound friends far and wide! Joy in finding a home with Scholé Sisters of KY! Joy in seeing the beauty in my children’s faces as they discover truths! Joy in pointing to the East every morning (well, sometimes late afternoon…) and seeking the good in the moment of solemn home liturgy! Joy is here, and I truly “burst” with gladness!
Joy is very much like a song in the soul, is it not?
I’ve chosen to study a very joy-filled, music-writing, German saint to study this year: St. Hildegard of Bingen. She writes in a letter (from St. Hildegard of Bingen, Doctor of the Church, Carmen Acededo Butcher, p. 13):
Music stirs our hearts and engages our souls in ways we can’t describe. When this happens, we are taken beyond our earthly banishment back to the divine melody Adam knew when he sang with the angels, when he was whole in God, before his exile. In fact, before Adam refueled God’s fragrant flower of obedience, his voice was the best on earth, because he was created by God’s green thumb, who is the Holy Spirit. And if Adam had never lost the harmony God first gave him the mortal fragilities that we all possess today could never have survived hearing the booming of that original voice.
Can you imagine being so close to God that you could hear His Song? Imitate His Song? Another “Adam” helped me choose the other person I plan to study this year, Henri Nouwen. In Seeds of Hope, Nouwen describes his longing for peace that was not satisfied by his own efforts, but rather his willingness to surrender to truly serving a fellow traveller in deep need of help, his friend at L’Arche community, Adam:
This deeply handicapped young man, who by many outsiders is considered an embarrassment, a distortion of humanity, a useless creature who should not have been allowed to be born, started to become my dearest companion. As my fears decreased, a love started to emerge in me so full…deep speaks to deep, spirit speaks to spirit, heart speaks to heart…I started to see (Adam) as my gentle teacher, teaching me what no book, school, or professor could have ever taught me…The gift of peace hidden in Adam’s utter weakness is a gift…for the world. For this gift to become known, someone has to lift it up and hand it on…
Henri Nouwen also writes of overcoming his fears in the same lecture, stating that his “poverty seemed too paralyzing” and that he was “no longer sure of the use of any words in helping us to become the people God calls us to be.”
What image comes to mind at the sound of the word brave? I seems so easy to read about someone and say, “Oh, well he should just do this…or she could do this…” But, when I am called to be brave with word or action, will I do so with bravura?
Will I burst with joy in answering the One who fills all longings for peace?
Or will I be like Herod who, drunken with laziness and drowning in irrational fears, would order others to go out and seek the Christ child but stay safely on a throne all the while? Will I be like Herod and cause more weeping from Heaven by stepping on others to hold fast to what I call my own?
Or will I leave everything to follow the Wise Men and encounter the Christ-child?
I can easily choose to do that every day…choosing isn’t difficult…the DOING is what’s tough. What might have happened if Herod had ventured out himself to encounter the Christ? Spiritually speaking, it is time for me to come down from lofty places and move toward Him by simply loving more fully and serving more gladly and smiling more easily for those I encounter daily. It is in the clank and clamor and pulse of everyday living– right in the midst of the musical spheres of my own “homely home” –where I can wholly experience that Song of Adam with all its bravura!
And, more practically, how should I structure each morning as a movement toward Christ? Well, by sensorially experiencing Goodness, leaning into Beauty, and soaking in His Truth…I am working out the steps to unfolding my morning in a schedule and in a physical re-organization of materials. Check back soon to see what that looks like around here…I’m open to suggestions, so please share how you schedule and organize in the comments below.
Blessings to each of you!
P.S. A big thank you for giving me courage and coming up with this lovely “Brave banner” for 2016 to Dawn who inspires others at Ladydusk .