May I never boast…

These are the first words of the translation of the Gregorian Chant my choir sang tonight for our celebration of the death of Francis, otherwise known as Transitus. The text is from Galatians, and is also found in the Catholic liturgy for the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross:

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:15)
“With full voice I cry to the Lord;
with full voice I beseech the Lord.” (Psalm 142:2)

“Glory to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.”

(Source: Liber Usualis, 1959 edition; Introit for September 17th, The Imprinting of
the Holy Stigmata on St. Francis, Confessor)

Here are some symbols of suffering and death. The first one I found on a walk the other day. A passiflora:

And from our sweet church, tonight as we celebrated Transitus:

Notice the candles lighting the Franciscan Habit, indicating the wounds of Christ that Francis received while partaking of a heavenly vision. As the story goes, Francis so identified with the suffering of Christ that his body could no longer not contain those marks.

Are we so ready to identify with the sufferings of others? Can we so unite ourselves that the “you and me” disappears, and the “we” remains? what a dangerous and frightening notion…and yet that is what the cross calls us to do…

Not long ago, someone in anger lashed out at me when I tried to reach out to him. His response when I expressed hope that he could release himself from his pain was “focus on your own pain.” Little did he know that his was my own. I guess I took his advice…

It gives new meaning to “through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

In her book Comfortable With Uncertainty (yes, I’m still on this book!), Pema Chödrön says the following on the topic of Widening the Circle of Compassion:

“It’s daring not to shut anyone out of our hearts, not to make anyone an enemy. If we begin to live like this, we’ll find that we actually can’t define someone as completely right or completely wrong anymore. Life is more slippery and playful than that. Trying to find absolute rights and wrongs is a trick we play on ourselves to feel secure and comfortable.

Compassionate action, being there for others, being able to act and speak in a way that communicates, begins with noticing when we start to make ourselves right or make ourselves wrong. At that particular point, we could just contemplate the fact that there is an alternative to either of those, which is bodhichitta. This tender shaky place, if we can touch it, will help us train in opening further to whatever we feel, to open further rather than shut down more. We’ll find that as we begin to commit ourselves to the practice of tonglen, as we begin to celebrate aspects of ourselves that we found so impossible before, something will shift permanently in us. Our ancient habitual patterns will begin to soften, and we’ll begin to see the faces and hear the words of people who are talking to us. As we learn to have compassion for ourselves, the circle of compassion –what and whom we can work with, and how–expands.”

Phillipine Madrigal Singers–“Prayer of St. Francis”

Be well, and at peace,

Phil

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