On the wall behind the altar in our seminary chapel is a beautiful mosaic of large multi-coloured, multi-designed stars blazing out against the deep blue background of the night sky. It represents the promise made to Abraham in Gen: 15: “Look up at the night sky and count the number of the stars, if you can – such shall be the number of your descendants.” To Abraham, this was the promise of life in the only terms he could understand, for the people of his time thought they lived on after their death only through their children – and so to have that many children meant that his name would live forever. This same Promise of life has been made by God again and again over the centuries – to the whole of mankind and to each one of us personally. It is this promise that is the starting point of our life of love and friendship with God in Christ and when I sit in our chapel in the dark of the morning, before the sun has risen, and look up at the illuminated mosaic, I seem to hear the voice of Christ quietly whispering to me that same promise: “I came that you might have life and have it to the full”.
The stars in the mosaic are all different from one another; some are large and made up of bright and intricate patterns, whereas others are smaller and much quieter in both colour and design, but in all of them the colours and the patterns are drawn together in such a way that the Cross of Christ can be seen standing at the heart of each star. The Cross draws its form from the various shapes and colours of each star, just as the compassionate love of God takes different forms as it flows through us, giving life and hope to those around us – each in our own unique way – and in doing so draws us ever deeper into his life.
I was aware of this recently at two funerals I attended. The first was that of Father Richard, a priest who ministered at a spiritual healing centre called Mount Hosanna and to whom many went seeking life and hope. At his funeral, the Cathedral was packed with priests and people who had seen the Cross of Christ drawn large in the star of his life. The following day, I attended another funeral, a much smaller one – that of Teresa, the sister of our seminary cook, Sister Pat – but apart from some Religious Sisters and the students and staff of the seminary, there were only few people present. However, the Cross of Christ was also drawn in the life of Teresa for those who had the eyes to see it, for Teresa died of cancer but she had stayed with us at the seminary periodically, while she was receiving chemotherapy and we noticed the quiet dignity with which she bore her sickness and her shy smile when she greeted us, a smile which revealed the face of Christ – the one who brings life and peace, even in the midst of suffering.
Christ asks us to share his life of mercy and care for others – to let his love flow through us, carried by both the whole and the broken parts of our lives. At the beginning of our spiritual journey, when we take our first tentative step into the great river of his life, we find it difficult to see how God could want our broken and spoiled parts – and so much of our spiritual energy is used up in struggling and failing to improve ourselves and so we often drown out the words he is whispering to us: “But it is ‘you’ whom I love – not some perfect person”. Only when we finally give up and allow the Lord to love us as we are, can the Cross begin to be drawn in the wonder and brokenness of our lives, for only when we accept ourselves as we are and give ourselves as such into the arms of the Lord, can his face begin to appear in us to those around us.
Christ is the “Wounded Healer” and we share in that mission through the broken parts of our life. Our mosaic stars reveal this mystery of our salvation, for when you come close to them you see that they are made up of some good small stones, but also other bits and pieces picked up off the beach, including many shards of broken beer bottles, but these give colour and texture to the many different stars. Our God loves all that he has made and treasures everyone no matter how broken we are. He moulds our very brokenness into things of wondrous beauty, which I catch a glimpse of as I ponder our mosaic in the early hours of the morning.
I am coming more and more to the conclusion that computers were put on earth to try us – or at least to try me. I upgraded my desktop to Windows 10 recently, and now find that my scanner on my printer does not work. Is there a conspiracy to make us ever buy newer things – a built-in obsolescence?
You may remember that my plants that I like to have in my room, all began to die on me about eight months ago. A friend of mine told me that the Chinese believe that plants know when their owner is sick and begin to wilt in sympathy with him or her. Well, after that, most did indeed perish – why I do not know – but then Sister Pat our cook gave me some new ones and they are flourishing – and it is nice to imagine that they enjoy living with me!!
It has taken me weeks to write this blog – I seem to have had writer’s block or maybe just a lack of psychic energy! However, I have managed it now and attach a picture of the mosaic in our chapel. I have laboured over it for such a long time that I no longer how to judge it, so if you would like to give me your comments – either way – I would be grateful.