Friday, January 20


"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see."
A few weeks ago, I got to thinking about St. Brigid of Ireland. She was a contemporary of St. Patrick's, and founded women's cenobitic monasticism in Ireland. The story goes that she, St. Patrick, and St. Columba of Iona share a grave. So you know she was no slouch when it came to being a Christian. 
When I looked her up, I was particularly struck by the story of one of her miracles, and particularly the faith of the nun Dara: 
"The miracles performed by St. Brigid are too numerous to relate, so only one will be given. One evening, the holy abbess was sitting with a blind nun named Dara. From sunset to sunrise, they spoke of the joys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and of the love of Christ, losing all track of time. St. Brigid was struck by the beauty of the earth and sky in the morning light. Realizing that Sister Dara was unable to appreciate this beauty, she became very sad. Then she prayed and made the Sign of the Cross over Dara’s eyes. All at once, the blind nun’s eyes were opened and she saw the sun in the east, and the trees and flowers sparkled with dew. She looked for a while, then turned to St. Brigid and said, “Close my eyes again, dear Mother, for when the world is visible to the eyes, then God is seen less clearly by the soul.” St. Brigid prayed again, and Dara became blind once more."

God created matter and said, "It is good." It is a danger to think that this good world He has given us cannot reflect His glory. "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." Romans 1:20, emphasis mine. 
That said, there are times that I think many of us wish we could close our eyes to the cacophony of this world and open them on a bit of peace; a vision of God seen clearly by the soul. Sometimes it's not even God that I am concerned to see, but just a moment of serenity... (My personal need for SERENITY NOW peaks during high-stakes testing season, grade card time, and parent/teacher conferences. Oh... and particular family functions.)

When I was a kid in youth group, I used to think that to "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things" (Colossians 3:2) meant that I was not supposed party on the weekends or let myself get too silly about boys. And maybe one day I WILL stop being silly about boys. But being ancient, as I now am, has afforded me this knowledge: there are many, many good and holy "earthly things" that can still take my peace. 
 I need, I want, I have to do... too many things. These things choke my soul. I think that was why I was so drawn to the story of St. Brigid and the nun Dara. The singular focus on the One Thing that matters is paramount. 
 The Greek word nous is usually translated in English as "intellect" or "mind." But that is only a fragment of the meaning of the word. The Orthodox tradition holds that the nous is the "eye of the soul." I think this is the sight that Grace gives us. This is the sight that Dara was accustomed to. 
St. Theophan the Recluse gave this advice on prayer: 
“You’ve got to get out of your head and into your heart. Right now your thoughts are in your head, and God seems to be outside you. Your prayer and all your spiritual exercises also remain exterior. As long as you are in your head, you will never master your thoughts, which continue to whirl around your head like snow in a winter’s storm or like mosquitoes in the summer’s heat. If you descend into your heart, you will have no more difficulty. Your mind will empty out and your thoughts will dissipate. Thoughts are always in your mind chasing one another about, and you will never manage to get them under control. But if you enter into your heart and can remain there, then every time your thoughts invade, you will only have to descend into your heart and your thoughts will vanish into thin air. This will be your safe haven. Don’t be lazy. Descend. You will  find life in your heart. There you must live.”

To descend with the mind into the heart is one way to regain sight with the eye of the soul. 

I pray that I begin to choose, like Dara, to see with the nous and live there. Whatever the cost.

Peace of Christ to you.

1 comment:

  1. If you would like a little light reading on the heart, you can go here for "On Drawing the Mind into the Heart: Psychic Wholeness in the Greek Patristic Tradition."


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