. . . or thereabouts, anyway.
What is all this juice and all this joy? A strain of earth’s sweet being in the beginning, in Eden Garden. Have, get, before it cloy, before it cloud, Christ, Lord, and sour with sinning; Innocent mind, and Mayday in girl and boy, most, O Maid’s child, Thy choice, and worthy the winning.
-Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Spring”
This morning, we drove Lena and our dad to the airport, dropped them off, and drove home under a glorious blue-skied start to a beautiful, chilly March morning. Her visit to Our Lady’s House begins!
Upon returning, I cleaned up a few rooms, made some beds, switched some laundry . . . and then, quite spontaneously, snatched my camera and dove outside to capture some of the “juice and joy.” It was cold and windy, belying all the early-budding trees and flowers. Shivering in my bulky green coat, I only stayed out for a few minutes. But it was so very refreshing. There is intoxicating fun and a strange peace to be found in getting down on your stomach and viewing the world like a baby does.
I am eighty or so pages into reading aloud The Fellowship of the Ring to my youngest sister, who is still recovering from her cold. This morning, we trekked with the irrepressible hobbits towards Woodhall, evaded the ominous Black Rider, and met Gildor Inglorion together in the quiet sunshine while other family members recuperated with naps from the morning that started in the 5 o’clock hour.
It is a delight: both the story, and reading it aloud to her. Nostalgic in that it brings me back to that time when I was her age (nine years ago!) . . . and new in that the story grows ever stronger and more potent in its images, its themes, its applicability (to use Tolkien’s word) the longer I leave it, like good wine. The Old Winyards, to be precise.
The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began; now far ahead the road has gone, and I must follow if I can, pursuing it with eager feet until it joins some larger way, where many paths and errands meet, and whither then? I cannot say . . .
-J. R. R. Tolkien
Today is First Friday, and Friday of the Second Week of Lent. It’s strange to be praying my devotions and the Mass by myself, without Lena . . . but at the same time, it has its own beauty and stillness.
In fact, the above verse from Tolkien seems incredibly appropriate for today, the more I ponder it. Our paths are branching, little by little. My road is unfolding in one direction; in hers, another. This brings so much joy and excitement, mixed with the natural bittersweetness. All good things come from God, and to be nearing one’s vocation, one’s path of sanctity, to be able to smell it like salt in the air as one approaches the ocean, is such a very, very good thing. To Him be all the glory! We pursue our paths with eager feet!
Look down, O Lord, to help me: let them be confounded and ashamed together that seek after my soul to take it away: look down, O Lord, to help me.
-Offertory, Friday of the Second Week in Lent
As I continue to pray for the one-day gift of daily Latin Mass nearby, earlier, I was reading this from Dom Prosper Guéranger, “An Explanation of the Prayers and Ceremonies of Holy Mass” and thought it particularly beautiful:
Having made the sign of the Cross, the Priest says the Antiphon: “Introibo ad altare Dei,” as an introduction to the 42nd Psalm. This Antiphon is always said, both before and after the Psalm, which he at once begins: “Judica me Deus.” He says the whole of it, alternately with the Ministers. This Psalm was selected on account of the verse “Introibo ad altare Dei: I will go unto the altar of God.” It is most appropriate as a beginning to the Holy Sacrifice. We may remark here, that the Church always selects the Psalms she uses, because of some special verse which is appropriate to what she does, or to what she wishes to express. The Psalm, of which we are now speaking, was not in the more ancient Missals: its usage was established by Pope Pius the Fifth, in 1568. When we hear the Priest saying this Psalm, we understand to whom it refers:- it refers to our Lord, and it is in his name, that the Priest recites it. We are told this by the very first verse: “Ab homine iniquo et doloso erue me: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man.”
The verse here used as an Antiphon, shows us, that David was still young when he composed this Psalm; for, after saying, that he is going to the Altar of God, he says: “Ad Deum, qui laetificat juventutem meam: To God, who giveth joy to my youth.” He expresses astonishment at his soul being sad; and, at once, cheers himself, by rousing his hope in God; hence, his song is full of gladness. It is on account of the joy which is the characteristic of this Psalm, that holy Church would have it be omitted in Masses for the Dead, in which we are about to pray for the repose of a soul, whose departure from this life leaves us in uncertainty and grief. It is omitted, also, during Passiontide, in which season, the Church is all absorbed in the sufferings of her divine Spouse; and these preclude all joy.
This 42nd Psalm is an appropriate introduction to the Mass, inasmuch as it in our Lord whom it will bring among us. Who is He that is to be sent to the Gentiles, but He that is Light and Truth? David foresaw all this; and, therefore, he uttered the prayer: “Emitte lucem tuam et veritatem tuam.” We take his prayer and make it ours; and we say to our heavenly Father: “send forth Him, who is thy Light and thy Truth!”
Small things are beautiful; folding a stack of laundry, brewing a pitcher of tea, wiping off a counter, sitting across the table from my mother, faking (very bad) English country accents for hobbit’s voices, kissing a sibling’s hair, praying the Rosary while driving, taking the time to capture moss growing on a log in a certain transformative slant of morning sunlight.
There is a stillness that, eventually, comes with simplicity. I don’t always have it, because I often go about things the complicated and absorbed way. When I have the brains to seek out the simplicity, that disconnecting from noise, and when I begin to hear in my heart a stirring of hope for a future family, a future life, a future culture built around the Holy Faith, around books and conversations and the old-fashioned, simple, homey things–then stillness comes.
The further I travel into this Lent, the more deeply I am drawn towards my future wifehood and motherhood being built upon simplicity and quiet of heart. I am at the very beginning . . . I don’t exactly know what all it entails yet. I’m sure I’ll be constantly learning as the years elapse. For now, I do know it means openness to life and radical unselfishness; it means the family table; it means cooking and singing together; it means reading aloud books together in the evening, discussing all of life’s aspects with enthusiasm and a desire for truth, engaging and building up one another in the warmth of the family heart as our means of recreation and leisure. It means daily Mass (God-willing!) and the daily family Rosary; it means a healthy and wholesome lifestyle of homeschooling and tradition and solid work and pure playfulness, of living in community while protecting the integrity of our family; it means service and sacrifice; it means steadfastness, fidelity, and prayer; it means wanting to be saints and believing that is very the purpose of our lives. A perfect quote from Mary Reed Newland’s We and Our Children made it into my Commonplace Book the other week:
Simplicity of soul is one of the prerequisites of sanctity, and it is one of the things our children already possess. We must be very careful not to contribute to the great cluttering-up. We must make a heroic effort to rid our lives of all but one motive, that “impractical” spirituality of the saints, a life in union with God. If this is the undercurrent of our existence, then we can expect the spiritual training of our children to bear fruit.
Next week, The Dash and I arrive at half a year of courtship! That seems unbelievable! Half a year since I sat in the pew with him, the first Sunday of our relationship, and was greeted by the words of the Offertory:
The Angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear Him, and shall deliver them: O taste and see that the Lord is sweet!
How overwhelming is God’s goodness! St. Raphael, ora pro nobis.
Smiling, I just now remembered a certain paragraph out of The Wife Desired:
Ordinarily, love begins for a young girl when she becomes well enough acquainted with a young man to develop a spiritual affinity with him. She admired his qualities and abilities. She likes his attitude toward life in general. She begins to feel at ease, at home in his presence. Then other things begin to happen. A simple phone call brings a flutter to her heart. Her pulse quickens when he calls at her home. She has eyes for no one but him.
With reason she wonders whether she is in love. Her doubts will vanish when she reaches the point of growth in love where all her being reaches out for him in the effort to bring him happiness. Her own whims and desires fade into the background. His happiness is her only real concern.
What a beautiful and brilliantly wise description of the God-given journey I am still undertaking! Half a year is a grossly insignificant amount of time when it comes to even beginning to get used to how much God has blessed me with The Dash, and how wonderful, steady and virtuous a man he is.
The rest of today . . . well, for me, it’s quiet and full of sunshine, carrying the diffused scent of eucalyptus essential oil; I’ve got some tutoring planning to sort through, although that may spill over into tomorrow . . . then there’s the Daily Full Meal (should I trademark that Lenten expression?) and the evening with the family (hopefully Stations of the Cross will be part of it). May the rest of your day be very blessed! Please do pray for Lena as she visits Our Lady’s House 🙂