Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit
of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in God’s will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother, [father, brother]
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
and let my cry come unto thee. (T. S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday poem excerpt)
I’ve felt another layer of desolation in my soul lately—after years of a new normal, pandemic style, a whole world upside down with grief, loss and the new models of work, worship, school and family. These days there is the added spector of the war on Ukraine and the looming concern about a larger scale proxy war on the European continent.
What I noticed is that COVID depression is hitting me at a whole new level. The loss of illusions, perhaps. But, at a deeper level, my soul is having trouble finding meaning and purpose somedays on the other side of the flannel sheets. Though I have very meaningful work with Wisdom Ways of Being, my on -line counseling practice, somedays I cannot do another screen. My whole life is screens. As an introvert, I always thought I’d love this lifestyle. But I’m very aware that I need physical bodies to hug, real time faces to mirror back laughter, joy and compassion, and people in the same room to share the feast of Mother’s earth’s cornucopia, to pray and sing with and engage in lively intellectual conversation.
Though I grieve readily, and perhaps some might say I can be melancholy, these days I’ve noticed a distinctly different sense of heaviness and oppression in my heart. It feels like a spiritual depression. Perhaps it’s the dark night of the soul to which the Spanish mystic John of the Cross referred. St. Teresa of Calcutta, also known as Mother Teresa, lived through decades of deep spiritual depression. And she was doing purposeful meaningful work every day. She allowed her inner suffering, likely matching the outer suffering of the poor of Calcutta, to guide her to the people who needed care.
Dr. Paul Farmer, Harvard graduate, whose life work as a public health doctor was drawn to those in the most isolated and desperate places on the planet died this week. He was a giant in the world of global public health medicine, building hospitals and community webs of care worldwide through Partners in Health, including Haiti and Rwanda. This week he died of a heart event in his beloved Rwanda. His great compassionate and brilliant heart stopped beating, peacefully, in his sleep.
Dr. Farmer always said that everyone deserves excellent health care, no matter what their status or place on the planet. He granted dignity to the poorest and most ordinary and unseen with webs of public health access which he initiated in the most remote areas of so called “developing countries”. Rwanda was able to mobilize rapidly when COVID raised it’s ugly head, responding in ways unheard of in our U.S. healthcare— safety nets of community public healthcare that we can’t even dream of in our broken healthcare system. Places like Haiti and Rwanda have created a network of followup healthcare and support for people.
People feel loved. Seen. Cared for.
This is the crisis that our country is facing. All of our grandeur and wealth cannot save us. People feel lonely. Isolated. Aren’t we all longing for rooted and open hearted community—not just another social gig?
And so I come to this day of Ash Wednesday and this season of Lent—setting my soul down among the rocks— by the fountain, the garden, the well— to be still for a time. I am in the process of emptying out and listening for new directions. Emptying out of our small ego driven self is what this season is about, after all. The wonderful Greek word Kenosis (self-emptying) was penned by the great biblical writer Paul to the church in Philippi,(Asia Minor) reminding them to imitate Christ. Let go of old resistances. Shatter the illusions. Release delusions of a comfortable and safe lifestyle. Release. Release. Release.
I leave you with the song, “To Dust” as we learn to sit still among the rocks in this thorny season—inviting the Spirit of the Fountain, the Greater Soul and Presence of Love to be with us in these changing times. A respite as we walk through the emotions of each day, ever shifting.
.…and let my cry come unto thee.
“To Dust” by Albuquerque composer, Karen Marrolli