John Fitzwalter Homilist March 31-April 1 2012
We have arrived at Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday, the first day of Holy Week, which ends with Easter. Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, into the life of a community that is seeking salvation, seeking the light of illumination.
Last night, March 31, people across the world turned off their lights for one hour from 8.30 – 9.30pm. United they supported the largest environmental event in history, Earth Hour. In that short space of darkness they sought some illumination! The theme for this year’s Lent is, ‘Towards the Light’, the light of illumination.
Each year we as a community seek to enter into this time of Lent/Easter and to express it through many forms. Last year 40 canvases depicted the great void; the vastness that surrounds us, the spiritual desert. The year before, a community centred cross filled with life. Prior to that, a thicket cross, made of accumulated wood, and it was this expression that accompanied our transition from our past to this present.
Light for early Christians was referred to in baptism as ‘illumination’, symbolic of humanity’s quest to seek true life, reconciliation and resounding peace; the clear resonating sound of a bell being an audible form or expression of continuing peace.
St Teresa tells us, ‘Light baptizes life wherever it falls, and every religion and all upon this earth is a shadow’.
Broadly speaking we can refer to light at this time of Lent in three ways.
The first is the light within of all of creation. Light is a powerful force in our world. The sun’s light provides energy for life. Each day we are reminded of the absence of light, when stars and moon foretell of a new and rising brilliance; our nearest star, the Sun.
As inhabitants of this planet we orbit around the Sun, contrary to past beliefs and thanks to the enlightenment of Copernicus and Galileo. Creation also includes the many forms of light which we as a species have developed; fire, candles, kerosene lanterns, incandescent lights- fluorescent lights, halogen lights, light emitting diodes and on and on the list glows! Possibly the most powerful of these lights is that light emitted from the television and computer screen; social media that drives society. This creation of light has had an enormous effect on our lives, livelihoods and the ability or inability to be part of this world; as witnessed by Earth Hour.
The second form of light is the light of Jesus’s teachings and the Jewish faith tradition of Jesus’s background and from which we as a faith community have emerged. By contemplating the Word we are able to bring light into our lives and our world.
With inspiration from the book of Revelation (3:20) and its passage, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me”, the Pre-Raphaelite mid-nineteenth century artist, William Holman Hunt’s painted, The Light of the World. This is the image that accompanied this week’s e-bulletin. The painting depicts a barefooted, crowned, gowned, royally robed and brightly haloed Jesus standing with a lantern in the darkness outside an overgrown ivy and weed infested door; the door is without a handle. Jesus is knocking on the door; a door to someone’s life and he is waiting to be invited in. The absence of the door handle implies that the door must open from within. A regal God with a personal touch but still however an outside God and as a child when viewing this image I was curious as to why Jesus needed a lantern when his glowing head provided ample light.
We have the freedom of choice; a strong tenement of Catholicism but as for the choice, the Church has a clear mandate as to what is the right choice!
Light can be giving but it can also be blinding, like that of a hunter’s spotlight halting a kangaroo’s nightly movement or the halting a prisoner’s attempt to escape, resulting in submissiveness; a blinding authoritarian light that can only exist to separate itself from darkness, to isolate and dominate. Do false and blinding lights exist in our lives? The light emitted by authoritarian powers?
Contrary to this is the light referred to by Meister Eckhart
The awakened heart is like a luminous sphere- just giving without thought to any who may come close or gaze at it.
The third and final light is within all living things; the light of life. Our previous homilists this Lent- Penny, Phil, Karyn, Sam and Terry, or could I say our Leading Lenten Lantern homilists spoke of an inner light; a light that is fueled by meditation, contemplation and being present in the moment. Seeking truth and just actions as ways to nurture this inner light.
Our expression of Lent 2012 is progressing towards a form that will be present at the time of Good Friday and Easter. Following Ash Wednesday you were invited to mark these canvases with ashes, then taking the line ‘Untangle the knots within, so that we can mend our hearts’ simple ties to each other’ from the Aramaic prayer used in the Eucharistic Liturgy, we knotted string and then we unknotted the string and connected it. The most recent canvases is of palm fronds and ivy.
To conclude, I wish to share the words from a person with a Jewish past, Leon Cohen. His song ‘Anthem’ captures much of this year’s Lenten theme ‘Towards the Light’.
The birds they sang at the break of day,
Start again I heard them say,
Don’t dwell on what has passed away or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will be fought again,
The holy dove,
She will be caught again,
bought and sold and bought again,
the dove is never free.
Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.