Easter Journey, Easter Church
The London Tablet’s Easter issue publishes Dame Maria Boulding’s introduction to her last book Easter Journey. This Benedictine nun wrote several books and most recently published an English translation of all of St. Augustines “Expositions on the Psalms,” the first complete translation. She was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 80, and she died last year. Her preface has much that is pertinent to the discussion on another thread about why one is and remains a Catholic. She mentions how she used to meditate on the various women named Mary in the Scriptures:
I came to glimpse something of the function of these Marys as symbolic figures as well as flesh-and-blood people. In their several ways, they represented something of the reality of the Church in relation to Christ. My prayer and my life became centred on the Scriptures, an endless source of inspiration and joy along the way. I could understand my vocation only as somehow “being the Church”
After her cancer diagnosis, friends began to urge her to write about the journey she had now to walk. She was reluctant:.
Certainly I had no intention of writing an autobiography. But I had met and walked with people who had inspired me and many another, and I came to see that some of those whose stories had meant much to me had themselves been drawn by God into long and often painful journeys. The more I thought about this, the more I came to see that their journeys bore the marks of Easter, the signs of Cross and Resurrection, of achievements that owed nothing to human cleverness or self-sufficiency. On the contrary, they were stories of weakness, failure, the humbling of human pride, reliance on the power of the risen Christ and the outpouring of his Spirit on all believers through his Easter victory. Moreover, the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) is Jesus himself, he who had made the dark journey through death to glory. About this I could perhaps write.
These months of illness have become for me a journey of discovery. The first thing that happened was a flood of loving messages, from people whose paths have at some time crossed mine. There have been beautiful letters, cards, flowers, emails and visits. People have simply told me that they love me, leaving me repeatedly puzzled, because unable to see how I have ever deserved it. These communications have continued throughout what I have come to recognise as a blessed time. I have discovered that suffering and happiness are by no means incompatible; on the contrary, my weakness seems to help. New understanding of friendship, love and tenderness has been given. There is a way to walk, even as I grow weaker. Love is communicated at levels of shared suffering, tenderness and bodily care that I have never touched before, and my weakness has been needed to open them. The sacramental reality of Christ’s Body has become tangible. I am being shown the depth of love in those closest to me, and discovering in new ways what Christian community is. I am able now to accept the love of others, and believe in it, like a helpless child who has nothing to give except its need. Now, when I am useless, can do little in the way of work and cannot make a difference, all I can give is my need of other people. Somehow, the love is not a one-way street, not trapped or held up. It is for us all, within the Body, within God’s people. It flows round us and through us, for us all.
How unfortunate it would be if a legitimate focus on the need for reform of institutional structures within the Church were to prevent people from having, from noticing, or from appreciating such primary experiences of the Church.
Here, not so by the way, is the icon The Tablet used for its Easter issue. It was done in 1997 by Todor Mitrovic who lectures on icon-making at the Church Art Academy in Belgrade, Serbia. It is entitled “The Resurrection of our Lord–Descent into Hell,” another representation of Christ raising Adam and Eve, that is, us from the grave. (Scroll down far enough on this site and you will find a good number of beautiful icons of the same subject.)