We Are All at Sea

Boat in the lake, by Ita fcJ

Submitted by Sr Ita, fcJ

It is a strange time. I remember John O’Donohue saying that in Anam Cara, A Book of Celtic Wisdom: “it is strange to be here”. This is so true at present, having spent nine weeks under the restrictions which the corona virus has imposed on all of us.

I notice subtle changes in feelings at this time. It is the month of May, and here in Alberta, that is the beginning of Spring. Signs of new life are evident in little green buds opening on trees and the greening of grass and the first sight of a tulip opening. People are cleaning up and planting gardens and there is talk of some businesses re-opening with limitations on numbers and stringent protocols in place.  I find myself in a strange place, reluctant to move into a possible return to a former way of living. Is this fear, I ask myself? Is it anxiety that we are moving too quickly, not having taken enough time to address the truth of the invidious power of this Virus?

We hope that it will all go away, but we are warned that this experience of so many deaths is only the first wave of another attack. “Don’t lay down your arms too soon,” some health care professionals tell us. What to believe? I am afraid to hope.

I am afraid to face the fact that I may not have gone deep enough into this mystery of isolation and now time is running out. It is somewhat like the last two days of a retreat when one has been relaxing and taking it slowly and then suddenly one realizes that there is work to be done before ending, issues to be faced and resolutions to be made.

Earlier, during the withdrawal time I journaled about feelings, after listening to the song Healer of my Soul by John Michael Talbot. Then I wrote:

If a wound goes deep,
not obvious, not bleeding,
not even noticed, or maybe skipped over
 like a frozen crack in the pavement where ice has played its part
in widening it even more;
if a wound is hidden
how can it be healed?
What healing ointment, balm, Aspercreme, Voltaren,
can ease the pain, can reach the deep place where the world is stricken,
a place that only God can reach?
Only God, in Christ, has reached the depths and from that place can lay healing hands on the wounded world.

My own feelings mirrored and entered into those of our wounded world.

Now, six week later, the experience is different. The Easter season, following the experience of entering into the depths with Christ in his Passion, seems to call for a new image. Praying with the Gospel story of the meeting of the disciples with the Risen Christ on the road to Emmaus, I lived with the questions: Why are you weeping? Whom do You seek? What pre-occupies your thoughts as you walk the Emmaus road? Then the feelings were sadness, helplessness, heaviness. Later, contemplating the meeting of the disciples with the Risen Christ at lake-shore at Tiberias, I had a sense that we are all at sea. This is an image that sustains me in this time of eminent transitioning back to land.

My sense is that the conflicting waves of hope, mixed with doubt and  indecision on the part of Government and of not knowing what may happen next, keeps many from venturing out and keeps me feeling safer in the boat than on the land. I want to stand still, not move too soon. Being “in the boat” an ancient symbol of Church, is a place where Christ can be encountered still.

I share what I wrote about this prayer experience.

Reflections of John 21- Breakfast on the Beach (April 29, 2020)

The Ignatian Contemplation given recently seemed a delightful place to go for morning meditation. I went to meet up with the disciples the evening before- and thought about each of them,- Peter, still restless, not knowing what to do with his time and saying, “I can’t take any more of this waiting- I’m going fishing”. And the others, – Thomas, still wondering and questioning even though he had touched the wounds of Christ, Nathaniel, whom Jesus had called a man without guile, then James and John, the brothers who had their own boat, and two others. I think of myself as one of these two and take my place in Peter’s boat. We must row to get out into deeper waters and that is where I spend my time. The lake is calm, the night star-studded, and holding the faded sickle of the waning moon low in the west. Once the nets are cast, all we can do is wait. It is a time of quiet, only the soft sound of water lapping gently against the boat, and the gentle swell of the deep carrying our vessel lightly on its surface.

Later, reflecting on why I seem to spend my time out on the lake, instead of on the shore, I sense that the present experience of the COVID-19 virus has caused us all to feel “at sea”, free floating and separate from the familiar land, where life has been lived up to now. We are adrift, as it were. We must find the Risen One out here, in the boat. We are not catching any fish and it appears that our attempts to “do something productive” – like “going fishing” – will be doomed to failure. Wherever we are He is present. This Presence alone makes isolation, social distancing and lack of meaningful work bearable.

It is not yet morning. The dawn light has not yet lightened the sky of our world. This is where I spend my time, relaxing into God. The question- “What do I most need now?”  Inner tranquility of soul, even in the midst of change – a sense of Presence, of Christ, who is now risen and holds all creation and myself in His love and care.

And yes, even though I know that he will come, and make breakfast for us on the shore, I am already in him and with him. Simultaneously I am at sea, in the boat, rocking gently on the waves and then suddenly on the shore, answering the question: “Who are you, Lord?” with my psalm of praise.

You are the Promise of Life,
real life, living experience of energy, joy, beingness.
You are the moment of connection
the blending of two into one,
no separation
even when I see you as Other and I am still me.
You are total peace
making a whole from the disparate pieces
formed from self-conflict, brokenness
and old keys to lost doors.
You are a haven of rest for tired aching bodies,
disillusioned minds
longing, hungry souls.
You are Love with a capital L,
a love that envelops, embraces, permeates, absorbs
all our unlove
into an ocean of acceptance, healing, peace.
You are totality to my particularity
the fulness that my partial self longs for-
flies toward as an arrow toward its goal.
You are Sun to my emerging green shoot
waiting to become
something new, a flower that is still only a potential.

You are the one who continually asks, “Do You love me?” 
challenging again my Peter answer
“Of course I love you”.
Whether in the boat, at sea, catching nothing
or here at the virtual eucharistic breakfast
on the margins of the world
Jesus says:
“You know that I love you.”

This Ignatian Contemplation, Breakfast on the Shore, was given to the Companions in Mission Formation group in Calgary after Easter. In praying it myself I was given this image of accepting “being at sea” as a place where God is present.  May all of us who are “at sea“ in this confusing time find safe harbor in the One who holds all creation in his healing hands.