Taking the hints yesterday from comments on Flores for the Immaculate Conception (chasing in a million directions edition) to read JRR Tolkien’s Leaf by Niggle, I did just that. What a great examination of conscience and testimony to Jesus’ work on us, drawing us to the tree we think we draw but into which, often unbeknownst to us, He paints us with His own blood.
When I was a kid, I would climb into massive trees, set all a-wonder by the millions of pine needles or weeping willow leaves or what have you, you know, one at a time, looking at this leaf, then that leaf, feeling the sting of this needle, then that, all of them with their own patterns and shapes and stages of growth and colors and textures and -oh!- the bugs and beetles and worms and spiders and bird droppings and bird nests and woodpecker holes, the each leaf’s stage of being eaten or not or being curled up with silk as little cocoons, some empty, some full, or without such adornments, some leaves being alone on a branch, some in tight groups of leaves, but all disparate as individuals, but all one, each taking its life sustenance from the tree, each shining out in the glory of the whole with God as its Creator, and with me becoming part of that tree, my arms and legs being but more branches, my head in intense thought, trying to grasp the mystery of this ever so obviously God-created treeness, that is, this mystery as an analogy, you know, for something, for something… for something… But I didn’t get it. I didn’t draw the conclusion about the Mystical Body of Christ, our redemption on the Tree. I didn’t. I even thought of Jesus hanging on the cross with my own arms spread wide, knowing myself to be a knucklehead. But that’s as far as I got. But the weight of the glory of God was weighing upon me, shining upon me. I was enthralled. But I didn’t get it. I didn’t quite even get that Jesus was working on me in this way, but I did, but no, kind of. If only I had had someone to tell me the things of the spiritual life. Jesus’ work on me remained a work quite unbeknownst to me, until I was drawn closer into this mystery of the Mystical Body of Christ and that Tree unto which He draws us all.
Suffering in whatever way is quite the occasion to learn from the Master. And look! There’s the Immaculate Conception! She’s been standing there the whole time under that Tree, beholding Him whom we have all pierced.
“Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him. All the peoples of the earth will lament him. Yes. Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘the One who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty'” (Apocalypse 1:4-8).
From time to time, I also, freakishly unworthy that I am, so blind still to the very life of the Sacred Mysteries we celebrate in which Christ Jesus lays down our lives with His own, I also on occasion am drawn to look up from my self-absorption of trying too hard to figure it out instead of being drawn into the Mystery… drawn on occasion to look up and see Him who did hang on the Tree, and His Mother with Him. It’s all about Jesus, she says. Maybe I would have have been led into this Mystery sooner if I had also been climbing up dogwood trees, with their myriad blood-spattered crosses that are flowers for the Immaculate Conception. But, no. I was still too intent, like Niggle, to draw the picture instead of being painted into it by the Blood of the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception. As I say, reading Leaf by Niggle is an occasion for humble thanksgiving, for joy in the Holy Spirit. Nothing is impossible with God. Not even me. Thank you, Jesus.