Sister Doreen’s Reflections
The angel of Smyrna who speaks as the first and the last, as one dead who has come to life and holds out the challenge of trust and the gift of the crown of life. In reading and meditating on this passage there were words that stood out for me as I pondered:
- I know your poverty even though you are rich.
- Do not be afraid but stay on guard, the gift of learning to lose control, trust.
- To the victor I will give the crown of life
Dusting off the angel of Smyrna, waiting, taking time and waiting for the spiritual gifts in the midst of challenge – the challenge of believing in our richness even though we feel poor, of losing control and growing in trust. One of the challenges held out to us by the angel of Smyrna is the challenge of accepting that we are little-great ones, poor and yet rich, fragile, and incomplete and yet of greatness, of possibilities, of splendour. And the gift that comes as an offering from that same angel is that we possess the kingdom of heaven, the crown of life. We come home to ourselves, to each other, and to God. In accepting our littleness, our imperfections, our limitations … our frailty, fears, and flaws … we don’t have to be perfect to be loved! We don’t have to be perfect to be good, to see our greatness and our splendour! There is value in our incompleteness! The challenge and the gift of being at home with myself, of becoming my own best friend is an important part of our spiritual journey. If we are not at home with ourselves, we won’t feel at home anywhere else. The challenge and the gift of that angel of Smyrna.
There is such a treasure in the angel’s words: “I see your poverty – yet I also see your wealth”. It is pure gift to be able to recognize our littleness is valuable. We are a treasure waiting to be discovered! It is in recognizing our frailty and our littleness that we can then find our true wealth. Both the challenge and the gift held out by this angel is that our potential for greatness is tremendous! May this be one of the treasures that we take away with us today! Recognizing these things makes it possible for greatness to emerge. I am taken back to my own Lenten and Easter ponderings and the title of an old book by Raoul Plus called “Dust, Remember Thou Art Splendour” … the dust of our Lenten ashes turns before our very eyes into Easter glory. We are part of the Paschal mystery … life meets death, death meets resurrection: our frailty fades into splendour. Embraced and cherished as part of the process that we are, these qualities become God’s greatest opportunity in our lives!
We are offered a gift, to take the time, to really wait upon and embrace this poverty and wealth that is “us” and to embrace it with love!
One of the gifts of waiting, of stopping, of dusting off the angel of Smyrna, and squeezing all the juice out of the challenge held out to us, is that we begin to reap the benefits of losing control! Where our poverty and our wealth touch each other, in those moments we experience something that is not in our control. How can losing control be a gift?!
I have often found myself in situations that were not working out the way that I had thought they would or planned that they would. Circumstances and/or people had entered into the equation and rendered everything impossible. At that point, it was easy for me to see that things were beyond my control. It sometimes takes a long time of dwelling in stress before giving in, however when finally able to give in it did release me, life all of a sudden became easier. There is cause to ponder “loss of control” – acceptance of our limitations. It can foster a sense of interdependence; it can begin to help us understand that we need each other more than we could even ask or imagine! Needing each other, needing to receive from each other, needing to recognize each others’ gifts, these are valuable components of our faith.
When Jesus commissioned the twelve disciples, “He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.” (Mark 6: 8-9) In a sense they were to be poor, to come as they were open both to give and to be helped, so that others could make them rich by their kindness and hospitality.
This angel challenge – there is value in our incompleteness! Depending on each other can take us to new territory of caring and connection: a true gift. when our inner selves waken, stretch, stand up, move out, make choices … our fear of letting go, of change can become the hunger, thirst, and ecstasy of growing! It is as if God were saying to us “Come join me and from our togetherness there will come forth a new creation – the gift of the crown of life.”
In another sense this incompleteness can also help us to begin to see life as a mystery … not life as a challenge to conquer and solve, not a struggle to find answers and solutions … but an invitation to yield, to wait and to rest, to draw together and immerse ourselves in the mist of the awe-filled mystery of contradictions and paradoxes that is life. The angel’s words ring out “stay there believing” … and receive life, the crown of life, wholeness, and healing.