I watched another driver come out and have to wait, hemmed in by the impatient, rudely-parked driver. I sat there, reflecting on the fact that the spot I needed was the spot where the blocked driver was trapped. I steamed slowly, considering the fact that I was fresh from a funeral Mass, and that this nastiness was the last thing I needed that morning. When the angry driver came out, I put my head out my car to tell her I had just been at a funeral, and had simply been waiting for a place to park — a hint that a little consideration from her would have been appreciated. Her response? “I don’t care about your story!”
Wow. Contrast that happening with another experience I had that week, attending a talk about St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” by Fr. Thomas Loya, pastor of Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glen, Illinois. Fr. Loya is a well-known writer and speaker, and regularly heard on Catholic radio. He cut a striking figure with his distinguished gray beard and long, black robes with wide-sleeves — an Eastern Catholic priest, in Union with Rome.
He showed us a striking icon of the Blessed Trinity, written by Andrei Rublev in the 15th century. I say “written” instead of painted, because iconography literally means image writing or written image. Icons are “read” or interpreted from left to right, just like a book.
This particular icon by Rublev showed three seated, angelic figures, who represented the Blessed Trinity, and the communion of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The placement of the figures, the arrangement of the legs, captured a circular flow, hinting toward a loving communication and union between the figures.
Reading the body language, we could see the heads inclined toward each other, and the seated figures were at rest, and yet in engaged communication.
As we looked at the icon, people were saying “Ohhh….” The form of a chalice suddenly emerged. It was like one of those wood block carvings that seems just a jumble of figures, until you look a little harder and the name “Jesus” appears. This deceptively simple icon was richer and deeper in meaning the more one reflected on it, projecting timeless wisdom.
Fr. Loya explained the various images and mysteries contained within this icon, including the image of the Eucharist, placed on the table amidst these figures, and situated within the heart of the chalice. We all long for communion, explained Fr. Loya. Created by a loving God Who is one and yet three persons in a constant interchange of love, we long for loving communion, too. Thank God for the gift of the Blessed Trinity, for Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, and for the gift of ourselves and each other, who can join in loving communion.
In the Rublev icon, the figures were arranged in attitudes of caring. You know, when someone’s not interested or defensive, they’ll cross their arms across their chest, cave in on themselves, turn away. But the Blessed Trinity figures showed harmony, openness, engagement.
When you think about the life we’re called to live, receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist, and bringing that to others, we’re called to be open, engaging, forgiving, vulnerable.
Yet the angry driver had shouted to me, “I don’t care about your story!”
As this lady offered a few parting shots, I called out, “We’re called to bless those who curse us….God bless you, Lady…God bless you.”
Now, the test comes to me. Will I pray for her? Ask God to bless her? We’re called to be missionaries of love. We have as our examples St. John Paul II, visiting in prison the man who shot him; St. Maria Goretti, forgiving with her last breaths the young man who stabbed her; and missionary priests, religious and lay people across the globe, who choose to live in love in spite of conflict, disease, even terrorism.
Our news reports seem increasingly horrific. But after the stunning news of the terror attacks in Paris, something struck me: Parisians were opening their homes to those stranded in their city. They were tweeting offers of shelter and even glasses of wine, to those needing shelter from the unfolding chaos. Taxi drivers were giving people free lifts home. Other reports of terror attacks in Beirut emerged, but with these, also stories of a heroic father who jumped on a suicide bomber to foil an attack, killing himself and his toddler, but saving 100 people or more. Amidst terror, stories emerge of heroism and helpers who embrace those in need, leading them to safety.
Wherever light shines through darkness in such acts of love, the Blessed Trinity is there. Instead of allowing despair to distract us, we, too, can take simple steps each day to engage, open ourselves and flow, in loving union with God and our fellow man.
Copyright 2015 Marianna Bartholomew; post first appeared as a podcast on SQPN-affiliated Catholic Vitamins Show