Monday, 8th December – Faith of the heart

I’m realising quickly that keeping to a resolution of daily blogging isn’t easy. I copped out slightly yesterday – I had written a good few hundred words of a post which I should hopefully finish and post later this week, but it got to the stage when it was so late I simply had to call it a day and go to sleep.

I’m not always the best at time-management, and at this time of year it is especially easy to get swept up in the hectic activity (hectivity?) of purchasing and organising and planning for Christmas celebrations. This rush is accelerated in a university environment, as everyone wants to experience Christmas together before departing homewards for the holidays. It’s the second week of Advent and I’ve already had my first Christmas dinner, received three Christmas cards and begun sending my own, and made 101 paper snowflakes that I shall be sticking up in numerous windows on Wednesday. There are tickets to sell for the Chaplaincy’s Christmas Party, mince pies to collect, talent-show performances to coordinate, contacts to email, news to circulate, carols to practice… I feel caught in a whirlwind of hustle and bustle and jobs clamouring to be done.

I started today with a residue of weariness left over from the weekend, and while I woke up as the hours went on, the weariness was there to find me again when it was time to retreat to my room. Before I did go in search of dinner and skype, though, I popped in to visit Jesus.

I am so, so thankful that the Blessed Sacrament is kept reserved in the Catholic Apse of the Chapel. It is immeasurably comforting to be able to slip in there and see the little light of the sanctuary lamp flickering cheerfully at me, like a heartbeat, like a beckoning finger. Come! Sit! Listen. Lean into your God. Find peace in His love.

I am not sure how long I stayed there for today; probably not very long in terms of standard time. But it is quite remarkable how a few minutes sitting or kneeling before Jesus in the Tabernacle can sometimes lift the weight of a heavy day from my shoulders. And, conversely, sometimes spending an hour there before Him can come and go in what seems the blink of an eye. Time seems to realise that normal rules don’t apply to the Eternal One.

It’s easy to get mired in worries about the quality of your faith and the ways that you practice it. How do I pray? Is it the right way? Do I know enough about my faith? These questions are not necessarily bad in themselves, but we shouldn’t forget that, in essence, Christian faith comes down to having a relationship with Jesus.

Some people are very gifted in terms of understanding and explaining deep theological truths; some people are able to inspire with their ability to pray aloud, finding words that resonate and express the prayer in others’ hearts that they didn’t know how to articulate. I am blessed to have met many such people, especially during the past few months of my first term of working as a Chaplaincy Assistant, and seen the way they help others. I am not very good at praying aloud, myself, and though I’ll have a good go at explaining things, there are many things that elude my understanding. But I try not to worry about this too much, for I know that if I work to make Jesus the centre of all I do, He will find ways to work through me. I just need to bring myself close and closer again to Him.

And I so often find that it is in these moments of silence, of relief, of contemplation before the Tabernacle that I feel close to Him. The moments when no words are needed.

Today is the feast day of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, our perfect Mother and role model. And today, as I sat in the Chapel, I thought about how Mary treasured and pondered in her heart what she witnessed regarding her Son. There is powerful faith in this. She did not question, but she treasured and pondered; she marvelled at the workings of God and thought about them deeply. The manner in which she witnessed was tied up always in her love for her Lord; all that was revealed to her she took as opportunities for her to glorify Him in her heart.

And it is in our hearts that God most wishes us to glorify Him. We should seek to glorify Him in all parts of our life, but the heart is at the centre of everything, and so our faith must rest in our hearts before it can be brought to the actions of our lips or hands or feet. Deep faith does not need deep intellect or oratory skill. It just needs an heart that is open and listening in simplicity, ready to receive the love God wishes to give, and to return that love with all of its might.

P. S. I was sent a link to this blog post on the Immaculate Conception, which is lovely, and rather more focused than my thoughts for today! Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, pray for us! Happy feast day all! 🙂

P. P. S. On the subject of intellectuality (if that is a word) not being necessary to strong faith, it is worth remembering Saint Bernadette today. When she passed on the message that Mary had revealed her identity to be ‘the Immaculate Conception’, this was taken as a sign proving that Bernadette was telling the truth, as she was a girl with simple education who would not have heard that term from anywhere else. Saint Bernadette emulated Our Lady with her humility and eagerness to be obedient to God’s will. Saint Bernadette, pray for us!


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