Posted by: Peadar Ban | December 22, 2008

The Brightness of Eternity

It is Monday morning, about 7:30.  I woke up to the sound of Eric’s snow-blower making slow progress down his drive, him behind it, to the plow row of snow at the end; four feet high, four feet thick.  Maybe I should have said plow plateau.  I went back to bed where Mariellen told me she was now awake.  We lay there listening to the growl of the plow. (It occurs to me to write plow growl, but I am no Welshman, nor Irish Jesuit.)  She said, “It’s not helpful to drifting off again, but it is better than the strangled chicken sound from the alarm clock.”  I agreed.  We both hate the new alarm clock.

We talked about Andrea’s brother.  He and his family lost their house in a fire after the ice storm last week.  He is emotionally wrung out from that and from being the beneficiary of so much compassion and generosity from neighbors and friends.  One expects that from one’s family, I suppose, and may hope for some aid from “official sources”, but spontaneous and generous kindnesses  can be unsettling.  The poor fellow is whipsawed between sadness over the loss, gratefulness for the kindness and, I suppose, embarrassment at his, for want of a better word, sudden confrontation with his weakness, his existential dependence.  It’s positively biblical.  I want to tell the fellow to go and read some of the Psalms, or study up on Kind David (I like the typo.  I’ll keep it.)  Or, perhaps, some Isaiah would help him to understand the suddenness of disaster, and God’s mercy in it, the necessity of suffering; even for Christ.

I would tell him and tell myself in the telling to remember the words when, and there will come that day, it strikes me.  Oh, it already has, I remember, and I was given the gift of realizing.  Now may I remember.

The phone is ringing, now.  It’s a call from P. H.  She calls here three or four times a day, poor soul, to tell us that she wants to be included on the list for people who will receive food baskets for Christmas.  This year there are 76 families.  That’s up ten since Thanksgiving.  Today is the day we will give them out, or deliver them to those who have no means of getting to the church to pick them up.  Mariellen is the person responsible for pulling it all together. She’s been working about twenty hours a week at home on the lists and such-like, calling petitioners and lining people up to help with the distribution.  I’ll be there.  I want to make a pot of coffee and some hot apple cider for the people as they wait; show them some hospitality, some friendliness.  They are all, after all, Christ, and need to be welcomed; and we need as well to welcome them, even the ones who call, and call, and call.

P. H., I would say, is so used to her dependence that she considers a charitable response her due, and is upset when none is forthcoming; or when none appears to be.  Of course, there is also the worry chronic need brings and its heavy twin, desperation.  These are constant burdens of the spirit. She is, in her own, way, an agent of mercy.  A difficult grace is the term of art used by the folks I know in the Families of Nazareth.  She, too, is Christ.

I did not answer the phone.  She has been taken care of, and no amount of telling her that will keep her from insisting on being taken care of.  Sometimes, like a colicky child, there is little one can do with the need except to bear it.  Everyone.

Matty and Liam, two Curran boys from up the block, are outside now working on shoveling about a zillion cubic yards of snow from our driveway.  We “hired” them for the season.  Today’s job is made easier by the fact that Eric, God bless him, came across the street and took care of the heaviest work, the snow plateau at the front.  Christ at the snow blower, with the shovels, works away so this old man won’t have to rise slowly and limp about for the next few days.

Sister Teresa, whose old car is creaky, too, has just come back into the house.  She was going to go to Holy Mass, but her wipers were broken last night when in the middle of the storm as she was on her way to Adoration.  Now they lie useless and twisted across her windshield.  Should she attempt a repair or go to Holy Mass she wants to know.  I call Dick Raymond down at the service station.  “Send her in, and I’ll look at them,” he says.  He might even fix them and charge her nothing; Christ the mechanic.

“Go to Holy Mass, Sister,” I tell her, “and stop in to see Dick Raymond later.  Call us if you need any help.”  Holy Mass is what she would prefer, I know.

It is a kind of St Patrick morning around here.  Christ is everywhere in the abundance of whiteness.  That reminds me of the hymn we sing at the Morning Office, “Wake Awake the Night Is Dying”.  Four years ago today Mariellen’s mother died as the snow was starting to fall.  We sang that hymn, then, too.  It’s funny to think of her, now, in the blinding whiteness of Christ, the “brightness of eternity” as the hymn has it, while all this morning, in the not-so-blinding whiteness (but beauty nonetheless) of new fallen snow, Christ has been coming and going, “in the light of the Sun…the heart of every man who thinks of me.”

In you, too.


  1. gee whiz…..ya make the snow ‘n cold sound like a……….b-l-e-s-s-i-n-g…………..shhhhhh…..don’t tell nobody……

    Blessed Writing!

  2. If we follow you Peter, we will be able to see Christ in everything. We had a dusting of 18″ a Grass Vally came to a standstill. Gave us time to talk and LISTEN to our Lord. Have a blessed Christmas


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