On Melissa, on Mother’s Day


Today is Mother’s Day, celebrated in much of the world. Ideally, it is a day based upon love of the type spoken of in today’s Gospel; in reality it is much more firmly-rooted in the confection, floral, and greeting card industries. These substitutions are of the sort that can occur when we are not paying attention, and after awhile we don’t seem to notice that something wonderful has been lost, especially since there are so many dazzling things filling up the space.
Most of us have days throughout the year set aside on our calendars to honor and remember particular people who have meant much to us, some of them for our entire lives and some for less time, but of no less importance. Some are still with us, and sadly, some are not, though we can pause and acknowledge their importance and be thankful for the blessings they brought to this life.  We can also thank God for them, since the love they brought to us was his gift in the first place.
In my life there is no longer any mother, grandmother, or aunt to honor in person on this day, so I would like instead to speak to and about my granddaughter Melissa, who is 25 years old today.  It is very easy to remember the day she came into this world and the birthdays that have come and gone since then.  But there is one little piece of all that chain of days and years I would like to share, and it came to mind as I read the lessons appointed for this day, in particular the words of the Gospel about the love that comes from God.
When Melissa was a very little girl her parents were separated, having found the world too much interfering in their lives as a couple. Happily, many things worked together as they so often do, and they were eventually reunited stronger and more deeply than ever before. As I saw and felt the heartbreak over those terrible years, one thing stood out and does still, something so profound I cannot forget it.  Though I did not see it, my heart did, and these are the pictures that last forever.  On a brief visit between Melissa and her parents when she was perhaps three years old, she took each parent by a hand and then gently placed one hand on top of the other, very quietly and deliberately. There can be no explaining how this little one would have the wisdom and sensitivity to give a lesson in perfect love unless guided by its author.
Since their reconciliation as family, Melissa and her parents have lived very close to God, and this exercise in love is being passed down to Melissa’s younger brother and sister. Melissa has been more than a big sister, she has been another mother to them, and love is what you see and feel when you are in their home. Happy birthday, Melissa; what a beautiful day it was when you came to live in this world, giving a little glimpse of the beauty of the world from which you came.
Thanks be to God. Amen and amen.
– Susan Leach

The Collect for the Day

Today’s  meditation marks the welcome return of contributor Susan Leach to GPN.JesusWithBook

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly
wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to
love what you command and desire what you promise; that,
among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts
may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

– Collect for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, the Book of Common Prayer

Because I might be best described as a casual Christian, I am frequently surprised by the sheer transcendency of the readings served up each day in the Lectionary. As I began preparing to write this day’s meditation, the Collect for the day made my heart beat faster and I abandoned my plan to try to encapsulate all of the lessons. The Psalms, especially Psalm 51, and the Lessons old and new were all familiar and well-loved and I have written about them many times in years past. I don’t recall, though, ever being quite so fixated upon the Collect; so perhaps the time has come.

Calling out to God that “you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners” and asking that he “Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise” could scarcely be better-stated to restore order to our chaotic planet. The words “swift and varied changes of the world” seem rather mild until examples begin running through the mind. Trying to imagine any latest and greatest improvement being sufficient for more than a moment is futile, and so asking that “our hearts may surely be fixed where true joys are to be found” has seldom if ever been more appropriate.

If it is your custom to look up and consider the readings in preparation for Sundays that is a good thing; there is so much more to consider than you can immediately absorb. If not, listen for the wisdom in our insightful Collects and allow the words space in your thoughts. They can open the way to a better understanding of the Lessons and perhaps a better path to travel as you leave Sunday worship.

Thanks be to God.

– Susan Leach

GPN: Evensong

A Collect for the Presence of Christ
Evening Prayer, Rite II

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ: give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

Choral Evensong has always been my favorite service.  I would go every day if it were offered where I live, though daily services are rare outside of monastic settings or the United Kingdom. The petition to “shield the joyous” especially touches me as I think of the vulnerability of those who are utterly happy. It has often come to mind in recent years as marriages and babies have blessed our family and created a great cocoon of happiness: Shield the joyous.

Now our nation is once again in mourning for the shattering loss of innocent souls and the beginning of lifetimes of suffering for their families. Trying to understand why people commit such heinous acts may be akin to looking for reasons why winds blow or rains come or fail to come; it is what they do. And yet we must try, perhaps to protect other happy, innocent people from unthinkable evils. Shield the joyous.

Pray for a calming presence to bless and protect these suffering souls, and all of the people in the world.

– Susan Leach

Tears of anguish, tears of joy

This is a day of the greatest possible joy for our family: our Daphne is one year old. She came to us exactly twelve months ago, placed into the waiting arms of our son and his wife, who received her with tears of joy.

Our family gathered at the hospital over the next few hours, coming quietly and with the greatest respect, knowing that the tears shed by her mother were of anguish beyond belief as she relinquished her daughter to other arms.

As the mother of four children I cannot imagine being as wise and brave as this young woman; yet all of us are meant to eventually release our children to the paths they must follow.

I think that Mary and Joseph must have understood that the son who came into their lives would become a man set apart, and that his path would some day take him from their home and family. We know that angels spoke to them about his beginnings, reassuring them that this was God’s plan. I believe that God must also speak to the mothers and fathers who willingly relinquish the care of their little ones to those who wait and pray.

Happy birthday, dearest Daphne, and blessings to you and your loving parents. I wish peace to the parents who gave you into the care of a couple who waited for so many years, and I am thankful beyond words to them for their loving and unselfish plan for you. Thanks be to God!

– Susan Leach