Communion with the Deceased Members of the Congregation
Day 5 – Christmas Novena
Our story of today gains meaning only in our connectedness to our past. We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours. (John of Salisbury)
Ours sisters who went before us, have embodied/incarnated the love of God in their unique ways. In doing so, they have opened a path for us to follow.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote the following thoughts in a letter to Mr. and Mrs. Bethge:
“We can find nothing to fill the absence of a dearly loved person and we should not even try; we just have to hold out and persevere; that sounds very harsh at first but at the same time it is a great consolation, because while the gap really remains unfilled, it keeps us connected with one another. The more beautiful and complete the memories, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into quiet joy. You do not carry the good past within you like a thorn but like a precious gift.”
The Story of the Water Beetles and the Dragonfly
At the bottom of a small, calm pond there was a community of water beetles. It was a contented community, living in the dim light, busy scurrying back and forth over the mud at the bottom of the pond in search of food.
Again, and again, however, the water beetles realized that one or the other of them apparently lost interest in staying with them. It grasped the stem of a water lily and slowly climbed up it before disappearing. Then it was never seen again.
One day, when that happened again, the water beetles said to one another: “There goes another of our friends climbing up the stem. Where could he be going?”
But even though they paid great attention, this time again the friend finally vanished from sight. Those left behind waited for a long time but he did not come back.
“Isn’t that strange?”, said the first water beetle.
“Wasn’t he happy among us?” asked the second.
“Where might he be now?” wondered the third.
No one had an answer. They were faced with a riddle. Finally, the oldest beetle called an assembly. “I have an idea”, he said, “The next one of us who climbs up a water lily stem must promise to come back and tell where he went and why.” “We promise”, they all said solemnly.
Not long afterwards, on a day in spring, precisely the water beetle who had suggested realized that he himself was climbing up the water lily stem. Higher and higher he climbed. And before he knew what was happening, he broke through the surface of the water and fell onto a large, green water lily leaf.
When the water beetle regained his senses, he looked around in amazement. He couldn’t believe what he saw. Everything was so different and even his body appeared to have changed in some astonishing way. As he began to look at it with curiosity, his eyes fell on four glittering wings and a long body that now apparently belonged to him. While he was still wondering about his unaccustomed form, he felt an urge to move the wings. He gave into the urge, moved his wings – and suddenly without knowing how, he found himself in the air.
The water beetle had become a dragonfly. The new born dragonfly flew back and forth through the air in wide and narrow circles. It felt wonderful in this totally other element. After a while it settled on a leaf to rest.
At the moment the dragonfly looked down into the water. And there were his old friends, the other water beetles, running back and forth at the bottom of the pond. Then the dragonfly remembered its promise.
Without thinking about it, the dragonfly sprang down, wanting to report to its old friends. But it only struck the surface of the water.
“I can’t go back,” it said sadly. “I really did try but I cannot keep my promise. And even if I could go back, none of my friends would recognize me with my new body.”
And after thinking about it for some time it realized: “I will have to wait until they become dragonflies, too. Then they will see for themselves what happened to me and where I went.”
And with that the dragonfly flew up happily into its wonderful new world of light and air.
Lord, you are not a God of the dead,
all who died live with you.
Before you we remember all those whom we loved,
they will keep a place in our hearts.
We believe that all are held in your hand
And that is our hope for them and for us.
That you may reward what can be rewarded
And fill up any gaps that are still there, that is our hope for them and for us.
That you will remove all that separates,
and can give eternal peace;
that is what we ask,
it is what we hope and believe for them and for us.
Be with our deceased with the power of your life
and lead us also with the power of your life to a reunion with them,
through your Son our Lord Jesus Christ.
Reading from the Gospel according to John
Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they may always see my glory which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
I have made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so that I may be in them. (John 17,24-26)
Whether we know it or not, we transmit the presence of everyone we have ever known, as though by being in each other’s presence we exchange our cells, pass on some of our life force, and then we go on carrying that other person in our body… this is how we survive long after we are dead. This is why it is important who we become, because we pass it on. (Natalie Goldberg).
Recall an experience/s with one or two deceased sisters whom you have known, how have they been channels of God’s love? How have they given birth to God’s love in their life?
In what way am I invited to follow the path opened up by them?
Let us remember our sisters who lived and loved deeply, who found the source of their inner strength in Jesus, the God incarnate….
In a quiet moment individual names are mentioned accompanied by a few outstanding qualities with which they made God present in the community/mission situation.
After each name a bell will be rung …. to remind us of how their goodness has resonated in our lives and/ or a candle is lit as a sign of the light they brought into the world.
After each, an Antiphon is sung – Laudate Omnes Gentes… /Bless the Lord my soul…
God, author of our life, we thank you for the thousands of our sisters who have enkindled our spirits with their teachings and the spark of their beliefs, on whose faces we have seen God’s glory radiated, who took the risk of leaving their homelands and moved over to the frontiers, who offered their lives in dedicated service for God’s Reign, who led us by their words and example into deeper relationship with God, who faced their struggles with hope and optimism, who taught us how to trust and have confidence in difficult times.
As our congregational story continues may we take the challenge of providing our shoulders for those who follow us. We pray this in the name of Jesus who prayed, that we may all be ONE. Amen.