The Dash of Christ

A reflection by our Abbess, Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB, shared with the nuns of the Abbey of St. Walburga on the day before Christmas

Abbey of St. Walburga Outdoor Nativity Scene

This Christmas I have for you a poem, which is not necessarily about Christmas, but I think you’ll see how it truly is. It’s called “The Dash,” by Linda Ellis (click to read full text of poem), and in it she talks about the significance of the line between the two dates on a tombstone, and how important it is that we “spend our dash” on the things that matter.

Tomorrow we celebrate the birthday of our Lord and Savior – the day His dash began.  I also see the word “dash” as “to run,” because Jesus did dash, with great joy and with great glory, to accomplish the work His Father had sent Him for.  So He dashed not only with a line, but with a roar.  And as I read the life of Christ, I am seeing more and more how in the gospels Jesus is giving great hints, insights that He knew long before.  He knew the beginnings of His life, and far beyond, before He was born.  We read in Matthew 25:5-7, that while the bridegroom was slow in coming (mind you, it really was a long time between the time of Adam and Eve and the Messiah!), they all began nodding their heads and fell asleep, but at midnight there was a shout: “Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” (Matt. 25:6).  We should respond to this coming with the author of the Song of Songs: “Hark! my lover—here he comes springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills” (Song 2:8).  Yes, we do come, as the shepherds did and the magi did.  There were radiant stars and angels, and perhaps even our own guardian angels, present there at the birth of Christ, with our future lives in mind. 

Tomorrow we will celebrate His wondrous birth, showering the world with radiant beams, salvation, and healing grace.  Over the next few months in the Church’s liturgy, we shall traverse the dash of His life, and then we shall come the date of His death.  But that isn’t the end – there is the explosive power of His Resurrection.  As we make this journey, let us remember that, “What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.  So, think about this long and hard.  Are there things you’d like to change?  For you never know how much time is left that can still be rearranged” (excerpt from “The Dash” by Linda Ellis).

And so now here we come, and the road is the dash, the dash of our life, and how we live it will depend on how we dash.  Will you run with the light of life?  Will you run with joy to do whatever is asked?  Let us light our lamps and be ready to meet the Bridegroom when He comes.  Think of Paul and Silas singing in prison, and how at midnight there was an earthquake and they were freed – the chains dropped!  Let us all be ready to drop the chains that keep us from dashing through life, dashing along the Way that is Christ. 

There was a beam of heaven that intersected the dash of His life, making His dash a radiant cross.  Let us not let His dash pass us by, but instead intersect our own and make us one.  I wish that each one here would truly dash as He did, living to please the Father.  And let your life be written on the parchment of Mary.  She will keep it safe, and she will not let it go.  I wish you all a blessed and Merry Christmas.

Abbey of St. Walburga Outdoor Nativity Scene

Fig Tree Poetry and Paintings

Oil painting by Mother Maria-Thomas for the cover of her book Reveries Under the Fig Tree: Volume I — Reflections for the Advent and Christmas Season

Mother Maria-Thomas wrote the following poem to accompany the first volume of her Reveries Under the Fig Tree, in which alludes to the theme she chose for her books: the encounter between Nathaniel and Jesus as described in John 1:45-51. In this passage we hear Christ telling Nathaniel that he saw him under the fig tree before he was called by Philip, which mysteriously led to Nathaniel’s immediate belief in Jesus as truly being the “Son of God” and “King of Israel.”

Our God is Coming

We don’t know what Nathanael saw that night
under his fig tree in the dark winter’s skies.
Was it a dream like Jacob had on his flight?
A vision of angels soaring up to the heights
carrying with them his prayers and tears,
bringing back God’s assuring promise of light
and protection which put an end to his fears?

Or did the Messiah appear to Nathanael,
as he once did to the young Prophet Daniel
who saw the Son of Man coming as Ruler of nations?
At the end of all time from heaven he’ll descend
as Savior and Judge from the Father’s right hand,
Offering all mankind God’s new-born creation:
Pure oceans, fresh air, and in spring-bloom the world;
in fire all hearts then cleansed from transgressions.

Look at that star over Bethlehem:
It seems to announce the place of his birth,
As Balaam foresaw in the Hebrew story:
The Magi set out from the ends of the earth,
to worship the King, precious presents they bring.
In vain did they seek him in palaces’ wealth.
They found him at last in a cold, dripping cave
on his mother’s lap while angels would sing
of peace to all people and to God alone glory.

No witness we have of that reverie
which only Nathanael himself could know.
But so far he kept it in tight secrecy
hiding this vision from his fellows below.

Now here comes this Rabbi from Nazareth,
a small unknown city of dubious fame.
The Messiah this man cannot possibly be,
as some of his followers boldly proclaim.
But his eyes pierce deep into my innermost heart:
All my doubts, my desires he seems to see
He must be the Messiah, the Son of God.

© September 2019

Oil painting by Mother Maria-Thomas for the cover of her book Reveries Under the Fig Tree: Volume II — Reflections for the Lent and Easter Season

Below is the poem she wrote for the second volume of her Reveries Under the Fig Tree:

The Phoenix

We don’t know what Nathanael dreamed that night
under his fig tree in early spr
Was it the same dream that Jacob, in flight,
saw of the angels on a ladder to God
carrying up his desires and fears,
and in turn God’s assuring response did bring?

Or did the Messiah appear to Nathanael
ready to free from the tight Roman yoke
his ancestral heritage, the land Israel
still held in bondage despite attempts of revolt?

Or was it more like a vision? Who knows?
An appearance like that to Ezekiel
who witnessed the throng of dead-stricken bones,
arising to life by the fresh Spirit’s breath
from the rubble of ashes, of fire and death?

Or did he see “Phoenix” in jubilant blaze
ascending to God out of Calvary’s grave?
taking dead humankind to God’s living face?

No witness we have of that reverie
which only the dreamer himself could know.
But he kept it so far in tight secrecy
hiding this mystery from his fellows below.

Now here comes this Rabbi from Nazareth
who beholds the deep secrets of all human hearts.
He must be the Messiah, Israel’s King
who, arising to glory from torment and death,
to all waiting souls God’s salvation will bring.

© December 2018