Monthly Archives: January 2010

He Came to Himself

It’s the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. I’ve been reading some homilies on the subject, because I’m afraid I’ll miss my own priest’s sermon tomorrow because of illness.

One thing that impressed me about the story was the distance factor. The son was in a far country, when he realized what he needed to do. He was hungry and wasted, but he still needed to rise and go, to travel a long way, which must have been a struggle.

All of humanity is represented by the prodigal son, and most of us are still on the journey. Some of us have repented and are a bit farther on our way, but we are all clothed in our flesh, struggling with our sins, anticipating the day when we sit in the Kingdom and feast with our Father, enjoying the restoration of our full inheritance.

In the story, the son receives everything he had thrown away and lost. For now, we have the earnest of the Holy Spirit, and the grace of God to help us continue. Every day I need to decide to take the next step on the way. But I know more than the son in the parable, who hoped for a corner of the pig shed. “…for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

I’m afraid I often act a bit nonchalant, as though I am at the gate or even in my Father’s arms already. My initial coming to myself has to be followed up by a constant facing-up to the toil of the road. Maybe I have been sitting on the grassy shoulder wishing the trip weren’t so long, wondering if maybe someone will arrive and carry me the rest of the way.

St. Herman of Alaska reminds me: “The true Christian is a warrior making his way through the regiments of the invisible enemy to his heavenly homeland.”

Hungry Cats in Bleak Midwinter

“Bleak Midwinter” might be the title of some news articles of this day, deemed by at least one researcher as the likeliest day of the year for a peak in emotional depression. His formula takes into account failed New Year’s resolutions, the economy, the weather, and I suppose the fact that it is Monday.

Could I be counted in the numbers, because I found it harder to get myself out of bed this morning than I did last Monday? It was on the way to the gym that I heard the “news,” and it made me happy just thinking that the endorphins I was about to produce would help me through this day.

It’s another way of describing bleak midwinter, I thought as I was driving home, and wondered where that phrase came from. It didn’t take long to find out again what I had certainly known in the past, that “In the Bleak Midwinter” is the title of Christina Rossetti’s poem that ends, “What can I give Him? Give Him my heart.”

Yesterday I was told that the human soul is infinitely empty, because it is designed to hold the infinite God in Trinity. For us to become aware of our emptiness and need for God is a good thing, so some amount of what we might call depression could serve us that way. As Oswald Chambers wrote, “Sorrow burns up a great amount of shallowness.”

St. Silouan said that we ought to “keep our minds in hell and despair not.” Don’t forget all there is to grieve over, don’t pretend that the world isn’t lost in sin, but come to Christ with your grief–otherwise you can’t help but despair.

Moving on to things I know more about: the cats in my neighborhood. While we had our own cats, I mostly chased the others away from our yard, but now I have leftover food since Gus died, and it seems right to share it with them. Occasionally I set out some kibble in his old bowl, if it isn’t raining.

The markings on this black and white cat make for an optical illusion that his head is misshapen. At least, I think that’s why he looks so ugly, but I suspect he doesn’t spend much time in front of the mirror fretting about it.

There are at least five cats who pass by on their daily prowl. If I hold very still I can take their pictures, but for the most part they are shy about coming so close to the house when they can see a strange human on the other side of the door. One or another will sometimes make eye contact with me, and then after a few seconds, bolt away as though he got a deadly revelation.

You might recognize the striped cat at left, because I wrote about her already, here , here and here. You’ll have to look back at one of those posts to see her amazing eyes. She doesn’t come around nearly as much as she used to, when she liked to follow Gus and pester him.


Mr. Glad was startled by a big raccoon on the other side of the glass the other night, gobbling up food I’d forgotten to bring in at dusk. The picture shows what were probably that guy’s ancestors, caught while enjoying the spoils after they tipped over a whole bucket of cat food, many years past.

I think my favorite cat lately is the black one below, because after watching me watch him emptying the bowl, he sat down to just be near me for a spell.

When we humans notice that our cups and bowls are empty, we can simply hold them up to our Lord and He will fill them, as He told us (John 6:51): “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”