Friday, September 24, 2010
I had happily finished the dishes that bright Thursday morning and was marching back to the barn to pack my things before breakfast, when I bumped into Anna Karolina.

'Going to Mass?' she asked me.

'Oh, yes, but where is it?' I could have kicked myself for being caught unawares yet again.

'Behind the...' she gestured towards the barn.

'Dziękuję bardzo!' I replied and ducked inside to get my mi

(thank you for the picture, Krzysztof :)

Rushing through the line of bushes surrounding the barnyard, I stopped short. Beyond that line of green brush was the blue dome and the brilliant sun of Heaven. My soul just then abandoned Earth and fell upwards into that blue. Gazing at the white altar, where presided the candidly robed priest, my heart knew but one truth: we had launched from this temporal realm into the timeless. We were falling towards infinity.

It was St. Clare's feastday, and having read the Collect, I found myself again beside her tomb, wet and cold after a downpour in Assisi in the middle of January. St. Clare, as pristine and aloof as the moon, had mortified her body to the brink of starvation. She had spared no pity for her flesh, forcing it to strive to its utmost to unite with the dignity of her soul. When she died, Earth had already burnt away from her, and my soul shivered with awe and delight as I read the Mass's Tract, imagining the ardent passion with which God must have seized upon her spirit entering His kingdom:

Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thy ear: and forget thy people and thy father's house. And the king shall greatly desire thy beauty; for he is the Lord thy God, and him they shall adore. And the daughters of Tyre with gifts, yea, all the rich among the people, shall entreat thy countenance. All the glory of the king's daughter is within in golden borders, Clothed round about with varieties. After her shall virgins be brought to the king: her neighbours shall be brought to thee.

They shall be brought with gladness and rejoicing: they shall be brought into the temple of the king. Instead of thy fathers, sons are born to thee: thou shalt make them princes over all the earth. They shall remember thy name throughout all generations. Therefore shall people praise thee for ever; yea, for ever and ever. (Psalm 44)

The sun was was yet more blinding, and then chimed the Offertory:

Ádstitit regína a dextris tuis The queen stood on thy right hand,
in vestítuto deauráto... arrayed in gold...

If such might be said of St. Clare, how much more so of her whose shrine for which we were bound?

* * *
I smacked my arm and slayed another mosquito. They had grown more savage since we had passed through Chałupy. This one had been glutted on my blood, and I took a little sardonic pleasure in the fact that what the devilish, flying mite had stolen from me would not be used to feed her progeny.

But, oh, I could imagine neither St. Francis nor St. Clare even bending a joint in their finger against any being of Creation. And it was troubling, for as God is Sum Qui Sum, everything in so far as it exists is good. Yet, when that ugly parasite was designed, what was its purpose? What place could it have had in Paradise before the Fall?

It was time for us to stop, though I would just as soon
have kept walking to outpace the insects with such rapacious bloodlust. And I did so, but in the direction of the pines rising from their green velvet cushions. Having gained some reprieve, I caught a glint of brilliant silk sparkling in the air before me. Gently laying my finger upon it, I traced its way back to the resplendent web it upheld.

Even the spider, in the light of the scorching sun, was beauteously transfigured. Its grotesque form seemed now to be two brilliant hands joined at the thumb, with eight nimble fingers stretching from its body. Eager to spin, pining to weave. Perhaps, these scourges of Creation
, either flitting or crawling, were once beings as beautiful and precious as the pixies of myth.

* * *
The announcement was greeted dispiritedly when at the end of the journey we were told that no swimming in the creek would be allowed. Apparently it contained dangerous bacteria, though there were still those who swam illicitly. One of these brethren found the current to be the more threatening aspect of the water, as it nearly swept him away. There were of course many hands to catch him.

Those who had brought their tents found that night to be a mortification to their spines. The farmyard's air was imbued with the jolly fragrance of apples, but at the price of the ground being littered with the bulging fruits, ready to irk the back or the side of anyone sleeping outside the barn. And when night fell, and we all came together for Compline, the insects I had attempted to romanticize earlier emerged in massive ranks from the tall, damp grass to feed on the pilgrims. Stabbing through any seam, loose weave, or hole, they glutted themselves even through our clothing, and I shamefully resorted to using my modlitewnik as a fan to ward them off.

'Zachowaj mnie, Boże, bo chronię się do Ciebie,'
the fifteenth Psalm began, 'Preserve me, O Lord, for I have put trust in Thee.'

It was well nigh impossible for me to concentrate on the Psalm without linking it to our mundane dilemma. The itching was horrible, and for some odd reason mosquitoes have always had a preference for me. My mental distraction only increased on reading:

Nie będę wylewał krwi w ofiarach dla nich.

I will not gather together their meetings for blood offerings.

It could have been a joke. Sometimes humour plays well into diabolical arts, and it was with a weary sigh that I confided my unfit, distracted offering of prayer to the Lord of Heaven and Earth.

It was only later in the night that the reading from St. Paul's epistle returned to me--offering some solace and hope concerning my fleshly aversion to pain and irritation:

Sam Bóg pokoju niech was całkowicie uświęca, aby nienaruszony duch wasz, dusza i ciało bez zarzutu zachowały się na przyjście Pana naszego Jezusa Chrystusa.

And may the God of peace himself sanctify you in all things; that your whole spirit, and soul, and body, may be preserved blameless in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Thessalonians 5: 23)


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Warsaw, Poland
Domine, spero quia mundum vicisti. Lord, I trust that Thou hast overcome the world. Panie, ufam, żeś pokonał świat.
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