A Reflection by Fr Hugh O’Donnell – In Memory of Catherine Brennan SSL

Slow Lane: Aurora Borealis

Lapland courtesy of
Martina Weltner

‘Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights’, Anne said, ‘how wonderful’ as I considered how its magnificence could be delivered in words. She didn’t need that. ‘Leave me with the magic’, she cut in. Which reminded me of my mother’s response to my attempt to explain why the prayer plant raises its leaves in praise as night falls. ‘It’s praying’, she said, ‘that’s enough’.

Good messages both of them because they pushed me back to the source of our best response, namely, wonder and praise. And the wonderful must never surrender to any formula of words. We stand before a sunset, for instance, and say ‘ah’ for it is truly an awe-moment. And, if we must reach for a word, let it be ‘grace’! In fact, St Paul found that word to be his best ally when he wrote about the Good News which for him was all grace and graceful, given gracefully and plucked the strings of gratitude in those who heard it.

Just so for Gerard Manley Hopkins who remarked that the mystery of the Incarnation – of the ever-beyond-us God entering our bloodstream in Jesus – could never be reduced to ‘an equation in theology’ for its wonder ‘leaves the mind swinging, poised but on the quiver’. Quivering.

Just so, we talk of ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’ and have no sense of what we mean unless we have had to walk further each day to fetch water or lost our home or, as a reindeer farmer, seen our reindeer fall through thinning ice.