From 30-Rock to Our Lady in less than 200 words, Columbo coda

Every once in a while I see an image that describes my soul.  This week it was the writer’s room on the television comedy 30-Rock. January “winter madness” had set in and everyone behaved and looked more squirrelly than usual.  Oops, I thought,  That’s me – all the characters around that table.  I’m only sharing this embarrassing picture to encourage you to look for snapshot images that encapsulate the mood of your soul.  Once in a conversation about such images a friend said, “my soul tastes like the stale contents of a dirty ashtray.” THAT was a good one!   

But another, more appropriately sharable image came up this week. Not of the state of my soul, but of Beauty and Invitation into the sphere of holiness.     

In one of the small spiritual direction rooms at the Redemptoristine Monastery in Esopus (Hi, Sister Paula!) I found myself drawn to a copy of a Byzantine icon.  I’d been in that room before, but I hadn’t noticed the icon. The dangling sandal drew my eye.  A story!   Then, my eyes met Mary’s gaze – that’s not usual.   

Sister Paula explained the icon.   

Jesus looks over his shoulder at something we can’t see.  He’s run to his mother for comfort, almost losing his little shoe. Although we can’t see exactly what frightened Jesus, the upper torsos of two angels emerging from the gold heaven provide a commentary. The Archangel Michael holds an urn of gall, a lance, a reed and sponge.  Gabriel carries the cross and four nails.  We now know the child experienced a presentiment of his passion.   

But Mary looks at us. One hand open, although Jesus clasps her thumb, invites us to place our hand in hers.  Why?  When she might give her full attention to her child?   Because she invites us to run to her for comfort, just as her boy finds comfort in her arms. She can’t take away the boy’s future suffering.  She can’t take away ours – but she can offer – home, love.  And here’s a cold word but I’ll use it anyway – she  can offer context. As we suffer, we can fly to her arms and she reminds us of a world larger than our suffering.  A world of love. Home.   

(St Alphonsis, a Redemptorist Church in Rome, has the original icon. The “crowns were added later” explains Sister Paula.)   

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 13th Century, Byzantine style


Here’s one more image.  On the “Watch Instantly” option on Netflix, you can watch one of my favorite movies: Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire.  We watch the life of angels in Berlin, and the adventure of one angel in particular, Gabriel, who falls in love with an acrobat named Marion.  He becomes mortal and no longer sees angels.  But another ex-angel played by Peter Falk playing himself as the actor who plays Colombo, senses his old comrades once in a while.  He says, “I can’t see ya, but I know you’re there!”   Context.

One Response to “From 30-Rock to Our Lady in less than 200 words, Columbo coda”

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