Feast of Fools
Dear old and new friends,
The original April fools were those who celebrated New Year’s on the First of April instead of the new date of the First of January in the revised calendar of Pope Gregory XIII. In March of 1852 he corrected the outdated old calendar of Julius Caesar that no longer coincided with the seasons by removing ten days and changing the day of the New Year. Many just couldn’t, or refused, to change their thinking. Since they continued observing New Year’s on April 1st they were called “April Fools!” Don’t rush to judge them as we as well find it difficult to change our thinking.
This Feast of Fools comes with perfect timing around halfway through Lent. After four weeks of penitential grind many are weary of it. Some finding theirs has been a lackluster Lent blame being constantly distracted by making a living and family obligations and begin to secretly nurse “if only” wishes. I could have made progress in my meditating “if only” I could have spent Lent in some monastery or Zen retreat. “If only” I could have spent these forty days in the solitude of a Benedictine abbey or convent where tolling bells mark the hours I could have escaped the noisy secular world and experienced God and move closer to being a saint! If you ever felt this way, reflect on this story.
Once, a wandering mendicant monk made a pilgrimage to the Holy River where he had a religious experience. He decided to actually live and pray beside the Holy River and on its bank built a simple bamboo lean-two shelter. At first he supported himself by begging. Then he began selling bottles of Holy River Water to the hundreds of pious pilgrims coming to pray and even bathe in the Holy River whose waters it was believed healed both body and soul.
When it came time for the pilgrims to return home they inwardly envied the monk who was able to daily live beside the Holy River, but their jobs and family duties made that an impossible dream. So they did the next best thing and took home with them a bottle of Holy River water they purchased from the monk busily dispensing them.
One departing pilgrim, as he was purchasing his bottle of Holy River Water, gave voice to his longing saying to the monk, “Isn’t the Holy River magnificent this morning? My soul takes flight like a bird just seeing the sun beautifully glistening like precious jewels off its rippling waters.” Handing him his bottle of river water the monk asked, “What river?”
“If only” thinking isn’t limited simply to Lent. Those serious about their spiritual quest frequently desire to retire to some serene Zen or Trappist monastery to deepen their prayer life so to grow in holiness. While such retreats from daily life can be beneficial, this kind of thinking is a cousin-thought to “Happy April 1st New Year.” Galilee’s Spiritual Master proclaimed the Joyful News that God is present wherever we are! That Presence abiding within and around us makes having to escape from the busy congestion of life to experience God and become holy unnecessary! Touching that Mystical Presence requires faith that at this moment you are enveloped in it; wipe your mind spotless of every image you have seen of God, especially Biblical ones.
Then go and love your Divine Beloved in doing the family laundry or dishes, in the marriage bed, in soiled diapers, in cooking supper spiced with love, in your raucous workplace, in unpleasant neighbors, even inside your parish church!