In advance :
This Sunday's First Reading
from Isaiah 35 : 4-7a
Thus says the LORD:
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Streams will burst forth in the desert,
and rivers in the steppe.
The burning sands will become pools,
and the thirsty ground, springs of water.
Gospel Mark 7. 31: 37
Again Jesus left the district of Tyre
and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,
into the district of the Decapolis.
And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man's ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
"Ephphatha!"-- that is, "Be opened!" --
And immediately the man's ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.
He ordered them not to tell anyone.
But the more he ordered them not to,
the more they proclaimed it.
They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
"He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak."
Ephphatha is a Greek word, " Be Opened ", a root word for epiphany, and for understanding, the "A ha" moment.
It’s said that the experience of deafness is like swimming under water in the sense of how isolating it can be.
This is a film about wood sculptor Dave Fitzpatrick, born in Dublin, Ireland, who became deaf and his struggle to move on and find alternative ways to keep in touch with the world.
He says ; I am fascinated by the world beyond words and the world where we run out of words. Deafness is not just being unable to hear , but hearing something different."
At David's exhibition of his sculptures of the old bits of virgin oak forest from under the seabed, an introduction was given by Dom Mark Patrick Hederman, Abbot of Glenstal Abbey Limerick.
This is the text below :
"It is a privilege for me to open for all of us this evening, this sacred space, which David Fitzpatrick has uncovered for us: this hidden grove which he has carved into a sacred wood.
Every piece around us was there for us to see in the ordinary everyday landscape of our lives: in a bog, on a beach, by the roadside, in a field. We never saw them.
We passed them by without even noticing them. Something had to happen to open our eyes to the ordinary.
We have to be present at this transfiguration, this epiphany of trees, to allow us to see clearly.
In the Gospel of St. Mark there are two miracles recorded which, for me, have been repeated here in our own time. The first is in chapter 7 vv 32-37 where we are told that they brought Him a deaf man and He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put His fingers into his ears and touched His tongue with spittle.
Then looking up to heaven He sighed and He said to him, “Ephphatha” – that is – “be opened.”
And the second incident is later in chapter 8 v 22. where they brought to him a blind man. ‘So He took him by the hand and led him outside the village.
Then putting spittle in his eyes and laying His hands on him He asked, “Can you see anything?” And the man who was beginning to see replied: “I can see people like trees walking.”
And he laid his hands on the man’s eyes again and he saw clearly……and he could see everything plainly and distinctly.’
These are the two miracles that we are witnessing here this evening.
David Fitzpatrick has suffered from very serious deafness for most of his life.
‘In a way,’ he says in a letter he wrote to me last year, ‘I joined a monastery many years ago not unlike the one you are in.
We also have our vow of silence: our vow of listening to a different voice. Sometimes I have panicked and thought I might drown behind these walls but the feeling and the walls are only an illusion.
Anyhow the similarity of our experience over the last 20 years might help us to understand each other more.’
What I understand here this evening is that David has been given a kind of hearing deeper than any that we, who think we have perfect hearing, can hope to attain.
And this exhibition is the result of that inner listening, of the way in which David Fitzpatrick’s hand was taken by someone who whispered to him, “Be opened” and he was opened and able to see the world in a way that he shares with us here today.
His deafness has opened his hearing to a deeper level, where compassion and creativity combine to show us the reality of what really is.
It will be a pity when this sacred grove has to be removed. However I urge you all emphatically to ensure that some piece of this sacred wood be placed as an icon in your own home, in your special place, to remind you of the special wood of that cross which is your own to sculpt to an everlasting form, an immortal diamond.
Ephphatha. Let this exhibition and each one of us be opened."
Shortly after reading this story of Davis I was struck by this poem by Rumi which seems to fit well with the first reading, the Gospel and David's tale.
A story is like water that you heat for your bath.
It takes messages between the fire
and your skin.
It lets them meet,
and it cleans you!
Very few can sit down
in the middle of the fire itself
like a salamander or Abraham.
We need intermediaries.
A feeling of fullness comes,
but usually it takes some bread
to bring it.
Beauty surrounds us,
but usually we need to be walking
in a garden to know it.
The body itself is a screen
to shield and partially reveal
the light that's blazing inside your presence.
Water, stories, the body,
all the things we do,
that hide and show what's hidden.
and enjoy this being washed with a secret we sometimes know,
and then not.