Have you ever built a wire fence by hand?
I’m not going to tell you how to do it, because I’m sure I didn’t do it right. But I found what I did do deeply satisfying, like sewing on a grand scale. I dug holes and sunk my big long branches deep in the mud, and wove the chicken wire over the branches as if the branches were giant needles and the wire was cloth being basted. The fence encircled my vegetable patch, and also went across part of the walkway by my house, the way a fussy neighbor who doesn’t like the mud would prefer to walk on if she was going to engage in some trespassing and destruction once again. I hung an annoying cowbell on the bit of the fence closest to her back porch and fussy petunias, and I winked at the window where I guessed she was watching. She usually is.
If she comes and rings the bell and asks for vegetables, she can have some, but she won’t. She’s told me she doesn’t eat vegetables. She used to brag “I only eat steak,” and later that summer we found rotten steak thrown into our yard. If she breaks in to destroy again, I’ll hear her and come shoo her back to her side of the property line.
Rosie was frolicking in the wading pool, and I was so hot and tired I wanted to join her, but first she insisted on washing off my muddy feet and hands with a squirt gun. I jumped in with my clothes on and we took turns spraying each other with squirt guns and splashing each other with pails, under the glaring eye of the angry neighbor somewhere inside her fussy green-siding house, and I call that a perfect evening.
The neighbor in the little white house on the other side greeted us the next day. She didn’t used to talk to us very often, but a few weeks ago when her grandchildren were visiting, Rosie entertained them by blowing soap bubbles, and now we’re on waving-hello terms.
“You have such a beautiful garden! I enjoy watching you!”said the neighbor, and that was better than perfect.
People are both the scourge and the healing balm. That’s always been the case, for me.
I was raised to believe that people can’t satisfy you, only God can, and that’s correct. But the ordinary means by which God presents Himself is through people. He made us in His image for a reason: so we would seek Him in each other, and learn about His love from loving each other imperfectly, and do good for one another in His name so we could discover how pleasant it feels to be doers of good as He is. Someday we will be one with Him, with the One Who is an eternal Waterfall of Good pouring out on everything and drawing everything back up into Himself.
People are even the ministers by which we receive the sacraments. You can’t get any of them without a human being. An outward sign, instituted by Christ, conferring grace– through the hands and the prayer of somebody human, by the mercy of the God Who became Human and remains with us until the end of the age.
I miss the sacraments.
I have not received Holy Communion in more than three months. Churches around here are back open for carefully socially distant Masses, but we’re still dispensed and nobody I know we can carpool with has dared to go back yet– not that I blame them. There’s still COVID-19 in Steubenville. They had to shut down a restaurant by campus just the other day. It’s surging all over the country. In some places, the churches opened joyfully two weeks ago and now have to close. I know I’m doing the right thing.
But this is the longest I’ve gone without Holy Communion since I was a tiny child, in a truly ridiculous white lace gown and a crown of red roses at Saint Michael’s Church. The Blood of Christ was truly His Blood, but it still had all the physical properties of a fermented beverage, the first alcoholic drink I’d ever had, and it burned all the way down. I wondered at this miracle. I’d been told that if the wick of my soul was too drenched by serious sin, then the Body and Blood of Christ would not be able to set it afire. And here I felt the alcohol burning my throat– a miracle! I was not drenched with sin! I was dry! And I was on fire!
I believe and profess that the Fire hasn’t left me. That wherever I could go, the Fire is here, everywhere present and filling all things, sustaining me until I can receive again. But I can’t feel any Fire now.
I’m not so hopeless as I was last week, though.
Friends I didn’t know I had flooded the tip jar with gratuities after my mishap with the vandalism of my garden, and neighbors rushed my porch with packets of seeds and rolls of chicken wire– hence the fence. I found the branches in the alley left out for the trash, but the chicken wire was a gift.
Rosie and I pulled out a huge bunch of fresh spring onions this weekend. Some I used to make fried rice. But I’m taking the prettiest purple and white ones downtown to the Friendship Room on Monday.
Sharing with people, helping people, playing with children, being moved with compassion for someone’s misfortune, admiring someone’s work. Strictly speaking it isn’t Holy Communion. But it is a communion, and it’s holy.
And this is a holy summer.
Image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross.
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