Mary, Mother of God, 1st January 2022
As pickpockets see only pockets so birdwatchers see only birds, or so it may seem but where we place our attention matters, Consider this wonderful passage from Iris Murdoch:
I am looking out of my window in an anxious state of mind, oblivious of my surroundings, brooding perhaps on some damage done to my prestige. Then suddenly I observe a hovering kestrel. In a moment everything is altered. The brooding self with its hurt vanity has vanished. There is nothing now but kestrel. And when I return to thinking of the other matter it seems less important. And…this is something which we may also do deliberately: give attention to nature in order to clear our minds of selfish care.(p. 84 The Sovereignty of Good)
This could as well, though, be simply a secular self-help take on reality but is redeemed I think from a purely secular take by a comment elsewhere by Iris that:
Love is the extremely difficult realisation that something other than oneself is real.(quoted in The Women Are Up to Something p.250 by Benjamin J B. Lipscomb)
And playing still with the words of Dom Lawrence Freeman that: Reality is where you place your attention, I’m wondering whether the huge gulf that there seems to be between those ‘who believe’ and those ‘who don’t’, including Iris Murdoch in later life, isn’t simply a matter of attention and where we place it, for, in Christ, God’s attention to us is absolute and yet some see it and some don’t. And this seems to be something to do with God’s Spirit and our openness or attention to it:
The proof that you are sons and daughters is that God has sent the Spirit of his sons into our hearts: the Spirit that cries ‘Abba, Father’
Or, just as well, like the shepherds able to read the stars and to hear angels praising God and singing
Glory to God in the highest heaven
and peace to all who enjoy his favour
and able then to do the same glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.
So it’s our attention to God’s attention to us that matters and to the quality of that attention – to the realisation that what the kestrel is mediating to us is a matter of love, and not only our love, the love of self restored, but God’s love given to restore us to love of all that is other. Or, to finish with one more quote:
And for all this, nature is never spent:
There lives the dearest freshest deep-down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs-
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings.
Gerald Manley Hopkins, of course, does this elsewhere in words where There is nothing now but kestrel (I’m thinking of The Windhover) – and nothing else is needed. Only some see it and some don’t.
As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.