WITH ARMS WIDE OPEN

The legend goes that the 19th-century Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844) made a clay model for a statue of Christ the King, arms outstretched, raised high in gesturing command, his head held high in triumph.

He left the soft and moist clay figure to harden and and in the morning when he entered the studio to finish his work, he couldn’t believe what he saw. The weight of the soft clay was too much for the inner structure and instead of  a head held high, it had bent downwards, and the arms originally raised in triumph had sagged and fallen low.

Initially Thorvaldsen was deeply disappointed, even disturbed, but when he looked again he saw that the statue with open arms, now expressed something deeper than kingly triumph and victory; it expressed welcome and forgiveness.

Note: The original statue of the “Christus” can be seen at the Vor Frue Kirke (Our Lady’s Church), the National (Lutheran) Cathedral of Denmark

Source: Unknown. Retold as I remember hearing it.

CONSIDER THIS

How big is your circle of compassion? How wide is your embrace?

He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.

“Outwitted” in Edwin Markham, The Shoes of Happiness, and Other Poems (1913)

COME NOW AND ENTER INTO YOUR REST

Once upon a time there was a man who loved living in his tropical paradise.  Having been born on the island where his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents had always lived, he held in his heart a special place for the beauty of the palm trees, the white sand, the sloping mountains, the gentle climate.

This man, approaching death, told his loved ones to place some island sand into each of his hands when he died, so that he might hold on to the memory of his beloved place forever.  They did, and so the man proceeded to the gates of heaven still clutching the sand.  At the gate, he was warmly greeted and told that as soon as he emptied his hands of the sand, he could enter into eternal joy.

The man was crushed, for he could not let go of what he loved so much, and so he waited. He waited for a long, long time: so long that at last his hands grew weary and could not longer hold the sand. It eventually slipped through his fingers, lost forever.

At that moment, Jesus came to him, holding the man as he sobbed at the loss of his memory, and said, “Come now and enter into your rest.” With that, Jesus walked with the man through the gates of heaven, where there before them both stretched out the entirety of the man’s beloved island.

Source | as told by Tim Muldoon, The Ignatian Workout
(Loyola Press, 2004) page 5

CONSIDER THIS

  • What are you holding on to that’s preventing  you from turning your life over to Life?
  • What is the “handful of sand” that you are still clinging to, blinding you to the amazing, expansive beauty of the whole beach?

THE ANSWER IS IN YOUR HANDS

Once there was a wise old man and a smart little boy.  The boy  was driven by a single desire – to expose the wise old man as a fool.  The smart boy had a plan.  He had captured a small and very fragile bird in the forest.  With the bird cupped in his hands, the boy’s scheme was to approach the old man and ask him, “Old man, what do I have in my hands?”  to which the wise old man would reply, “You have a bird, my son.”

Then the boy would ask, “Old man, is the bird alive or is it dead?”  If the old man replied that the bird was dead, the smart boy would open his hands and allow the bird to fly off back into the forest.  But if the old man replied that the bird was alive, the smart boy would crush the bird inside his cupped hands, and crush it, and crush it, until at last the bird dies.  Then the boy would open his hands and say, “See, old man, the bird is dead!”

And so as the story goes, the smart boy went to the old man and he said, as planned, “Old man, what do I have in my hands?”

The old man replied, “You have  a bird, my son.”

“Old man”, the boy than said, his voice dripping with disdain, “is the bird alive or is it dead?”

Whereupon the old man looked at the boy with his kindly old eyes and replied, “the answer is in your hands, my son.”

Source |  Gerry Spence, How to Argue and Win Every Time
St. Martin’s Griffin, 1996) page 142

CONSIDER THIS

TWO HANDS

I am a fist,
A sign of fear
A sign of anger
A sign of greed
A sign of tension

I can pound a desk
I can hoard money
I can try to scare you
I can punch you
In the mouth.

I am a fist.
What do you think of me?

I am an open hand,
A sign of calm,
A sign of ease,
A sign of peace,
A sign of relaxation.

I can dial a phone,
I can shake a hand,
I can change the diapers,
I can play cards,
I can break the bread,
I can pass the wine,
I can heal the hurt,
I can write the poem.

I am an open hand.
What do you think of me?

Andrew Costello CSSR, “The Two Hands” in Listenings (Chicago: Thomas More, 1980) page 107.