James Tissot (1836-1902), The Procession in the Streets of Jerusalem (1886-1894) in the Brooklyn Museum
XXXII – by Emily Dickinson
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
First, we can think of nothing more unlike Jesus than for Him to stage a parade in His honor, putting Himself in the center of everyone’s admiring attention. How intensely embarrassing it must have been for Him to have had this happen, and knowing already what was in their hearts:
John 2 – 24 But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, 25 and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.n 
For Jesus, it was always about His Father, about what His Father was doing, Who His Father was. It was not about Himself. Seeing Jesus there in that parade, looking so small, out of His element, makes me feel that His passion had already begun during this Procession. So painful to be praised, or loved, for the completely wrong reason!
Second, Tissot paints the route that Jesus rides as a going downward. This direction has theological resonances, as for example, when Jesus, while speaking with Nicodemus (John 3), says:
John 3: 13 No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.i 14 And just as Moses lifted up* the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,j 15 *so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
In the same way, Dante Alighieri (c. 1265-1321), in his Divine Comedy, understood that the redemptive journey commences, in the Inferno (starting at Canto II), with a journey downward, descending through each “ring” of Hell and to its deepest point. The last thing that anyone of us would want from a divine Helper (the Roman poet Virgil in Dante’s telling of his tale) is to convince us that the way upwards (“Yes, please!”) requires first the downward way (“No, but thank you very much for asking.”). Tissot paints Jesus commencing a journey downwards, which we interpret as meaning not “down” in the sense of lower, but “down” in the sense of back to the source, into the uttermost foundations of our brokenness. The full Incarnation of the divine Son will now seek its deepest penetration into our hidden, human heartbreak. I would suggest that the descent into Hell began here, in this Procession through Jerusalem.
Through the years you’ve made it clear,
That the time of Christ was near,
Though the people couldn’t see
What Messiah ought to be.
Though your word contained the plan,
They just could not understand,
Your most awesome work was done
Through the frailty of your Son.
FIRST POINT – What I hear most consistently expressed during this time of national and international calamity is “I just want to know what I can do to help!” or “I don’t know what to do!” How ungenerous of me for sure if I were to express concern upon hearing this (not every time do I experience the activation of this concern, and not with every person). Yet I cannot escape how unsettled I feel about such expressions, which sound so honest, heart-felt, and engaged. Why? I sense that our desire to act, to be of help, to do something might be exposing (1) our aversion to letting God change us, making each of us a different kind of person because of what we are suffering (we should never waste a good suffering!); and (2) our lack of awareness that God is already acting, answering our prayers … but perhaps not the prayers we are praying, because we have prayed for the wrong things (thus the previous point).
Recall the encounter that Moses had with God, during a time in his life when he was exercising, as we might say today, “social distancing”, having fled in fear of his life from Pharaoh’s court (Exodus 2:15). He had become a solitary shepherd in the vast emptiness of the western Arabian desert, among the nomads of Midian, his former life in Egypt reduced to ashes. But perhaps it was because he had been compelled to accept the discipline of solitude “for a long time” that he had become available to God.
Exodus 3: 23 A long time passed, during which the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their bondage and cried out, and from their bondage their cry for help went up to God.g
If we confuse solitude with doing nothing, then we will fail to understand how God was preparing Moses for a powerful, world-changing encounter with Him at that famous burning bush near Mount Sinai. Solitude is what God builds within us human beings, and especially at times when our crying out to Him is most earnest, so that we become able to notice how God is acting, doing what only God can do, God Who attends to our beseeching.
What is the doing that will open the way for God to answer our cry? It is each day for us to practice being quiet (a refusal to add even one decibel of noise to the world, in our home, or to allow anything [News] or anyone else [Politicians, Experts, Fearmongers] to add even one decibel either). Over and over again in the Judeo-Christian mystical traditions, but appearing in all the authentic mystical traditions of the world, learning to be quiet – building our capacity to endure it, to accept the deprivation it requires – opens in us the way for God to create within us a profound inner solitude, inside of which God makes Himself known to us. Therein is “the sounding solitude” as St. John of the Cross puts it, or what John the Baptist called – “a highway for our God”. Moses needed an especially long time in solitude (Exodus 3:23), because of the magnitude of the work that God was to give him.
Exodus 3: 7 But the Lord said: I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry against their taskmasters, so I know well what they are suffering. 8 Therefore I have come down* to rescue them And, 10 Now, go! I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.
Pay attention to this: “I know well what they are suffering.” And notice, again, the going downward of this Divine help, where “downward” does not mean “lower” but back to the source of the calamity, to Egypt, where God powerfully will act through Moses to set His people free. God uses Moses as His spokesperson, as He used Jonah sent to the Ninevites, but there is no doubt in that account in Exodus, and in Jonah, that this is a Work that only God can do … and Who does it.
SECOND POINT – When we cry out to God in our need, what we learn from the Psalms is that what we thought was our hope – our hope in God, our hope because of God Whom we love – turns out to be our expectation, not hope. It is what we expect God to do for us. We expect God to act as God should act, if only God could see it all as clearly as we do. This is not what hope means. Indulging such expectations of God is what N.T. Wright calls, taking his cue from T.S. Eliot, “hoping for the wrong thing.” 
N.T. Wright – “What if, after all, there are moments such as T. S. Eliot recognized in the early 1940s, when the only advice is to wait without hope, because we’d be hoping for the wrong thing?”
A wise Jesuit once articulated to me the difference between being a person who has expectations (of life, of God, of others) and being a person of expectancy – an openness to the holy Mystery (of God, of other people, or life). Emily Dickinson understood (her poem above) that Hope is the Holy Spirit – “that thing with feathers”, the third Divine Person – “that perches in the soul”, whose felt Presence within us is Hope (what the Trinity feels like on the inside), Who frees us from pathological worry and fear, and Whose presence allows us to let (!) God act as God wishes – Who “sings the tune without the words / and never stops at all.”
THIRD POINT – There are things that only God can do for us, and we must grow in our capacity to distinguish, to discern, what we can and should do, and what we must let God do. My sibling and sister Carol once said to me, when I myself was feeling so out of my league in the face of challenges, “Rick, you need to get out of the way and let God do His good work.” Wise. Or, this expressed in another way, in a prayer attributed to that remarkable American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr (1872-1901):
God, grant me the grace to accept with serenity
the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
Tissot directs us to contemplate Jesus riding on a donkey – the donkey being less important than His going downward. God showed up, going straight for the root and source of our beseeching. God already knows and understands our need – “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry against their taskmasters, so I know well what they are suffering.” God will do, in the Beloved Son, what only God can do, making this week the holiest of the Christian year. We need to get ourselves out of the way and let our Lord do it.
The answer to the questions implied in those exclamations – “I just want to know what I can do to help!” or “I don’t know what to do!” – is the same: the doing asked of us is to pay attention; to be still in a gathering solitude; and to watch!
Mark 13: 35 Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. 36 May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” 
SETTING A TASK FOR WEEK SIX – The primary task of Holy Week is to join in the formal rituals/liturgies of the Church and of the churches. However, because of the demands being made on us this year by the rules “social distancing”, I suggest the following. Plan on making a pilgrimage to different churches during Holy Week. Go online and decide at which church you will “attend” a particular Service: for Passion Sunday (tomorrow), and then at which churches for Holy Thursday evening, Good Friday afternoon, and then Easter Vigil/Easter Sunday. My suggestion is that you pick different churches each time, located at different places in the country or in the world. Travel there (online) as a pilgrim, praying in those holy places. Make this Holy Week pilgrimage a rich one, and an expansive one, praying with congregations of Christians in settings very different from those familiar to you. Let us pray with the whole world, and for the whole world, this Holy Week.
I will, for example, begin my Holy Week by attending the
Sunday Service, 5 April 2020, at Holy Trinity Brompton (in London, England) – https://www.htb.org/athome. And on Holy
Thursday, I am planning to be with Pope Francis at the Basilica of St. Peter in
Rome at 6 PM – (http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/events/event.dir.html/content/vaticanevents/en/2020/4/9/coena-domini.html).
 Grove Art Online (Oxford Art Online) at “James Tissot” – “During the Franco-Prussian War Tissot participated valiantly in the defense of Paris, but his abrupt move to London in 1871 has been interpreted as an attempt to escape reprisals for associating himself with the Paris Commune. A more plausible explanation for the move might be his desire for better professional opportunities than existed in a war-ravaged city. His acquaintance with Thomas Gibson Bowles (who owned the magazine Vanity Fair, for which Tissot had been drawing caricatures for some time) gave him an important entrée into social and artistic circles in London…. His religious experience [c. 1884] led him to devote his remaining years primarily to illustrating the Life of Christ and the Old Testament. Tissot felt impelled to depict the Palestine of Christ’s day and he made several trips to the Holy Land to do research.”
 Emily Dickinson (1830-1886). The Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson. Modern Library edition, 2004. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. eISBN: 978-0-307-82378-6.
 https://poets.org/poet/emily-dickinson – “Emily Dickinson’s poetry was heavily influenced by the Metaphysical poets of seventeenth-century England, as well as her reading of the Book of Revelation and her upbringing in a Puritan New England town, which encouraged a Calvinist, orthodox, and conservative approach to Christianity…. She admired the poetry of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, as well as John Keats. Though she was dissuaded from reading the verse of her contemporary Walt Whitman by rumors of its disgracefulness, the two poets are now connected by the distinguished place they hold as the founders of a uniquely American poetic voice. While Dickinson was extremely prolific as a poet and regularly enclosed poems in letters to friends, she was not publicly recognized during her lifetime. The first volume of her work was published posthumously in 1890 and the last in 1955. She died in Amherst in 1886…. Upon her death, Dickinson’s family discovered forty handbound volumes of nearly 1,800 poems, or “fascicles” as they are sometimes called.”
 Hope is one of the three “theological” (i.e., of God or “supernatural” Virtues – faith, hope, and love. The three theological Virtues – theo = God, the Creator, the Father + logos = the Logos, the Son, or the explanation of the Father, or what the Father means – these three Virtues are intrinsic strengths of the Trinity that “rub off” on us, if you will, the closer we are in friendship with Jesus. Our association with Jesus makes us alike to Him through the Holy Spirit. We are fundamentally more as persons, better, stronger (virtuous), more god-like through our friendship with Him. When we drift from Him, lose interest in Him, we become less, weaker, just not as good as persons. “The virtue of hope, that is, the attitude and activity of hoping, is a focus of attention, affectivity, and commitment to action toward the future goal of fulfillment in God, the full realization of the reign of God. Often, however, the term “our hope” or “the hope of Christians” refers not to the activity of hoping but rather to the ground of our hope in God’s promises or the person of Jesus, or to the object or content of our hope as salvation.” [Michael Downey, The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2000), 506.]
 Dickinson identifies Hope with the Holy Spirit most often symbolized by a Dove – “the thing with feathers / that perches in the soul”. To associate the theological/supernatural virtue of Hope with a bird, which is something of feathers and air seems at first wrong. What strikes us when we hold a bird in our hands is how delicate it is, how astonishingly light (as to its weight), how, we might say, easily broken it could be. We do not want Hope to be fragile! But what Dickinson’s image does is two things: (1) she identifies Hope with God (the Dove, the Holy Spirit), something only God is “naturally”, but which the Trinity shares with us as a gift through friendship; and (2) she wants to capture what it feels like to be hopeful – we feel “lighter” or “up-lifted”. In contrast, when we feel hopeless, we feel burdened, weighed down, downcast. Recall Romans 8:24 – For in hope we were saved. [New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Ro 8:24.]
 Dickinson shifts her perspective from the sense of sight, seeing that “thing with feathers”, to the sense of hearing “the tune without words / And never stops at all.” We can reflect on how nearly impossible it is to sing when one is downcast, heavy of spirit, hopeless. In the mythologies of both Tolkien (Silmarillion) and Lewis (Narnia), God sings creation into existence.
 Dickinson’s beautiful rendering of what St. Paul describes in Romans 8:26-27 – 26 In the same way the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness. We do not even know how we ought to pray, but through our inarticulate groans the Spirit himself is pleading for us, 27 and God who searches our inmost being knows what the Spirit means, because he pleads for God’s people in God’s own way…. [The New English Bible (New York: Oxford University Press; Cambridge University Press, 1970), Ro 8:26–27.]
 The Oxford English Dictionary at 14th century verb “to abash” – “To cause (a person) to lose his or her self-possession or confidence, esp. as a result of a sudden sense of embarrassment, shame, or humiliation; to throw (a person, the mind, feelings, etc.) into confusion; to discomfit, disconcert.” By using this verb, Dickinson clarifies that the “gale” and “storm” she means is a metaphor for the viciousness of people who act towards others in ways that embarrass them, shame them, humiliate them. These works of Death (the ancient, malevolent Power) act deliberately against Hope, against God’s gifts in the souls of persons.
 Dickinson references here the beautiful, tender image Jesus uses when lamenting over Jerusalem: Matthew 23:37 – 37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling! [New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mt 23:37.]
 The Oxford English Dictionary at adjective “chill” – “‘Cold; cold to the touch’ (Johnson); now always unpleasantly, depressingly, or injuriously cold; that chills, tends to benumb, or causes to shiver.” Dickinson needed the adjective chill in its superlative form: chill -i -est, which is three syllables, but she needed two syllables. So, she contracts it to the form she deploys in this line.
 Perhaps a reference to Jonah the Prophet who runs from the Lord across the Sea, heading we assume to the farthest West, i.e., to Spain and the Pillars of Hercules. See, for example, Psalm 139:9 If I take the wings of dawn
[to the farthest East]
/ and dwell beyond the sea [to the farthest West]…. [New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Ps 139:9.]
 Notice the emphasis Dickinson places on this adverb “never”. This adverb expresses both the poet’s religious faith (that God never ceases to be Giver of all good gifts, not least of which the gift of Hope) and the poet’s experience of God’s fidelity felt as a hope that remains alive in her even “in extremity”; i.e., in the most challenging moments of her life.
 The Oxford English Dictionary concerning “extremity” – “the utmost point of severity or desperation.” But this can also refer to death, one’s own death, as in the Sacrament of Extreme Unction.
 Dickinson’s use of the “crumb” image suggest that we ought to give a return to a bird so generous – “and never stops at all.” But two other meanings I am guessing are closer to Dickinson’s intention. (1) We often lure or entice birds to come close to us by putting crumbs out for them to eat. We know that birds will not approach us too closely, because they fear us, unless we have something for them to eat. But Dickinson’s understanding of God is that we do not need to “lure” or “entice” God to come near, because God long before our “crumbs” has drawn near – God Who loved us first, Who is God with us. (2) Dickinson recognizes that a Being “that never stops at all” is a Being of endless bounty, of overflowing abundance, meaning that we have nothing to offer God that He needs! John 1:16 – 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace.”
 Matthew’s Gospel emphasizes the Jewish “rightness” that Jesus, the Messiah, does fulfill specific Old Testament prophecies in what He does and teaches. And so, Matthew portrays Jesus, many times, meeting the expectations of the Old Testament. But Jesus, the God-Man, was the Old Testament and the New Testament – the second Divine Person – and so I think that He Himself did not feel Himself constrained to study His Bible, making sure that what He did and taught lined up properly with the Scriptures. The Trinity is free to do whatever They please.
n 1 Kgs 8:39; Ps 33:15; 94:11; Sir 42:18; Jer 17:10; 20:12.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Jn 2:24–25.
i 1:18; 6:62; Dn 7:13; Rom 10:6; Eph 4:9.
* Lifted up: in Nm 21:9, Moses simply “mounted” a serpent upon a pole. John here substitutes a verb implying glorification. Jesus, exalted to glory at his cross and resurrection, represents healing for all.
j 8:28; 12:32, 34; Nm 21:4–9; Wis 16:5–7.
* Eternal life: used here for the first time in John, this term stresses quality of life rather than duration.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Jn 3:13–15.
 It is an important insight to notice that Canto I in Inferno describes a failed spiritual journey; that is, a journey a person, even a very good person, has tried, over and over again, to get right, to get where he or she longs to go, but can’t do it. (Famously here recall St. Paul’s frustration expressed in Romans 7:13-25!) The true spiritual journey, or better, a mature spiritual journey, commences when a person realizes that he or she has no capacity to get it right, to earn its successful completion. It is, and always will be, a Gift, to have been found and then taken by Christ the Friend along the true Way, and to its completion.
 Understanding this took me years to comprehend.
 The magnificent performance of this song by Amy Grant. Wikipedia notes: “El Shaddai” (sometimes styled “El-Shaddai”) is a contemporary Christian music song. It was written by Michael Card and John Thompson, using direct quotes from scripture as their inspiration, and recorded by Card on his 1981 debut album, Legacy. However, the best-known version of the song was by singer Amy Grant, whose rendition was recorded in 1982 on her platinum-certified album Age to Age.”
 The Oxford English Dictionary at the late 15th century noun “calamity” – “The state or condition of grievous affliction or adversity; deep distress, trouble, or misery, arising from some adverse circumstance or event.”
 “The Midianites became a tribal and ethnic entity whose territory consisted of the desert regions of the southern Transjordan, south and east of the Dead Sea. Thus, the Midianites are understood to be part of the ancestry and precursors of the Arabic-speaking tribes of the Western Arabian Desert.” [Michael G. Vanzant, “Midian, Midianites,” ed. Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2006–2009), 79.]
g Ex 3:7, 9; Dt 26:7.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Ex 2:23.
 “The mountain of God, Horeb: traditionally, “Horeb” is taken to be an alternate name in E source material and Deuteronomy (e.g., Dt 1:2) for what in J and P is known as Mount Sinai, the goal of the Israelites’ journey after leaving Egypt and the site of the covenant God makes with Israel. However, it is not clear that originally the two names reflect the same mountain, nor even that “Horeb” refers originally to a mountain and not simply the dry, ruined region (from Hebrew horeb, “dryness, devastation”) around the mountain.” [New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011).]
 The Oxford English Dictionary at the verb “to beseech” – “To beg earnestly for, entreat (a thing).”
 For example, Mark 1:1-3 or Matthew 3:1-5.
* I have come down: cf. Gn 11:5, 7; 18:21. Flowing with milk and honey: an expression denoting agricultural prosperity, which seems to have been proverbial in its application to the land of Canaan. Cf. Ex 13:5; Nm 13:27; Jos 5:6; Jer 11:5; 32:22; Ez 20:6, 15.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Ex 3:7–8.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Ex 3:10.
 I am grateful to Dr. Steven G.W. Moore for directing me to this text by N.T. Wright published in Time Magazine, “Christianity Offers Us No Answers about the Coronavirus.”
 It was Fr. Patrick O’Leary, SJ.
 Britannica Online: “Reinhold Niebuhr, (born June 21, 1892, Wright City, Missouri, U.S.—died June 1, 1971, Stockbridge, Massachusetts), American Protestant theologian who had extensive influence on political thought and whose criticism of the prevailing theological liberalism of the 1920s significantly affected the intellectual climate within American Protestantism.”
 For a summary of research by Fred R. Shapiro on the authorship of this famous “Serenity Prayer”, so beloved by AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) see in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Who Wrote the Serenity Prayer?” at: https://www.chronicle.com/article/Who-Wrote-the-Serenity-Prayer-/146159/
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Ex 3:7.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mk 13:35–37.
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