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A dream of paradise: quam dilecta

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There is one psalm that I keep coming back to again and again. Something about it simply describes the idea I have in my mind of paradise. I’m sure my mental image of heaven comes from medieval paintings like the one above.

I had a dream once, and it was long and complicated but at the end, I had a little strange vision of paradise, that included the Mystical Rose.

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…Then I was distracted by a bright light, and I turned around and saw to the right was a large window, a French door, really, and through the window was a beautiful sight. A garden, all hung with greenery and blooming with huge roses, with lovely marble statues.

It was an Italian style garden, with a fountain in the centre, surrounded by a high wall, with tall trees hung with garlands of winding plants all blossoming. There were brightly coloured birds, like hummingbirds but larger, and butterflies. The light came down in golden streaks, and at the centre behind the fountain was a gigantic rose tree in full bloom ten times the height of a man, that was obviously magical. It nearly glowed with a light of its own.

I was mesmerised by this perfect sight and I forgot all about trying to get back to school, and instantly knew that I would rather be in that garden and touch those roses than do anything else, ever.

~

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From the statue in the Basilica of St. Benedict, Norcia. by Hilary, March, 2013

This mental image of heaven comes back to me with great force when I read

Quam dilecta tabernacula tua, Domine virtutum!
Concupiscit, et deficit anima mea in atria Domini;
cor meum et caro mea exsultaverunt in Deum vivum.
Etenim passer invenit sibi domum,
et turtur nidum sibi, ubi ponat pullos suos:
altaria tua, Domine virtutum,
rex meus, et Deus meus.
Beati qui habitant in domo tua, Domine;
in sæcula sæculorum laudabunt te.
Beatus vir cujus est auxilium abs te:
ascensiones in corde suo disposuit,
in valle lacrimarum, in loco quem posuit.
Etenim benedictionem dabit legislator;
ibunt de virtute in virtutem:
videbitur Deus deorum in Sion.
Domine Deus virtutum, exaudi orationem meam;
auribus percipe, Deus Jacob.
Protector noster, aspice, Deus,
et respice in faciem christi tui.
Quia melior est dies una in atriis tuis super millia;
elegi abjectus esse in domo Dei mei
magis quam habitare in tabernaculis peccatorum.
Quia misericordiam et veritatem diligit Deus:
gratiam et gloriam dabit Dominus.
Non privabit bonis eos qui ambulant in innocentia:
Domine virtutum, beatus homo qui sperat in te.

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Pippy in his favourite spot.

I chant it every morning, while looking out my studio windows.

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Goldfinch, from my kitchen window.

How lovely are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts!
my soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord.
My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God.

For the sparrow hath found herself a house,
and the turtle a nest for herself where she may lay her young ones:
Even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my king and my God.

Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord:
they shall praise thee for ever and ever.

Blessed is the man whose help is from thee:
in his heart he hath disposed to ascend by steps,
in the vale of tears, in the place which he hath set.

For the lawgiver shall give a blessing,
they shall go from virtue to virtue:
the God of gods shall be seen in Sion.

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer:
give ear, O God of Jacob.
Behold, O God our protector:
and look on the face of thy Christ.

For better is one day in thy courts above thousands.
I have chosen to be an abject in the house of my God,
rather than to dwell in the tabernacles of sinners.

For God loveth mercy and truth:
the Lord will give grace and glory.

He will not deprive of good things them that walk in innocence:
O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.

~

The “turtle” above, means a “turtledove” and reminds me that St. Scholastica, to whom I’m becoming closer, is always depicted with a dove. It is not recorded anywhere, I think, except in the local legend of the people of Norcia, who also have a great devotion to her, that she lived here for a long time as a monastic while her brother Benedict was off in the world founding orders and doing miracles and things. She lived in the little community just outside the town walls and down the old Roman road at the base of the hill. There is a church there (no longer used) that has some very old stone work on the back that probably dates to her time.

She lived a kind of eremitical life there, but in a kind of laura together with some of the local ladies, dedicated to the life of prayer and self-abnegation. She very likely learned this way of life from the monk-hermits of St. Eutizio, the extremely ancient monastery that is about a five hour hike/donkey ride from Norcia. This is the real source of western monasticism, the place where Benedict learned what he needed to know, even as a child, with his twin sister, and brought it out to the rest of the world.

The mountains attracted a number of disciples of Spes over the following decades, who followed in his contemplatory footsteps and formed a vast, loose spiritual community (Benedict from the nearby town of Norcia was also inspired by Spes’ asceticism, leading him to found a small community with an oratory on this spot). Legend holds that Spes, who had spent forty years in complete blindness, regained his sight shortly before his death and spent his final days visiting and ministering to his disciples in the surrounding woods and caves.

After Spes’ death, his disciple Eutizio was appointed abbot of the fledgling Benedictine community but maintained a hermitic lifestyle by carving out a home in these rock caves (now accessible through the abbey courtyard). Eutizio was widely loved and revered for his spiritual integrity, and the valley was soon populated with both religious and lay followers who became the founders of many of the hamlets which still dot these hillsides today.

How lovely are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts… my soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord.

For the sparrow hath found herself a house,
and the turtle a nest for herself where she may lay her young ones:
Thy altars, O Lord of hosts, my king and my God.

Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord:
they shall praise thee for ever and ever.
Blessed is the man whose help is from thee:
in his heart he hath disposed to ascend by steps,
in the vale of tears, in the place which he hath set.

The words continue to roll slowly back and forth through my mind, after so many years of exile and wandering, feeling shut out from a world I had no interest in anyway… to have found this sacred place… it seems like a miracle. It isn’t paradise, but I think if you sit quietly enough, long enough, you will start to be able to see it from here. If the Door is anywhere, it’s here.

For better is one day in thy courts above thousands.
I have chosen to be an abject in the house of my God,
rather than to dwell in the tabernacles of sinners.

The word “abject” in some translations is often given as “doorkeeper”…


Whatever it is I’m longing for, I find sometimes it is so strong it takes my breath away…

~

Some time in the next few days I’ll be posting a long thing about the religious life and the frustrations of what happened when the Asteroid hit it.

~

9 thoughts on “A dream of paradise: quam dilecta”

  1. Rouxfus says:

    This beautiful Psalm is the first of a series of Psalms recommended in the Roman Missal (1962) in a section entitled “Preparation for Holy Mass” immediately preceding the rubrics for “Asperges Me”:

    83—[The soul aspires after heaven, rejoicing in the meantime in being in the communion of God’s Church upon earth. The Israelites recited this psalm on their way to the Temple for the Feast of Passover.] Quam delicta…

    84—[The coming of Christ, to bring peace and salvation to man. Almighty God has taken His people back into favour and continues to show them the treasure of His propitiation and mercy. ] Benedixisti, Domini terram…

    85—[A prayer for God’s grace to assist us to the end.] Inclina, Domine aurem…

    115—[This Psalm is an act of thanksgiving of the Hebrews for deliverance from deadly peril.] Credidi, propter…

    129—[We have committed sins: we confess we have sinned. But God grants pardon to him who repents.] De profound is Clamato ad te…

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  4. Eugene says:

    “Whatever it is I’m longing for, I find sometimes it is so strong it takes my breath away…”…Hilary you express this statement in this most beautiful post. Dio ti benedica.

  5. Jean says:

    So beautiful. Thank you, Miss HIlary. I struggle with simple, basic thankfulness and will be joining you in making the chant of this Psalm a daily habit.

  6. SAF says:

    Beautiful, all of it.

  7. louiseyvette says:

    Quam dilecta

    Beautiful

  8. Gerard Brady says:

    That was a very moving and beautiful post. You’ve raised my spirits thank you.

  9. Fuquaysteve says:

    PS. I wouldn’t let the cat near the dove..just sayin’..

  10. Fuquaysteve says:

    What a glorious and heartfelt post….thank you.

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