I found out today why I’m always running.
My last post, “A Thought About Farewells”, came from a place where I think my heart has secretly been for many years–hiding from the truth that goodbyes really do happen, that we cannot go back and reclaim the moments we’ve lost. It hit me like a brick wall this summer (while playing mini golf, of all things) that, no matter how hard we try, we can’t soak in every part of every moment that we’d like to. We only have so many eyes to see, so many ears to hear, so many hands to embrace. Things will be missed, and before we can try to grab them back, the moment will fly from us just as every moment has since time first began to turn its pages.
There are so many beautiful things about being part of a large family, both close and extended. One of the harder parts is feeling like you just blinked and suddenly the baby you were holding in your arms is toddling around, and the little tykes are suddenly going through puberty. The new moments aren’t bad, but the ones that are gone were pretty darn good too.
Moments just don’t last forever. And if you let yourself be fully invested in them, your heart is going to ache. This is the truth I’ve been running from, as time and time again I’ve come to love and then to lose.
Honestly, left just with this, I’d be crying myself to sleep right now. Which is what I did for years at the end of the days where I either hid from this truth in any corner I could or just let it completely overwhelm me. Truth be told, I’ll still probably cry myself to sleep many more nights in the future; it’s the price to be paid for letting yourself feel loss.
But if there’s anything these years are finally teaching me, it’s that this is not the end of the story.
The answer here is hope. It’s not a fix-it sort of answer; it doesn’t make the hurting stop. It doesn’t even really give a reason for the hurting. What it offers is something much bigger: a future where moments DO last forever, a future where there AREN’T goodbyes, a future where somehow a single glance at the face of God will quell every question and leave our hearts in complete peace and utter love.
The most marvelous part about hope is that the Holy Spirit gives us the first tastes of that hope here and now, in these fast-fleeting moments. When Christ came, He brought eternity into time, and now the Holy Spirit draws us out of time and into eternity. He brings us Christ Himself in the Eucharist to feed us as we walk with him through the moments of life into the unbroken joy of Heaven. The glory of our sorrows is that we are not alone in them; Christ has entered into every moment, every ache, every joy, every pain, and has given us the Holy Spirit as a promise that we will eventually pass out of all that is passing into the place where nothing passes, and we are in the very embrace of God.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer man is wasting away, our inner man is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-18)
What more is there to do but give glory and praise to God for loving us so unfathomably much? Not a drop of our pain goes unnoticed. We are not echoing voices in a hollow universe latching onto others and onto fantasies. We are beloved children, never for a moment left alone, always heard, always laughed with, always cried with. Brothers and sisters, we are loved with a love that is unlike anything this world can ever even begin to offer; every moment of every life is held in the hands of a God Who literally died for us, who pines for us always and will never stop wanting us to be with Him in eternity.
And if you feel that you are too far away, that this is just too good to be true, know that even in that you are not alone. I was not kidding when I said that Christ is with us in EVERYTHING. I know that it is not always easy at first to believe that God loves or even cares about us. I didn’t, for years; He had to prove it to me. And He did; He finally got through my stubbornness and my doubts. He found me after I said my first really painful goodbye years ago, and he cried with me. When I finally, flailingly, asked Him to help me, even though I wasn’t sure He loved me, He gave me the strength to survive and began walking me down a path that I never could have foreseen, a path of healing and freedom. And He wants to do that for all of us.
Ok, I know that basically sounded like an altar-call. Consider it a personal testimony to assure you that all the craziness I spout on this site isn’t really about me. It never was, and every post I’ve written that tends in that direction is flawed. What it’s really all about is trying to give an account, a reason, for my hope, hope that I have not always practiced. It really isn’t easy to choose, in every moment, to live as though death is not the end of our story, to love with God’s love so as to bring the God of eternity into time and men of time a step closer to eternity. But it makes all the difference.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-7)
Being the avid Disney nerd I am, it no longer surprises me when, in movies, within the first half hour or so, someone important leaves or dies; some sort of goodbye takes place before the plot can advance any further. Which means that Marvel movies have majorly screwed with me, because NO ONE IMPORTANT EVER ACTUALLY DIES (and if anyone says Agent Coulsen, you clearly haven’t seen Agents of SHIELD…spoiler alert…), so it’s like, “Goodbye–NO WAIT WHAT OH MY GOSH YOU’RE ALIVE”. And in retrospect, there have been a fair amount of movies, Disney or otherwise, that do sort of the same thing (mostly Disney, because typically there’s some sort of magic or prophecy involved).
But there’s one Disney goodbye that still haunts me and tears at my heart: when Widow Tweed says goodbye to Todd in The Fox and The Hound.
Because not only is that goodbye accompanied with Tweed’s reminiscences and a tear-jerker of a harmonica-led song; it’s a devastatingly final goodbye. When she drives away from Todd, leaving him alone in the woods as she cries, and he just looks after her, confused, there’s no question in anyone’s mind: this is it, the last time they’ll ever see one another. There is no sudden return to the way things were; the film ends with Todd looking down on his old home from his new home in the woods.
Now there are two quotes about goodbyes that I have wrestled with: that sickeningly sweet “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” dealio, and a quote by C.S. Lewis that says, essentially, “Christians never say goodbye”. The first is pretty easy, in my mind, to question. It’s all well and good to say that we ought to rejoice in the good times that have been had, and there is no doubt that I look back with a (bittersweet) smile on the friends to whom I have said goodbye. And yet, when you stand before the ones you love, looking them in the eye and knowing that you may never see them again, feeling like your heart is being ripped from your chest, even if you can manage a smile, how can you not (at least internally) shed tears? How can you ignore that you are about to lose a person who has been precious to you? What greatness is there in denying to yourself that you will miss their laugh, their smile, the way they used to talk and walk, and just their very presence?
The second quote is less troubling, but still makes me uneasy. Essentially, the quote is recognizing the intimate bond we share as members of the Body of Christ, which keeps us always united no matter where we are, and is the source of our eternal union in Heaven. Still, even as we Catholics say to each other, “I’ll see you in the Eucharist”, even as our eyes of faith see the one to whom we have said goodbye in Christ’s Mystical body, and even as our hope tells us that we will see our loved ones in Heaven someday, isn’t there an ache? Can you deny that there is a hole in your heart where the other used to be?
Brethren, for anyone who has said goodbye and known that it was a truly final farewell, life afterwards is the life of an amputee. When we give another person a room in our hearts, we can’t help but feel the cold drafts through the open door and the cobwebs in the corners when they have gone. We have to go on living, knowing that we will never be the same.
That’s just it, though, I guess…we will never be the same. That is the glorious thing about our friendships and our familial bonds. The moment they are forged, we are changed. Love is a strange thing; once it enters your heart, you will never know a deeper ache, and yet every heart-wrenching moment is pure bliss, because you get to look into the eyes of the one you love. So when that terrible, inevitable moment comes when you have to say goodbye, and every part of your being is moaning for just another moment more with the beloved, we shouldn’t hide behind melancholy reminiscence or joyful hope, no matter how noble either might prove to be later. No.
When your universe suddenly seems as if its very light is about to be sucked away, when the air you breathe is about to be torn from your lungs, put every ounce of love you can into that last embrace, the final moment in which the one who brought music to your life pulls you close to them, letting your heart bleed out in one final, painful, blissful rapture of a moment. Then let them slip away, like rain slipping through your fingertips, burning like acid, and smile, because the tears that are sure to come mean that you have been lucky enough, in the few years of your life on this strange and beautiful place called Earth, to have met another person who entered into your life and you into theirs so deeply that your parting is torturous.
Finally, if you can stand it yet, say a prayer that you may both have the strength to go on to love again, and begin to find solace in the love of God, the one and only lover about Whom you can truly say that you will never have to say goodbye.
Make me unknown to me, myself, and I,
may self-pitying tow’rs that fight the sky
collapse upon my ego, laying bare.
O Mother, sweet and blessed, wholly pure,
within whose tender mantle now I lie,
make me unknown.
Slow, slouched, I wait for pity as I try
to battle inner wars. Oh let me die
to self, this secret pride. These shadows lure
me to demise. While I yet stir,
make me unknown.
“Broken beyond repair”. Part of me is always tempted to say that whenever someone asks that ever-stupid question, “What three words would you use to describe yourself?” It’s basically the way that I view myself when I don’t have anyone to tell me otherwise. I have my flaws before my mind’s eye often, swirling in and out of the crazy noise that is my inner life. It gets really loud in here sometimes, and it’s definitely not particularly pretty.
And I find myself asking “why” a lot. I ask myself why I’ve made such stupid decisions, or why I bother to try so hard. I ask God why He didn’t stop me from breaking myself from within, or why He made me the way I started out, the way that wasn’t ready for what life had to throw at me.
So now here I am, sitting at my family’s kitchen table, 21 years old, and not knowing how to move forward.
I’ve made it past some incredibly dark years in my life (or at least they seemed to be incredibly dark; I’m still trying to see that darkness as the shadow of Calvary), and I learned during those years how to just get by, to continue living while I felt wracked by a ceaseless storm inside. Now I’m on the other side of that storm, trying to figure out how I’m supposed to actually LIVE my life. I’m in completely uncharted waters here, carrying crosses I don’t understand and scars that haven’t faded yet, trying to take a step, any step, towards a future that is completely unclear to me.
So now what?
This past semester, it’s really begun to dawn on me that much of my life has been one long trust exercise with God. He set me on solid ground, then asked me to trust him as I was suddenly thrown from my footing on a cliff. For years I’ve been falling, but I realize now that that fall was long because it was always on the wings of the angel armies. Now that I’ve found solid ground again, now that I’ve become comfortable, God is asking me to trust Him again, and I can feel the earth trembling beneath me, and it sends my soul into terrified spasms.
But if I really listen to the voice that’s asking me to trust, I can hear the music my soul has been thirsting for. I can sense the lips of my Beloved murmuring peace to my heart. His arms are outstretched, and even now wrapping around me.
All that’s left is to have courage and trust enough to leap into the arms that have always held me.
The waves are rolling, my Savior beckons, and it’s time to step out onto the waters. Duc in Altum.
Impetuous, my lately love, am I
in letting love this fragile frame imbibe;
your sapphire eyes are water to these dry
and burning bones. I wish I could inscribe
your name upon my heart eternally,
but nay, ’tis not to be. You? I? My dear,
the love I wish for us can never be–
love? Nay, nay, but mere passion…fierce, I fear.
Dear one, may I yet stay, and love thee true,
with kindness, care, and groaning heart? Though strung
like harp strings, heart aflame, my song to you
shall be restrained, with few notes ever sung.
Unbridled though my yearning ever be,
I shall but love and let thy heart by free.
From the desire of being loved, deliver me, Jesus.
By far the hardest words for me to pray.
As far as I can tell, not feeling loved has been the source of most of my problems in life. Doesn’t always mean I wasn’t truly loved; just that a lot of my life, I just didn’t feel it, didn’t believe it.
So how can I seriously ask God to take away my desire to be loved?
This is something I’m still not sure I have the answer to, but I have little hints now, I think. I find myself desiring love that I shouldn’t have, love that, in the long run, isn’t really love but just something that serves to fuel my ego. It sounds weird put that way, but I think that’s the only way to describe it. There’s a part of me that just wants to be loved in ways I shouldn’t want, or at least ways I shouldn’t be seeking to accomplish.
Even that word is problematic: “accomplish”. Love isn’t “accomplished”; it’s not just a task or activity that has a definitive end. It’s more like a dance. Because love only happens when the one loved freely returns that love as best they can. What I might picture in my mind as the only way someone can show me they love me isn’t truly the only way I can be loved. It might be the way (or something close to the way) in which I know best or for sure that I’m loved, but I’m not that other person I’m desiring love from. They have their own ways in which they show love; I can’t force them to love me the way I want them to.
In other words, maybe it’s been me all along that hasn’t been loving. Maybe I’ve just been selfish, immature, greedy. Maybe I’m even more broken and twisted inside than I’ve dared to admit.
And for that, I owe everyone who has known me an apology. Because I think the cry in my heart hasn’t been as noble and devastating as what has come out of my lips or my actions; I’m actually pretty crummy in a whole heck of a lot of ways.
But light has shone on that darkness now, and the darkness won’t overcome it.
I think I’m learning humility far greater than the little moments of humiliation I was expecting this Lent; I’m learning that I really am pretty small and dirty and just…I don’t even know if there are words for things as low as me.
And yet, I’m also learning that the Lord has seen this in me all along…and somehow still sees someone worth saving, someone worth loving, and someone worth dying for.
The more I know myself, the more I have to weep at the immense love God must have for me to see me and still want nothing more than to have me with Him forever, even if He has to bleed out on a cross for me.
So to those who have stuck by me and loved me with love that still staggers me, even now, thank you. You are truly vessels of God’s grace, and you seriously deserve so many blessings.
And now I guess I’ll just awkwardly end this here. And it’s OK that I don’t have some sort of impressive final word of wisdom. It’s even OK if no one reads this. It’s all OK, because God loves me, and even if no one else does, I have a soul full of love and grace, and that’s plenty reason to be happy.
I am firmly of the opinion that true humility comes in the moment when you stop whining about the size of your cross because you suddenly find yourself floored under the weight of the cross of another, and you both realize together in a gloriously gut-wrenching moment that Christ carried the weight of both already with Him to Calvary.
The Litany of Humility has pretty much become infamous among Catholics for being one of those prayers that gives you exactly what you ask for in exactly the way you don’t want to receive it. You know, like when you pray for patience in the morning and immediately spill your coffee as you get in your car, get stuck in traffic on your way to work, have to deal with that one guy who just won’t shut up on your shift talking about some anime show you’ve never heard of (but now know its entire cast of characters, plot, subplot, and existential significance), and come home to find your front lawn TP’d by the neighborhood kids…and it just started raining. You learn patience fast…or else completely break down.
So when I started praying for humility this Lent, I already had my teeth gritted and body braced, waiting for a little disaster.
…I’m still waiting.
The past few weeks have been less of a living awkward-fest and more of a self-discovery. Time after time, God has placed events and people in my life trying to tell me to love myself.
See, the thing is, I’m not particularly a fan of myself. I’m your typical perfectionist, and in the last few weeks, I’ve been particularly scrupulous for various reasons, and generally just tense and upset and frustrated. And I think this is exactly what God is trying to help me not to do. He’s trying to teach me real humility.
Because humility isn’t just knowing your weakness and smallness. It’s knowing how much God loves you, at every single moment. It’s less about stopping yourself from seeking approval and more about being so secure in God’s love that you just don’t need that approval. It’s seeing yourself for who you are before God: a beloved child. Weak and small, yes, but so remarkably precious. It’s letting yourself be loved with the perfect love that casts out all fear, all frustration, all scrupulosity.
Funny how our greatest pride, sometimes, is thinking that we’ve managed to create a mess so big in ourselves that God can’t possibly overlook it. Funny how we swell ourselves up so much in our self-pity and self-loathing.
Funny how God simply turns us to the cross and says, “I already knew you would do these things, would end up here after all these mistakes, and I still did this for you. Any reason left not to let me love you?”
Well, brothers and sisters, is there?
I fell again.
These clumsy bones marching under a wobbly head just collapsed, throwing me headlong into the same old snake-pit. The fight was just too much, and I found myself having to fight a new fight with the voices that tell me I’ll never be good enough, that this battle with myself just isn’t worth fighting.
Of course I’ll get back up again and keep walking; I seem to be finding my footing a little more, and this new way of walking is starting to undo old muscle memory. But somehow I always seem to fall again.
And still you’re asking me to be humble?
How much lower can I get than the dirt beneath my feet?
But then that’s not humility. That’s stupidity. An old, old stupidity that’s settled into my flesh and still hasn’t completely washed out, and just keeps dragging me back down.
And it seems like I forget that. I get a few paces away from my last fall and get so caught up in making my feet walk the way I want and forcing my body to obey that I forget to lean on the hand that helped me back up in the first place.
So, Lord, this time, don’t let me forget that I just fell.
But don’t let me forget that you’re right next to me, either.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart…
This Lent, something I’m really trying to work on is humility. And I just want to share things as I go, based on the prayer I’m praying everyday: the Litany of Humility.
I’m not really sure why. Maybe part of it is a selfish or prideful desire to be noticed, I suppose. But I’d like to believe I’m not entirely stuck in the mire of my ego and sinful desires, and that somewhere in this is a noble desire. So we’ll see how this goes together, brothers and sisters, if that’s OK with you.
When I was first introduced to this prayer my freshman year, I was told that it was a good prayer both for the more egotistical types and for people who were insecure (I fit more into the second category, although I’m finding out they’re not mutually exclusive). I prayed it for about two weeks and then just stopped. I just felt like I couldn’t keep up such an intense prayer. How could I honestly ask God to deliver me from things that I craved with my whole heart, like love and acceptance? How could I ask Him to take away things that I had yet to truly experience in my life? And what was so bad about them anyway?
But now, things are different. I am loved, and I am accepted, by so many beautiful people. And still my heart reverts to seeking and craving more and more of it. My heart and mind are so hell-bent on it that I’ll do anything to get it, even when I already have it so authentically and fully without trying. It’s as if part of me still doesn’t believe it’s possible, part of me still just wants to be picked up and held until I know beyond a doubt that I can stop searching, stop grasping.
So now I desperately need to pray this prayer.
I need to be delivered of this false humility that’s built up inside me like a cancer, to be truly humbled, where I recognize my own weakness and frailty, and yet feel truly secure in the love of my God.
I need to look to Jesus, Meek and Humble of Heart, and beg Him to hear my voice. That’s all I really want, anyway: to know that I’m being heard, that the little cries my heart makes silently throughout the day don’t just pass into the void or get lost in the cacophony in my head; that someone, the Great Someone Who looks into my heart and loves me, hears me even when I don’t think about Him.
Jesus, You Who humbled yourself to know our life and flesh and the burden of sin, who humbly accepted even death on a cross for love of me…
Recall the day the Tree of Life was shorn
of verdant life and pierced by iron nails,
when darkness, groaning, veiled the dying morn
while stones took up the trembling and wails.
Recall the day when earth and sky screamed out,
“Creator scorned, O creatures!, whence thy hope?”
Remember blood of God-Made-Man, the shout
of stone-cold tomb, salvation’s envelope.
Recall, recall, sweet soul, how blood gave birth
to sons and daughters from a granite womb,
Creation’s moans now sprung from fruitful girth
while souls by flood are washed into the tomb;
once more recall: as old life’s morning dies,
creation new from sepulchre will rise.
There’s a concept in metaphysics related to time, that there are different types of time. There’s objective, of course, the measure of change that we use clocks to observe. There’s subjective time, which is our perception of that change (you know, like how a 30-minute crash course on sexual harassment feels like it’s never going to end). There’s also spiritual time, which is when we are unaware of the passage of time because we are pulled by God out of our normal experience of time (aka ecstasy). There’s one other type of time, which I want to focus on: metaphysical time.
This kind of time presupposes that things are made with ends, that they grow and change with a purpose towards a natural end. It is the measure of the distance between where a being is metaphysically and its metaphysical end. Remarkable thing about metaphysical time, most things just progress naturally towards their natural ends unhindered unless stinted or interrupted by outside forces. We’re like that to an extent ourselves, but there is a major difference.
We have the power, throughout our lives, to derail that growth towards our ultimate end: Heaven.
So why am I writing about this on New Year’s Eve?
All over the world, people are celebrating the beginning of the New Year with (drinking, drugs, sex, other ridiculous stuff, and) resolutions. In a quiet way, people are looking at the past year and, while they are remembering the good memories, they are also seeing the things in themselves they don’t like, the choices they made that have derailed them. Their response? Resolutions, promises to make new choices, choices to put themselves “back on track”, heading towards their good and happiness.
Unfortunately, not everyone understands what this end is, this good, this ultimate happiness. Not everyone is able to see all the things in themselves that are stinting that metaphysical growth in themselves. And many look at how far they’ve jumped the tracks and simply give up on trying to find their way back to the straight and narrow.
But that’s the remarkable thing about redemption: IT HAPPENS.
We just celebrated the Incarnation of Christ, His coming into our world. He came specifically to redeem mankind, to undo what all mankind throughout history has done and win graces to save and constantly renew us. Again and again these graces are offered new to us in the sacramental life of the Church. What an incredible blessing!
So now that this year is coming to a close, I just want to sit in gratitude for the fact that Mama Troll in Frozen was wrong when she said, “We’re not saying you can change him, ‘cuz people don’t really change. We’re only saying that love’s a force that’s powerful and strange…” Love does, in fact, transform, not just draw out. Love intimately and powerfully works in the person, shaping them. Love can work even the most distant, hardened, or shattered heart into a masterpiece of grace.
I’ve discovered that in my own life this past year. It’s been an intense year of growth, coming to terms with the fact that massive changes needed to happen in my life. and by God’s grace, I’ve grown to a point where depression and anxiety, which I have struggled with for years, is now almost nonexistent, and I have the hope and courage to continue to work at cooperating with the transforming grace of God in my heart, rooting out old habits and mental frameworks that have stinted my metaphysical and spiritual growth for so long.
So first of all, thank you to everyone who has stuck with me and believed in me, and been living witnesses of the love of Christ to me. I love you so much.
Second of all, take courage! The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it! Let the coming year be a transformative one. Trust in the Lord; He can and will transform and renew your heart.
Happy New Year, everyone! May God bless you and yours abundantly.
In solemn awe the seraphim cry “Gloria” on high,
as hosts join in rejoicing at sight:
the New Creation’s dawn is come, salvation’s morn is nigh,
and breaks upon a cold December night.
The light of Love, on wings of grace, stoops into time and place,
the Word speaks in a tiny infant’s cry,
and God, so inexpressible, now takes a human face,
content within the Virgin’s arms to lie.
The hearts of men with labor pains once wracked now moan no more,
for Christ is come to take away our sin.
Let Mary and the Spirit make a manger and a door,
that Christ in you be born anew. Amen.
Writing a Christmas poem has become a tradition for me. I wish I had more time to put better thought and effort in, but the important thing is that it expresses what I want it to: that this Christmas can be an opportunity of great renewal, of letting Christ be born in our hearts and our lives, just as He was born in Bethlehem. He comes with redeeming love. So rejoice, even if you don’t feel happy, because we have a reason to be truly joyful all the days of our life, a reason that began with one moment, on one night, in this world. May God bless you and yours with peace, love, and joy; may you sleep peacefully in the arms of Mary, our Mother and His, and may you rise to the splendor of the dawn of Christ’s coming in the love of the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit. Merry Christmas to one and all!!
So guys. Depending on what I learn in my classes on the Holy Spirit and the Nature of Love next semester, I might have found a topic for my thesis.
And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deut. 30:6)
OK I promise it’s more than just this cringe-worthy biblical quote, just hear me out. And tell me what you think, I’d love to hear your insights/input.
The reason I started with this quote is because I think this idea of “circumcision of the heart” is a linking factor. “Circumcision of the heart” has to do with the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant in Christ. Under the Mosaic Covenant, and in fact all the way up to the New Covenant, the sign of being formally brought into the covenant was circumcision, representing the casting off of sin and one’s former way of life to live in God’s love, under His paternal care.
In the New Covenant in Christ, we are given rather a “circumcision of the heart”, an interior circumcision worked by grace in which the person is radically transformed, his sinfulness removed from him and dignity as child of God restored to him. This occurs sacramentally in Baptism first and subsequently through each Reconciliation.
The Holy Spirit is particularly involved in these acts of grace; it is He Who brings the graces, which were won by Christ on the cross, to each individual soul to unite them to Christ and present them to the Father. It is also He Who first “cuts to the heart”, so to speak, concerning man’s sinfulness and need for repentance, leading him to turn in metanoia (conversion of the heart) to God’s mercy. (See John 16:8)
How does beauty play into this?
If you have yet to have been truly touched by beauty, this will make no sense to you, and I question how you are able to function as a normal human being. If you have, continue on, fortunate soul.
Think of the last really beautiful moment in your life. It can be some big moment or change in your life, a moment of healing from a past wound, a particularly beautiful piece of music or art, a breathtaking moment spent in nature, or anything else similar. These moments touch us in the deepest parts of ourselves, and have a cutting sort of sweetness, a potency that feels something like pain to the heart and yet is deliciously sweet. It’s almost as if something cuts into us and strips away a veil, a veil that hung between our deepest, truest selves and the sweet something expressed in beauty that we all crave.
Coincidence? I think not.
Perhaps beauty is a way in which the Holy Spirit cuts to the heart of man, showing him both the splendor of something beyond him and humbling him as he recognizes his own incongruity, insufficiency, or brokenness. Perhaps beauty is one of the Holy Spirit’s instruments of “circumcision of the heart”, moving man to repentance and true transformative change in his life through grace given by God. Perhaps, in beauty, we see both our potential and our lacking, and we are given the courage, the incentive, which moves us to cast off what is imperfect in us. In the sacraments, the heart torn by recognition of sinfulness thanks to the Holy Spirit is healed and separated from that sinfulness by the Same Holy Spirit.
Quick stipulation: I realize that beauty isn’t the ONLY means used by the Holy Spirit to “cut to the heart”. There are moments of intense recognition which He grants when we self-reflect; I think that moments of beauty can be a starting point for these self-reflections. In fact, come to think of it, this self-reflection is where the true decision to commit and submit to the “circumcision of the heart” has to occur. I think another starting point can be moments of suffering, if approached in the right spirit and with right understanding of the mystery of suffering in light of the Paschal Mystery and the beautiful truth that is our understanding of suffering as potentially redemptive.
This is just based on classes and readings and formation so far; I have a while to go on this, obviously. Is there actually a connection here? Anything I’m missing? Did I say something heretical or inaccurate? What are your thoughts? What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? If two trains leave at the same time from the same point on the moon, one with rocket boosters and one with a standard engine, which one is carrying carrier pigeons?
After the words in Gethsemane come the words uttered on Golgotha, words which bear witness to the depth–unique in the history of the world–of the evil of the suffering experienced. When Christ says: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”, His words are not only an expression of that abandonment which many time found expression in the Old Testament…One can say that these words on abandonment are born at the level of that inseparable union with the Father, and are born because the Father “laid on him the iniquity of us all.” –St. JPII, Salvifici Doloris, IV 18
So far so gut-wrenching…
Brethren, there is consensus among the saints that one of the most spiritually wholesome practices is to meditate on the Passion of Christ. Many of us who look to Christ on the cross as the source of our salvation are quick indeed to remember the physical agony which he underwent; yet this was not His definitive suffering, the suffering which ultimately conquered the reign of sin and death and suffering in the world.
Don’t get me wrong, His physical pain was so beyond excruciating that none of us will ever comprehend it, because in His perfection, His senses were likely all the more sensitive to/aware of pain. Yet the most acute suffering, the suffering that encompassed the full brunt of evil and won for us salvation, was something much more incomprehensibly horrific.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that each of us, at one time or another, has experienced the feeling of being separated from God. Whether due to being in the midst of suffering when He withdraws consolation for a deeper union, or due to our deliberate turning away from Him in sin, we’ve all experienced it or will experience it. And it sucks. There is nothing worse, brethren, than looking in all the places where you know God is, and yet feeling as though He isn’t there, or doesn’t care.
This pain comes from once having had some level of union with God and then having lost it. The deeper our union with Him, the more painful the apparent or actual separation.
So what must it be like to be in complete union with God, to literally share the exact same nature, to be eternally bound in love to Him, and in the incomprehensible depth of that union, to experience through human nature utter separation from and rejection by Him?
Together with this horrible weight, encompassing the “entire” evil of the turning away from God which is contained in sin, Christ, through the divine depth of His filial union with the Father, perceives in a humanly inexpressible way this suffering which is the separation, the rejection by the Father, the estrangement from God. But precisely through this suffering He accomplishes the Redemption, and can say as He breathes His last: “It is finished.” –Ibid.
We cannot even begin to imagine, brethren, what intense suffering it was for Christ, through His humanity, to experience, by the depth of His intimate union with the Father, separation from Him.
There is a scene in The Passion by Mel Gibson, during the crucifixion, when Christ cries out in His agony, “They don’t know…they don’t know…”, as they nail His feet into the wooden block. And He’s almost looking out through the screen, like He’s looking at you, at me. I’m going to post a link to that scene below. (Viewer discretion, this is brutal; it holds nothing back regarding the horrific brutality that was the crucifixion.) It’s about 4 minutes in. All I ask is that you watch those brief moments, let Him look into your eyes as He moans, “They don’t know”. And humble yourself. Recognize that you don’t have the beginning of an inkling of how deep, how intense, how horrific was the pain that your sins brought to Christ on the cross, wounding not only His body but the very depths of His being.
Then let it hit you that it’s you He’s praying for, that it’s you He’s dying for, that it’s you He’s loving even as you drive a nail into His feet and a wedge between Him and the Father.
And rejoice, even as you are humbled, that you are loved, that you are freed.
Enter into the mystery that is the suffering love of Christ that won for us our salvation.