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Passionate Repeat Viewing

I’m watching “The Passion of the Christ” 5 times through this week. Maybe six. It’s what comes of being a high school religion teacher and wanting each of your classes to be exposed to one of the most historically accurate depictions of the crucifixion and death of Our Lord.

I do believe that it is historically accurate but, even if it weren’t, it is psychologically and spiritually accurate. The way the torturers treat Jesus, the way Pilate tries to worm his way out of the act, the way the crowds persecute and the way that the Sanhedrin prosecutes: it is all real to human life. As for spiritual accuracy, the fact that the script only departs from Scripture when showing extra-Biblical events is a testament to its depth and sublimity.

In any event, I’m not writing to argue the accuracy of the movie. I am confident that most anyone who has stumbled upon these words will agree. What I do want to reflect on is, in general, the sheer power of remembering the Passion event. When I was young, before I put aside childish things, I used to reason thus; “Why go to the Stations of the Cross? Why read the Passion readings twice during Holy Week? Why pray the Sorrowful Mysteries so much during Lent? I get it: Jesus died for me. Looking at it again and again and again: isn’t that just a bit over-indulgent? Why not have one big Passion liturgy every year and then have done with it?” It wasn’t just the Catholic guilt that intimidated me: it was the Catholic logic. It wasn’t just the shame and disgrace: it was the theology. Over and over again being hit with the Crucifixion, I felt like there was nothing more to see or learn. I knew that I should accept the Crucifixion as true and salvific, or I was a bad person. Once convinced of its power and meaning, was there any real reason to keep witnessing it, meditating on it, praying over it, etc?

All this I thought while still a child. Then I became a man and learned about love. I learned that love is not a matter of being ‘satisfied’ or doing something ‘enough.’ (It is interesting that the Latin word satis occurs so often in “The Passion.” So frequent is its use that my students even asked me “Why do they keep saying satis and what does it really mean?”) I am slowly learning that love, Christian love, is a matter of never drawing a line. It is a matter of seeing things through regardless of personal consequences.  It is about giving to the other at not just great, but total, risk to the self. It cares not for what is “necessary” but about what is best for the beloved.

As I watch Jesus die again and again and again over this week, culminating in the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion on Friday, I feel that this is really what I need to remember. God’s Infinite generosity is what we see modeled in the Crucifixion. Given the status of the world and, more importantly, the status of my heart, I do not think I can look on this model often enough:

At the Middle of Lent & the Beginning of a Conclave

All the towering materialism which dominates the modern mind rests ultimately upon one assumption; a false assumption. It is supposed that if a thing goes on repeating itself it is probably dead; a piece of clockwork. People feel that if the universe was personal it would vary; if the sun were alive it would dance. This is a fallacy even in relation to known fact. For the variation in human affairs is generally brought into them, not by life, but by death; by the dying down or breaking off of their strength or desire… The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately,but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy

 

Is it really power and complexity that heaven values? Is potentia what delights Divinity? Do the angels find power their greatest pleasure? From all I know of God, of Scripture, of communio and of sanctity, I dare say not! While I do not think monotony as we know it is what thrills them, I think that even our earthly monotony is far closer to the celestial joy than any amount of earthly power. Perhaps I am being childish and romantic, but I do not think that I am wrong (or even alone) in asserting that a child’s smile or a true love’s kiss delights the angels far more than all of our epics and entertainment. A summertime picnic glows with more celestial radiance than the presidential election or Superbowl. Speaking only from my own limited perspective, I can affirm that the times I feel closest to the heavenly shores are moments characterized by the simple joy of existing. Alone in my lover’s arms. Full and satisfied after Christmas dinner. A warm fire on a cold winter’s night. A cool swim on a hot summer’s day. A best friend’s intense hug. Smooth wine and warm bread. I feel the full joy of existing, of just being alive, at moments like this. Certainly moments of exultation and excitement are important.

Life-defining moments like graduations and weddings and funerals and retirement are great and all. But our small human hearts can’t comprehend all the joy and sorrow of moments like these. On the other hand, the small moments contain just enough of the joy and love-of-being-alive that we can see it all at once. Like Chesterton said above, we are not yet strong enough to exult in the monotony of life. We merely plug along through monotony, when the very idea of Eternity indicates a joyous and exultant monotony. What makes us think that we are ready for the sheer joy and incessant pleasure of heaven? We have sinned and grown old. We, as a race, are all too easily bored with both the simplicity of earth and of heaven. For God renounced all the whims of power when he first created the heavens and the earth. Rather than rule vengefully according to fancy, changing the course of the seas and sky everyday, re-writing the laws of physics so as to trip up sinful man, God has chosen to love as with an inspired monotony. As the omnipotent Creator, he could have made creation a place of constant flux, but He delighted in simplicity instead. God saw a value in simple constancy that our greatest rulers and thinkers alike have a tendency to overlook or undermine.

The value of things, both earthly things and heavenly things, is, in the final estimate, based on their fidelity to the goodness of their being. According to the philosophers, God’s Goodness is directly related to His Act of Existence, His Perfect State-of-Being. If that be the case, the smallest hydrogen atom has more in common with God than even the greatest of the fallen angels. Satan dwells in a land of shadows and nothingness. One isolated proton acting as hydrogen in its being is more real and good than he. To be created powerful is of little consequence. To continue in existence, in the simple joy of being: that is what God values. We would do well at this mid-point in Lent and on the Eve of a Papal Election to keep that in mind. Hell is the place for those that seek power. The new heavens and earth will belong to those who are poor enough to accept the raw goodness of just being:

On Fear of Losing Our Voice.

There has hung over US Catholics a sense of dread and despair for the last decade or so. At least, as long as I have been conscious of the Catholic-blog-o-sphere, it has seemed to be conscious of looming trials and coming sufferings. Now, whether this be true or not I cannot say (though, for the sake of transparency, I admit that our situation does appear a drastic one). On issues of human identity and sexuality, we are hemmed in on every side. Many people in our culture argue with us. Most just ignore us, even as they admit that the cultural definition of life and sex is inadequate. Almost all disagree with us. And when it comes to one of the most interesting Papal Elections in centuries, the AP and Reuters seems more concerned with the ‘scandals’ in the Vatican than with the Pope in the Vatican. In short, in a society where dialogue is supposed to be a supreme virtue, our voice is overlooked, undermined and out-right ignored.

I do not think the important thing now, though, is to pay attention to our own sufferings. The Church in the United States of America is suffering. It is suffering from political, social and cultural attacks the likes of which our grandparents (or, for that matter, even our parents) could never have foreseen  I feel inadequate to comment on politics or society, but I can say something of our culture. Culturally, Catholicism is already being given a tragic halo, as if it were one of the long-dead pagan cultures. Living Catholics are seen as the last remnant of some out-moded lifestyle. We are thought to be walking museum pieces, quaint like the Quakers and as amusing as the Amish. Those more sympathetic to our well-being like to give us advice. They kindly tell us that the world is moving on without our old-fashioned way of looking at things. Wouldn’t it be best, they suggest, to simply abandon some of our more stringent beliefs in favor of fitting in.

I will mention only in passing that their argument is not a new one. A century ago, the Romantics were telling us the same thing, as they gave lip service to our penances and criticized our virtue. The Jacobins said the same sorts of things 100 years prior to them, exulting in the Church’s devotion but forgetting that we are founded on Faith. And the Reformers some 200 years prior to that made the same sorts of errors, thinking that devotion to Mary was a distraction from Evangelization. As GKC was fond of pointing out, the Church seems always to be dying in the eyes of the world, and it is! That is, because it is always resurrecting.

The main point of this short essay is not an observation but a rebuke. I do not wish to join the chorus of those other noble voices in our Church, warning us of impending doom. The doom is not impending. It has fallen and it continues to fall everyday. The world has ever been hostile to the Church. Therefore, on the grounds of charity and hope I rebuke any pessimism or fatalism that infects our cultural dialogue. In the name of the hope of the cross, I stand against anyone that would have us be dissuaded from carrying our own. Good heavens: we are the light of the world! When we are dimmed, it is not us that suffers but the world. When we grow slack in spirit, we still may be saved. It is those to whom we are called that suffer the violence.

Babies are dying, and we complain that our voice is not heard!? Who gives a fig for ‘our voice’ when a child is never given the opportunity to use her own? The poor are suffering, and we get upset at greedy politicians. Oh, so has Christ made us the critics of the rich!? Did he come with tirades against Herod or Pilate? What are we, Church? Are we mere activists? Is the gospel about raising awareness? No! If we protest abortion (which we absolutely must do), then we do it in the name of love. We aren’t out to overturn Roe V. Wade as much as we are out to overturn human hearts. We aren’t called to flip-off the rich, but to flip their tables, as Our Lord did in the Temple. We are a people of action, not of criticism. The world is covered in critics like leeches. What it needs is not more critics, but more Christians.

 

This Lent, consider well how you speak. These forty days are meant to be difficult for us, but only so that we may lighten the load of the world. We can expect injustice to be done against us: it is our lot. What we cannot be satisfied with, what we must not stand for, is when injustice is done against others! It is a time to pray for others that they may live, to fast that they may eat, to give alms that they may be nourished. If our faith lacks this positive generosity and charity, I feel that something dire is wrong with it. If our words lack it, then I feel it would be better for us to just shut up.

St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, pray for us.

In Defense of Womanizers

For Sarah, who heard this first many years ago…
There is a conversation that I have too often to leave it hanging alone in the air without putting it down on paper. Or computer screen. Or webpage. Or whatever. It involves the question of womanizers & their honesty. It is a subject that women have often asked me about because they assume that 1) I am not a womanizer 2) as a theologian, I should be somewhat an expert on morality. Now, in actuality, I do not speak in either capacity. It is true that I am not a womanizer and that I am also a theologian. But my chastity and intelligence have nothing to do with the answer that follows. The fact of the matter is that the women in question have always accused womanizers of the same charge: of insincerity. Now, from all the womanizing characters I’ve read about in literature and among all the womanizing characters that I know in real life, I can honestly say that they are honest. That is to say, womanizers tend to be the most sincere of men. When a womanizer tells Kelly that she is the most beautiful girl in the world on Monday, he means it most honestly. On Tuesday, when he proclaims that Courtney is the love of his life, he couldn’t be more sincere in that moment. And when on Wednesday he texts Michelle to tell her she is too gorgeous for words, he means exactly what he says. Womanizers are, in a certain sense, the most sincere of men. They possess the virtue of sincerity in its pure state, free from the complications of fidelity, courage, wisdom or patience.
One of the best examples of what I mean can be seen the characters of Tolstoy, especially Vronsky in Anna Karenina and Prince Anatol in War and Peace. Though very different men in career and personality, both find themselves in entirely sincere illicit relationships. Anatol, the far more incorrigible of the two, even has a whole monologue in which he justifies his ill-intentioned elopement with Natasha out of the sincere sport of the thing. He reasons that his aesthetic passions are honest enough. He truly likes Natasha as a flirtatious toy. He can’t help thinking about how much she truly arouses him sexually and emotionally. It is precisely because she has this effect on him that he feels justified planning to elope with her one day and then abandon her at the next convenient opportunity. After all, such a simple and delicate beauty demands to be ravishingly enjoyed…and then discarded. And while Vronsky isn’t nearly as pre-meditated in his estrangement from Anna, he knows full well, going into his affair with her, that their union is a tentative one at best. Still, he feels that he can do this in all sincerity because Anna is so very enticing.
Now, I use these two literary examples to prove a point. These men were not written as the shallow mustache twirling villains used to fill soap operas. They are complex characters created by the master of the romantic epic. Tolstoy made these men as true-to-life as possible. Women be forewarned: how Anatol and Vronsky think is how womanizers actually think. Tolstoy’s psychology is impeccable. A man who wishes to take advantage of a woman truly believes in her beauty. He cares little for her feelings. He thinks little for her honor or for the promises she has made to herself and others. But he knows that she is beautiful and he is fully confident in his ability to sincerely express these feelings of attraction.
His fault lies not in a lack of honesty or sincerity. It lies in a lack of courage and commitment. It is easy for a guy to buy a beautiful girl dinner, a drink or a flower on a single evening. The real test comes when he must decide whether or not to be there for every dinner, to buy her every drink, and to buy her a whole garden full of flowers by way of the house they will share. In short, only an act of commitment, true and faithful commitment, can reveal a man’s value. He might profess to recognize a woman’s value right away. He is probably telling the truth. But when it comes time to put his money where his mouth is, to commit in the flesh to what his words have professed, that is when you discover if he is the man to reveal your beauty to you day after day for the rest of your life.

The Exponential Power of Vocation (or, An Exegesis on Matthew 28)

What follows is a section of exegesis taken from a book that I am writing on Vocation Formation & Discernment. It discusses the nature of the Church’s vocation in light of the Ascension. Its brief enough to act as a momentary diversion.

Matthew 28:18-20: And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

 

Notice three things:
1. This verse represents a vocation, a calling, a commissioning by Our Lord. It is an imperative AND a gift, an order and a grace.

2. Jesus associates all the power that He has with the communion of the Trinity. This is the only time in Matthew’s gospel that Christ explicitly mentions His place in the Threefold Godhead. It’s not because he was shy about. Its because He was saving the best for last. It’s because the Trinity’s own communication is the most powerful thing he can offer to his disciples! Christ is saying, “All power has been given to me. And from among all those powers, the one that is most important, the one that I give to you, is the power of Gods own communio personarum” Talk about setting priorities.

3. This power is meant for all “the nations,” a phrase that was the Jewish code word for Jews and Gentiles alike. In other words, this gift of the Trinity’s own unity, this love and prayer power that the disciples are given is meant to bring the Jews together with all those Gentile nations that had always given them so much trouble (the Egyptians, Babylonians, Philistines, Greeks, Romans, etc.) so that everybody in the world can have the opportunity to worship the one true God. That’s a mighty tall order and Jesus doesn’t give the disciples a clue as to how they’re going to get that power out there! After all, after finishing these words, He quite literally flies away.

If Adam awoke in the garden of Eden with his vocation lying right next to him, the Church awakes at the ascension to an even more stupendous vocation flying off into the sky. The surprise and shock of all this is caught up in the fact that our vocation is NOT about our selves and what we have to do. It isn’t even concerned just with the other! When Adam knew Eve, they begot Cain and Abel, who end up apart. When Jesus was fully known by his disciples, He left them standing on a mountaintop with the challenge of bringing two brothers together. Our communio is never simply between two parties because love can never be limited. It grows exponentially. Just as the communio of God overflows into creation, so also the communio of husband an wife overflows into their children, just as the love of Father and Son spirated another Divine person, the Holy Spirit, so also does our prayer and discernment necessarily extended beyond whatever limitations are imposed on it. We know not how this works, but we rest certain that it does work in this way because the very foundation of our Christianity, the sacrament and communio of baptism, overflows into the nations. And wherever unexplained exponential growth is involved, there is mystery. The reason why God doesn’t bother trying to get the details of our vocation into our heads is because vocation is never about trying to fit everything into yourself. It’s about abundance and rush and overflow and generosity. When God doesn’t respond when we ask Him to tell us directly about our vocations, it’s not because He doesn’t like telling us things. It’s not even because He doesn’t like telling us things directly. It’s because our vocation is not about us. His Eternal silence on this matter is the loudest reminder that vocation is about gift, that callings are about communio. His message is that, at the heart of the matter and at the center of God, is the strange and terrible mystery of the Other. And we must never objectify the Other by trying to fit him into our own pre-conceived notions about what vocation should be. If the the vocation given at the Ascension indicates anything, its that the sky’s the limit.

The Top Ten Books Read in 2012, #1

The #1 book I read in 2012 was Fr. Robert Barron’s Catholicism. I brought it with me during my priesthood retreat, and its pages were a joy to read. He prose is cogent and clear. He writes well to all levels of knowledge of Catholicism from the doctor in theology to the inquisitive atheist.

He takes from reason and beauty all that we believe as Catholics.

Like I said in my review, this book is the perfect book for catechesis for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Our RCIA uses it and our Men’s Spirituality Group will soon be using it as well.

There is no easier and more enjoyable book from which to learn about the Catholic faith.

The Top Ten Books Read in 2012, #2

You remember #2 from a review from earlier this year. It took me nigh on a year to read The Discernment of Spirits by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV.

This book is a practical guide to the spiritual using St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Rules for the Discernment of Spirits that is found in his Spiritual Exercises.

We all experience ups and downs in the spiritual life. This book is a practical guide for how to navigate them well.

It was the second best book I read this year. The best …. will have to wait for tomorrow.

Discernment of Spirits

It takes me forever to read a spiritual reading book. Forever. A year or two forever. The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living by Timothy Gallagher, OMV was one of those books. It is one of the few books recommended me by my spiritual director (mostly because I take so long to read them).

Now from the cover of the book, I would have discounted the work almost wholesale as something that was connected with the horrible parts of 70’s Jesuit spirituality. It has reviews by people whom I never heard and who I would be less likely to trust. But, this is one where you can’t judge a book by its cover. I trusted my spiritual director to continue past the less than desirable exterior.

Fr. Gallagher, who apparently teaches about the Ignatian Rules of Discernment around the world, spends his words and thoughts on giving practical guidance to the spiritual life through the text of the 14 Rules of Discernment St. Ignatius of Loyola spells out in his Spiritual Exercises. These words and thoughts are put forth in a colloquial style, like he was giving a retreat on these fourteen points. He uses stories and examples to bring to light, in relatable ways, the truths of these rules and how to apply them to the normal everyday humdrum Jane Doe spiritual life (not sure why I used Jane Doe).

I must say I gained an incredible amount of insight in how to notice what is going on in my interior life through what he outlines in this book. Have you ever wondered why you react the way you do in a certain situation? Do you notice movements in your spiritual life like the peaks and valleys of waves moving toward the coast of the unknown? This is the book for you.

He explains what spiritual consolation is and what spiritual desolation is and how we need to deal with it. These rules are hard and fast and super helpful, and Fr. Gallagher is able to communicate them in such a way as to allow the spiritual novice or spiritual athlete to grow in their understanding of their spiritual life.

I have and will recommend this book to anyone needing a greater understanding of the spiritual life.

The Absolute Necessity of Awkwardness

To Genevieve and Katie, Who Have Watched Me Learn This


There is much that is lacking in our culture in  the way of acesticism. It is not that we are utterly devoid of discipline. It’s just that our discipline seems always directed toward the most marginal and mediocre of things. A man who ‘works out’ develops large biceps so that, when he sits around in his cubicle, it might feel a little less empty. A stuggling family eats Raman noddles and buys their clothes at Goodwill so that all the children can have iPhones. A soccer mom limits her food intake, not simply to prevent obesity, but so that she might feel sexy in the sequins panties that her husband bought her. Chesterton was fond of saying that it is not the vices, but the virtues, that were let loose to wreak havoc when the Post Christian era began. Thus we see the old forms of fasting and renunciation haven’t disappeared; they just no longer correspond to charity. We still forgo food and beat our bodies into submission; its just that we no longer expect earth and heaven as our reward, but merely the worldly.

Being born into such a situation, it might seem odd that I suggest a reexamination of an obscure form of acesiticism, so obscure in fact that I think hagiologists are the only ones who ever wrote on it. If all the world is mistaken about the nature of self-discipline, why on earth should I waste my time with this ambigious point? Would it not be better to stick to the main issue: the radical loss of meaning in discipline? Perhaps, but (praise God) there are much better writers that can handle that battle. I am obscure, and so that the author may be comensurate with his subject matter, I will keep to reflecting on points of seeming obscurity.
In all the great saints, there was an acesiticism of humility that I can only call the radical call to awkwardness. We read about it in the mendicants mostly, though it is easier to put in proper context when we look at the more recent Saints. It can be seen when Boniface cut down the oak, when Patrick lit the bonfire, when Teresa took off her shoes and danced in the middle of meal time. Therese betrayed it when she snuck into the male monastery while on pilgrimage, and Athanasius displayed it when he jumped out of hiding to stop Constantine’s chariot and argue with the Emperor. JP II was notorious for it, sneaking away in the middle of meeting and meals only to be found lying prostrate before the tabernacle—kissing men, women and children full out on the face in St. Peter’s square—doodling out poetry when he got bored during sessions of the Second Vatican Council. Aquinas was caught talking to the crucifix. Pier Gorigio interrupted conversation to say rosaries. Mother Teresa walked out of committee meetings when she found out how much their bottled water had cost. And the list goes on. The point is that all of these saints knew the great secret of humility and kindness: that we must risk seeming rude and vulgar. “We must defy convention if only to keep the commandments.” (GKC, once more) We must learn what God has always known: that every act of love is at risk of being interpreted as an infringement on freedom and, thus, an act of annoyance.

Now somewhere along the way, our culture made awkwardness the ultimate mortal sin. We have invoked these great disciplines of ours, the schedules, the diets, the exercise routines, the penny-pinching, all in the name of avoiding discomfort. The man at the gym never breaths a word of humility. The family on the tight budget never questions the necessity of wireless technology. The woman haphazardly starving herself never stops to think if her husband should be looking at more than her thinner thighs. At the end of the day, all of these disciplines bring them further from, not closer to, the type of humility that Francis enjoyed or Don Bosco exuded when they spent all their time with animals and children. Saints were always faulted for the ‘awkwardness’ that such a lifestyle created. But the secret that all the Saints knew was that the greatest joys in life begin when we call into question our own limited assumptions and priorities. “There is nothing like pain and discomfort to plant the flag of heaven behind enemy walls.”(CSL, this time) Sheer happiness can never give us such a perspective, for sheer happiness is all too small a feeling. There must be an element of embarrassment or our humility is insincere. There most be that moment when it all seems wrong in order for us to know that it is truly right. The problem, as far as I can tell, with our silly Chicken Soup for the Soul discipline is not that it lacks effort, but that it lacks something of this authentic embarrassment. We look for disciplines that will bring us happy sex lives, better pleasures, stronger contentment, stable relationships, etc. We should look for the discipline that would risk all that in order to bring us back to ourselves and the Other. It is a discipline that constantly bets anything in order to gain everything. And that kind of bet is always embarrassing.

One final note before I leave you to assess your own asceticism of awkwardness; it is not enough to simply defy convention. It is not enough to be counter-cultural, eccentric, and thus enticing. Even the pagans have done the same. I hang out with many artists and eccentrics who, for all their oddness, are no closer to the Kingdom of Heaven. What I have discovered, what I so wish to see more of in the lives of my brothers and sisters, and what I am dying to find more often in my own life, is that radical humility in which I am utterly embarrassed, rolling-on-the-floor-of-my-mind-laughing-at-myself-embarrassed, and then Love comes rushing in and gathers me up. This asceticism of awkwardness should not only make Christians stand out: it should make them give up. Surrender. Make a gift of themselves. Man only discovers himself through a sincere gift of self. A sincere gift of self requires a great deal of confusion and blushing. We are told that our bodies are washed in the blood of the Lamb, and I have often wondered if we see something of that crimson when our cheeks turn red.

Gratitude=Happiness x Wonder

“I would maintain that thanks is the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”-GKC, 1917

There are truly refreshing moments in life when we are relieved of the pressure of standing alone with some thought by discovering that it has already been said or thought by another. When I read the above quote, I was so taken up by the joy of this phrase that I wanted to share it with all those present. I felt as if something special, almost sacramental, had occured. And indeed (as you will read), a communion had taken place. Unfortunately, the place I found myself reading this passage was a coffee shop, where such delicate and delicious thoughts lost in the shuffle. Starbucks does us no favors by printing all sorts of maxims on their cups: one becomes deceived that they are all of equal quality (isn’t it ironic that, regardless of quality, they all end up in the garbage can).

Anyway, for months now I had found myself trying to say that above quote, but being impaired by not having yet read it. In fact, I had almost taken the extremely treacherous step of trying to write the idea out myself, but was happily prevented from doing so by discovering that I was a century too late. So, instead of a sloppy, second rate version of the above truth, I was taken up with the less tedious task of writing a commentary on it.

And the commentary will be short (though commentary is never as brief as the primary source): Our dependence on God creates as thrill in us that can reach the point of anxiety. Speaking personally, my experience of it often involves a signifigant amount of anxiety. Recently, a close friend of mine rightfully corrected this anxiety by comparing our reception of God’s grace to the catching of a frisbee. She stated that, just like a frisbee, grace seems to waver delicately between heaven and earth. She insisted, however, that this should not be a source of fear. We should be confident that, if God tossed us the frisbee, He had ever intention of our catching it. And the intention of the Divine is above suspicion.

Now, she left off the metaphor here, but I will pick it up again by pointing out that I have often dropped a frisbee. She was very right to correct my fear, but the fear was justified. The great feeling of gratitude that comes from participating in Reality is that happiness comes at a risk. That is to say, love comes at a price. There can be no wonder unless the pass can be dropped. There must be some real chance that frisbee will slip through my fingers, otherwise my wonder at catching it will indeed slip through my fingers. But my friend was right: fear is not the right response. Wonder is the right response.

I do not plan here to tackle the topic of Divine Will and human freedom, only to comment that our freedom is indeed Divinely willed. God wants to give us grace (otherwise it could not be gratia, gift) and, in doing so, there must be the real risk that we might not acccept that gift (overwise, it would be said to be forced on us, and not given). What has to happen is a willing to unwill, an active choice to be passive and catch the pass. Some call this surrender. Some call this receptivity. Whatever it is called, it result in thanks, in gratitude, in eucharist. And Eurcharist is the source and summit of life.

When we come to God in this way (that is, in the Eucharist) what we find is that startling fact that He came to Himself in this way. He gave Himself on the cross. For our Salvation did indeed waver between heaven and earth, and when Christ passed on His Spirit, there had to be some real risk that the pass might be dropped. And now my commentary must end, for I have reached the limits of what mere words can express. There is a Divine Silence that surrounds this mystery of Calvary, where even the Word refused to speak. All I can say is that when we have some experience of this love, speaking louder in its silence than all the tongues of man, the very value of Reality seems to double up on itself. We exist most when be understand what it would be to cease to exist. Value pours in from every corner of consciousness. Our happiness is multiplied by wonder, even as drift dying in mid-heaven. The matter of catching the frisbee becomes secondary to the fact that there was a God so loving as to pass it to us in the first place. That we should even be there to catch it becomes the content of our gratitude.