Oh my goodness! Sometimes Chesterton is far too correct. I read this essay of his the other night to lull myself out of the despondency of quarter-life mediocrity. It hit the spot. May he hit you to!
Oh my goodness! Sometimes Chesterton is far too correct. I read this essay of his the other night to lull myself out of the despondency of quarter-life mediocrity. It hit the spot. May he hit you to!
Union with Christ’s death/sleep is essential to union with His life. For what is the purpose of the spiritual life other than to love, to be united with Jesus? This union IS our vocation. discerning this union is discerning our vocation. being formed into this union is being formed into this vocation. If union with Christ is the motive and fruit of all our actions, there can be no question of the effectiveness of our prayer life, of our spiritual growth, and, yes, of the sincerity of our religious devotion. Of course, no one gets it perfect, but, at the same time, we all know that each prayer, each sacrifice and each breath brings us closer to such perfection when we move in Christ’s grace. Keep Christ always before your mind and heart, and you cannot fail.
Yet even this simple mantra lacks something. In fact, it lacks something essential for lovers and Christians alike: knowledge of presence. Yes, we might admit, keeping the idea of God before me is a good practice, but where’s the fun, fruit and point in it if I don’t experience Him in the giving of myself to Him? It is one thing for the lover to be there, sitting quietly looking at me. It’s another thing entirely to know what that gaze communicates, to experience in it all its meaning and content. And I need that meaning and content just to carry on. It is here that we come to a particularly sticky problem. Prayer can never promise us complete satisfaction. The loving gaze we look for will not always be returned. If there is one thing that all of the various spiritual masters do agree on, it’s that we must come to prayer expecting nothing, at least nothing in particular. If our spiritual life is to have any real focus, if it is to do anything different to change us, transform us and turn us into the types of people Christ wants us to be, we must come to it expecting only that God wants us to be there and not that we ourselves will always want to be there. This advice is nothing new. It can be found in the heart of every spiritual work that you read (and not just every Christian spiritual work). However it is here at its most dismal that the Christian spiritual message (indeed the whole Christian spiritual life) shifts a great truth into focus. In fact it is the greatest truth that the Christian religion has to offer us in this life and it is the only thing that truly makes the Christian religion unique.
Many religions tell us that we must find inner peace or come to an inner harmony or learn to forgive ourselves for the sake of others, but also, all preach an Omnipotent God (or Being or Force) who can rule over us and use us in this particular state of passivity to do his will. They focus on a spiritual discipline in prayer that runs far too close to the utilitarian ideals we have already condemned. In contrast, it is only the Christian religion that offers the bruising and startling fact of her own creed which states that the baptized Christians vocation is based on an imitate encounter with not only an omnipotent God but also a weak and powerless human being.
We are told that in our baptism we died with Christ; we are told that in our baptism we also rise with him; and we’re told that in our prayer we gained, a communion a constant communion with this dying and rising. Yet, as with any good love story, the best thing is left unsaid. It is taken for granted when you’re told that we must imitate Christ who is already in possession of us through this dying and rising. But by faith in him we are more than just imitating his actions; we’re also moving out of his very Love. This type of love is so unlike anything found in any other place, offered by any other system, described by any other faith. For the Christian is called to a radical vocation and baptism, a vocation that I will attempt to describe in a few short words.
It is no new thing for religion to claim that man gropes for God in the dark, and some religions claim the man is even been able to find him. However, it is the Christian religion that claims that on that uncanny Passover evening in the garden of Gethsemane we can see a God groping for Man in the dark. Everything from the betrayal of Judas to the denial of Peter to the trial before Caiaphas, to the hours spent alone in the cell in to the minutes of torture at the pillar in the courtyard show us a God that was groping for us just as much, nay even more, than we we are willing to look for him. In this mystery of the passion of Christ, which through the sacrament of baptism forms the foundation of the Christian spiritual life and vocation, the Christian sees mirrored in his own life the greatest love story ever told. The greatness of this love story does not arise simply from a passionate, painful and wonderful love. It is great because it describes the greatest of lovers. The actors in this drama are not just man and woman; they’re not just God and man, but they’re God-Man, us and God. There is something in the very syntax of the previous sentence that reveals a great truth. In this great story of the passion and in the great emotion of baptism man finds himself sandwiched between God and God. The Confines of his vocation are found in the very act of being pulled into the role of the Godhead, of being drawn into the very life of the Trinity. When the Son cries out to the Father in obedience, man himself finds himself crying out; and by some strange miracle of death and water, he hears his own voice echo between the walls of the inner tabernacle of God’s love, the Son’s human voice resounding, piercing through man and reaching the Father. So powerful and incomprehensible is this calling, the calling of the Son to the Father, that man must in a certain sense, falls back asleep in order to be re-created. Our Faith was born in the almost faithlessness of God. Our love was born when it seemed all love, even God’s love, had failed.
Surely I have never yet made, and never expect to make any money. Neither do I expect to write ever for the multitude. I write for beloved friends who can see colour in words, can smell the perfume of syllables in blossom, can be shocked with the fine elfish electricity of words. And in the eternal order of things, words will eventually have their rights recognized by the people. – Lafcadio Hearn
I found out at the end of the day when no mail came that yesterday was Columbus Day. The government and some banks take the day off to ‘celebrate’ the founding of the new world by a Spanish funded Italian sailor.
I mean this in an all sincerity. Government holidays aren’t even holidays. They retain no sort of value of festival (no celebration) and maintain a false sense of leisure (i.e. not working). So I turn to a man more wise than myself for consolation.
True joy, genuine festival, means the casting out of wickedness. – St. Athanasius
|Courtesy of Library of Congress|
For, when it implicates itself more than is needful in things that are without, it is as though it were so occupied during a journey as to forget where it was going; so that, being estranged from the business of self-examination, it does not even consider the losses it is suffering, or know how great they are. – St. Gregory the Great
What a pity it is to be born a romantic. Try as you might, you can never escape the borders of fairyland. That is to say, you can never leave this world nor can you plunge across into Rivendell. You hang in the frontier country, always seeing your patria from the neighborhood over, but never crossing the street, and, in New Orleans, it is so easy to be a romantic, so easy to indulge in the in-betweeness of the wayfarer. On Sunday, when I found out that I would be evacuating once more, I made a point of wandering the streets of our great city, aimlessly making my way to Audubon Park, for that is the secret way of life for the natives of our town: to be passionately devoted to being nonchalant. When it comes to letting the good times roll, we roll up our selves and work at it (it is perhaps the only thing we really work at). We order life around parades, closing our schools and allocating their buses to the project. We set our schedules according to the festivals. Overtime is not something we do at our jobs and is only heard when discussing the (football) Saints. The (Church’s) Saints have, historically speaking, come to our town to sing and party, not just pray and repent. And so, when I set out from my door going about the important business of getting lost, the only desire I had in my heart was that I should end up at a park and climb a tree.
Thus, I cannot say how I ended up in Audubon park, nor why I continued to wander there for many hours more, but I can say that it was utterly intentional when I finally mounted a half-naked magnolia missing limbs from a previous storm. With her remaining limbs, the tree wrapped me up and so that I might fall, not to the ground, but further in love with my home city. And, much as it is when falling in love with a woman, I found that she looked both more simple and more beautiful than she typically does. The air was dry and cool. There was a slight breeze. The Spanish moss tickled me delicately, draped from the trees’ limbs. People talk about seductive women on Bourbon St., but I have never made it that far. I am always taken in by Dame Oak and Lady Willow long before I can make it to the French Quarter.
From within the arms of Miss Magnolia, I looked around at the elegant houses and even more elegant streets that, like my magnolia, still bore marks from Katrina. I reflected that, on the anniversary, we would once again be rebuilding. As I climbed down and walked home, I saw the water lines on the houses left from the last storm. Memories of that flood triggered a strange feeling to flood my consciousness. It was that pale, sickly feeling of helplessness that I first felt seven years ago on that same day. “Will I see this all again? How much will have changed when I walk this street next time?”
As I stated before, New Orleanians never plan their route. As such, we never know just when we’ll be back on even the closest streets to our houses. Thinking that our city might change due to forces beyond our control was perhaps the most drab and sickening thought that lingered after Katrina. And oh, Change! How we hate that word! We like things done the same way again and again. Change imposes planning, and we perfer to expend that energy enjoying ourselves. We don’t like the planning process. We perfer simple action. The party is in the performance. The devil is in the details. That is why we hate change.
This is one aspect of my citizenship that is always in conflict with my creed, where my affection for NOLA finds tension with my loyalty to Kingdom. For Christians are always concerned, even to the verge of paranoia, with the concept of conversion, with the concept of change. So I asked my God whether or not I would have to change again. And He laughed at my silliness. Change again? As if the change Katrina wrought could be repeated!? He made me remember my CS Lewis; “Things never happen the same way twice” said Aslan. Katrina was purification, and not all tears are evil. Isaac is laughter, and not all laughter is flippant. Sometimes laughter strikes with a pain more intense than purgatory, for laughter conceals in its heart the very essence of humility. Tears can be selfish, but laughter is never permitted to be. Because it depends on humility for life, arrogant laughter does not simply offend good manners: it violate the principle of non-contradiction.
Romantics know well the need for laughter, their need for Isaac. As I said before, we live on the border land. Its not that we are citizens without a country, but a people torn between two countries, delicately balancing the pleasures and pains of each. For the pain of being outside of heaven is more manifold than the pleasures of this world. Each of us bears this pain in a different way. Some call it Holocaust. Some call it War. Some call it Disease. Some call it ‘the Storm,’ but each of these pains produce in us a secret link between the world and the fairyland, between earth and heaven, that makes us a mediator like our Beloved Mediator. “Things never happen the same way twice.” Every pain is as unique as the one who bears it, nay, it is more unique. Because it reveals not just the person at their most intimate, but the One more infinite in Good and Variety than all others, our humble laughter does not obscure, but rather enhances this manifold Goodness. Think how agonizingly repetitive merely mirthful moments are. Weddings, birthdays, graduations are redundant with an almost anarchistic similarity. God has to flood these events with His Goodness or we sinners would all grow bored with them. The real miracle, though, is that pain can produce laughter, and that laughter comes in the greatest variety, revealing the full spectrum of human goodness and metaphysical wonder. We leave home entirely uncertain of what trials we will endure, but confident that we will come to a party at the end. We are so confident, that we wonder as we wander and laugh as we set out in the serious business of losing ourselves. The greatest joke in the universe, the greatest act of irony, is that to save our life we must lose it. It was so worthy of Isaac, of laughter, that God Himself was more than willing to become the punchline, taking Isaac (laughter’s) place on Mt. Moriah when He stayed the hand of Abraham. So do not fear the storm. Do not weep over what is lost. What is lost was good, but what comes later, like at the end of a joke, is a Punchline worthy of both heaven and earth.
For everything that is easily grasped is easily despised, but what is beyond us increases our admiration in proportion to our difficulty in apprehending it; and everything that succeeds our reach whets our desire. – St. Gregory Nazienzen
Pope Benedict XVI
caritas in veritate 40
Today’s international economic scene, marked by grave deviations and failures, requires a profoundly new way of understanding business enterprise. Old models are disappearing, but promising new ones are taking shape on the horizon. Without doubt, one of the greatest risks for businesses is that they are almost exclusively answerable to their investors, thereby limiting their social value. Owing to their growth in scale and the need for more and more capital, it is becoming increasingly rare for business enterprises to be in the hands of a stable director who feels responsible in the long term, not just the short term, for the life and the results of his company, and it is becoming increasingly rare for businesses to depend on a single territory. Moreover, the so-called outsourcing of production can weaken the company’s sense of responsibility towards the stakeholders — namely the workers, the suppliers, the consumers, the natural environment and broader society — in favour of the shareholders, who are not tied to a specific geographical area and who therefore enjoy extraordinary mobility. Today’s international capital market offers great freedom of action. Yet there is also increasing awareness of the need for greater social responsibility on the part of business. Even if the ethical considerations that currently inform debate on the social responsibility of the corporate world are not all acceptable from the perspective of the Church’s social doctrine, there is nevertheless a growing conviction that business management cannot concern itself only with the interests of the proprietors, but must also assume responsibility for all the other stakeholders who contribute to the life of the business: the workers, the clients, the suppliers of various elements of production, the community of reference. In recent years a new cosmopolitan class of managers has emerged, who are often answerable only to the shareholders generally consisting of anonymous funds which de facto determine their remuneration. By contrast, though, many far-sighted managers today are becoming increasingly aware of the profound links between their enterprise and the territory or territories in which it operates. Paul VI invited people to give serious attention to the damage that can be caused to one’s home country by the transfer abroad of capital purely for personal advantage. John Paul II taught thatinvestment always has moral, as well as economic significance. All this — it should be stressed — is still valid today, despite the fact that the capital market has been significantly liberalized, and modern technological thinking can suggest that investment is merely a technical act, not a human and ethical one. There is no reason to deny that a certain amount of capital can do good, if invested abroad rather than at home. Yet the requirements of justice must be safeguarded, with due consideration for the way in which the capital was generated and the harm to individuals that will result if it is not used where it was produced. What should be avoided is a speculative use of financial resources that yields to the temptation of seeking only short-term profit, without regard for the long-term sustainability of the enterprise, its benefit to the real economy and attention to the advancement, in suitable and appropriate ways, of further economic initiatives in countries in need of development. It is true that the export of investments and skills can benefit the populations of the receiving country. Labour and technical knowledge are a universal good. Yet it is not right to export these things merely for the sake of obtaining advantageous conditions, or worse, for purposes of exploitation, without making a real contribution to local society by helping to bring about a robust productive and social system, an essential factor for stable development.
A few weeks ago, an event called Adore took place at Notre Dame Seminary in
And into the middle of this strange and brave new temple, the Archbishop brought in the Blessed Sacrament for adoration. The seminarians who coordinated this section of the evening had chosen to take a pre-Vatican II approach by dressing his Excellency in gold vestments and flanking the monstrance with two censures. As he walked up the aisle, the congregation sang ancient hymns put to modern music. Then, after much awkward fumbling, the Lord of the Universe was precariously placed on what appeared to be a tall wooden stool. Here was Jesus, true God and true man, surrounded by paper lanterns, a dangerous amount of candles, a rock band in blue jeans, a projection screen the size of an Cadillac, a gilded epicopus chanting prayers and diakoniae swinging incense to and fro, wafting sweet-smelling smoke through out the room as God stood on a womblely wooden stand. We Catholics claim that the small host in the center of it all is God. And this is the welcome prepared! What absolute nonsense, right? Right!?
I do not know. How scandalous is this coming in comparison to the welcome He received at that first Christmas? At least there was room in the inn this time, even if the inn looked more like a Chinese restaurant than a Church. My purpose here is not to reflect on aesthetics or ecclesiology. I care not a hoot whether you’re against the progressives or the traditionalists, whether you believe in evangelical youth ministry or in quiet personal promulgation of the faith. What I would like you to do is just think for a moment: if what the Church teaches about transubstantiation it true, then God was there. In His omniscience, He chose to be there. What was He doing? Were I Him (oh dear Lord, how close I come to blasphemy!), I would have been laughing my most Holy Face off. But that’s not what He did. Just as He cried like a babe in the manger, I believe there was more compassion to His coming into that room than irony or indignation. Which brings me to the point of all this: what kind of God are we dealing with? What kind of King so enters the womb and allows Himself to be so welcomed into the room? You see, I can no longer realistically hope to find God. Life has taught me that I can’t journey to heaven. So my only hope is that heaven would travel to me. And if He did come down to love us, it would have to be a two way street. He would half to meet us half way. And to save us poor, that means entering a stable, halfway house of sorts, once He was locked out of the ‘free house’ (or