Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Not my will...

~ From Chapter 9: "Imitate Mary's Trust in the Father's Will" ~

Here concludes my month for Caryll. All the excerpts have been from her Little Way, but I just was given (thanks, Mom!) another rocking book: Caryll Houselander: Essential Writings. More Caryll to come!

"Christ in his infancy asks no gift but self from those who love Him. But God does not ask love from His creatures greater than the love He gives to them. On the Cross, Christ Himself was stripped of everything but Himself. In the sacrifice of Himself, He gave Himself to God and to man.

"Just as the mother who is wise knows that if Christ waxes strong in her child, he will go out to meet suffering halfway (and will meet it, but his suffering will redeem and comfort and heal), so those who foster the infant Christ inwardly in the life of their soul know that the same applies to them.

"Christ, wherever He is, in whomever He is, must be about His Father's business."

~from Caryll Houselander's The Little Way of the Infant Jesus

Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Sunday

In the bleak mid-winter...

Is it really Advent already? What happened to November?

I am so grateful to begin the "quiet season" this year. May it be quiet for you as well... more on quiet thoughts later. Now, for some rest and recovery.

Go in peace. Behold, He comes.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The infant king.

~ from Chapter 4: Fix your gaze on Christ ~

I can't tell you how beautiful this chapter is. Her description here of the way an infant changes us articulates perfectly the radical change that motherhood (and fatherhood) bring: and all this from a woman who never married! Sometimes those outside can best see. The description is meant to show us how our openness to the gift of life and willingness to serve our children brings us a real experience of Christ, who came as the Infant King.

"The first giving of this [Christ] love to a newly born child is the reshaping of our whole life, in its large essentials and in its every detail, in our environment, our habits, ourselves. The infant demands everything and, trivial though everything may seem when set out and tabulated, the demand is all the more searching because it seizes upon our daily lives and every detail of which they are built up.

"The sound of our voice must be modulated -- the words that we use considered, our movements restrained, slowed down, and trained to be both decisive and gentle.

"Our rooms must be rearranged; everything that is superfluous and of no use to the infant must be thrown out; only what is simple and necessary to him must remain, and what remains must be placed in the best position, not for us, but for him...

"There must be a new timing of our lives, a more holy ordering of our time, which is no longer to be ruled by our impulses and caprice, but by the rhythm of the little child.

"We must learn to sleep lightly, aware of the moonlight and the stars, conscious even in our deepest sleep of a whimper from the infant and ready to respond to it. We must learn the saving habit of rising with, or a little before, dawn. The rhythm of our bodies must be brought into harmony with his. They must become part of the ordered procession of his day and night, his waking and feeding and sleeping. Our lives, because of his and life his, must include periods of silence and rest. We must return with him and through him to the lost rhythm of the stars and the seed."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Long Loveliness.

Betty Beguiles wants to know: Was it love at first sight?

How did you and your significant other first meet? Was it love at first sight or did your affection develop over time? And how did you know he (or she) was The One?

I first (knowingly) set eyes on Todd in the halls of high school. I thought he was cute. He was also the best friend of a guy everyone thought I should date. I really had no interest in Dave (the friend) and, besides, I was going to become a nun.

But Dave's really tall friend, Todd, was really cute.

Todd liked classical music, studying, and arguing about death and life and meaning. He was something else. So, while it was not love at first sight, I sure liked him. But I was going to be a nun, so it really didn't matter. We started hanging out and debating the hot buttons.

We argued a lot. You see, I was the school papal nazi (a rather unflattering term coined by some other guy in high school). And Todd, well, he was a evolutionist/atheist/scientist guy. Darwin was his man, and the pope was mine. It was the best fun I'd ever had.

By the time he graduated high school, I was smitten by his intellectual integrity and passion for truth. I knew he was the one, except for Jesus. But he was dating someone else. They split up, but then he almost immediately started seeing someone at his new college (Oberlin, far far away Oberlin). We kept in touch, nevertheless, exchanging handwritten letters and still arguing about God, life, sex, religion, the Church, history, and the meaning of love.

Hindsight is 20/20, but I really think we both "knew" from about the time he left for Oberlin. We just had work out a few things. He had to fall in love with Jesus Christ. I had to work out that nun thing.

But we did. Deo Gratias Ago. And now for the hard part...

It will make a great novel one day, because it is true.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"...an age of childhood."

~from Chapter 2: Rest in Christ~

"There is in fact a huge force, a tremendous power for love, being neglected, not being used, at the time when it is needed as never before, and when every sign seems to be pointing to it and challenging it as the only answer: the power of the infancy of Christ.

"The infant Christ is the whole Christ. Christ was not more God, more Christ, more man, on the Cross than He was in His Mother's womb. His first tear, His first smile, His first breath, His first pulsation in the womb of His Mother, could have redeemed the world.

"In fact, Christ chose the life of growth and work and suffering, and the death on the Cross which we know; but by His own choice all this was to depend on a human being giving herself to Him in His infancy, giving her own humanity to the actual making of an infant's humanity and giving Him her life in which to rest."

Friday, November 12, 2010

RIP-- Henryk Gorecki

I'm interrupting the month for Caryll, because Henryk Gorecki has died at the age of 76. A true artist of the postmodern world, he is best known for his Symphony No. 3, "The Sorrowful Songs," written in response to the Shoah in general and Auschwitz in particular. May choirs of angels welcome him with songs of joy.

Below is the third movement. Gorecki took the words etched by an 18-year-old girl on the wall of a Nazi holding cell. "Mother, do not weep for me..."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"In the sweat of your face..."

~from Chapter 1--Allow Christ to dwell in your soul~

"The man who grows wheat--who plows and sows and reaps, who sets his pace to the rhythm and time of cycles of light, to seasons of gestation and birth, death and resurrection, who measures by the shadows of the sun and calculates by the width of the skies--lives, even if he does not fully realize it, in harmony with the eternal law of love.

"By a beautiful paradox, he touches the intangible with his hands and sees the invisible with his eyes. He sees the wonder of life in the frailest living thing, how certain flowers and fruits, and certain crops and birds and insects, are in the keeping of some unseen power, before he learns that everything that has life is in the keeping of some infinite love, and that nothing, even when it dies, is forsaken by that love."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A month for Caryll.

I have been trying to sit down and write a review of Caryll Houselander's The Little Way of the Infant Jesus. It is simply beautiful. But October faded, and November is well underway, and I have still not been able to garner 30 minutes of idleness for her. So, I will simply start posting excerpts here for the rest of the month.

Usually, November is Dead Poets Month, and she is truly a poet. November 2010, then, will be simply Dead Poet Month. I will be silent--like the world waiting for snow--and she will speak for me.

Without further ado:

~from the Introduction~

"Some truths need to be told over and over again. Our Lord repeated certain truths about Himself and used certain images of Himself over and over again, like the rhyme in a song. Repetition not only instills an idea into our minds, but it also has the same power that rhythm has to make the idea part of us and dear to us, even when it is hard in itself -- and this gently and easily, just as a tune heard many times, sometimes quite unconsciously, becomes part of us and dear to us.

"But there is a difference between Christ's repetition and ours. He speaks creative words because He is God, and because, as a man, He is a poet whom not other poet has ever come near to: His words echo and re-echo through the human heart. We, on the other had, tend to become tedious in repetition, even when the thing that we are saying concerns God and is beautiful in itself.

"Yet everyone who writes about the Christ-life knows that unless certain things are repeated in every book he writes, much, or all of it, will be almost meaningless to many who read it."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Will the Real Christian Please Stand Up?

Back in early October, the Young Mom asked tough questions again. First and foremost: When do I stop being a "young" mom and become an "old" mom? Miriam says I'm not yet an Old Mom, "But you're not that young, either, you know." I know.

No, but seriously. Thus spake Young Mom (the condensed version) some weeks ago:

When can you know whether or not someone is a Christian? After what faults is our faith "negated"? Sexual abuse of a child? Adultery? Child beating? Does contrition or a sufficiently long "sober" period make them a Christian again? Does sin reveal who you really are deep down? Can you judge the "realness" of someone else's Christianity by the type of sin they struggle with or the amount of sins they they commit?

I may be beating the dead horse, but these questions have been around for a while and, I hazard, will still be beating that horse long after the Internet and blogging have gone out of style. So, as October beat us into a dead horse, I pondered them because these questions are worth pondering.

The first important point is, however, about answers.

If I'm going to ask "What makes a real Christian?" or "What sign do I look for in a real Christian?", then I'd better be ready to wonder. These questions are not abstract, but rather pertain to real, individual human beings. The minute I think I've determined the answer, "THAT makes a real Christian," I've also made myself a judge in some manner of real, honest-to-goodness human souls. God, however, is the only judge of souls, and His ways are not my ways. So, I need to be ready to wonder at and ponder these questions all my life, until I actually meet the author of the Answer.

After making myself a child (wonder), then I asked, "What are all these questions about "real" Christians really asking?"

I think there are two reasons we want to know (and these reasons are assuming the best about human beings).

1. Wondering about "real" Christians is really wondering about salvation. We all want to know, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" The young man asked Jesus, and we all ask Jesus, "What must I do?" There is no question, as Pope John Paul II said, that there is "a close connection between eternal life and obedience to God's commands... Jesus himself definitively confirms them and proposes them to us as the way and condition of salvation (Veritatis Splendor, no. 12)." But asking for a laundry list of sins or good works that will define me as a Christian is asking the wrong question. "Following Christ is not an outward imitation.... Being a follower of Christ means becoming conformed to him who became a servant even to giving himself on the Cross (no. 21)."

Darn! I think a laundry list would be easier.

So, if John Paul II is right (and he's basically just quoting St. Paul here), being a Christian means that Christ dwells in the heart of the believer. And, in my experience, the indwelling of Christ is an ongoing process. It's not like I woke up one day and was perfectly conformed to Christ (hot diggity, that would be swell!). Salvation comes, Paul tells us, through the name of Jesus, through whom we are adopted as God's sons and daughters. It sounds like a "real" Christian, then, is anyone who has entered upon this ongoing process, who has begun to be conformed to Christ on the Cross. That could include a lot of "sinners," as Jesus himself suggested on several occasions.

2. Wondering about "real" Christians is really searching for true companions. Aristotle's idea of true friendship, in which one person desires the true good of another simply for the sake of that other person, holds every human heart captive. We all want relationships with others who desire our true good, and, after the revelation of Christ, this means we all want to be with others who want us to be with God. We somehow know that only true Christians, "other Christs," can be true friends (again, in the ideal sense of the term). We want friends who won't betray us, who won't let us down, who won't embarrass us as Christians. We know that sin and failures among Christians hurt the whole body of the Church, while good and great Christians build up the whole body. There is no such thing as an individual's sins "that don't hurt anybody else"; neither is the any isolated virtuous man whose goodness does not somehow refresh and multiply the lovers of Christ around him.

And here's where we have to be real: The only true Christians are those who have fought the good fight and finished the race. We can all betray Christ right up until the moment of death and our particular judgement. We can all fail miserably to be Christian right up until we hit that far shore of the River. That's why it's so important to build relationships with the saints in heaven.

But what about here? Who are the "real" Christians here? Where can we find the true friend in Christ here?

Here are a few more thoughts. And then we will have to just sit and ponder.

"If you love you me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14) For the professed and catechized Christian, the true way to show we are Christians is by keeping the external commandments for the right, internal reasons. Jesus is quite clear: you have to have both a heart and actions conformed to him.

But what about when we (or other professed, catechized Christians) fail? All I can say is, read Romans 8: "What shall separate us from the love of Christ?" If we are followers of Christ, we know that there is no unforgivable sin, except the refusal of God's mercy. Period. As long as that Christian has opened his heart back up to the mercy of God, guess what? He's still as Christian as the day he was baptized. If we can't believe in unconditional forgiveness of a particular sin, then that indwelling of Christ is still imperfect in us as well. We, as well as the pederast or the adulterer, have to beg mercy. We, like the "obvious sinners," are still "on the way," "strangers and sojourners."

[I'm emphasizing "catechized" here for one important reason. If this is really a question about "Who may be saved?", then we can't limit the answer to just "good Christians." There may be that "anonymous Christian" lurking out there, along with the anonymous Catholic, anonymous theist, etc... But that's another whole post, as they say.]

In the end, the whole "Who is a Christian?" question may be the wrong question. A better question may be Christ's question to Peter, "Do you love me?" The answer is always, "I do, Lord, but not enough. Help me love you more."

Monday, November 1, 2010

All Saints Day.

"Behold, I make all things new..." Revelation 21:5