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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Always Winter

“Always winter, but never Christmas!?” is the response of the Pevensie children when they are introduced by Mr. and Mrs. Beaver to the state of the world in Narnia.  C.S. Lewis comments in this, his famous allegory, what many of us at some time in our life generally intuit—there is something really quite wrong with the world.  The world though it is all we have known and experienced, seems darkly off.  There is something unsettling, as if vague memories, shadows of some other context are informing our consciousness that the world must, should, be rather different than it is. 
As this notion is rather uncomfortable and a little depressing, most of us do our best to ignore it.  We drown it in education, science, success, pleasure, or oblivion, but none-the-less this feeling compels humanity to answer, to consider.  We have applied our collective intellect to this very end.   Historically we have called our thoughts on the issue religion or philosophy.  But it is not truly in this realm of thought that we see the truth about our quandary.  If we look and observe our behavior…  If we watch and consider our actual attempts at resolving the disquiet in the soul, we have one basic response.   We look for power to address it –to make the “wrongness” go away.  In uncertainty we find fear and fear must be repelled. 
All our greatest thought has been wrought to that end.  Science pursues power and becomes technology, which in turn has become weaponry or pollution; sometimes both.  Religion and philosophy join hands darkly in the search for power.   They have to often become control, manipulation, and deception.  Even when we have power, to what shall we really apply it? Having a saw what do I cut?  Having a chisel what shall I form?  The logical problems with this progression are obvious.  We pursue a vacuum, and find it as hard to reach as a shadow.  We grasp and kill for power by which to correct that which we cannot find, much less define.  Ultimately we turn on one another.  The testimony of this absurdity is misery: as so obviously written on the page of human history in ink of blood. 
Yet the answer to all this chaos is simple.  Something of the like a little child could understand.  Feeling a little like Paul, my Beloveds, I proclaim to you as known what you have pursued unknown.  There is something, perhaps someone missing.  It has been so hard for you to figure out because it is a nothing! It is indeed a shadow because it is the absence of light.  You have had trouble breathing easy in the vacuum because you have no air! The problem with Life is indeed that it is a cold dark winter without a Christmas. 
Wait a second! Surely this is folly! How can the answer to human suffering be so simple! Firstly let me clarify.  We in recognizing that we have not…that we are missing something is not yet an answer but merely, perhaps, asking the right question.  But this is a vital step.  In the search for true knowledge one cannot reach the right answer unless one asks first the right question.  So what have I lost? Who have I lost? This answer I suppose could take many forms so for argument’s sake let us return to our metaphorical situation.  We have cold and dark and no beautiful Christmas.  We have lost warm fires, big meals, mulled wine, family gatherings, and mistletoe.  We have lost progression, growth, a moving of the seasons.  It seems that in this sense we have lost some of what makes relationship beautiful,  what is a vital connection with others.  I have lost some Joy.  I, in short, have lost some bit of life itself.  Without which I am moving ever so slowly, inexorably, toward death.  In frigid winter cold must, in the end, take the bones. 
It is here that we must leap, dear friends, in our discussion.  We have a need to look to what is known and revealed in the Holy Scriptures as illuminated in the Tradition of the Church.  Don’t be alarmed.  We do not leap to an Antarctic philosophy that is cold and dry.  Nor will we turn to empty religion, which chills the soul and enumerates passion as chief sin.  No I would direct you again to the story of the Divine Heart.  Within Himself, God, a perfect family, self defined by love and Faithfulness.  He warms himself at an eternal hearth ablaze with the fires of a specific passion. This passion is for you.  Born of the overflow of God’s love you were made to romp and play through all the seasons of life and every inch of the world.  Everyday, every moment when we paused to catch our breath, God was there; loving, supporting, answering our questions, blessing our ideas.  This is the reality of human existence.  You were made, contrary to your experience, for paradise and His presence. This is our natural home.  Is it any wonder that we feel like loneliness is trauma and that shame hurts.  Created for relationship in harmony, could your soul be satisfied with anything less.  No instead we fill our days with temporary fixes and short term solutions.  Were did things go wrong? 
To you who know the story of the fall of humanity, this is where we weep.  We were infected with a disease in which we suffer still.  It is frankly selfishness.  It is simply pride.  We make choices everyday to follow our individual wills at the expense of the whole world.  We prefer our own agenda even if it will lead to broken relationships, disease, or dishonor.  This is what we have chosen since the very beginning.  Tempted by an empty, wandering, and purposeless spirit both literally and figuratively, we have chosen ourselves as unto ourselves -- instead of love and relationship with Life himself.  This is the crux of what happened in the garden.  Far more than it was about obedience to a rule or eating “forbidden fruit” it was about relationship first and foremost.  It was about Us. 
We must, for the health of our souls then ask the question why.  Why was the fruit forbidden?  Why would God hold back “something that could make us wise?” The answer once again is quite simple: because he cares, because He loves!  God established good and evil, right and wrong because he knows what brings health and life to us and to the whole world He made for us.  In complement to this, he knows what will bring his children destruction, disease, alienation, and ultimately death.  These things He named evil.  Think for a moment.  God is not like most of the authority we have known.  He is actually good, actually always looking out for the best for us.  Please understand!  law and rule in the mind of God is never arbitrary.  It always has substance to protect and provide for those whom He loves!  When we chose the “knowledge of good and evil” we did not choose wisdom.  We chose the most foolish and stupid thing in the world.  For us in our hearts at that moment we chose to be self directed, to say to God I prefer to seek my own knowledge and way in the world rather than enjoy all of it in relationship to Him.  I chose to be my own authority, my own boss, my own god -- how silly, how strange, how contrary to any real wisdom or knowledge.  Oh how under qualified I am for this responsibility.  This vicious, selfish independence is the root of all of the pain that I cause and that is caused by others. 
It was in this loneliness, in the winter of the world that God would arrive Himself to teach us another way.  The early ministry of your God in Christ was to stand toe to toe with the devil and reply to him in the way  Adam and Eve did not.  What is called the temptation in the wilderness is the great war of the Lion of Judah for our restoration of relationship.  Our Lord Jesus said in that place no thank you.  I would rather be my Father’s son than be my own.  I would rather be humble and love than proclaim my own way!  I would rather freely inherit the universe than take the world.  He came to help us to see.  But more than that to redeem what humanity could be.  It is here that I would invite you today.  To humble yourself to say I have been selfish beautiful God.  I have done what I ought not trying to fulfill my own desire.  God I want goodness.  I want purity! I want instead of all that is mine, what is yours.  I want you Jesus! and all that you are—the life, the love, and the relationship with God and man that I need.  I pray for all of us to be moved in this way.  Lord help us to see past a world so infected with selfish pride that we might choose was is good, truly what brings life and health—to receive Christmas into this cold, dark, and accursed winter. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mother Church

It is in this season of repentance, especially, that our mind turns to issues of fasting and mortification as directed by the Church in her wisdom, applying for us the great inheritance of the fasts and feast of the Old Covenant.  We have in Her teaching the width and breadth of Natural law and Philosophy applied to our souls.  Her prescribed penance is medicine not for the making ill but for the curing.  Our Lord has made sure in His faithfulness to give us good things, meant for our Joy not our sorrow.  I am reminded three days into Lent, on my own Mother’s birthday, that one of the greatest Gifts we have been given for our life and sanctification is the Church.  The Church is second only to the gift of Himself that God has made, every way manifest in Christ.  She is our best Joy and Penance in this life.  We nurse at her Breast.  We find comfort in her arms.  We are disciplined in our excess.  We are opposed in our pride.  She is Mother.  She is Family. She is Body. She is Bride. She is Ark.  She is Salvation.  Because She is of Christ. 
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” In the Scriptures we are instructed by the Poetry of God.  He has pictured for us in this verse the tender nurturing of His great heart.   It was from this place that Man was birthed into the world.  He made the picture and metaphor complete when he took a rib from near man's heart to make woman.  Eve is the living metaphor, a natural extension of the Heart of God. 

Even though through this Eve humanity would be marred and motherhood equated with pain, God's will in manifesting him self cannot be thwarted.  The picture stands redeemed in Mary.  It is she who faithful and humble, receives from God the gift of fellowship with Christ.  As living metaphor she recieves Christ into her by faith; in this she is Proto-Christian and the example of Salvation by faith in Christ to all.  She is the example of redeemed femininity and the model of womanliness, for all humanity.  All faithful Mothers remind us of her as she points to God.  She is as the Early Fathers teach us “the new Eve” and the fulfillment of God’s manifestation of His nurturing Heart.   We united in Christ’s body partake with her in the redemption of ‘Jerusalem’ the City and Family of God.  Born anew in Christ’s Righteousness we are the Church:  Mother and Family to all who call on His name.  God promises us this new Mother and community in Isaiah 66:
“Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her,
   all you who love her;
rejoice greatly with her,
   all you who mourn over her.
 For you will nurse and be satisfied
   at her comforting breasts;
you will drink deeply
   and delight in her overflowing abundance.”
 For this is what the LORD says:
   “I will extend peace to her like a river,
   and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;
you will nurse and be carried on her arm
   and dandled on her knees.
As a mother comforts her child,
   so will I comfort you;
   and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”
The genius of God’s poetry does not stop there.  The Church is the Body of Christ.  We find by His wounds access into a new life, in His One Body.  “For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”[ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Eph:5:30)” Entering into Him by faith, we will be carried unto our salvation. We are baptized into the flood that purifies, and the Ark that saves. We drink from One Cup the blood that was shed and eat from One Tree.  The cross is the fulfillment of the tree of life-- the fruit, one Body that gives eternal life.  This tree is the wood of Elisha, that cast away was able to resurrect our hearts of iron from the depths (2Kings 6). 
How then should we relate to Her then? Surely as He requires, for this all comes and flows through Him, but this is not as though it is contrary to nature…We should acknowledge her and care for her as our own body.  She is all around you: your fathers and husbands, your wives and mothers, your children, your friends, and through repentance and grace likely even your enemies.  We must live with her and learn from her.   And let us trouble her only a little.  We should commit ourselves to her when she troubles us.  She is our penance and the means of our purification and on occasion our mortification --As when she rebukes us.   We must submit faithfully, trusting God our Father to right Her when She is wrong.  We should go to her for succor and sacrament.  We should work for Her life and purity.  We should die for Her and for Her “little ones” for we are the very same.   We are the little ones.  My best fast is to live for Him by living for Her -- First in my own family then the rest of the family of God.  I thank the women in that Family for reminding me of Her and communicating Her, and therefore Him, to me.  I love you dear Lissa and Happy birthday Mum!