Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Band Perry and the Lady of Shalott

One of my latest song obsessions is called, "If I Die Young," by The Band Perry.  Admittedly, the song is fairly depressing, as it talks about death at a young age.  At the same time, though, the lyrics are fascinatingly beautiful: "If I die young, bury me in satin / lay me down on a bed of roses / sink me in the river at dawn / send me away with the words of a love song." Click here for a Youtube video of the song. Who wouldn't want that kind of a send-off?

I decided to investigate the song, as I was wondering why a hit song would be written about such a topic.  I discovered, in my investigation, that the song was based on a Tennyson poem, called "The Lady of Shalott."  There is a copy of the poem here, for those of you who are interested.  The poem is about a woman held up in a tower in Shalott, forever weaving a tapestry based on the image she sees from her mirror, pointed out the window at the countryside below.  She cannot turn around to look directly at her beautiful town of Shalott, or else she will be cursed.  So, she remains, staring into the mirror day after day, weaving her tapestry.

That is, until Lancelot.

One day, Sir Lancelot (of Arthurian legend) comes riding through the countryside on horseback, and the Lady of Shalott is forced to turn around to gaze at him.  As the curse comes upon her, she decides to leave her tower, and lowers herself out the window.  She finds a boat, gets into it, and starts floating down the river toward Sir Lancelot.  She dies as the boat carries her downstream, and when Sir Lancelot and his Knights find her peacefully lying in the boat, Sir Lancelot says, "She has a lovely face; God in his mercy lend her grace, The Lady of Shalott."  Wow - some poem!

Sir Lancelot's dashing appearance onto the scene forced the Lady of Shalott to turn around from her tapestry and mirror, and look directly out at the countryside.  Don't you wish that such beauty would appear in your life?  A gallantly beautiful horse, a handsome hero.  Surely death was a small price to pay for such a truly beautiful moment, after a lifetime of shadows!

My favorite line of the poem comes after the Lady of Shalott saw two lovers in the field below.  She says, "I am half sick of shadows" as she muses on them below, living their lives, while she seems forever trapped in the prison cell of her tower, for fear of the curse.  It seems to reflect a lot of the fear in our own lives.  We get so caught up in weaving our own lives, afraid of being cursed with hurt and failure, afraid of dying to our own desires.  We refuse to turn around and actually stare life in the face, to see it on God's terms, as He meant for us to see it.  We refuse to take that leap of faith because we know that life means pain, and fully living life means fully dealing with the consequences and emotions and daily battles.  Many of us find it much easier to sit weaving away our tapestry in a tall tower, removed from it all.  

So, we often find ourselves at the loom of life, weaving away at a tapestry, keeping us distracted from reality.  We weave the life that we see in the mirror, letting other people tell us what the countryside of our lives should look like.  But what worth does life have if we cannot savor its beauty, stare it in the face?  My grandfather had a saying in Italian: better a day as a lion than one hundred days as a lamb.  In essence, better the life fully lived than one not lived at all.

So, when I hear the lyrics of the song, "Gather up your tears / keep them in your pocket. / Save them for a time when you're really gonna need them," I think of all the lives that have lived without ever having seen the kind of beauty I have known.  It's then that I realize that the tears aren't for death or loss, but for people who never knew love, or beauty.  The tears are for the people who never turned around to look directly out the window, who were never so stunned by the beauty of God that they were at a loss for words.  The people who remain in that state, captivated by this beauty, don't feel the fear of being cursed.  They understand the freedom of living life to the fullest, and the futility of living in a world of mirrors.  If the price we pay for beauty is death, then we are well-served to take the risk and pay the price.  Otherwise, we die without ever having truly lived.

In the Love of Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

The Romance of Christ

I have been thinking a lot about the intersection between faith and relationship lately.  The desires of our hearts seem so far removed from our realities sometimes - there is always a piece of the puzzle missing, and we struggle to reconcile the hope of Heaven with the difficulties of earth.  Women struggle so much with the search for love on earth - finding that "special someone" to complete us, defend us, preserve us.  We want to be loved, and to love fully in return.

And then, there is Jesus.

If there was ever a man to fall head-over-heels in love with, it's Christ, first and foremost.  It is so SAFE and BEAUTIFUL to give all of ourselves to Him!  He is the ultimate Lover, gracious, kind, giving, attentive, courteous, strong, forever seeking, forever loving.  Why does it surprise women that we are not satisfied by anything less than a man who imitates Him?  Everything in our soul cries out for the love of Christ, for the love of the God and Man who laid His life down to rescue us.  Our hearts pine and yearn and thirst for this kind of love - self-sacrificial, whole, complete and beautiful.  The Passion and Death of Our Lord, who died for us, serves as a fitting testament to the depth of this love.  How could we stand for anything less, when we have already tasted the sweetest of the fruits of love?

So many women feel the loneliness, shame, and heartbreak that comes from wounds and attachments they have suffered in relationships.  Women fight to discover that love they have searched for so ardently, the one that they pray for with their whole beings.  Yet, our battle is counterproductive: seeking rather than allowing ourselves to be sought, trying to discover love in men rather than men in love, making plans rather than letting God take care of it.  What a silly way to go about letting God direct our lives, and what a silly way to let Him bring to us the man He has kept for us all this time!

To take a valuable lesson from the Song of Songs, "I adjure you, do not arouse, do not stir up love before its own time."  The only love that can ever fully satisfy our hearts is that of Christ, who teaches us how to be TRUE women of God.  As women, we crave respect, fidelity, attention - someone to confirm our hope that we are precious, beautiful, worth seeking.  Rather than seeking that love among men, it is our job to discover the seeking love of Christ.  He pursues us day and night, moment by moment, hoping He will win our hearts and our undying love.  He has been burning with this love for us, waiting for us to answer His Call all along - the passion of a lifetime is the romance of Christ!

The best romantic movies, to me, are the ones where the female half of a pair of long-time friends suddenly discovers that the male friend has always had feelings for her.  The woman is often surprised (although the audience often is not...) that this man could care about her like that.  And she often ends up making a decision to go for another man, which she later rescinds in favor of this lovestruck best friend.  She realizes in the end that true love is something we are given, often something that is right under our nose.  It is not something that we can make ourselves.  We can't treat our love life like a cookie recipe for true love - take one guy, make sure he fits certain standards, add in two parts romance, one part emotional attachment, one part attraction, and a touch of idealism...  It simply doesn't work.  Real love, the kind that lasts a lifetime, is something we are offered, something we are given freely and fully.  Real love is a man conforming to the Will and grace offered by God.  Real love is something that requires no convincing, no solicitation - just a patient, womanly heart that is willing to wait in silence.

I find Christ completely analogous to that lovestruck best friend.  Christ has been my best friend for so long, and knows everything about me.  He was there when we were kids, growing up together.  He knows my every thought, what makes me laugh and what makes me cry.  He knows all my secrets, my passions, my longings, the wounds from my past.  He has loved me the whole time He has known me, in the hope that one day I might feel the same way for Him, always thinking of how He will win me over, how He can do what is best for me.  He has been pursuing me my entire life, sending roses, birthday presents, and "I love you's" in the form of beautiful silences filled with peacefulness, joy and happiness that carries over to others, grace-filled friends, an amazing family, moments of sadness, moments of wonder, moments of confusion and pain, and moments of clarity.  All of it is a calling to share our hearts with Christ, because His love for us never yields, and always seeks our love in return.

With a love like that, how can we feel anything but blessed, even in the darkest of times?  And, when that "right one" comes along, shouldn't we expect nothing less than the best?  After all, He has loved us with an everlasting love, and He is the one who will bring us that special someone to love us completely with His own love.

In the Love of Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

There's a (Good) Reason for Everything...

What a radical Gospel it was that Christ preached!  He told us of His Father, in Heaven, who loved us all even through sin!  He showed to us His Mother, who was to become Our Mother, and who was to have each of us as Her child!  He demonstrated for us the ULTIMATE act of love for us, the most perfect expression of complete self-sacrifice that this world has ever seen!  And yet, too often we lack the trust to understand: He only desires everything GOOD for us!

We struggle with so many different things!  We worry about how we will pay the bills, or get the job, or find the guy, or seize the moment, or even please the Lord!  We get depressed and hopeless about our tendencies to sin, take them as horrible proclivities toward evil that cannot be altered without great difficulty, and become frustrated with our own inability to change.  Sound familiar?  It sounds all too familiar to me!  And yet, He ONLY DESIRES EVERYTHING GOOD FOR US!

What does this mean?  This means that every inclination, every emotion, every EVERYTHING He gives us is meant to draw us closer to Him.  The catch?  When we direct all those gifts towards something OTHER than Christ, other than our God made Flesh.  Then, the gifts become twisted in unrecognizable ways, disturbingly lacking in peace and the joy that Christ has brought us through His Resurrection.

Think about it: take any proclivity toward sin you can think of.  Covetousness.  One is so envious of another's land, or their wealth, or their wife!  Yet, directed toward God, that WANT of something BEAUTIFUL is fulfilled!  God offers us all we desire, AND MORE.  We simply need to orient that GIFT that He has given us of IMMENSE desire for something beautiful, precious, and priceless towards HIM!

Or, take addiction.  Addictive tendencies, directed toward God, give us abounding recourse to Him, all the time!  Take judgment of others.  A thirst for righteousness and justice, directed at self-reflection as Christ calls us to do ("remove the log in your own eye before trying to remove the splinter in your brother's eye!"), is beautiful and humbling in ways that cannot be achieved otherwise for certain personalities.  Take feelings of sadness, or emptiness, or loneliness, or doubt: directed toward God, we find everything we could ever need, and we discover that He was the answer all along to our supposed "problem"; and that that "problem" actually ended up bringing us closer to Him.

We've all heard the story: "In the end, it was a GOOD thing that this tragedy happened: I ended up trusting in God, or learning from Him, or growing in Faith."  Everyone has a story like that, either from themselves, a friend, a family member, or even an acquaintance or friend of a friend.  What would the world be like if we recognized the CHRIST in all our supposed "difficulties"?  Christ died on the Cross so that we could be free of sin - not so that we could nail ourselves with our own self-condemnation, but so that we could recognize that He has taken the world's sins onto His back, has had them driven into His Hands and His Feet, and has saved us from all evil.

God can never bring us anything but Blessings of Goodness, even when those Blessings may appear to be difficult.  Just change the angle at which you are viewing the Gift: you may find it to be stunningly beautiful. :)

May we pray that, for today, we thank Him for everything He gives to us.  May we recognize God's beauty in everything we see, and know the difference between things that are of God and of the evil one.  Grant us a discerning mind, Lord, to be always present in You, and recognize Your Presence in us.  May we, like Our Blessed Virgin Mother, meditate on Your Goodness day and night, and never be parted from Your Love.  May our hearts rejoice in the knowledge of Your Goodness, and thank You and praise You all the days of our lives!  May we always praise You, for You "make all things new" in You!

In the Love of Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Body of Christ

Us human beings are tricky creatures to figure out. We're made in God's Adorable Image, yet we are sinful, and have a part of us comprised of original sin. We are loving, kind, and generous, but we can also be hateful, spiteful, and stingy. We have the capacity to do infinite good - or infinite evil. Where do we lie on the scales of justice? How do we figure out our tricky, tricky nature?

Our nature seeks complete and total union with God. It seeks to unite itself more closely to the Father in Heaven we all know in the depths of our hearts and souls. Yet, there is always a piece of us that is linked to earth, that draws us away from God: original sin. What's the deal here?

Oftentimes, when people sin, a common excuse can be "the devil made me do it," or "X person made me do it." But what about us, hm? When is it that we assign responsibility for our actions to ourselves, that we give ourselves part of the blame for the wrongdoing we face in our own sinfulness?

We ARE the hands and feet of Christ on earth! Every time we receive the Eucharist, we receive Christ into ourselves, so that it is no longer US who is living, but HIM in us. We choose our own actions - either to glorify or to hinder Christ's working in and through us. But, either way, Christ WILL work through us - He uses even our SINS for own own good! Everything that we give to Him, He accepts, because He is Infinite Love!

So, what happens when we give Christ free reign of our soul? Beautiful things. :) Even though we are sinful, even though we have this dark, dark part of our souls capable of so much worse, choosing to do good instead of evil brings us that much closer to God. God is all-powerful - yet He is infinite love! God is all-mighty - yet He is infinite gentleness! God is completely strong and infinite - yet He is completely small and weak in Christ! What a mystery of a God! And how better to live in the Image of God Himself than as beings capable of destroying, yet using that power to create instead! Beings that are capable of hating, loving instead! Beings that are capable of hurting, healing instead! What a beautiful, marvelous gift we have been given in being given the power to choose, and the freedom to make the correct decision, as God always does, because God is pure love!

Yes, we do have bad in us - but God is overwhelmingly good! We cannot forget in the battle to master ourselves that GOD HAS ALREADY WON AGAINST SIN AND DEATH! The battle has ended! We only need look to the Cross for our redemption in everything, for the hope in our despair! God will guide us if only we hope and trust in Him, if we really believe that His Love endures and pervades throughout our entire lives.

Let us ask for the love that 1 Corinthians 13 speaks of - not just for others, but also in gratitude for the gift of our selves in Christ!!!!

In the Love of Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Holy Daring

It's officially springtime, and so much is happening! Students are preparing to graduate from schools everywhere at all different levels (high school, college, graduate school!), First Holy Communions are taking place, Confirmation ceremonies are happening! It's a time of new beginnings, turning a new page in our lives, and starting new (and often scary!) pursuits!

Many times, our initial reaction is one of fear. There is so much ahead of us that challenges us in any given situation - and we are so imperfect! Our desires are so great! How are we to ever to accomplish all that has been placed in our hearts? But, these fears are met with the power of Christ's Truth: if God has placed a desire in our hearts, He has placed it there for a reason, and will grant to us all that He has promised us.

Now, don't get me wrong: this requires great faith to trust in God enough to know that He's going to keep His Word. But WOW - when He decides to grant us, bit by bit, those desires of our hearts - WOW! He does NOT disappoint!

This is where holy daring comes in. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that we're highly imperfect. More and more every day, we become aware of ways in which we are less and less deserving of God's love. It is humbling and humiliating (humiliating often being a great source of humility!) to watch our opinions of ourselves crumble into dust. But, isn't that what we are actually made of? Isn't that the real truth of our condition? And isn't God's Love the only thing that TRULY gives us value? Blessed is the man who recognizes that it is not by his OWN worth that he earns the Love of God (who can earn God's love?!), but by the worth and love of GOD HIMSELF, showed to man by Jesus Christ! We have to trust that THIS is our portion, that THIS is our value, so our mistakes are null and void. God is our value if only we accept Him. God's love is all that He says it is, and that's that. We simply have to DARE to trust Him, to stick our necks out and courageously face ourselves (our own numerous imperfections!) and our world with infinite FAITH in His ability to love and care for us!

We can't do anything alone. We were not made for ourselves, but rather for God. We will always be missing something if we don't fill our lives with Christ. And yet, in serving Him, in seeking Him and giving up all that we knew in the courageous and daring pursuit of the deepest desires of our hearts, how can we fail with that kind of faith in Him? Even as He moves in us, we move in Him, and our lives are forever transformed by our encounter with Christ. There is no fear in Him, only love. THAT is the deepest desire of our hearts, after all - love.

So, as all of us start these new pursuits in our lives, let us remain confident in Christ, that although we may not know what we are doing, we may be unsure of ourselves and anxious of the future, that we may balance those feelings that are NOT of God with GOD HIMSELF, confident in trust in Him and hoping for EVERYTHING from Him who has promised us everything. We cannot fail in Christ.

I was recently thinking about the new job I will be starting this summer as a legal assistant. The work involves looking up information for memos and writing down requirements for visa applications, all of which I have never done before. It's scary to go into unexplored territory! Yet, armed with Christ, given the sword of His Word, we can conquer anything that we may come up against! It is this hope, rather than confidence in our own abilities to overcome our shortcomings, that drives us to always seek God, to praise Him and to know Him, and to FIND Him!

I recently read and fell in love with Ephesians 6:10-20:

"Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all (the) flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones and also for me, that speech may be given me to open my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains, so that I may have the courage to speak as I must."

We cannot truthfully go into battle unprotected and expect to make it through unwounded. Our lives are a battle against ourselves, and you cannot use self-defense against yourself. We must put on the armor of Our Lord's righteousness and truth, holding faith as a shield, and wielding the Word of God as our sword. Any other attempt at protecting ourselves in battle is like using a Halloween soldier costume as armor in battle - plastic does not a good defense make! Why would we settle for anything less than the best when our lives are on the line?

May today we live our lives not in fear of sin, but rather in the hope and confidence that comes from faith in God. May our paths be made straight, our hearts be made clean, and our voices praise Him always! May our day be filled with joy as we struggle, peace as we are attacked, and infinite faith, hope, and love in God as we discover our weaknesses. May we not run away from all the battles we face, even the ones against ourselves, that we may seek to find Our Lord EVERYWHERE. And may we offer up the fruits of these struggles to others, as we seek to give away more and more of ourselves every day, dying to our own sinful nature, and confident in the steady climb to the top of the heights of the desires that God has placed in our hearts!

In the Love of Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Simplicity of Trust and Faith in God

Life ain't easy. There's always something competing for our attention (work, school, the computer, friends, family, emotions, etc.). We're always occupied by something. Why can't that something be God? Why can't that something be the good works of Christ?

I recently went on retreat and was fascinated, yet again, by my response to the simple rooms of the retreat house. There was a sink, some shelving by the sink, a bed, a small nightside table, a simple plastic writing desk, and a rocking chair. And I would have been completely happy living there the rest of my life! Something about the simplicity, the joyful lack of complication and other STUFF, was so utterly beautiful and holy!

I thought to myself how much I needed to declutter my room at home. I am a pack-rat, and have so much stuff squirreled away in drawers. Yet, "He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick-no food, no sack, no money in their belts." (Mark 6:8). Why do we insist on bringing so much stuff with us on our journey with Christ?

There is a certain comfort one has about having things. Little kids have blankies, adults carry books and work with them everywhere they go. Yet, Christ asks us to love Him and Him alone. It is so easy to focus on all the STUFF - whether it's stuff we have to do, things that make us anxious, worried, or afraid, anything! The simplicity of Christ is the joy and peace of our heart - pure and unadulterated LOVE!

Imagine how simple life would be if we only focused on God. Car trouble? No problem! God is good! Family issues? No worries! God is good! Everything must be done for our benefit and for our good, because God is surely love, and therefore nothing can harm us! What a powerful, powerful realization to make and internalize!!! :)

And all of it is simple faith. Pure trust and hope-filled love of God. What mountains we could move with such a faith, what barriers we could break through! Simplicity breeds love of Christ and others! Why don't we try praying to Him a bit more instead of going online as a meaningless diversion for a few hours at a time? Why don't we try giving away that clothing we never wear instead of keeping it around for doomsday? Why don't we try disattaching ourselves from things that make us anxious, situations that we can't change, people that need time to heal? For it is only with this simple focus on God that we are able to accomplish ANYTHING in this world, and it is only that we are able to accomplish ANYTHING in this world by not focusing on this world. Tricky paradox, huh?

Let us pray that today we not allow all the distractions and temptations of this world to grab our attention! May we seek Christ always and everywhere, and follow Him with only a deep faith and trust! May we seek to, rather than embroiling ourself in conflicts and emotions, offer up all our cares and worries, fears and anxieties to Christ who died for our sins, so that we would not have to worry! Let us seek to proclaim the Gospel at all times, using words only if necessary, convinced that we are convinced that Christ is Lord through the incredible faith He has given to us!!! :)

In the Love of Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Loving and Knowing God

"Wisdom, says Bonaventure, 'seeks contemplation (as the highest form of knowledge) and its intention is 'ut boni fiamus', that we should become good. ... Thus, for St. Bonaventure the primacy of love is decisive."

Alright, this post is a heavy one - thinking about thinking! We are always thinking and contemplating about God, trying to find Him in everything we see, trying to approach Him in whatever way we can, and yet, we can never fully encapsulate God with words, with art, with anything. God just is. We always try to approach God by better understanding Him, seeking to know more about Him and what He does. God just is. We always seek to know the whys and the hows of His Love for us, the ticking of the mind of God. God just is. All along, God just is, yet somehow we skip over this quintessential point in our search for understanding, logic and reason. What of the pure faith required to simply LOVE God? There is no knowledge, no wisdom, no anything required for this - only faith. Simple, true, beautiful, and loving faith.

After all, to know God is to love Him. What more do we need to know if we love unconditionally? True love knows no boundaries or borders, it knows neither reason nor rhyme. It just IS, it exists purely in a self-sacrificing gift of oneself to another. So too is our gift of love to God - we need not UNDERSTAND Him to KNOW Him. Because to know Him is to LOVE Him.

All of our seeking of information about God, our research, our meditations, our everything is meant to help us understand a small piece of God. Yet, there are infinite small pieces of God, broken down into infinitely smaller pieces! Atoms break down into submolecules, submolecules break down even further beyond our understanding. We can never fully understand God, or KNOW Him from a research perspective. We can study God to no end, think about Him endlessly, but never fully grasp the WHY, the HOW. We can never know all the intricacies. That is, unless we throw away all of our searching for that link to Him, and simply LOVE Him. Then we discover that THAT is our link to Him!

You know those curved functions that approach zero, but never reach it? They can get infinitesimally small, but they never hit 0. Sure, .00000000001 is pretty close, but no cigar! And yet, if you throw out the function, you just start with the number 0, there you are! That's like our relationship with God. You can logically and scientifically study the function to realize that there is a VERY VERY small number out there. But in order to get to 0, you have to just make the leap. Our reason and logic only approaches God to a certain extent, but faith makes the jump from .00000001 to 0. We jump from our reasoning to loving in an instant, but it is that one tiny step (or maybe large leap!) that makes all the difference!

And the irony of this all is that we come to KNOW God only by FAITH in LOVING and TRUSTING in Him BEYOND REASON, and from that moment we know EVERYTHING there is to know about God. How ironic is it that faith leads to reason, but the equation doesn't work the other way around? Reason does not conclusively lead us to faith, yet faith inevitably brings us to reason.

C.S. Lewis was quoted as saying, "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else." How is it that we accept such tacit understanding of metaphysics, Newton's Laws, Locke's social contract, all without thinking? We build on the reason of the past in the trust that those theorists were right! Our entire thought process springboards off of these ideas without thoroughly starting from scratch, yet we have faith in these theorists! Can we not extend to God the same courtesy of trusting in Him without having to dissect everything of Him, simply knowing that He IS? Content to live without the dim and spotted lights of understanding, but instead lit up by the flood of brilliance of love?

I was thinking the other day about how, all of my life, I have been searching for the perfect subject to be able to know completely. To be able to study and know something completely and in its entirety. Something that didn't break down into smaller components. I got nowhere! Even the smallest things you can think of are broken down further (elements break down into atoms into submolecules, social issues break down into factors break down into thoughts break down into neurological transmissions in your brain break down into cells into neutrinos!)! So, how are we to ever know anything? The ONE THING, I realized, that is WHOLE, that does not break down further, is GOD. He is TRUINE, but He is ONE. And He simply IS. He needs no description - He exists. And by existing, the whole universe has taken shape and has come to be. But He simply is.

And we simply ARE, too: we ARE in loving Him. To know Him is to love Him. What more do we need to know, other than the EVERYTHING we NEED to know in loving Him??? :)

Dearest Lord, may today we not shy away from the blind faith needed to love You! May we humbly offer up all our reason, suspend it for the moment it requires to love You in complete devotion to You! May we not cry out, like Thomas, to see the hands and feet which were pierced - rather, may we LOVE You and TRUST You simply because we know you exist, that you ARE. May we give to You everything we possess - including our thoughts, our knowledge, our everything - certain in the trust and the hope that you will return it to us in greater quantity than we could ever imagine!!

In the Love of Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Beauty of Woman and the Perceptiveness of Man

I heard a magnificent homily this morning about the Transfiguration, and figured I would share the wealth!  The priest celebrating the Mass was this incredibly, visibly joy-filled man who just radiated with Christ - SO GOOD! :)

During the homily, he spoke about how the "glory" of Jesus beheld by the apostles is something that doesn't translate well for us as human beings.  We know that God is goodness, mercy, and love, but we also know that God is BEAUTY.  The priest giving the Homily said that "glory" is better understood as "beauty" - that Peter, John, and James were agape at the BEAUTY of Christ, the splendor of that beauty, that they were able to fully see at the Transfiguration!  What a thought!  This refers back to Pope Benedict XVI's recent address at the Vatican on the importance of artists in modern society, to Theology of the Body, to EVERYTHING!  (Isn't God great?!!?!)

When you think back to Genesis, about how God created man and woman, and man was alone without a woman, it makes us think about what makes us different.  Sitcoms and modern feminist perspectives would often have us believe that women are smarter, or more snarky, or abusive to their husbands.  But this isn't how it was meant to be!

Woman was made to be BEAUTIFUL, to reflect God's presence so fully that He SHINES on her face, when she smiles and when she speaks!  That all the words out of her mouth would be soft and gentle and kind, like the shape of her soft face would indicate!  Is it any wonder that men think that women are beautiful?

You can look at the things which most plague men and women in today's society in order to understand how God really intended for us to work together.  Men tend to struggle a lot with pornography - the coveting of women rather than appreciation of their beauty; and women struggle a lot with self-image - the obsession with personal perfection.  Both issues tend to highlight that which we were created for - and that which takes that instinct too far.

Women were made to be beautiful reflections of God's Beauty.  We were created to be physically attractive, bright-eyed beings - what a blessing!  And yet, our biggest obstacle is to understand that we were created to be beautiful without being OBSESSED with our self-image! Satan loves to twist our beauty into something to be OBSESSED about - either we don't look good enough, so we become despairing, or we look SO good that we become prideful!  What a twisting of God's gift to us!  Women struggle so often with eating disorders to make themselves "more beautiful," yet what we do not realize is that men find this beauty in us WITHOUT having to obsess over how we look - God created us endowed with a natural beauty that shines from the inside out!  If only we could learn to appreciate that beauty!

This is where men come in.  Men have this uncanny ability to find beauty in women, where women often can't find beauty in themselves!  What perceptive men!  God made men able to see that beauty, to be astounded and transformed by it, just like Peter, John, and James!  What a gift!  And yet, the twisting of this gift is to want to POSSESS that beauty, like Peter, to say, "Lord, we can make a tent for you and your two companions so that you can stay!"  The power of beauty is in its transformative capacity, in its ability to make us yearn for something more.  When we covet that beauty, it becomes obsessive, and this is where pornography comes in.  Satan comes along and twists the beauty of women into an addiction for men, addicted to the perversion of that beauty into covetousness.  And all of a sudden the gift has become something different!  It has gone from the beautiful and shining transformation of our Lord, the perceptiveness of His Beauty, into the need to covet that beauty and hoard it to ourselves.

Beauty, like the lamp on the stand, is meant to shine and be shared.  It comes from our hearts and souls, and is reflected in us physically, but is truly interior.  It is meant to multiply, to be fruitful for God.  Thus, the woman who starves herself and the man who gorges himself are only concerned for themselves.  But, the man who admires and gives all of himself truly in admiring, and the woman who accepts and gives of herself truly in being unselfish in her beauty, now THAT is true beauty shared well!  It is a self-giving beauty that thinks not to possess nor to covet, but to GIVE GIVE GIVE!  And what is beauty if it is not given?  It is nothing.  Beauty given is LOVE, and LOVE is God, just as BEAUTY is God.

So, then, Christ giving of Himself in the Transfiguration is nothing short of pure LOVE.  And the apostle who receives and gives back that beauty, who reflects that same shining beauty in his heart, is a beautiful apostle indeed!

May today our hearts shine with the glory of the beauty of Christ in the Transfiguration!  May we not seek to possess, nor to covet, but rather to GIVE beauty this day, to admire it and love it, to seek it in others and offer it for others to see.  May today our hearts be open to receive the gift of beauty, and may they seek to display that same beauty in our everyday actions.  May our faces become the monstrances of Christ's shining glory, and may our lives reflect the Transfiguration of Christ on the mountain!

In the Love and Beauty of Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Shall we dance?

Have you ever watched a couple who has been together for many, many years dancing together? My aunt and uncle took ballroom dancing classes, and at every wedding in our family, they would wow all of us with their ability to seamlessly move together so elegantly and impressively. They were able to do complicated moves on the fly because of the way that they worked together, and you could always tell that they both loved when they were dancing with the love of their life.

Or, have you ever seen couples dancing on television in ballroom competitions? Some of the moves they attempt are so beautiful, but scary! Lifts, spins, jumps, rhythms that make no sense - and yet, they always stay on beat and in sync with one another, moving together. I often think the way that they move together is more impressive than any of the complicated moves they may make individually.

For us, Christ is our dance partner. Whether we have just met Him, are coming to know Him better, or have been lifelong dance partners with Him, we are always dancing with Him, learning and moving with Him. He is an expert at what He does!! If He were to dance alone, He would not have a cumbersome partner that can often be off, one who falls often and steps on His feet. Yet, when we move together with Christ, when we act as one unit and glide across the dance floor, your heartbeat seems to freeze in the intensity of the connection inherent in the dance.

Christ doesn't stop challenging us. He'll teach us to keep rhythm, and keep dancing even if we miss a beat. And, if we dance fine on our own, He'll teach us what He knows about how to move. And sometimes those steps are COMPLICATED! I know in my own attempts to learn how to dance ballroom, there have been more than a few times where I have become EXTREMELY frustrated with my inability to do complicated body movements, like getting to move my hips counterclockwise independently of my torso, or learning the steps to a complicated salsa that involves lots of turns. We can get dizzy from all the spinning, but we have to always remember that Christ is beside us, even when we can't see Him. And He will stick by us and keep showing us a move, moving us along with Him, until we get it right. He is the ultimate patient partner.

And sometimes He has to back off to allow us the space to bust a move. It's easy to move when your partner has his hand on the small of your back, and is moving you where he wants you to be. Every good ballroom class stresses the importance of allowing yourself to be led, and having a strong leading partner. But there are times when dancing that your partner has to let go of the deathlock control over your movements, and allow you to move away from Him. He's still leading, but often by just a hand, or maybe even a look that says, "come over here." This is especially hard to pull off if we are newer dancers, still unable to tell all the cues that seasoned veteran partners would be able to notice. If we are still coming to know Jesus (which we all are!), we might not recognize the eyebrow that means, "I need you back in my arms right now in order to finish this move." And that, again, is scary! To know and be known, to understand someone so well that a simple look brings us back into the music and the dance. But, this is what Christ calls us to!!

And Christ never stops teaching us how to move. We are always being spun around, dipped, thrown and caught, held close then thrown out for some swing. It requires a great deal of trust on our end to recognize that we WON'T be dropped, that we WON'T have to worry about crashing into our partner if we just trust Him to make up for the dance skills we lack. And trust me, He's got MAD dance skills. :)

Even when we can coordinate a routine down to the last step, Christ calls us to the familiarity of old partners. They don't dance in programmatic routines that are practiced to the last detail in endless hours of rehearsal - with Christ, we are expected to dance anywhere, anytime, with an endless variation of moves, and we never know what is coming next, because He's leading. He regularly switches up the routine with new steps we have never practiced before, and rather than stopping and practicing to get it right, much like a cook adding ingredients based on sight, we have to be so confident in Christ that we know He will lead us effectively even when we don't know what we are doing. He most definitely knows. And the end result is always impressing to us, because we didn't think we were capable of doing what Christ calls us to do, and to the people around us, because they are amazed by this couple who are so in sync. And they want to take up ballroom (and when they ask, we know who to refer them to!!!)!

Our dances will only get more complicated and more ornate throughout the entirety of our lives, but like an old couple dancing, the more you get to know someone, the more comfortable you feel being held close, being cheek to cheek. The more you can dance impressively with someone, the more you appreciate the simple rock back and forth, and find new meaning in the simplicity of being held in someone's arms at all. The simplicity of the smaller dance movements becomes a refuge in which to rest and enjoy your dance partner, so that you never have to stop dancing, but can dance the whole night through without sitting down!

The end result looks a bit like this in our hearts and souls: (I love Audrey Hepburn, and the movie My Fair Lady has some AWESOME songs for all those musical theater / old time movie buffs!!)! :)

May today we answer "yes" to Christ's constant question: "shall we dance?" May we allow Him to lead us around the dance floor as we go through life, not attempting any move on our own, but certain that we are learning all that Christ has to teach us! May we trust Him through dips and twirls, knowing that even if we may be disoriented and dizzy, that Christ is there holding us by the hand, and will not allow us to fall away from Him! May we rejoice in the knowledge that we are Christ's alone, and that He has chosen us from the beginning of time to join in this dance with Him! And may we enjoy every moment of the song, even the lulls, as an opportunity to be held close to Christ and united in love of God!

In the love of Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Beautiful quote from St. Joseph of Leonissa

I'm taking a class on the history of the book, and another class on the illuminated manuscript, so this quote just seemed all too appropriate, and I had to post it!!:

"Every Christian must be a living book wherein one can read the teaching of the gospel. This is what St. Paul says to the Corinthians, ‘Clearly you are a letter of Christ which I have delivered, a letter written not with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh in the heart’ (2 Corinthians 3:3). Our heart is the parchment; through my ministry the Holy Spirit is the writer because ‘my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe’ (Psalm 45:1)."

We are the living Word, and the Word was in the beginning with God, and the Word was God!!!

In the Joy of Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Let Him Kiss Me With the Kisses of His Mouth..."

God is so great! Just when we think He is already awesome, He shows us even MORE of His love! We are always left in awe of His Greatness!

We are all the brides of Christ, holding the hand of a groom unknown to us as we walk down the aisle of a magnificent, empty Church. It is just us and this unknown man, in full wedding attire. We make sure to hold the hand of this man, so that it becomes not us who act anymore (our hands are tied! hah!), but this man whose right hand acts for us, and whose left hand guides us around. We cranes our necks to look around the Church with gaping mouths, in awe of the beauty that surrounds us, still unaware of the unknown groom beside us, who guides us, and even carries us at times. And we find no reason to look at him, fascinated rather by the beautiful stucco, the magnificent sculptures and paintings, the glorious altar! Meanwhile, we trust in this man beside us without even looking at him.

Cut to the wedding. The priest says, "you may kiss the bride," and BAM reality hits - and you are now the WIFE of the unknown man beside you. And you turn to him, and realize that He is JESUS! And, all of a sudden, you not only come to see His Face, but you come to know it, and enter into it through the kiss. And, in the moment of that kiss, you focus fully and completely on Your Husband, the Love of your life!!! And the paintings recede into the background, the sculpture falls away as you REALIZE the very source of that beauty in the man whose works you were admiring!! What joy, awe, and gratitude! What an apt analogy for how we all live!

We tend to live our day to day lives so focused at the WORKS of God - the beautiful buildings, beautiful forests, the beauty of nature - and these are all PRAISEWORTHY things!! And we can know these things and come to know God better through these things. But at that moment when we receive God in the Eucharist, when He becomes a PART of us, and we are reminded that we ARE Christ's hands and feet on earth... WHOAH. The only Being that we focus on is CHRIST in our soul, and we receive Him lovingly and contemplatively - He fills us in all the moments of our life with His Soul and Divinity, His Body and Blood. "Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth" takes on a WHOLE new meaning in Christ!!! We must ALLOW and PERMIT Christ Himself to kiss us, and remain vulnerable to Him, to kiss BACK with all of our being, to let our knees go weak, our head spin around and get caught up hopelessly (I see it more positively - hopeFULLY :P) in love with Our Lord and Savior, Our Beloved Husband who not only WOULD die for us, but HAS died for us!!! A kiss is a VERY different sign of love than simple happiness at the appearance of beauty - a kiss has a depth that goes far beyond sight. It does not require seeing because it KNOWS. It does not require hearing because it UNDERSTANDS. It has feeling and drive and breath and life!!!! A kiss is alive with the Holy Spirit!

It may be true that a rose by any other name may smell just as sweet, but a kiss will never simply be JUST the physical action of kissing. It is the unity of two individuals, a sign of a complete focus on another person, living and breathing with them in that moment. It is a moment of ecstasy and joy at the beauty of God, a moment of complete and utter vulnerability and trust, placing one's whole self at the feet of the beloved. How much more so the "Kiss of Christ" in the Eucharist?? For, if His Church is His Bride, and Mary Our Mother is Christ's new Eve, then we are certainly heirs to the title of "bride of Christ"!!!

And if the kiss is such a powerful metaphor for our relationship with Christ, imagine how much more so it is important to our relationships with other children of Christ! It is not something to be quickly bastardized, but rather something to be held sacred! It looks for the Christ in someone, brings out the Christ in someone, when a kiss is received and given passionately and in His Love. It turns something that may be just a fun fling of a thing into a deeply connecting act that brings us closer to God. And when we don't find God in the kiss, it troubles us deeply, because even if we don't realize it at first, we are looking for LOVE when we kiss. And God is love!!! :) (There is a reason why people - women AND men - are endlessly fascinated by sappy romantic movies in which the main characters finally kiss at the end. Women, take this as license to feel free to be sentimental, girly, and romantic, and expect to be treated like a princess by a man you will love and forgive endlessly.) ;) Our God loves us and wishes us to want Him in the same way that He wants us - fully and completely, no reservations. So our kiss is the love shared back to a God who watches us always with longing and love, with heartfelt patience for our simple "I do," waiting for a glance from our wandering eyes, waiting for the action to prove the steel resolve of our words.

May this day we realize that the entire mystery of the universe, of the Trinity, of our lives and of our God, is summarized in the simplicity of a three letter sentence: God is love, or I love you (take your pick - both represent the Father (God/I), Son (love/you), and Holy Spirit (is/love)). May today our hearts open up to the presence of God, and not only rejoice in the love of the Savior, but return that love back to Him! May we love our God so passionately that our lives become eclipsed by focus on Him! May our hearts speak through our actions, and our actions reflect our hearts full of the love of Christ!!! May our eyes never wander from the source of all Goodness, Glory, Honor, and Praise, Our Lord, Jesus Christ!!!

Love in Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Laughter really is the best medicine!!

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

As if there was any doubt of the joy-filled, gracious life God intends for us, this passage exemplifies His ability to provide! We are to rejoice at all times, because God has sent His Only Son to die and be raised for us to bring us to new life. What is there to be sad about?? We have already been saved, and are loved through death!

Sometimes life feels so complicated, our world's problems seem so complicated and insurmountable - and yet, God has already conquered sin and death - what else is there to fear?! We have only to offer up the rubber-band-ball of problems to God, and He will make for us out of that complicated mess a shining robe of glory!! For, "[we] can do all things through Christ who strengthens [us]" (Philippians 4:13).

I had a dream last night in which two monsters that were chasing this group of girls were turned into comical caricatures of themselves when the girls started laughing at them and taking pictures of them. All I could think about when I woke up is how true this is of Satan! We can take two approaches to the evil that surrounds us in our lives: we can either take it to heart, agonize over it, and not allow ourselves to know that God to deal with it in His time; or, we can LAUGH at it, knowing that good has already won the battle over evil, that "we have nothing to fear but fear itself," to quote FDR.

Have you ever heard the expression, "if I didn't laugh about it, I would be crying?" It contains more than a small grain of truth. When we trip over something in public or say something embarrassing, we laugh to cover up the awkwardness of the moment. And all of a sudden, the GREAT PUBLIC SHAME of tripping becomes something comical, something that we laugh about and can relate to friends afterward as a FUNNY story. We are blessed in that we do not have to worry about anything with God, because our lives have already been spoken for, and God's heart has already opened itself up in Divine Mercy to all of us!! There is no shame, no embarrassment in Him!

Satan's power in this world comes completely from his own pride. Most people most often sin not because of an intention to fight against God, but rather because it is easier than giving up one's own self-pride, or easier than doing what God wants us to do. But, laughter at oneself is the ultimate sign of humility; that we don't even take ourselves seriously enough to think that anything we do, any sin we commit could be completely harmful in creating the Kingdom of God. God's Love is SO much greater than ourselves that we are offered all the good parts of building the Kingdom of God, without any of the blame for mistakes we make. It's like our entire lives are the bonus section on a test, and all the points we amass are extra from the "100%" God has already given our tests!

If we laugh at the evil around us that tries to draw us into sin, we show confidence in our loving God who has conquered sin and death. We show that sin has no power over us anymore, and that it is laughable, like our own sinful natures. The true people we are shines through in our love of Christ and devotion to Him. Like the Bible says, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (James 4:8). We are never far removed from God; we are kept close to Him through the Sacraments - especially with frequent reception of the Eucharist and Confession. We are given every opportunity to draw near to Him - through hardships, through confusion and pain, through happy and joyful times. He is always with us, and we are in Him as His Church.

This is why it is comical to think of a being who is shadow, a being who cannot even touch us, as having power over us. Satan is no more than a fleeting temptation, a vague emptiness and a dangerously evil enemy. But, God has already won the fight. And laughter is the cry of victory over an enemy who would have us become paralyzed with fear. Satan would LOVE to convince us of some bigger, better situation or concept - anything to draw our focus off of God! Do not let him fool you - there is nothing that Satan could ever do to a child of God that God could not forgive! Even Judas, who betrayed Jesus, would have been forgiven had he turned to God and asked forgiveness of Him. Instead, Judas gave into temptation and turned away from God. This is not to say that he should have taken his sin of betrayal lightly and laughed at it, but rather that he could have sought forgiveness had he been humbled enough to realize God's power and greatness.

Now, we should not all go out and think that Satan is comical. He is pure and complete evil, with not even a drop of good, so nobody should ever let their guard down against temptation. But the beauty and light of God shining into the dark corners of our world illuminates all that would otherwise be scary and unknown, and makes it known to us. God's light touches all corners of the earth, and Satan has nowhere to hide. In that vein of thought, it is laughable imagining such a sinister being forced into the light and STILL being DELUDED ENOUGH to pretend to remain in darkness. Because nothing escapes the light of God's Truth.

May today be a time for rejoicing in God and in Jesus Christ, His Only Son, confident in the Word and Truth of God's light! May we always draw nearer and nearer to God through prayer and sacrifice, being molded and shaped into the people we truly are by the constant process of shearing off our sinful nature! May we react to God's sometimes painful working in our lives not with the agony of pain, but rather with the laughter of being relieved of our sins, and of gratitude for God's Goodness and hope in His Glory! May we offer up the tangled web of the problems of the world to our God, with the confidence of knowing that He will fix them in His time! May our hearts always rejoice by focusing on the Goodness of God rather than the absence of good (evil), and may we, like the Virgin Mary, allow Christ into our hearts and souls, where He will reside with us until the end of time!

Love in Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Parable of the Seed and the Sower!

I read a reflection by St. John Chrysostom today that was GREAT and such a new twist for me on the parable of the seed and the sower:

"Our Lord speaks this parable to encourage his disciples and teach them not to let themselves become demoralized, even if those who welcome the word are fewer than those who waste it. This is how it was for the Master himself who, in spite of knowing the future, never ceased to scatter his seed.

But, you may say, what is the use of scattering it among thorns or on rocks or on the path? If it were a question of a material seed and a material ground then there would be no point. But when it concerns souls and the Word, then it is a wholly praiseworthy act. One would rightly blame a laborer from acting like this: rock cannot become earth, a path cannot but be a path or thorns be thorns. But it is not so in the spiritual domain: rock can become a fertile land; the path can no longer be trampled by the passers-by but turn into a fertile field, the thorns be pulled up to allow the seed to ripen freely. If this were not so, the sower would not have scattered his seed as he did."

We can catch a glimpse then of how important it is to sow seed in areas where we tend to think it will die, because God works miracles in hearts of stone, in hearts whose interior is blocked by thorns! I had always struggled with this parable, because I understood playing the role of the sower - we are always to sow seeds - but, I was terrified of being rocky or thorny or scorched soil!!! I always used to do a self-check and realize that at some point I had been all of these - what if I still was and the Word of God was not reaching deep enough?!?!!

But, thank God for St. John Chrysostom!!! He notes that the Master Gardener cares for His garden well, and tends to every last plant. God patiently weeds the garden of our hearts, builds greenhouses for those plants who cannot survive in the cold, leaves the more hardy plants outside to weather the storms and protect the smaller plants. Every plant has a place designated by God, such that the entire garden is filled! And no two plants are the same!!

God truly knows us to the very core, and can see into the depths of the soil to know how our roots are growing. This parable does not exclude the option of sowing the seed among the thorny or rocky soil - in fact, it requires that this is what we do!! It simply gives us the hope that rocky soil can be turned into good, rich soil, just like water can be changed into wine - all we have to do is say the Word.

And the second that we ask to receive the Word, we will see and understand that God has planted the Word within us all along. The seed has already been planted in our soil - all we have to do is ask God to remove the barriers that make our plot of land unplantable. The seeds will grow by God's care, and all we need to do is give our fiat to allow God to work in us!!!

I was in a class on the "Illuminated Manuscript" the other day, and we were analyzing a two-page illustration of Heaven and Hell. Our professor pointed out that Heaven was a place filled with buildings and taken up by all that God is, whereas Hell was represented as an empty page on which a comical Satan had been drawn. The idea was that Hell represented the absence of all good, whereas Heaven represented the fullness of everything good (God!)!

It is with this analogy that we realize that we are already full to the brim with God's grace, but we can only rejoice inasmuch as we are made aware to the presence of this enormous grace!!! We exist fully and completely as perfect children of God in this moment (nunc coepi - now I begin!); we are completely in union with God (at reception of the Eucharist, we are reminded that we are UNITED TO CHRIST and are graced with the realization - His gift to us - that we ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST on earth!!!). Every day, new weeds may grow in us, new sins may take form, but ultimately, God our Gardener is always watching His plants and caring for us, and if we but say the word, the weeds are removed, leaving even more room for good soil. And if we yield fruit, then we take up bigger plots of land, until we grow a tree big enough to provide shade for smaller plants. God uses everything in the garden. :)

May our today and our every day be a "yes" to God, seeing Him in all that we do! May we realize that God is never in the absence of something, but rather in the fulfillment of something! May we pray not that we receive something, but rather that we gain appreciation for the things we already receive!!! May the only, deepest prayer of our hearts be, like the Blessed Mother, "I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Thy Word." May the Word take flesh in us, and may our hearts grow so that we can hold more of the grace that is offered to us at every moment of our lives! And may we live forever in this realization that God is truly good and loves us ALL THE TIME!

Love in Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Power of Silence...

"Then the LORD said, 'Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.' A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD--but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake--but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake there was fire--but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.   When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, 'Elijah, why are you here?'" - 1 Kings 19:11-13

Wow, what a new Elijah we see here - not the prophet of great movements, of lofty thoughts or extensive prophesying, but rather an Elijah of simplicity and littleness.  He is not moved by the majesty of the strong and heavy winds, the destructive capability of the earthquake, or the captivating flames of the fire.  No.  For Elijah, God appears as a tiny little voice, a tiny little question like a mosquito buzzing near his ear: "Elijah, why are you here?"

I mean, I would have been pretty confused.  "I don't really know why I'm here, Lord, isn't that what You're supposed to tell me?!"  But, God only asks us questions to which we already know the answers, which have been imprinted on our hearts.  And that answer is always, "I love you."

Even when we feel numb or unworthy, even when we are in bad moods and treating others badly, even when we ourselves are treated badly, the message written on every heart and soul around the world is "I love you."  It is this message that keeps our world from falling apart in the society that we live in today, that which forms the only thing that matters to us as human beings.  We seek God, we search for Him in lofty emotions, in great thoughts, in powerful and overwhelming senses of love, of charity for others, of happiness.  And yet, the greatness of God is contained in the simple phrase, "I love you."  The greatness of God is contained in a simple piece of bread, and a few drops of wine.  Surely the greatness of God remains with us, even when we do not have the large emotions, the great thoughts, the incredible miracles.  Everything is a miracle with God.

God is not in the earthquakes in Haiti, nor the aftershock - He is in the quiet hope for medicine, food, and clean water, in the quiet and unnoticed click of a mouse when you donate to an aid organization, in the quiet prayers of thousands of the faithful for the lives of their brothers in Christ across the water.  God is not in the overwhelming sense of despair associated with viewing gritty scenes of war, or contemplating the huge extent of social ills in modern American society, or feeling empowered to change the world.  God is in the simple "yes" to waking up to greet the day, to handing over the little that we have to offer Him, such that He can make us great in our littleness, through Christ!  Great things are not born of great people, but rather of a great God who deigned to give great honor to little people. 

We are here on earth not to feel the greatness of despair, but rather to see the greatness of God in the tiniest grain of sand, on a beach filled with grains of sand.  God is here, and God is now, as He will be forevermore!  We don't have to do something great to change the world - all the greatness in the world is contained in a single piece of bread!!!  What a comfort it is, then, knowing that we, too, can contain all the greatness of the world in the simple hope and love that Christ has already written onto our hearts!  That, even when we do not feel it, even when we're in a "funk," or a bad mood, we're still His children, and that there is ALWAYS something to rejoice about: Christ crucified and risen from the dead, and hope everlasting in His promise to love us forever and be with us always!

Like Elijah, we find ourselves on the mountains which God has called us to climb, and we get scared.  Here God is not in the blowing winds, or the sunlit paths, and indeed sometimes the road is very dark, and there is no easy way to the top in sight.  The road remains covered in snow and ice, there is a sheer drop off the side, and we cannot know what lies ahead, but we can most likely assume that it will get more difficult the closer we get to the top.  The climb is treacherous, the road unpaved, our bodies aching from hunger.  But we know that God lies not only just ahead, but with us, and that His voice is a tiny piece of bread in the depths of our hunger, a tiny whisper in the depths of the emptiness inside our souls, a gentle breeze to cool our tired, sweaty, aching bodies.

And this little voice is our manna in the desert, our calm in the storm.  We have no other refuge other than the rock that is Our God, and what a great God He is, that He can not only fit into a tiny child, but also into a tiny piece of bread, a tiny breeze, and the gentlest whisperings of our otherwise empty soul!!!

In Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Patient Trust in the Slow Work of God

Found this prayer online after it was recommended to me that I read it - it's SO GOOD! :)

"Patient Trust in the Slow Work of God"

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is a lot of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability -
and that may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas and mature gradually - let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don't try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin S.J.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Discernment of spirits and the grace of God

Have there ever been times in your life when you have felt a little off-kilter?  As though there was something just not right?  Where you knew something was wrong, but you couldn't place your finger on it?  Welcome to the need for discernment of spirits in everyday life.

Life is very confusing.  Things come and go constantly, emotions change, people move into and out of our lives, but the ONE constant that we have is God.  He is always there, loving and guiding us.  So, He is a GREAT Ruler (in more than one sense of the word!) by which to judge what is revealed to us during the course of our walks in Faith!

God is a gentleman.  He reveals things gradually and with purpose, without any rush whatsoever.  Our society is always pushing the idea of efficiency, the idea that we need to get everything done TODAY, THIS HOUR, THIS SECOND!  What a hectic way to live!  God's Will for us is so great, that He cannot allow it to be built in a second!  We need longer to grow in Faith, to grow accustomed to God's Love for us, and we can spend a lifetime attempting to understand His Love, and never even getting close to understanding It.

But, that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.  The Love we are given and offered freely on a daily basis IS our discernment of spirits - it is what causes this world to function, what causes grace to be offered to each one of us every day, what heals us, what defends us, what sustains us.  And yet, we often choose to ignore this Love!!!  How are we to know what is truly right and wrong unless we think about it, "keeping all these things in our heart" as Mary did?  How are we to know what path in life to take unless we shy away from impulsive action and take the time to truly dissect our own motives for all that we do, and God's Divine Providence?  How are we to know that things that do not have DIRECTLY bad consequences may very well be sinful actions?  Through PRAYER and DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS.

And this prayer cannot ever cease.  Our lives are filled with stimuli - it exists in the world all around us.  We hear things that strike us, see things that are markedly profound somehow, understand things that are meant only for us to understand at that moment; all little signs to us that God loves us.  But, it is SO important to always be thinking about these little things, never ceasing in our meditation, prayer, and praise of God!  These are the things that will confirm and direct our decisions, answer our prayers!  These are the things that God has sent us because we NEED them, not because we WANT them.  Sometimes the discrepancy between the two types of items (NEEDS vs. WANTS) requires a lot of thought in order to bridge the gap.  And bridge the gap we must, because if we don't, we will leave God's answer to our prayers unacknowledged and unloved - and God is SO worthy of all our love!!!

Just think: if I prayed today that I wanted to see my Mom, and received a letter from my close aunt who lives on Main Street, USA telling me that she was coming to visit and needed a place to stay, I might be upset that God hadn't answered my prayers.  I might be so busy focused on the thought that I NEED to see my MOTHER in PARTICULAR in order for my prayers to be answered, that I miss the opportunity God is giving me to receive a loving relative into my home!  And perhaps all I was seeking all along, the truest and deepest desire of my heart at that moment, in wanting to see my Mom, was simply to want to love and be loved in return by someone that I knew would love me with the love of a mother.  Perhaps my aunt had been childless for a really long time, and was looking to love in the same way that I sought to be loved.  Wouldn't her visit simply be perfection in the light of God's understanding of the situation?  It fits SO well, but this understanding would not be possible without prayer and thought, and the acceptance of the Grace and Love of God!  And isn't that exactly what we all desire?  So, how can we go wrong with God's Will for us?!?!

So many people have been quoted talking about how happiness is not wanting much and having little, but rather wanting little, and therefore having much.  How much more so true is this with God!  Life is not about gaining all the things we think that WE want, but rather giving up all that we think we want to God's discernment, trusting that His Judgment will provide for us much better than we ourselves can!  After all, He's already got us beat on knowing the deepest desires of our hearts and souls, which is something that I don't think many people can say they know about themselves!  He knows who we are better than we do.  Our lives are to be spent conforming our temporary wills to His Eternal Will for us - and how blessed with grace we will be when our hearts shine with the understanding of how He is working in our lives!!!

Dearest, closest Lord, the one who comes to us as a Tiny Child so that we might understand your love for us and desire to be among us, please teach us in your ways!  Do not allow us to remain secluded in our own understanding of life, of You, of what you are capable of!  Allow us to see by the light of Faith, to know in the depths of our hearts lit only by trust in you!  This is all we need!  Our hearts are hungry to know, and to understand!  Help us to seek understanding only by Your Grace, and grant us the wisdom of discernment of spirits, that we may know Your Will!  Grant this Grace to all around us, that the hearts and souls of the community might be ignited by the passion of your Spirit, and be ready to do Your Will joyfully and with all the self-giving that you created them for!  May our hearts serve as the altar on which the Eucharist may shine, and may the light of Christ permeate our existence fully, so we can be assured that, like John the Baptist, "He must increase," and "we must decrease."  May we live in the joyful hope of the completion of Your Will every day, and may we keep our eyes ever focused on you as we patiently wait, that Your Will may be done in the perfection of Your Time!

Love in Christ through Mary,
Christina :)