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 :)