Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bathed by the Light: Easter Meditations-1

                                    Bathed by the Light: Easter Meditations - 1

The last time I had any emotional strength to write here was a few days before Christmas.
Almost immediately thereafter I plunged or was nudged by the Spirit, or tricked by the evil one –once more into the swamp of darkness.
Actually, I am not sure at all how it came about.
Might simply have been the exhaustion.
On this day the Orthodox call “Bright  Thursday ”, this holy 8th day which is the unending today of His Holy Resurrection, I have been trying to understand the whole darkness thing!
Trying to claw yourself out of the swamp of darkness, yet again, is a messy business – in truth, like Peter, all you really can do is scream : “Lord, I am sinking!”
So, the proceeding is my scream!
It was not what was in my heart when I approached this computer to begin, after so many months, writing again.
What follows is, and, I believe flows from the experience of pierced and glorified hands lifting, lifting, lifting!........
In this northern city the snow was falling steadily as I began writing and yet there was a spring brightness radiating from the very snow covered ground as if the earth was refusing to return to winter’s slumber, very simply and clearly because CHRIST IS RISEN! GLORIFY HIM!
“Blood on the snow! “
This line from a powerful reading of the epic battle of Vimy Ridge in WWI, which took place 90 years ago on Easter Monday, seeps into my beginning reflections, so I took some time to mediate on the whole mystery of post-resurrection evil.
Sanguinis martyrum, semen christianorum, proclaims Tertullian – likewise, it seems, the blood of citizens is the seed of nations – witness the American Revolutionary War, the WWI battle of Vimy Ridge, which is seen as the birth of Canada’s sense of nationhood, the Russian Revolution – these epic struggles left blood on the snow.
We, or at least that ‘we’ not living within any other nation than our own embraced national history, may not always see the blood-seeding of citizens as having the outcome ‘we’ would like when the killing is ended.
Perhaps that is more indicative of our collective arrogance, self-righteousness, or as in the case of some, from various religions, it betrays an anti-human extremism.
For all the horrors inflicted by the current crop of international terrorists or national insurgents, the fact remains it is WE, the formally rightly called Christian nations which wage the bloodiest of wars against the most vulnerable of our own: pre-born children.
We must passionately pray that somehow the blood of these innumerable aborted children becomes the seed of a culture of life.
Blood on the snow, blood at the foot of the Cross!
I recall countless times attending winter crash sites, anointing the dying, comforting the wounded-living;  memories triggered as much by the violence suffered by the homeless I am honoured to serve at the soup kitchen where I volunteer, as by reading and meditating on these words of Pope Benedict from his book, “ On The Way to Jesus Christ”, where the commentary is on the second temptation of Christ:  “The whole big question of how we can know God and how we cannot know Him, confronts us here.” [1]
Suddenly my heart heard this also as being the question of how we can know and cannot know the mystery of the Church, the reality, in all its ‘vessels of clay’ dimensions of  the episcopate, the priesthood, within the Holy Spirit’s process of Apostolic succession.
Not to mention the ‘cafeteria-Christians’ who pick and choose through the treasury of truth seeking only that which will not demand too much surrender to the Brightness of His Love!
This point was driven home all the more as I read: “ The arrogance that wants to make God into an object and tries to impose our laboratory conditions upon Him cannot find God.” [2]
As a priest, but also as a baptized soul wondering about the promise of Psalm 90, and a priest who hears daily from countless suffering souls, I had not, until now in the brightness of His Holy Resurrection, been willing to make a connection between falling again and again into the swamp of darkness, sinking beneath the waves, and the root-anger of all that.
Satan’s whole effort was to imply God, if He did not fulfill the promise of Psalm 90 and should Jesus leap from the parapet fail to protect Him, well God would then be revealed as one not to be trusted.
This is the original lie told to Adam and Eve so they bent away from God and towards themselves with the disastrous consequences we all know in our very bones.
This lie remains the evil one’s preferred opening statement, whisper, cackle, suggestion, especially when we are vulnerable due to stress, fatigue, loneliness, etc.
He conveys this with a subtlety that can seep into the imagination before we are all that aware, and with a persistency wearying in itself until suddenly we have found in our thoughts seemingly rational and irrefutable reasons to turn away from God and bend towards ourselves.
In that following uneasy loneliness the rest follows, hyper-critical rejection of Church, truth, etc.
My sin, which became anger which became depression, was simply in not admitting I had tried to become God and chief operating officer of His universe, His church, of self!
I had been making God and the Church into an object, that is seeing Him more as one at my beck and command rather than as loving Father, true Abba whom I yearn to love in return through trusting His Holy Will, and struggling to live it out;  the Church: seeing Her more as institution – because frankly of seeing my own and other Bishops as CEOs rather than as who they truly are in not only the sacramental reality of ordination but in the reality of Church as ‘sacrament’.
Thus these words of Cardinal Ratzinger, now Chief Shepherd, seared my heart as a conviction, not with shame but with liberation: “Someone who thinks this way makes himself God and thereby abases not only God but also the world and himself.” [3] {and I would admit such a person who approaches the Church, bishops, priests, fellow Catholics, Christians, any person with that attitude diminishes every aspect of faith and  the person of every believer, every human being.}
As an ordained man, a priest in persona Christi capitis, I must embrace the fullness of being configured to His suffering, for only therein can mine - or any baptized person’s – pain, be His kiss which purifies and vivifies,  otherwise we find ourselves allowing the pain and suffering to become a potential opening through which the evil one will whisper the stench of his lie that God cannot be trusted: after all, look at how He ignores your pain!
Therefore, in the depths of any darkness, pain, fear, loneliness, the first vocalization of “Lord, help me I am sinking” comes with remembering to imitate Christ who “....did not put God to the test. But He did descend into the abyss of death, into the night of abandonment, into the desolation of those who are helpless.....[ and the Holy Father adds].....Someone who obeys God’s will knows that, in all the horrors he may experience, he does not lose a final refuge. He knows that the foundation of the world is love and that therefore, even in a situation where no man is able or willing to help him, he can still continue walking in confidence toward the One who loves him.” [4]
After contemplating that I took a break and read a friend’s Blog, and my heart was moved by their powerful reflection: “The answer to tears”:  “Here, in this celebration of Easter, is the answer to our tears, to our pain, our emptiness, and every darkness....[5]
Sanguinis martyrum, semen christianorum!
The proto-martyr is Christ Himself and His Most Precious Blood is the seed of the Church Herself, and we are invited in every Holy Mass to receive this glorious gift and the Giver Himself.
The glorified pierced hands that reach out to us are trustworthy, for He has given Himself for us and remains with us.
Knowing does not necessarily mean the absence of struggle, being lifted out of the swamp of darkness is no guarantee I might not return there if bent towards myself again.
Receiving Love Himself, receiving Resurrection Himself, Truth, Life, Light Himself into my being in daily Holy Communion when I celebrate Holy Mass – does mean freedom!
More on this gift of freedom flowing from the brightness of Easter in part II!
[ 1-4 above from: On The Way to Jesus Christ, p.94; Joseph Ratzinger; Ignatius Press]
[ 5 : ]

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