Thursday, November 19, 2015

Water and Wine... and Refugees and Terror

Thursdays is 'Liturgy Day' on the blog. I am writing a commentary on the Mass, bit by bit, each week, with a special focus on how the liturgy informs our way of Christian life in the world.

We are at the Offertory Rite at the moment, and in my enthusiasm for last week's section, I inadvertently skipped over a most beautiful and meaningful little sub-rite within the rite. This is the ritual mixing of water with the wine, accompanied by the prayer 'By the mystery of this water and wine  may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.'

This simple little rite catches so much of the richness of our Christian faith. In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, it is one of the lessons taught to the youngest age group, so vividly and concretely does it communicate the reality of life in Christ. The children, some as young as three, are shown this rite, with the simple explanation that  the wine symbolizes Christ, and the water us.

Their comments are telling - 'He is so big, and we are so small!' 'You can't get the water out from the wine! Nothing can separate us!' 'We are together with him.' In one small snippet of the liturgy, a ritual that most of us barely pay attention to and easily miss, it is so short, there is a whole theology of grace and communion, incarnation, redemption, and divinization.

This is so crucial when we are faced with genuinely difficult situations in life. In our personal lives, and in our communal social lives. I am thinking, like everyone else, quite a bit about violence and terror, compassion and generosity, risk and refugees. I will probably have a bit more to write about it in a few days - still formulating my full thoughts.

But do we know how much we are in Christ and Christ is in us? Sometimes when people who are people of faith discuss these matters, there seems little sense of this. Like... there's our religion over there, and we go to Church and think certain thoughts and say certain things and do this and that. But when there is a hard situation--a genuinely, honest-to-God hard situation---in the world or in our lives, our Christianity seems scarce in sight.

And I'm not just talking about the people who are all 'Kill the Muslims! Kill 'em, I say!' It's also the people who are openly scornful and contemptuous of those who are struggling with fear of jihadist terror. It's the people who, on the very day of the Paris attack, thought that the best response was to instantly start bitching about Obama or Trudeau and their lousy politics, or about Bush and Cheney and how it's all their fault. The blood was still wet on the pavements of Paris, and that's the first instinct of some? How about praying for the souls of the dead, and for their murderers?

Christ is in us. We are in Him. The water is poured into the wine. He is very big. We are very small. Yet somehow, because He loves us very much, He has taken us into His world, into His life. The beggar maid (humanity, and each member therein who accepts it) has been wed to the Great King.

So we are better than this. And yes, I think we can open our vast rich country and its resources (do we have any idea how good we have it compared to the rest of the world?) to these poor people. Even if some of them are not what they say they are. Even if some of them repay us with violence. The risk of closing our hearts, our home, and our borders is greater, I would say. We risk losing our inheritance--not the inheritance of this beautiful land or the inheritance of Western Civilization, but the inheritance of life in Christ.

At the same time, there are real fears, real concerns, real questions. And it is no part of life in Christ to mock, scorn, shame, deride, show contempt for those people who raise those questions. Can we all please show some self-control, some maturity, and maybe even some charity?

The water goes into the wine. We are not alone in this. There is grace, more grace than we can possibly imagine, available for us in this matter and in all matters. There is never a reason, never a time, a place, a situation, where we cannot be charitable. Not if we remember that water and that wine, that unity, that bigness of spirit which is ours because He came.

Let's try to remember that in what are surely going to be difficult days ahead.


  1. Bless you.
    I responded with sadness and pain to the news of Paris, and sent a few emails to check on friends. From the safety of my home across the ocean I received the news.
    I can forgive ISIS for fear and sadness and discomfort that these atrocities caused me. But, my sterile experience dose not compare to those on the streets of Paris.
    Nor does it compare to those who have experienced repeated trauma or abuse....
    A lot of the initial response had to have come from anger....anger is really just a normal response to the deprivation of justice. It is healthy and appropriate to be angry in proportion to offense. Even Jesus was angry....I am thinking about the money changers in the temple. We misdirect anger when we allow it be vengeful in excess of justice. So, I guess we will see how it all pans out.
    Fear can be a protection....but it can also be transformed into wrath....
    I expect a lot more conversation about borders and immigrants and refugees ....which is not all bad. I am praying for conversation and not bills or policies quickly drafted in response to anger and fear.
    I find your suggestion of bringing this to Gid at Mass very comforting. The strength and magnitude of God's for us in Jesus shining out for the whole world.
    Bless you.
    Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Yes, of course. I was thinking not so much of the immediate visceral reactions. What I've been seeing a lot of on social media is either absolutely hateful rhetoric about Muslims and refugees, or absolutely contemptuous scorn for people who raise any kind of concern about terrorism. And that kind of thing - alas, there's been quite a bit of it among Catholics! - really needs to be addressed. Yes, we're all upset - I certainly am! - but... with Jesus we can surely do better than what I've been seeing.

    2. "I lie down among lions that greedily devour human prey"
      Yes, friend....agreed we can do better...
      How difficult it is to move from fear and anger toward compassion and peace. These are such strong and human is so easy to move toward vengeance and wrath when one is wounded. We are are all of us sinners. We need to keep holding the light for one we acknowledge the full gravity of evil that this restoring justice can enter in and true forgiveness and compassion emerge.
      I do not disagree with you- one of the ways to compassion and charity is pointing out what it is not....
      Bless you


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