Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Difficult Beauty, An Uncomfortable Truth

Well, the week that is called ‘holy’ is intensifying itself, and today pain and joy meet. It is a strange meeting point. An apex of sorts, a fantastic mountain of the Lord. Moses climbed a mountain and God spoke to him, and he returned and his face was so shiny that people could not look at it. He had to put a veil over it.

But today God who has incarnated himself, who came down from the mountain through his Incarnation, lived amongst us, strangely enough today he is lifted up again on such an unspeakable, incredible mountain that anyone who thinks about it feels a strange tension - a sort of feeling of total incredulity - that for me, who am so poor, God sent his Son to climb this mountain which is just a Cross. A plain, wooden, unplaned cross!

To think about it holds you tight. Not in the sense that people say - I am uptight. It holds you close. It holds you close to a love that is incomprehensible, incredible, but so true!
Now, this God of ours was born like all of us, naked. But he chose to be naked on the wood. When I say he chose, that is what happened to him, and probably to all those who were crucified.

Now, the meditation of Good Friday goes in depths. It does deeper - in some sort of depths of my heart that perhaps I have never looked into before. To be naked for the reasons of poverty - total poverty - of total surrender - even unto the clothes that I possess, is something that shakes you.

We are supposed to understand that God came and took upon himself the shape of a servant, a slave... us, the body. But he went further. He surrendered everything including that body for the love of us. He emptied himself.

Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Spiritual Reading, Good Friday, 1974

Reflection – I won’t be blogging during the Triduum and over the Easter holiday, but I very much wanted to share with you this magnificent talk Catherine gave on Good Friday, a mere three days from now. Certainly all of Holy Week is meant to be a prolonged meditation on this mystery of what our God has done for us to save us.

The theme of poverty has been much to the fore in the Church since Pope Francis was elected, and this is a very good thing. It is, by definition and strict necessity, an uncomfortable topic, and that is good, too. Why should we be comfortable, in a world where so many of our brothers and sisters are without?

So often in our discussions about poverty, the subject is cast solely in terms of social justice—we who have much should have less so that the poor of the world have more, essentially. And of course this is very true—the requirement to share the world’s goods fairly and to not be living in luxury while people are starving in shacks is plain to see.

But Catherine—who had a great sensibility around that and could talk very passionately about that aspect of it—always went somewhere else in the poverty question. Namely, for her it was inextricably and intimately bound up with her love of and union with Christ. God was born naked and died naked, chose to be born in the lowest of circumstances and chose to die the contemptible death of a condemned criminal.

Poverty for her was always a question of just how many layers of padding and fabric and belongings, how much sumptuous food and how much comfortable surroundings we could surround ourselves with, wrap ourselves tight with, and still be passionate lovers of this naked man, this naked God.

On one level, for her it was never about quantities and dollar figures—it was about love and union and caring about nothing so much as whether or not we are one with Christ in his passionate love of the world. She would happily send members of MH off on trips to the ends of the earth to learn this skill or gain that experience that would help them be better lay apostles… and she would be very disturbed to see someone take a second cup of coffee or a third helping.

It was never about the thing, it was about the cling—our hearts grabbing onto that cup of coffee, that piece of cake, that material reality as if that was our life and our security. But Jesus, the Son of God, was born naked and died naked—his life and his security was to do the Father’s will, his food and drink, his only home was the call to love and to die for his people.

So this is Good Friday and its depth of meaning, and I want to spend the next couple days before the blog goes dark listening to what Catherine has to say about it. It’s not comfortable, not easy, and I make no claim to my own living of it very well at all… but it is very beautiful, and above all it is true. It is Truth, and it is the truth we are to contemplate in this Holy Week.

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