Sunday, March 9, 2008

Gratitude for gratitude

My friend Marie, who writes the blog Naru Hodo, is working on writing an updated conversion account. It seems to me that people who come into the Church as adults are not the only ones who convert -- even those of us who were baptized as infants must turn and turn again toward Christ. In my own conversion story, when I was twenty-one years old, there was a dramatic moment when I returned to living the sacramental life of the Church after several years away. During those months, I knew that my life had been given back to me. Like the prodigal son, I had been dead and was now alive again. This knowledge caused an acute, almost painful, gratitude to well up inside of me. When I woke in the morning, I'd be flooded with it. Sometimes I would even cry. I was so happy to be alive. It seemed like a gift that I didn't deserve. Colors, the beauty of the light, the sensation of warmth or the taste and feel of water on my skin -- I experienced these things as miraculous, gratuitous gifts.

Rather than fading away, this experience has deepened with time. So many more gifts have been added. Thank God this process has been gradual, because I doubt I could have borne so much beauty all at once! The gift of my marriage, the raw life that came rushing like a tidal wave with each new child born, the friendships in Christ, the beautiful work that has been placed into my hands, and all the depths of knowledge that God has given me to plumb in these years have added a richness to my daily rush of gratitude. It is a gratitude the color of love.

But in the last several weeks I've been quite sick, and I don't know when it happened, but that sense of gratitude left me, and waking up in the morning was a painful difficulty for several days. I'm sad and mortified to realize that I didn't even notice that it had happened, until yesterday morning, when it returned in full strength (after 24 hours of antibiotics). It's not that I wasn't praying or that I was unable to sense beauty and the gratuitous gift of life, it's just that I did not experience the joy of gratitude in those days.

It fills me with a great tenderness for all those who continue to walk, through great trials, tenaciously following Christ and believing in the promise of joy, even as they cannot taste it. God must know that I am not very strong to have given me this gift of spontaneous gratitude. May I never take it for granted again.

1 comment:

Justine said...

Glad you're feeling better!

I like that stained glass. :)

Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."