Wednesday, March 19, 2008

An immense love

El Greco, the Agony in the Garden

As a catechist, I feel so honored and provoked to have been invited to read this reading for our local Way of the Cross on Good Friday:
My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Still, let it be as you would have it, not as I.

Were we not marred, my child, were you not marred, encumbered by whole generations of catechism, of habit, of catechistic habit, my child, who would not be struck, who would not be frightened by these lines, by these few atrocious lines, by these terrifying words, by this terrifying prayer. When you think about it. Thus, everything was prepared, decided centuries ago and from centuries of centuries ago; back from eternal centuries and all centuries and the eternal centuries; back from eternity, everything was decided; the whole system, all this adaptation, your Christian adaptation; back from the fall, from all eternity but particularly, temporally back from the fall, the redemption was ready, the redemption was decided. And behold. All Christianity was ready, all Christianity was decided. He himself was ready, he himself at the core was waiting, at the core of the operation, at the beginning, at the top. He himself was prepared, his preparation was done. His will was decided from all eternity. This had been decided. No one forced his hand. Who, anyway, who would have forced his hand? Nothing forced him, nothing forced his hand, to take care of that affair, nothing if not an immense love, nothing had dragged him into that affair if not an immense love, his infinite, eternal love. -- Charles Péguy, Gethsemane, quoted during the Way of the Cross organized by Communion and Liberation.

I feel as if, during this Lent, I have been assailed from all sides by examples of others' poverty of heart. It is a theme that approaches me from every direction and surprises me each time. And each time, I feel as if a mirror has been put in front of my face, and I see that I am lacking, in comparison, this great attitude -- I, who feel so poor!

I have learned, over the past few years, to stop making plans in advance for Lent. God always provides me with my Lenten observances, in ways I would never be able to decide in advance. I begin Lent, not so much with resolutions, as with fear, asking, "What's it going to be this year, God?" And also asking for the strength to face it, whatever it is.

This year, it is the strong reproof from heaven that despite my fine words, despite my fine works, I have failed over and over again to place myself at the disposal of Life, of the mysterious Order that is God's plan for everything. I have had my own ideas, my own notions, my own plans. And I have been so stubborn!

Faced with the example of Chris Bacich and the other GS Responsibles at the GS vacation, with the beautiful account of my friend Marie's conversion to Catholicism, with the example of the humble step taken by Cleuza and Marcos Zerbini of the Landless Workers' Movement in Brazil, a breath-taking example from Fr. Carron's life, and now with this account of Jesus' free decision to hand over his life so movingly exposed by the poet Charles Péguy, I do indeed feel poor, but it is a poverty of love. I am poor in love! The evidence has been building, and I can't deny it. Please, God, help me to live in your immense love, because I am wretched.

The stone on which Jesus prayed in the Garden,
in the Church of All Nations

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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."