Saturday, August 16, 2008

How good and how pleasant...

Caravaggio

I posted a big block of text yesterday -- a fascinating account of the Assumption of Mary from an apocryphal text attributed to Joseph of Arimathaea. What strikes me the most in this text is the way that Thomas receives a pretty harsh rebuke from St. Peter: "And seeing and kissing each other, the blessed Peter said to him: Truly thou hast always been obdurate and unbelieving, because for thine unbelief it was not pleasing to God that thou shouldst be along with us at the burial of the mother of the Saviour."

Now, if it were me, I think I might have said something like: "Come on, Pete! I repented of that. Get over it already! You wouldn't want me to be constantly reminding you of how you denied our Lord, would you? Besides, you don't know what you're talking about, because I might not have been with the rest of you at that burial, but I witnessed something pretty darn amazing myself..."

But dear Thomas only responds thus: "And he, beating his breast, said: 'I know and firmly believe that I have always been a bad and an unbelieving man; therefore I ask pardon of all of you for my obduracy and unbelief.' And they all prayed for him."

This is how I want to respond, too! It's so much more attractive, so honest, so much saner. And so counter-cultural, I might add!

And then the whole truth comes out, and Thomas is vindicated: "And the apostles seeing the belt which they had put about her, glorifying God, all asked pardon of the blessed Thomas, on account of the benediction which the blessed Mary had given him, and because he had seen the most holy body going up into heaven."

What did Thomas say to this? Did he proclaim, in triumph, "Ah, see! I'm not so bad after all! I'm just as cool as the rest of you... You better never look down on me again, because I rock!"? No, the text says, simply, "And the blessed Thomas gave them his benediction, and said: 'Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!'"

Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!


Dearest St. Thomas, please pray for all of us because if we want to dwell together in unity, so much needs to be sacrificed! Help me to be this in love with destiny, Lord!

3 comments:

clairity said...

This is that simplicity Giussani pushes us toward. Without grace, it would take thousands of lifetimes to learn the simplest things! This is a lovely reflection with the pictures. Thank you!

Suzanne said...

It feels like thousands of lifetimes! Thanks, Sharon.

Marie said...

This reminds me of how my brother would sometimes respond to me when he was about high school age. I would start accusing him or complaining to him of this, that, and the other, and he would just say "Yep. You're right" and walk away. He sure knew how to take the wind out of my upset.

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."