Friday, August 8, 2008

Lazarus, come out!

Naming things is one of the essential things we do as humans. It is a sacred task, given first to Adam. To assign the correct name to the correct object is not such an easy task, either. I can't help but think about T.S. Eliot's observation about the naming of cats:

The Naming of Cats

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, or George or Bill Bailey -
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter -
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum -
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover -
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.
When the Bible speaks of names, it refers to something more and deeper than the the mere sound we use to indicate one object rather than another. "Hallowed by thy name...": a person's name indicates the person in his completeness, his totality, his intimate being -- his deep cellular structure, his genetic, even molecular reality, his true essence. Using names correctly, then, means to engage in an art. The various scientific quests; philosophic research; studies in light, form, or color; historical documentation and analysis are all caught up in this divine imperative to discover and use the correct names for everything we encounter. To misuse names is to lie, and Satan is the Father of Lies.

Here is something from Father Giussani that I keep taped above my kitchen sink:
How interesting it is to read all the liturgical literature of Easter time, where the word “generate,” or “regenerate,” is continually quoted and recited. I wanted to choose a phrase that is more expressive than others: “Grant us to be renewed in Your Spirit, so as to be reborn in the light of the risen Lord.”22 “To be reborn in the light”: a human being who is born is an awareness of reality, an intelligence of reality, and a precise affection for reality, an acceptance of reality, an embrace of reality, an immersion in reality; you are immersed in reality exactly like you are immersed in the Mystery of Christ risen. So what characterizes this rebirth or this regeneration? Is there something to which we can reduce the event of this regeneration, the event of this rebirth (I am an other; I am no longer myself, but something else living in me;23 I am a new “I”) as its essential characteristic? What characterizes the new “I” is the truth of things, the truth of reality, a new intelligence of reality in its truth, a love for reality in its truth, an immersion in reality as truth, an immersion in the truth of reality (Giussani, The Risen Christ: The Defeat of Nothingness).

When one is "reborn in the light of the risen Lord," one receives a new intelligence of reality, a deeper capacity to name. Because the Resurrection changes everything. The presence of Christ in the world changes everything. There is still the same sun, the same mountains, the same clouds and rain. But now the mountains dance, and the rivers clap their hands. Do we see and hear these things with our five senses and our intelligence? No, we see these things with "new eyes" and "new ears." The power of the Resurrection gives us the capacity to see Something within something -- the truth of reality, to wit: goodness is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate, light is stronger than darkness, and life is stronger than death; God has a plan (as St. Paul tells us) "for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth" (Eph 1:10); that all things work together for good; that the history of God's tenderness toward humanity is a history of hope and redemption; that the kingdom is indeed at hand, and it is the size of a speck of dust but dynamic and charged with life.

Moreover, Christ calls us from within reality. Our vocation comes to us through the precise circumstances of our lives. Exactly those things that I face today, this minute, were placed in my path -- or I was placed in their path -- so that I can see and hear him say to me, "Suzanne, do you love me?...Feed my sheep." Every banal, tedious, onerous task given to me this day is for this precise purpose. If I don't hear him, if I don't see him in these tasks, then I need to beg to see him. He's there whether I can perceive him or not. My judgment is that he is indeed here, he is indeed risen, and he has indeed charged even my most distracted and abstracted moments with his Life. The most insignificant details, my most menial tasks, are given to me for a Reason. Out of a deep tenderness for my humanity, God has given me these precise circumstances, and no others, so that he can call me to him, so that I will recognize his voice, so that I will hear him say my name, so I will follow him in these "insignificant" details. After all, what seems insignificant and menial to me has eternal value to God -- who else sits around counting my hairs?

If the things that God places in our path irritate us, seem useless or hopeless, cause us to feel imprisoned or hated or demeaned, make us bored or restless or puzzled -- and they will, and they do! -- we need our friends to tell us: "Lazarus, come out!" I need my friends to say to me, "Lazarus, come out!"

(And I understand if you have to hold your nose, but do please be a little more discreet about it)

1 comment:

Freder1ck said...

Every banal, tedious, onerous task given to me this day is for this precise purpose. If I don't hear him, if I don't see him in these tasks, then I need to beg to see him. He's there whether I can perceive him or not.
The funny paradox is that it's precisely these banal things that are the signs of His presence. They are what they are and if I make them something that they are not, then I miss their true value.... I'll read this again tomorrow. Thanks!

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."