Examiner.com: On the singing of birds

10 05 2009

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About a week ago, as I was hesitantly arising from my night of sleep, I heard the birds in the tree outside of my window singing, chirping, and making other mysterious chants to the neighborhood birds. This is a normal occurrence where I live – one that is easily overlooked when going about my daily duties (such as mustering the willingness to get out of the bed). On this particular day, however, I was immediately struck with the realization that these birds are always going about their days with a tune flowing forth from their little beaks. As a matter of fact, I cannot recall a day in my life when birds weren’t making some sort of announcement to the bird community: “Hey, did you guys hear about Fred? Poor guy stood on the wrong power line,” or cooing about the longing for dropped bread. They are always bringing in the day with song, a welcoming of and participation in the adventure which is the new day. Birds, I think (or hope, for some) we would all agree, sing. It’s part of what birds do (and do faithfully).

What struck me even more strongly, however, was the realization that humans, too, were created to sing, and to sing faithfully. This does not necessarily mean vocalizing one’s song (although, as St. Augustine tells us, “he who sings prays twice”), but it does mean that we were created in order to glorify God through who we are (both as humans and as individuals) and what we do. The bird, as a bird, can do nothing other than what it was intended to do (i.e., be a bird and do bird things), and, in so doing, it glorifies (and points us to) our Creator.

We, however, having been endowed with reason and free-will, can choose to not sing. We can ignore, deny, refuse, and, really, deprive ourselves of the dignity which we have been given in having been made in the image of God and restored to His likeness in our imitation of Christ. For it is only when we live our lives in submission to the way in which we were created (i.e., human nature) that we will truly enjoy life as we were always intended to enjoy it: to its fullest. This requires that we engage the whole human person: a “composition” of body and soul. When we live our lives (Christian or not) as if there is no God, we are depriving ourselves of something which is essential to who we are, for we have been created in order to glorify God by our freely-willed actions, as birds glorify God by singing. Realizing, in our daily lives, that we have been created by God frees us to act most fully according to the nature we have been given. It is only when we open ourselves to both the seen and unseen realities (that is, reason and faith) that we are capable of realizing our potential as humans, and of what it means to be human.

The living of life without God, whether because of the belief that material things are all that really exist, or simply because it is “easier” to live life without God (i.e., as one wants), has consequences which are all too apparent in our times: the neglect of human dignity, the elevation of “humanity” as the ultimate good, the unreasonable and emotive “arguments” which are put forth in order to do what one feels he should be able to do. All of these, in their many and various manifestations, point to a loss of the vision of God (at least for the louder and more powerful of our contemporaries; it seems that the majority of average folk retain common sense or otherwise haven’t reasoned themselves into unreasonable positions).

This brings me to my point: what if the birds didn’t sing? How much less enjoyable would a morning of sitting on the porch be? How deprived would the whole of nature be without the songs of birds? (Not to mention the consequences on their species were they unable to communicate with one another.) But isn’t the same true of us? We are the pinnacle of created beings, and are capable of many great things simply because we are human. But, with our “song” removed from our lives and our actions (and from the “theatre” of the world), how much worse is the world? What if we were to act as we were meant to, to glorify God through our actions? How much more glorious and meaningful would our simple daily tasks be? How would these little “songs” resound throughout the world, the community of humanity? How much are we depriving ourselves of the joys of human life because we’re neglecting the way in which we were created?

Though I am not advocating that the world is doomed or hopeless, nor that there are no “songs” already being sung, I am convinced that were we to regain the openness to the reality and presence of God, the human family would begin to flourish (individually, communally, and globally) because of our humility. For we must first see what is true before we can order our lives according to those truths, as the bird “knows” its place and sings its song as it was created to do.


Examiner.com: On the carrying of one’s cross (in one’s pocket)

10 05 2009

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Almost a year ago now, I was given a small crucifix from a friend in Mexico. I had been searching for one to carry around with me as a reminder of Christ’s presence and the work which He has accomplished (and continues to accomplish) in my life and in the life of the world. It’s old, only about three inches long, the cross and corpus are made of the same metal, and it’s very light; it’s very convenient to carry my cross in my pocket.

This brings me to the question: “What does it mean to carry one’s cross?” Christ has told us in many ways that we must pick up our crosses daily in order to be in Him, in order to merit life in abundance in this world and in the world to come. But what does this mean in the practicalities of our day-to-day lives? What does this mean to the person who sits in the chair receiving chemotherapy? For the loved one who sits in the waiting room? For the doctors and nurses who administer these treatments? What does it mean for the person who stays at home and cleans up the dishes and takes care of the clothes? For the person who goes to work – day in and day out – carrying out what can become a monotonous routine?

It seems that the carrying of the cross, and (consequently, what makes the load of the cross “light”) is the vision of Christ throughout our lives – whether we are going through tough or “normal” times. For it is only in the vision of Christ, the vision of God, that we are able to take in the larger context of what it means to exist as a part of Christ’s body, as one of His children. In the vision of Christ, the God Who became man, we will become simultaneously aware of the larger body that exists with (and independent of) us, as well as take those events which we are facing in the light of eternity, rather than seeing only what is in front of us. For if we see things solely in the light of (or, rather, in the darkness of) ourselves without the illumination of Christ, then we will be all the more inclined to make them more important than they really are. The cross will be a heavy burden, unbearable even, when not taken up in Christ; boredom, depression, anger, anxiety: all of these terrible deprivations of human life can gain a strong grounding in our lives, eventually sucking the life (which comes from Christ) out of life.

“But,” you may ask, “what does the little pocket crucifix have to do with this?” The pocket crucifix (read: object or devotion which brings your vision to God) is a sacramental. It is a tangible reminder of eternity. It is something that I can see, touch, smell, etc.; it engages my humanity to look beyond mere appearance and think of (reflect on, be grateful for) what it signifies. It brings my mind in touch with the redemption of Christ and the blessings which flow therefrom: the words and actions of Christ, the lives of the saints, the freedom He has won, the virtue which He calls me to, the truth that I am His child. With each turn towards God, we will become gradually (surprisingly?) aware that God is, in reality, still looking at us. In fact, His gaze never ceased. His love is continuously pouring down on us; we must first see and receive in order to spread this same love, in order to carry this cross.

A reply to Mark Morford on the Pope, condoms, and AIDS

8 04 2009

Almost a week ago, I received an e-mail which I had initially assumed was related to the comment of Edward Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project for the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, which said “the Pope is correct” about the use of condoms increasing the spread of HIV/AIDS, etc., rather than decreasing them, as its supporters would have us to believe (check below for links to articles of Mr. Green’s statement). However, the e-mail was only an article written by Mark Morford of the San Francisco Gate, which was simply a lengthy character attack of the Pope. I let the e-mail hang out in my inbox for a few days, until I finally decided to respond to it. What follows is the text (minus personal elements) of my response which I now offer as a response to Mr. Morford’s article.

I have read and skimmed through the article which you have sent me and have discovered that the clip in the e-mail would have been enough to suffice for what was to follow in the rest of the article. It is, from beginning to end, simply an attack on the character of a man with whom the author does not even seem to have any familiarity at all – else he would not lower himself to speak so superficially and dismissively about him. Nor would he have any reason to hold the Dalai Lama up on a pedestal (also a religious leader) while simultaneously attempting to attack a man who sticks to what he believes to be true – a characteristic in men, I think you would agree, that is lacking in our day in time (and is consequently a courageous thing, in my opinion). My question to him would be, how quickly would he remove the Dalai Lama from his pedestal were he to pronounce a statement against the same issue? The answer to me would appear to be that because the Dalai Lama has not pronounced anything against contraception, he is fair game to be used as an example to be followed – but, were he to do so, were he to pronounce something against what this author holds to be “good,” “right,” “just,” etc., he would write the same scathing article denouncing him. Now, the question then to ask is: who set him up as the dogmatic figure who may pronounce what is truly good, right, and just? He only supports the Dalai Lama because he supposes that the Dalai Lama falls in line with his beliefs – not because he actually cares what the Dalai Lama says. At the pinnacle of irony, who set him up as Pope? This, to me, is as “dogmatic” as it gets. But, this problem continues to multiply as you have multitude upon multitude of Mr. Morford’s running around declaring that what they think to be good, right, and just truly is, because they say so. And on what authority? With the Pope, there is only one figure who has been granted authority by Christ (who we, as Christians, believe to be God in the flesh) to sustain unity of belief (i.e., what God has revealed to us both through nature and through Scripture and Tradition) among His children.

Now, I know that we are coming from two different angles on the authority of the Pope and religion, etc., but I think that we can both agree that having millions of “popes” rather than one is a source of tremendous confusion and turmoil: if there are millions of different views of what is truly “good, right, and just,” then there’s not really unity – there’s just people doing what they want to do when they want to do it. How can any society (regardless of what its Constitution says) be expected to run something that is chaotic to the very core? I think that we can both see the manifestations of this at work right now. But, the thing that we have to come back to is that there’s only one truth, only one reality: the tree that you see is the same tree that I see; the Abita Amber that you drink is the same Abita Amber that I drink; the Mississippi River that you (hopefully ;) don’t swim in is the same Mississippi River that I don’t swim in. And this remains true even if one of us decides to deny the reality that is before us. If we were standing together in an open field with only one tree, and we go back to our friends and I (confused by the glare of the sun, but nonetheless fixed in my conviction), say “we stood by an elephant,” while you (unaffected by the sun because of your Ray Ban’s) said “no, we stood by a tree,” the truth remains (no matter how adamantly I believe and speak of my elephantile misperception) that I did, indeed, stand by a tree. The truth remains true regardless if one sees or believes it. And so it is with everything else in our universe – things seen and unseen – because truth is not created by us, it is received by us.

Now, back to the Pope and Mr. Morford: on what authority do they stand?

Mr. Morford: as far as I can perceive from his writing, a man with an axe to grind because a religious leader doesn’t conform to his beliefs. Where do his beliefs come from? I would surmise that his beliefs largely come from himself and what he “feels” to be “good, right, and just” by “his own” conscience, which could very well conflict with the respective consciences of his many fellow world-inhabitors. For, if there is no God (or we have killed Him, as Nietzsche wrote), what else has man left but himself to look to? Now, why would I want to follow my own, much less the beliefs of another man who stands by himself (i.e., on his own authority) in asserting what is objectively “good, right, and just,” regardless if it corresponds with what is actually true? Should one of our friends, visiting the field and seeing not an elephant, but a tree, stand with me who proclaims that the tree is an elephant because I say so? Or should, he, seeing the tree, stand by you, who stood by what is really true?

The Pope: a man who, on being elected, stated that he was but an unworthy laborer in the vineyard of the Lord, which says from the get-go that he is not laboring for himself (and even didn’t want to be elected, but wanted to retire and to finish his life writing books). Where do his beliefs come from? His beliefs are the beliefs which the Catholic Church has always taught, which, he believes were and are the teachings which Christ (God) Himself gave to the world in His time on earth. The authority on which he stands is the authority which Christ granted to the Apostle Peter, of whom he is a successor. Therefore, his responsibility is to hand on the objective truth about what God has willed for our universe and for our race. That is, God Himself, in human flesh, gave Peter (and his successors), whom He knew personally, authority to proclaim the one Truth, Himself, Who is found in everything which is true – seen and unseen. To end the contrast between the two, the Pope isn’t arbitrarily dogmatic, just because he believes it to be true, regardless as to whether it actually is, but proclaims that which God has entrusted to him to proclaim. He is “dogmatic” in the sense that the office which God has given him is to preserve those things which are always true, regardless of times and cultures. He stands by you, proclaiming that the tree is actually a tree, and not by me, who proclaims that the tree is an elephant, when it is only my misperception and adherence to it which I adhere to. A tree is a tree, regardless if I believe it or not. In the same way, murder is murder and is wrong, regardless of the time and culture it happens in.

Finally, from this to the complaint of the article: by not allowing the use of condoms (or, rather, not adhering to the dogma of Mr. Morford), the Pope is condemning millions to die. The fact is that, the Pope, by the authority with which he has been entrusted, is reaching to a deeper truth about man than simply a superficial “use of condoms.” From the way which I have argued thus far, he is saying that condoms engender an attitude, an inclination, in man which is contrary to the way in which God created us (and, I think, STD’s are an indication that “things aren’t supposed to happen this way”). Condoms are promoted as a way to have “safe sex,” but in reality, it promotes sex without consequence [and is even ineffective as a method of prevention – the safest condom in the world only offers an 85% chance of effectiveness, and none of them are tightly woven enough to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS through the condom] , i.e., it provides a way for man to not control his sexual inclinations – not controlling them by the gifts of reason and free will (which distinguish us from other animals), but submitting (and becoming enslaved) to them, thereby lowering us beneath the dignity which we have been given. It’s like putting an infectious band-aid on a wound that needs stitches: it’s only making the underlying problem worse. As the recent statement [here or here] (which I initially thought your e-mail was related to, as your article and this one came about around the same time) of Edward Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project for the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, of the conclusions of their research shows, the promotion of condom usage is directly related to the increase and not the decrease of AIDS/HIV, etc. It is this way for the exact reasons which the Popes have always taught about contraception: using condoms promotes sexual promiscuity (a “disordering” of the way we have been created) and it is patently obvious that sexual promiscuity was and is the cause of STD’s. I mean, remove promiscuity, and there are no more STD problems. It is a matter of self-control, of mastering oneself (which the Greek philosophers understood even before Christ’s taking on flesh, i.e., through reason), which is further supported and enlightened by God’s revelation (i.e., through faith) about man.

I know that we’re coming from two different perspectives on this issue, but I think that the facts (as supported by Edward Green of Harvard) are confirming what the Popes have been saying ever since this has been a problem (which did not begin in the 60’s, though it has certainly been a prevalent issue since then). In this case, I think that Mr. Morford is crying “elephant,” all the while the Popes have been standing by the tree and calling us to look deeper than the surface and to heal the deeper wound of selfishness and self-gratification with self-gift and self-sacrifice – which must be present for authentic love – not by furthering the damage with a tool which only makes the wound become more infected and further from healing than it already is.

Awaiting “greater” things…

11 02 2009

In my first weeks back at home from seminary, I was extremely content with the position in which I’d found myself. I’d just made an enormous decision in my life, and was looking towards the bright future which awaited me. I had set very general plans for the direction which my life was going to be taking. “I’m gonna get a job and work for awhile, maybe I’ll meet ‘someone,’ and just see where life takes me. Maybe I’ll want to go back to school; I really enjoy writing.” And so I went about my days doing my part around the house, tying up loose ends, catching up on some reading, watching an occasional movie, visiting with family, etc. Not only did I do these things, but I did them with great joy (quite the accomplishment for me ;)) – even in the midst of the insecurities of transitions.

But, for the past few weeks, I’ve found myself increasingly discontent with my life. I, like a good percentage of Americans, find myself looking for a job in an extremely difficult period in our nation’s short history. And so, many of my days are spent waiting for one of the companies to which I have applied to respond. Fortunately for me, I am able to stay with my parents until something does come through (at some point in the unknown). But (with the exception of the illness of my grandfather), nothing has really changed between then and now, so why do I find myself discontent?

At the root of it is something which is my own fault, and that is the slippage of my prayer life. It started out strong, vivified by the recent changes in my life. But, gradually, I became more consumed with things that were both important and not important. I began to lose the balance in my prayer life, devoting more time instead to the now “urgent” necessity of finding a job and to the increasingly “routine” chores around the house. I had let go of the opportunity to invite God into my job-searching and dish-washing, and they became boring. They became important. Other things became more “important” and “serious” while God became “unimportant” and “unserious.” And He very gradually began to take the backseat while I took the reigns. I lost sight of God and saw only myself.

It’s because of this that I’ve come to the (low) point in which I’ve found myself for a few weeks. Job searching has reached near despair, time with family has become less important, chores have become a pain: I’ve lost touch with the world around me because of my consumption with my little problem. These things have lost their “littleness,” their unimportance, their unseriousness, because I’ve lost sight of Who makes them unimportant, and I’ve lost the joy that is possible in everything that I do because I’ve lost sight of the One Who gives me a reason to be joyful regardless of where I find myself – from cleaning the dishes to looking for a job to doing something that I enjoy.

It was when my “plans,” ever so general, became my source of happiness – my god – that I began to be discontent. And, the longer that I’ve allowed this to go on, the worse I’ve gotten.

Whether I am in a constant state of anticipation of things to come or whether my “plans” come out how I wanted them to, the thing that is most important, which I have missed out on in the past few weeks, is that God is in the midst of them all. When the time comes for things to start coming together, for things to start “happening,” that’ll be great; but, in the meantime, God is still present, even when I don’t want to be, when I don’t want to accept how things are, when I would rather navel-gaze because things are not how I would have them to be according to my “plan.” Meanwhile, I’m missing out on the life which God wants to give me where He has me at now: doing dishes, spending time with my family, applying for jobs, and other “normal” things.

Why not allow these little things to be unserious? Why not make them fun? 

Why not allow His life to fill mine? What greater thing am I awaiting?

On being broken

8 02 2009

In the journey through our daily lives, we are all faced with an ever-present reality, and this is that of our own brokenness, our limitedness, our inability to be whole. This is made especially apparent when we are directly confronted with that aspect of our present state that has been the case since the fall of our first parents. And that reality is suffering.

We are each presented with particular sufferings and each face them as unique individuals who approach our sufferings in a particular way. But, despite each of our unique ways of dealing with suffering, I think, in the end, each of us (in every occasion of suffering) make one of two basic choices in dealing with suffering and our own brokenness. Hanging from early Christian tradition, we can call these two basic decisions “the path of light” and “the path of darkness.”

For example, say that one’s life is overshadowed by the anxiety and the preoccupation with a decision that has to be made. This fear pervades seemingly every moment of everyday, and brings with it the thrashing of violent surges of emotions that, in the end, paralyze the person from being their self. Because of the constancy and the intensity of the fear that is experienced, the person is, in effect, isolated from the rest of the world, that is, by allowing the fear to garner so much control over them, they are cutting themselves off from reality, and (unknowingly) allowing the fear to control them. At its worst, the fear becomes a sort of god that the person bows down before in every instance, often being driven into inaction (despondency, disconnectedness) because of the constant preoccupation with the fear (and really, a fear of the fear itself, i.e., an inactivity, indecisiveness, and even insecurity, which is borne out because of fear of arousing the fear: “can’t think that because the fear will come back,” “can’t do this because it’ll arouse the fear.”). These things I would liken to the worshiping of the god. Consequently, this way, this response to dealing with a form of suffering is the path of darkness, which, if not overcome, leads us to death (or in a sense, directly to death, as it quite literally kills the life inside of us). This way of “darkness,” chosen by us (though the “choice” is less apparent/explicit when this is our normal habit of acting) appears to be in direct opposition to the words of Jesus in John’s Gospel (10:10): “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

But why, when we have the option to do otherwise, would we ever choose the path of darkness? Once we realize that there is another option, why would we choose to be miserable, to be disconnected, to be self-centered? Why would we will our own unhappiness? Why would we choose to remain in the dark? It seems that in normal circumstances of everyday life, when we are presented with a choice that would increase our happiness versus one that would increase our sadness, we would unanimously say that we want to choose the thing that would make us happy, that would bring us to a greater appreciation of life. If this is true in everyday practical situations, then why wouldn’t we do the same for the spiritual and psychological realities of our lives? Are these realities impenetrable?

I have been listening to a lot of music which further illustrates the above points. Take, for example, Nirvana’s “You Know You’re Right,” Seether and Amy Lee’s “Broken,” and many of Staind’s songs. While I very much appreciate the honesty and the integrity with which these groups convey their (seemingly terrible) pain, I can’t seem to escape the fact that when the song is over, they’re stuck with the pain, the hurt, and the anger with nothing to draw them out of it. I have to admit the music itself is a definite start in the right direction, but, once the articulation and/or venting and processing is over, there’s not often a “light at the end of the tunnel,” that is, a reason for not re-entering another painful event in the same way. And so, without a greater hope than that which we are able to humanly deal with (by reflection, etc.), we are destined for repeating the same actions in the same way; there is nothing that pulls us out of (or away from) ourselves and to something which is greater than ourselves.

So, what are we to do with our suffering? If remaining simply on the human (or merely the emotional) level isn’t sufficient for truly allowing us to “have life in abundance” –  even when we are suffering in some way – then what is the other option? What is the “path of light”?

Going back to the particular situation, we need to remember that we are presented with a choice. On the one hand, I can wallow in my misery, allowing it to kill the spark of life in me, or I can take the other option which is not possible without the gift of God’s grace. The “path of light” is a trust and a hope in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have to remember that regardless of the circumstances which surround us, no matter how deep is the suffering, how sharp is the pain, no matter how much we don’t want to turn to Him, or how much we feel as if He has abandoned us, He is indeed walking with us in our suffering, He is leading us through our suffering, and if we will allow Him, He will bring us to life through our suffering. This is the hope which enlightens all of the darkest places that we each encounter, for through His death and resurrection, God killed the “dark.” It is done and all that we have to do is to realize this in our daily lives and live them in accordance with this hope. Death has died, and I now have the option to walk in the light that was given to me, or to remain in the darkness that is destroyed, which is, in the light of Christ, irrelevant.

Now, this is by no means to say that suffering will no longer hurt. Suffering hurts, period. And when we experience it, the first thing that we are inclined to do is to avoid it, to become or remain “happy” in a false sense. Or, as illustrated earlier, it could be allowed to be so overwhelming that it becomes godlike for us. But, in these experiences of suffering we are able to recognize our oneness with God; it stresses the meaning of a “personal relationship” and we come to realize God’s loving presence with us through our suffering. Indeed, we become aware of the suffering of God with us, through our suffering. We cannot think that God is not affected by our suffering. If that were the case, then what was the point of the Cross? If God was indifferent to our suffering, why did He waste His time coming down to earth, to live a fully human life, to suffer, to die, and to rise? For people He doesn’t care about? God showed us His intimate closeness with us in our suffering through His actions in this life, especially in obedience to a command from His Father that terrified Him: to be mocked, spit on, slapped, scourged, humiliated, crucified, and suffocated until He died. And He did this for us – not just some abstract “humanity” but for you and I: for each of us, as individuals who are specifically loved by God.

What is necessary for us to walk the “path of light”? We have to recognize that the Cross was not the end for Christ. He had the final word in His resurrection from the dead. Through our trust in this life-giving action of God, we are able to live in the light, as “children of the light,” because the path has been illumined by His resurrection. The crucifixion happened, no doubt, and there would have been no resurrection without it, but the fact remains that Christ destroyed death and restored life to us. He doesn’t want us to turn in on ourselves with our experience of suffering, rather He wants us to be freed from the power which death and darkness had over us before He destroyed it. If He wanted us to remain where we already were, there would have been no resurrection (indeed, no Christ) and there would be no reason to believe in the Messiah Whom God the Father sent to be the spotless Lamb slain on our behalf. He died that we “may have life, and have it abundantly.” He did not come so that we may remain in the grip of death and be paralyzed by despair. His whole life as witnessed in the Gospels testifies to this reality. He came to free people from all forms of slavery: from sins, hypocrisy, demons, illnesses, and fear, and in this newfound freedom to freely choose Him, to freely choose life over death, light over darkness.

But, many of us have previously heard these things (possibly many times); so what is it that prevents us from embracing this freedom which has been given to us through the person of Jesus Christ?

I honestly believe that one of the greatest barriers to having “the freedom of the sons of God” is simply a matter of habit. I think that we too easily forget that we are, in fact, creatures of habit, and too often suppose that “one day I’ll get better” or “one day I’ll be better,” as if this were going to magically happen just by thinking it, with no real effort, no real commitment involved. But, following from the teaching of the Church and, recently, of John Paul II, it is our actions that define us and not our words nor our wishful thinking. It is what we do with what we have that matters – not what we think about our situation in life.

But, it seems, because the issue of habit is so easily forgotten or otherwise looked over, I think that it’s necessary to turn the habit of choosing the path of darkness into the habit of choosing the path of light. How this will be implemented in our daily lives can be as unique as each of us are. When we are feeling down, disconnected, overwhelmed, paralyzed, it’s of utmost importance to first recognize that God knows this and wants to free us and wants us to live in His light and to be wrapped in His love. Then, we can make an act of faith: as often as it occurs (and even when it doesn’t) call on His name, invite the Holy Spirit to come; be reminded of what God has already accomplished and what He wants to accomplish. The important thing to remember is that we have to be diligent, both in our awareness and in our practice of choosing to live life in God’s light. God will bless our virtuous attempts to arise from darkness through the grace which inspires us and enables us to take such a step towards Him. Gradually (this is a battle, after all), the grace-led struggle to choose light over darkness will become ingrained in us, part of us, and we will more naturally turn towards God, not only in our struggles, but also in the rest of our lives, because we are cooperating with Him: His grace is flourishing through our effort; He is working with us and we with Him. We are seeking to live the life of abundance which our Lord promised that we may have in Him, and because we actively seek, “we will find,” because we knock, “the door will be opened to us.”

And what is the door at which we knock? I think that it is the door which opens us to the ever present moment which God is always in: the moment of now. Rather than turning in on ourselves and falling into the black hole of navel-gazing darkness, becoming disconnected from the present moment: ourselves, others, work, leisure – whatever is in front of us – we are enveloped in the things that are most important, those things that are part of our day-to-day lives and, in a sense, we become one with them. We become transparent and “caught up” in existence, which brings us to God, for He alone is the source and master of those things which truly are, which truly exist. In other words, by choosing to live in the light, we are choosing to remain in the only place that we really are anyway (and everything else is): not in the scruples of the past, nor in the uncertainties of the future, but in the bliss of the present moment, where God is always found, pouring forth His light and His grace which sustains us in our faith, in our hope, and in our love.

It is only by choosing to remain in Him that we see our smallness, for the greatness of His light illumines the vastness of created things and the little place that we occupy in the midst of them. We are given a glimpse of humility, seeing and accepting things as they truly are, seeing things how God sees them. There is no doubt in my mind that sometimes this is with sorrow, but never without seeing it for what it is: a passing shadow in the midst of a grander picture, a picture which always shows forth the unsurpassable joy, love, and freedom which was won for (and is always available to) us by our loving God in and through Christ Jesus.

Ordering the Passions with Virtue

21 08 2008

Ordering the Passions with Virtue

This was a paper that I wrote in order to discover the means at our disposal in order to properly deal with the emotions that we all experience. Specifically, it is written to discover in what ways we can properly order the emotions, so that they don’t run our lives and control our actions. With virtue lived in our lives, it is possible to overcome the very common (in our day) situation of “emoting”, and placing the emotions in their proper position in our lives: as “informants” or “guides” (but not as infallible ones) to the decision made by our intellect and the consequent action that is taken. Doing so allows us to act as we were intended to act; to have our emotions in their proper place allows us to be more well-ordered persons, whose actions are more fluidly made when “all things are in their proper place, performing their proper function.”

This was written in my first semester of theology at Notre Dame Seminary for Foundations of Moral Theology I.