Saturday, April 16, 2011

Reflection: "Father, forgive them..."

"Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."

Intercession.  That is the first gift Christ offers from the cross.  He intercedes with His Father on our behalf.  He pleads for our absolution, even as He hangs on the cross fashioned from our sin.  He begs His Father to consider our ignorance, to look with pity on our sin-darkened intellects.

The Jewish authorities and Roman soldiers did not really understand what they were doing.  They thought they were preserving their people from error or protecting the social order.  They did not understand Who Jesus was.

But can we really claim ignorance?  We, who claim the name, "Christian," can we also claim that we do not know what we do when we sin?  Can we ask God to excuse our intentional failings because we did not know what we were doing?  In this age of instant access to information, ignorance is a weaker defense than ever before.  We rarely accept it as an excuse for poor judgement.  We expect one another to be informed.

But raising consciousness is not the same as having a well-formed conscience.  Even when a depthless well of information is available to us, we rarely draw wisdom from its waters.  There are books and websites that offer detailed knowledge about every subject.  Yet, to paraphrase Denethor, for all our subtlety, we have not wisdom.  Why?

Because wisdom is not something you gain by bloodless means.  Words on a page, be they in a book or on the internet, do not purify the sin-stained will.  Only the crucible of self-sacrificial love burns hot enough to blast the impurities out of our nature.  The waters of the Jordan are not sufficient.  The Blood of Christ and the Fire of the Spirit are the only agents capable of purging our iniquities.  We must go out to the desert to hear John the Baptist, but we cannot stay there with him.  To learn true wisdom we must travel with Jesus to Jerusalem.  To Calvary.

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," say both Psalm 111 and Proverbs 9.  Only when we are awestruck by an encounter with God do we begin to understand.  Only when the numinous assaults the mundane, only when the sacred invades the profane do we have the chance to learn real wisdom.  Awe draws us into relationship with God, and that relationship is the foundation of wisdom.  And nothing is more Awe-ful than the Crucifixion.

The cross shows the sincerity of God's desire for a relationship with us.  It tears the veil "woven over all peoples," and heaven erupts through the rent seams.  The tool of torture becomes the instrument of rapture, for, in breaking the God-Man's body, it restores the relationship between Man and God.  "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do," does not simply excuse our ignorance, but also replaces it with the wisdom of eternal love.  With one hand He removes our shame.  With the other He bestows a share in His glory.

But there is a deeper truth.  Christ does not act alone.  All that He does, He does in obedience to the Father, in union with the Spirit.  He does not simply offer Himself to the world; the Father offers Him to the world.  He does not merely give us His example; He gives us the Holy Spirit.  Remember, the first word of these last words is, "Father."  From His first breath to His last, Christ has come to reconcile us to the Father.  He offers us forgiveness so that we can be in relationship with the Father just as He is.  Just as the Father offers the Son, so too does the Son offer the Father.

Wisdom comes from a relationship with the Living God.  Wisdom is alive.  But it can be gained only at the foot of the cross; at the pierced feet of the dying Christ.  Death must be endured before it is defeated.  Life must be given up so that it can be received.  We know this, but do we really know it?  Is it the breath in our lungs and the blood in our hearts?

We do not know what we are doing, but that may not matter so much in the end.  Christ knows what He is doing.  Our salvation comes not from knowing what we have done, but what He has done.  It does not come from knowing ourselves, but from knowing Him.

Let nothing keep you from knowing Him.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Reflection: The Seven Last Words of Christ

Tomorrow I'm going to begin a series of reflections on the Seven Last Words of Christ.  The series will end on Good Friday.  Holy Saturday will feature a poem, and then Easter Sunday will have another reflection about a different word.

The text I'll be using is as follows:

"Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."
"Today, you will be with me in Paradise."
"Woman, behold your Son.  Behold your mother."
"My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"
"I thirst."
"It is finished."
"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."

I'm not a Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew scholar, so I'm not going to claim these (nor any other Scripture selections I cite in English in the course of these reflections) are the definitive translations of Biblical verses.  But I am going to be picky with my words, since I am a writer.

These words are powerful, and I hope that my reflections, uh, reflect at least a little of that power.  I figure any writer whose work reflects a little bit of divine light is making the world a better place, especially this time of the year.  Hopefully my mirror is sufficiently polished.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fiction: The Blind Wizard's Journal 3

This is my favorite entry so far.  I hope you like it.

            The spell worked.  Perfectly.  We are one.
            We were not prepared.
            Our minds were not ready for the overwhelming tide of sensations and emotions.  And thoughts!  We nearly drowned in each other's thoughts.  I felt sense of self slipping away, like incense in the wind.  Mirrin's confidence and faith and joy were so great!  To feel them was to bathe in wonder and terror.  It was like when the Diamond Focus was destroyed, but even more intense.  The world was meant to have that magic.  My mind was not meant to meet hers so directly.  My naked thought melted against hers.
            I cannot give words to what it was like to experience her femininity for the first time.  It was not simply her otherness, but her feminine otherness that was so alien and unintelligible.  It is familiar now.  I am accustomed to it.  But it is still utterly different and... and I just cannot put words to it.
            She said that she was staggered by my thoughts and feelings, too.  All the magecraft that is instinctive to me was incomprehensible, raw idea to her.  And the discipline built up over the years, my defense against the mage-ache, was terrible and frigid steel.  My sense of magic was too acute for her.  It caused her pain at first.  And my sight.  She said it was just a dead spot in me, like a rock in a field of grass.
            My masculinity was not so inscrutable to her as her femininity was to me, but it was still daunting.  She did not speak much of it, but she seems to have caught on to something that delights her.  I remain mystified, and that delights her even more.
            We meld only when we touch, skin to skin.  Brushing my hand against her cheek makes a comet of her presence streak through my mind.  A passionate kiss is a torrent, a riot of her being invading my own.  Making love is indescribable.  If everyone felt this way the first time they made love, there would be no adultery and no divorce.  It is unthinkable to desire anyone else after such an experience.  Mirrin is more a part of me than my breath and blood.  Perhaps we are being recompensed for our spoiled honeymoon?
            She is a wizard, now.  She can use my talent as readily as I can, and she feels no pain.  It is ironic that the very thing that made Idoun so formidable, his painless spellcasting, was the thing that cut him off from all other living things.  His self-love literally stopped his heart.  His arrogance isolated him from every other being in Lariel.  Yes, he was nearly invulnerable.  But vulnerability is part of real love.  What torment it must be to exist for hundreds of years and be unable to love.  Now that he is truly alive, he feels everything again.  He must feel fear most of all.
            Mirrin is not afraid of magic.  When we meld, she can wield my power deftly, now that we have trained each other how to use each other's bodies.  We are still learning the best ways to move with each other, and we are experimenting with different types of clothing and armor.  We cannot always hold hands in battle, and we are discovering what to keep covered and what to leave bare.  Modesty is a concern, but practical needs will be what determine the final shape of our armor.
            The sun is climbing higher, and I have work to do.  I must return to darkness for a while and speak with Tak.

Any comments?  I'd love to see them!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fiction: The Blind Wizard's Journal 2

I've been thinking more about how the Blind Wizard and his wife, and I have some more of his journal to share.  I hope you enjoy!

            I love my wife, and she loves me.  Our love brings our minds, bodies, and souls into constant contact.  There are times when it feels almost like we are one being, thinking and breathing and loving with one will in two bodies.  Or maybe more like two wills in one body.  I do not know if I could tell the difference.
            In less than an hour we will be uniting ourselves in a way more intimate than any other.  It will be more profound than when we make love.  It will be more lasting than when we cooperate to accomplish the many tasks set before us each day.  Our souls, our very wills shall be united.
            Tak has taught me a form of magic that can bond my soul to Mirrin's.  I do not believe it is possible for anyone else to cast the spell.  Because we are married, and because she was bound to the Coriura as I was, Mirrin and I may be capable of exerting our wills through each other's limbs.  Just as I can see through Tak's eyes and move his fingers, so too will Mirrin and I be able to share control of our bodies.
            Our child will not be harmed; she will not be affected in any way.  I have prepared Mirrin's body, and my own, so that our daughter will be safe.
            Safe if we survive.  Just as there is a chance that a Champion may die when he bonds with the Coriura, so too is there a possibility that Mirrin and I may die when we attempt to bind ourselves together.  It is a small chance.  But it is not insignificant.
            There was no Scripture that could offer us guidance.  We have prayed together, and thought together, and meditated.  We do not believe the risk is too great.  We do not think going through with this plan is sinful.  Idoun is too grave a threat for me to face as I am.  If the spell works, then we shall be able to resist him much more effectively.  It is our duty - not just mine anymore, but both of ours - to protect the people of Lihn.
            Mirrin will be here soon.  I must finish the preparations, and pray.

More Blind Wizard tomorrow.  As always, comments are welcome!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Poetry: He Is Gone

So I think I finally have a response to the event that caused my blogging break.  It is easier for me to express these thoughts as poetry, so, here I go:

He is Gone

Now he is gone, but we remain,
And You remain with us.

Now he is gone, but You were here
Before him,
And will remain long after we have left.

For when we're gone, we will remain
With You, where e'er we are.

For we cannot escape from You.
You find us.
You are the very Pow'r that moves our limbs.

And though You moved him far away,
He gave Your Love to us.

That Love remains within our hearts.
Divine Love
That will sustain us in uncertain times.

In all seasons, and in all times,
Your promise is the same.

When two or three are gathered here
In Your Name,
There also will You be, Emmanuel.

He's gone, but I'm not, and neither are the rest of us.

And neither is Christ.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Meditation: The Prayer of St. Ignatius

I went to a Jesuit college, so I have a special fondness for Ignatian Spirituality.  One of my favorite prayers, introduced to me as, "The Prayer of St. Ignatius," is a wonderful song of supplication.  It entreats God to grant the grace of unconditional love on the supplicant.  I figure a brief meditation on it is a good way to start the work-week, especially as we struggle through the final ten or so days of Lent.

Recall that, In order to meditate properly, there are a few things we need to do:
      Adopt a relaxed but upright posture to allow for proper breathing.
      Breathe in, deeply and slowly, through the nose, and breathe out through the mouth.
      Ask the Lord to guide our thoughts.

St. Ignatius, Christ freed you from worldly desires so that you could fight for Him.  Intercede for us, so that we, too, can joyfully detach ourselves from the things of this world and more perfectly love Christ and one another.  We pray, slowly and thoughtfully:

Lord, teach me to be generous,
Teach me to serve You as You deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labor and not to ask for reward,
Save that of knowing that I do Your will.

Generosity is hard.  It demands that we give, even when we are in need.  It urges us to spend ourselves completely, even when we are weak.  It calls us to fight for the defenseless, even when we are alone.  But how can we not be generous, when Christ has been so generous to us?

Think of those people to whom you are called to be generous this day.  How will you be Christ to them?  How will you be Christ to the unexpected guest or stranger?  How will you be Christ to those people you find hardest to love?

Do not forget to accept Christ's generosity.  He longs to give Himself to you every day, every hour, every moment.  There are times when we are called to receive first, and then to give.  Let Christ love you this day.

Take three deep, slow breaths.  Breathe in Christ's love, and breath out Christ's love.

Now, return to the work of the day with a generous spirit.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Commentary: Government Shutdown

I'm glad to be blogging again.  Below you'll find my reaction to what I've heard on cable news and read online regarding current events.

Our government is still operational.  The shutdown was avoided, at least for a little while.  Museums and National Parks will stay open, wars will be fought, and checks will be cut.  Politicians will attempt to assign blame and profit from the battle.

The battle yields no profit for me, but I do know who is to blame.  I am.

I continue to vote for the same people, even though I know they cannot be trusted to keep their word.

I continue to think no one can be trusted and don't bother to vote, even for people who have demonstrated that they keep their word.

I continue to join in the partisanship and hate-mongering, because it makes me feel empowered, even as it renders me more and more powerless to do any real good.

I continue to criticize anyone who passionately expresses their opinion as intolerant or unbalanced, rather than join the debate and put my own ideas to the test.

I continue to live as I've always lived, because my comfort is more important than making any real changes to my lifestyle.  Why should I make any significant changes to my life when talking about Hope and Change is so much easier and feels so much better?

I continue to judge the people on the other side and think of them as evil.  I continue to demonize my opponents, because listening to them and thinking their arguments through might result in my recognizing that I am wrong, and I cannot be wrong.

I continue to lament the lack of good candidates for office.  That I should run for office myself is dismissed as preposterous, as I do not desire to change my life so radically.  Nor do I, if I assess my myself honestly, truly desire to be a public servant.  In my imagination I'm comfortable with the, "public," part, as, "public," often transforms into, "famous," and the internet and other media technologies are rapidly annihilating privacy.  It is the, "servant," part I'm not too keen on, for serving others means putting them before myself, and sacrifice is a particularly demanding type of change.

I continue to denigrate all politicians as thieves and liars, even though I personally know good men and women who are trying to do the right thing.  I take pleasure in pointing out scandals and ignore the efforts of those who really do labor on my behalf.

I continue to be results-oriented, rather than admitting that the ends do not justify the means.  That consequentialism is the very philosophy that has brought this country to the brink of crisis is something I will not consider.

I continue to believe that Capitalism will solve every social problem, even though I know that, for all the good it has done, it has caused incredible suffering and allowed for the exploitation of millions of vulnerable men and women.  It has also made materialism ascendant in what is called, "American Culture."

I continue to believe that Government will solve every social problem, even though I know that, for all the good it has done, it is corrupt, imprecise, ineffective, and often creates problems far worse than the ones it 'solves.'  Its expansion and semi-deification has also made many people believe that government grants them their rights when the opposite is true.  That belief facilitates tyranny.

I continue to let others think for me, rather than critically evaluate their opinions.  If I disagree with the prevailing opinion, I may no longer be invited to the cocktail parties, cook-outs, or sporting events attended by 'my type of people.'

I continue to think that buying the right things will really make me happy.

I continue to treat my religion or belief system as a, "private," or, "personal," matter that has no real impact on the way I live my life.

I continue to force my religion or belief system on others and judge people who do not agree with me as evil or stupid or both.

I continue to claim that no one has the right to tell me what to do, even as I unthinkingly adopt the attitudes, opinions, fashions, and biases I see on screens and hear from speakers.

I continue to think I have the right to tell others what to do, even as I do not put into practice the values and solutions I preach.

I continue to use my freedom to chain myself to behaviors that are self-destructive and harmful to others, including my loved ones.

I continue to live an unexamined life.

What should I do?