Thursday, January 31, 2013

cœur du monde

“You must conceive yourself looking up at a world lighted, warmed, and resonant with music"
--C.S. Lewis, The Discarded Image

Your home is at the core of your universe, and everything is centered around that. Our scientific minds laugh at the ancients and medievals and their heavenly spheres. We scoff at their simplistic geo-centric cosmology.
In C.S Lewis' The Discarded Image, he illuminates the warm symmetry and harmonious beauty of such a musical medieval world view. As the celestial spheres made their music of rotation, they created heavenly harmonies that only celestial beings could hear.
The sun, the moon, the wandering planets all journey inside the fixed firmament of stars, in a dance started by the Prime Mover, impelled by His creation's love for Him, and continued in praise of him.
And of course, is such an arrangement is factually incorrect.
But it's a beautiful work of organization and art.
And it illuminates a beautiful truth about human beings:
Your map of the world is usually arranged around your home.

When I picture London in my head, I picture Trafalgar Square right smack at the center.

Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled, // And each man fixed his eyes before his feet
.-- T.S. Eliot
This is the center of my London universe. It's home. I know its character, I know how to orient myself in relation to the rest of the world when I stand here.
Your home is the center of your world.

When I picture the home of Notre Dame, at the center of my imagination is the Grotto.

At the beginning of my freshman year, I cursed the luck that put me in the dorm that was literally the farthest away from the performing arts center. Dumbest Location on Campus, I silently deemed it in my head silently. Well, not silently. When I related my lack of approval to my sister, she was sympathetic, but pointed out I was near the Basilica and the Grotto (and, when the construction next door eventually ended, I was next to the office building with free muffins every Monday and endless supplies of coffee and candy. Color me content.)
I learned very quickly that being close to the Basilica was a boon for those early Lit Choir Sunday mornings.
I learned almost as quickly to pop into the Basilica on the way back home from a busy day, and just breathe for a second, or write a bit, or just look up at the watery circles of light playing above the baptismal fountain, and find some silence and solace in the midst of chaos.
Somewhere in there, among the angels dancing on the ceiling, and the lights streaming through the stained glass windows, I found a home.

And then, not quite as quickly, I learned how to love the Grotto.
I learned to stop by each morning after a run, to light a candle, hold some leaves in cupped hands, how to seek solace there in a flood of tears, how to burst out singing there in a tidal wave of joy.
Home is where we learn our greatest lessons.
I learned how to humbly say I was sorry, and I learned what it means to forgive.
How to be honest, with myself, with others, with God, with a brutal honesty that is never very flattering, but always very beautiful.
(I also learned how to put out fire when flames from a rogue candle start licking at one's scarf.)

In rain, in misty morning sunshine, in snow, in the glow of a cold November night, I have grown to recognize the warm glow of Grotto candles as a beacon of home.
And even as I find new homes in new places, it remains the heart of my world, and the rest of the globe ripples out from there.

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