Sunday, May 12, 2013

we will be remembered

Tonight we stand, get off our knees 
Fight for what we’ve worked for all these years 
And the battle was long, it’s the fight of our lives 
But we’ll stand up champions tonight
-- Miss Taylor Swift

One of my favorite fairy tales is called the Six Swans.
I remember sitting on my grandmother's front porch in the lush heat of a Carolinian summer morning, and my aunt reading to us the story of a young princess who went a whole six years in silence, facing false accusations from her witch-like mother-in-law, in order to free her six brothers from an enchantment that has turned them into wild swans.

I love this fairy tale, because:
Reason One: Our heroine--the princess-- has a task to make enchanted shirts out of stinging nettles.
[Literally where on earth did that come from?]
So that sounds outré and outlandishly fairytalish enough that I can laugh it off as one of those crazy inventions from the over-active imaginations of the Brothers Grimm/the German housewives.
But here's the rub:
She has to spend six years in silence while making them.
I can barely go six minutes without piping up with a half-baked thought (albeit passionately expressed), or a cock-eyed opinion, all the more forcefully expressed to make up for its embryonic nature.
This woman is a heroine, in my book.
Six years of not-talking?
There are very few people I would do that for.
Which, leads me to:

Reason the Second:
This lady loves her family.
We have this idea that reading romance novels somehow prepares us to enter into romance.
I think that's a far from airtight assumption.
The novel that, I would argue (at the risk of being predictable), is the best guide for entering romantic relations would be Pride & Prejudice. 
Which is, I would also argue, a story in which families and familial love and how to love siblings who are driving you properly insane with either their naïveté or their improper, boy-crazy antics.
The family is the ultimate school of love.
In order for the family to survive, each sibling has to be willing to sometimes give up something for the other.
Whether that's remaining silent for a year [or six], or giving your sibling a hug and a listening ear, or letting your brother have the car, or staying at home to play Scrabble with the wee ones.

In Hebrew, the Song of Songs features two different words for love.
One, called dodim, is something like a nascent eros.
It is a restless love, a love that is still indeterminate.
The other is much like the Greek agape.
It is ahabà, a love that involves the real discovery of the other.

Families teach ahabà-like love,  which is necessary to find joy in the erotic love of romance.
Eros cannot be fully itself--glorious, beautiful, ecstatic, romantic eros, longing, running and thirsting for eternity, leaping over itself in its all-consuming need for the lover to give himself away--without agape.
Eros will end up being an impoverished, grasping sort of desire without the life that agape brings.
Agape is like the water that pours into open hands.
It constantly spills out, emptying itself.
And yet, magically--like the fairytale wells that never run dry--the hands that constantly spill out water are always full.
When the lover gives themselves away, they find they have eternally more of themselves to give, over and over again.

Jesus was always able to cast a net deep into Peter's heart and draw out the love and goodness that was in there. 
As we know, there is always more to the story when dealing with Jesus.
On the beach after his resurrection, Jesus asked Peter the only question that mattered, "Do you love me?" In their exchange, echoed three times, all was forgiven and set right, all was healed and made new. 
Jesus gave Peter back to himself.
--Fr. Peter Jarret, C.S.C

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