Friday, April 18, 2014

kiss of the cross


It remains for us only to find how even the cross can be borne as a gift.
--Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross


 Manju sucked on her fingers innocently.
But my guard went up--I knew the game that was afoot.
Girl, I said, looking her square in the eye, don't even think about it.
Too late.
Before I could even blink, the saliva-drenched fingers flicked out of the mouth, and her hand shot forward, dousing my face in an impromptu baptismal blessing-by-spittle.
She grinned joyfully, as I beat a hasty retreat to the sink to wash off my face.
You win some; you lose some.

As any Psalmist, any parent who has changed diapers, or any Disney Princess knows quite well, the best weapon in the face of fears, worries, or a never-ending stream of dirty diapers is a song.

One fear I faced over the past summer was poop.
Someone's gotta deal with poop.
It happens. Shit happens.
And then someone has to deal with it.
That's just the way life works.
Someone's gotta do it, and, you learn, it might as well be you.
After I endured the episode known as The Explosive Poop Episode without breaking a sweat [or at least, more of a sweat than is already coating your skin in the Indian humidity], I felt somewhat heroic. I felt titanic. I was Hercules.
That's when the thought would pop into my head: my sainted mother did this for multiple years, for six different sets of children's diapers.
And that's about the time when I would stop composing my Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in my head, and start planning a response to my mother's most recent email.
And I would wake up the next morning, knowing that the only weapons I had against the spittle and the shit were a smile and a song (and sometimes not even the smile).
Just the song. And the will to always come back and clean up the mess, even if it was going to kill me.
And maybe that's all we need from people to show that they love us. The assurance that they will be at your side to clean up your mess, and if they can't, they will sing to you, or sing with you until someone comes who can.

I found I went through three phrases: the third, reaching far beyond compassion, something I had never experienced before--an awareness that these dying and derelict men and women, the lepers with stumps instead of hands, these unwanted children, were not pitiable, repulsive, or forlorn, but rather dear and delightful; as it might be, friends of long-standing, brothers and sisters.
--Malcolm Muggeridge, on working with Mother Teresa's people in Kolkata

We like to think that religion, that faith is purely spiritual, but it affects us--
our bodies, our hearts, the air around us.
What we do with our bodies informs what happens inside our hearts,
and what happens inside our hearts manifests itself in our bodies.
Music is probably the best way of getting our bodies to listen to what is in our hearts.
Every Kyrie truly sounds like the Vierne Kyrie--when someone cries out Lord, have mercy, the plea behind those words must truly sound like the tempest of organ music Vierne composed.
Perhaps music reminds us of the inescapable reality that's happening inside of us, around us, outside of us. Perhaps it is a call to wake up and embrace that reality.
That's the funny thing about belief--it shapes you, but it doesn't shape reality.
Reality Is. And the frightening thing is that it is in your power to accept it or deny it. 
How gloriously terrifying.
All too often, we would much rather be asleep than awake.
It is easier to separate our bodies and our hearts than to try to tame the body to the dictates of the heart.
We are so afraid--so afraid of reality, so afraid of ourselves, so afraid of the love that hangs on the cross.
The kiss of the cross is sharp and painful; we would rather let that love go unrequited.
But that love still burns for us.
In the midst of unbelief, of doubt, of fear, of bitterness, or desperation, that love still pours from our lover's side.
He still desires our reunion

The burn victim can look at the cause of his pain and seek the help of the professional healer. The sinner looks everywhere for consolation of the inner loss but cannot find, because what was lost is within. The sinner, by sharing in Christ’s gift of his body in suffering and death, enters into communion with the heavenly Father. In this communion, the good lost not only in suffering, but through Adam’s sin itself, is restored.
--Professor Adrian Reimers

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