Friday, May 16, 2014

reçois les chants qu'il offre

"You have made me understand that good taste is not the birthright of snobs, but a gift from God sometimes found in the most unlikely of places and in the unlikeliest of people."

--The Hundred Foot Journey, Richard C. Morais

"Love one another as I have loved you" is actually the most terrifying command in the world.
Because it's literally impossible to live up to by our own efforts. We are broken, imperfect creatures trying to imitate the work of an almighty God. Definitely a recipe for failure, if I ever heard one. But that sort of comes with the territory, because in the words of Cyril O'Regan, part of being human is that you're damaged before you can even get off the ground.
We are handicapped from the start. So how do we live up to a command. On the outside, it seems so simple, so full of warm and fuzzy good feelings.
But at the core, it is very difficult. It is the opposite of comfortable.
How do you be a lightbearer when you have inherited darkness?

Last night, I visited the Grotto with the senior class for definitely the opposite of last time.
That little cave of lights became my home the first time I went there at 2am, as a poor little lonely freshman. And I stopped at the prayer rail, but did not kneel. Too tired to form words to a prayer and too overwhelmed to know what to say.
But I joined my classmates in song and prayer.
In the midst of transition and change, both of which are frightening to human creatures, we look for comfort. When all the variables are shifting, we look for the constants. When we are letting go, we have to find something to hold onto.
Each word of each hymn was begging all the candle-bearers at that grotto to let go of what is temporal and hold on to what is eternal.  To hold on to the peace that the world cannot give, which often means clinging, like the Magdalene, to the foot of whatever cross we find ourselves at the foot of. It means, like Simon, to carry whatever person's cross that we find ourselves thrown in with. It means, like Peter, to ask the question: quo vadis? And to let the answer change at least our direction, if not our hearts.

Holding onto our candles, we listened to the voices of the men singing a bold and strange Salve Regina. It was not a sweet salve. It seemed like a gift that a young man would offer his mother: awkward, clumsy, very boyish. Something that he would like to receive, perhaps.
The piece was very Musically Interesting but not very Interested in Mary.
As I silently sat bemoaning the harsh chords, it struck me that:
a) just as mothers accept the stupidest little macaroni art creations or scribbled drawings or poorly-knit scarves from their children, Mary accepted this gift with just as much love and just as much grace. Mothers love the gifts their children offer them. Mary must be no exception.
b) my prayer is often like this discordant Salve. Very interested in being Good Prayer, but not so much in truly encountering The Source of All Good. It is more inexpert than adept, and clumsily composed. I'd like to think that my prayer has the art of Palestrina and Mozart, but this pray-er is not so skilled. I'm pretty sure that it is more full of grace than gracefulness. And I'm fairly certain that if an audience of other people listened to it sung by the Notre Dame Glee Club, they would not find it very edifying. But, in the end, it is somewhat immaterial, because it is still heard.
And that is what I find so incredible.
That no matter how inexpertly we compose our thanks, no matter how clumsily we write our love-notes, we are still heard. Our words, no matter how artlessly they fall out of our lips, are listened to.

Love one another as I have loved you never ceases to become a more and more exhilarating and daunting command.

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