Thursday, May 8, 2014

wa-lakin shubbiha la-hum

"God loves us, he is here close to us, and when we're in trouble, he's there.”
--Fr. Patrick Dowling, the Angel Priest

All of a sudden, I was confronted with a couple dozen images of God, all dressed in white.
Their faces were all etched with sorrow, and I knew exactly why.
I felt inside myself the dull emptiness that comes when you try to fill yourself.
Love cannot be forced.
Love waits for her to receive him. He waits so patiently and sadly.
As the muscle's palpitations and the heart's stirrings fill with blood, the lonely little creature yearns for company.
A yearning to be filled with someone besides themselves.
A loneliness which is an invitation to joy.
He welcomes her into his arms with nothing more than a murmur of rebuke.
Such a gentle comeuppance in the face of such a slight.
The tender mercy of his face catches her off-guard, and she wishes that he would frown at her.
We are much more adept at defending ourselves than letting down our guard.
We forget what's at the center, and hold on to the expendable.

I walked toward the portraits of divinity in front of me.
He talked of faith lived through incarnation.
He didn't know, though. How could he ever understand the sort of cannibalism where a rose feeds on a violet.
There are so many violets. Weeds, they call them.
But the centifolia rose, resting on her age-old laurels, is embarrassed by their abundance.
The small little violets blossomed in the shade of the rose's sunny leaves.
Hardy and wild, they managed to forge a life in the middle of a mud-puddle or on the slopes of a mountain.
The rose was puzzled by their surfeit of ability.
They bloomed in the shade of an ash tree, their little roots criss-crossing underneath the blades of grass.
Their petals were like velvet, the coloring so real it looked as if your fingers would stain purple if they brushed against the delicate, vibrant limbs.
The rose bent down to more closely examine the violets, and she was bemused by their proliferation of existence.
She blushed a deep shade of crimson, her sweet soil, her richly fertilized plot of earth, an embarrassment of riches.
The violets crept up towards the rose but never quite approached.
There is a lonely majesty in being the only centifolia rosebush in the garden.
The violets would never understand; their very existence was togetherness.
That union was the center; the rest is all expendable.

I looked out into the waterlogged morning.
My bathrobe wrapped around my body, its warmth welcome for once, as the humidity vanished with the rain.
The air had been cleared. I felt a weight lifted off the atmosphere.
I could not see the angel that had been sent.
But he was there.
Unseen, waiting in quiet like the twelfth imam. Invisible and silent, waiting for his moment to arrive.
And there he was, so unlike us, and yet one of us.

But I looked again, and I saw him. He was one of us.
There is the ka'ba, where one goes to see one like us but not one of us.
Then there is the temple, where one goes to see him who became one of us.
Not like or sort of or vaguely related to, but actually the same flesh and blood and DNA and hormones and synapses firing in his adolescent brain.

Whenever I dream about the past, I see him there.
Whenever I look forward to the horizon, he was there before I could even conceive of what will come.
Whenever I look out into the waterlogged morning, and see the violets growing all together in the shade of a telephone pole, I see a very distant shimmer.
The shimmer that sounds like the tattoo of drums inside my heart.
The shimmer that smells as sweet as the candles burning on the Easter vigil.
There is a whisper inside my soul that maybe I am not alone as I would so often think.
Perhaps if I could learn to do nothing, I would be filled.

Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the ‘most portable’ person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, ‘Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it.’ That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.
--The Habit of Being, Letters of Flannery O'Connor

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