Tuesday, February 3, 2015

old words with new echoes

we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to 
hold fast to the hope that lies before us. 
This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, 
which reaches into the interior behind the veil.
--Paul, to the Hebrews

The older I get, the fewer opinions I hold.
The enlightened middle-aged woman, looking chic in some stereotypical New York yuppie outfit, pronounced her freedom from the bondage of opinion.
Her words hit me hard on the head, and bounced around inside my inner ears.
I kept my nose stuck in my book, however, and did not acknowledge her presence or her statement of self-aware intellectual abandonment.
--
Having too many opinions about the way things should be is a very peculiar form of torture; because the more ideas you have about the way things ought to be the more frustrated you are going to be with the way things are. If you have very set ideas about the Way That Things Should Go, then you are going are going to get yourself tied into all sorts of knots over the many various ways in which the world frustrates your idea of "The Way That Things Should Go."
This is an angsty, soul-wrenching situation to find yourself in; and every single day is going to find your ideal image of reality crashing into the reality that persists outside of you.
Collisions are never comfortable; and this particular set is no exception.
But, still, I can't see the solution as being to relinquish my hold on solid ground and just abandon myself to the tempest of whatever will wash over me that day.
Perhaps maintaining a sense of "What is Right" and "What Ought to Be" causes an undue amount to pain; perhaps it causes discord between two people. There is a torture in holding opinions that you find you can't abandon, and finding a someone who disagrees you.
Perhaps that is a sharp price to pay for having a worldview that will not be compromised.
 --
Perhaps the trick is believing in a truth that demands that the world itself become the arena of salvation. Perhaps it is better to believe in a truth that seems beyond my powers to achieve. Where every imperfection is blatantly obvious, but those weaknesses are not condemnations, but causes for hope.
The more imperfect everything is, the less you can rely on it; and the more you can only rely on the one thing person worth relying on. Christianity, says Papa Benedict XVI, is not just a new philosophy or moral law, or set of spiritual practices. Christianity is an encounter with a person. "We are only Christians", He says, "if we encounter Christ." If we are brave enough to truly encounter each person, then our world will be changed. If we are brave enough to look our students in the eye, or smile at the man we would rather run past, or reach out to help the mother struggling with the grocery cart, then our lives will forever be changed.
The trick of Christianity that I still do not understand, that deep mystery I still wrestle to wrap my mind around, is that, once we have that true, deep encounter with the Risen Lord, then all our daily interactions with people are no longer just inane, commonplace activities. Our daily encounters become opportunities for us, in which we can repeat that one, true, deep encounter with Our Lord.
If I only understood that, I think, the fewer opinions I would hold, and the more Truth I would know.

Nevertheless we must not think that Paul was thus closed in a blind event. The contrary is true, because the Risen Christ is the light of truth, the light of God himself. This [encounter] expanded his heart and made it open to all.
--Benedict XVI, St. Paul

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