Tuesday, January 10, 2006

"of snakes and apples in a ruined Garden"

Holiness is not something for the faint of heart. One doesn’t enter into Christianity thinking it’s going to be a bed of roses. Christ never promised that, the Church doesn't say that either.

Rather, when one becomes a Christian, one enters into a battle, one becomes a solider: a soldier for Christ, hence those wonderful images from St. Paul about “putting on the armor of God” in one of his letters.

However--and this is the grand, happy thing of it all--when a person does take up Christ’s and the Church’s invitation to enter into this “battle,” this invitation to follow Love more closely, that person becomes more “true” to him/herself, that person will begin to reflect more and more the Person who is the Truth.

And who is this Person? A comment in one of the posts below “on perfect love and on ‘Brokeback Mountain’” identified Him magnificently:

We have a standard [for Love]. God is the standard. More definitely, the standard is Jesus Christ on the Cross. That is the standard all are called to follow. If we follow this standard we will be "TRUE" to ourselves. And the pages of the Bible express this standard.

Wonderfully said.

Frankly, being true to ourselves by taking up our crosses whatever that may be in our lives ain’t easy.

In this world of ours, in this valle of tears--using the words from the prayer, the Salve Regina--there are sundry and assorted crosses out there:

When a couple is told they are not able to have a child, when someone finds it a challenge meeting her soulmate in life, when one is lonely (a lot of that in our Western society), when one is gay yet is struggling with the call to live a life of chaste celibacy, when one's loved one dies, when one suffers from a physical disability or emotional brokenness, when you are misunderstood or experience injustice and even poverty (the rest in this list is sadly too long), then the reality of the Cross is present in one's life.

Why do we have to have them? Well, sadly ours is not a perfect world, but a fallen one. Imperfection exists, sin exists. The Cross at Calvary reminds us of this world’s fallen state.

But if we are humble and remember to ask for strength, we are helped along the way to carry our crosses by the One who has carried The Cross and rose from the dead. And so as heavy as our crosses are at times, there is hope for us and for this fallen world: there is hope in the Person, the One, who has already won salvation for all through the Cross and the empty tomb.

If for some reason, as we go through our journey of faith, we do not experience some sort of cross, or some sort of growth, a contradiction, a tension between who we are–-sinful and imperfect–-and the Person whom God and the Church is calling us to be, then we have probably dropped that cross somewhere along the way. And we need to pick it up again.

Because that is the only way to holiness, and holiness isn’t just a call for saints and priests—-it’s a call that goes out to everyone.

So, how would this contradiction and tension sound like—this tension that happens because one has heard “The Voice from Eden” and yet is conscious of one’s human frailty?

Well, I recently saw the words from a blogger, a young gay Catholic from Down Under--Dreadnought by name. In my mind, reading his words (of course he may mean entirely something else by them) I detect a certain tension and truthful realization of this. I will quote him at length because it speaks to this issue and on the issue from the previous post "on perfect love":

Catholicism is very sure that sexual release opens the gates to Heaven, that somehow our sex organs and the orgasm they precipitate, link us to the creative force of the universe. This force, this God, is the God Who is Love. Hence, the Church prohibits even masturbation - a prohibition in force in Judaism too - and has an overall concern to treat sexual release as special, set apart and inherently spiritual.

Imagine then the linking between men and women, those whose sex organs match, fit, literally join together with God and sometimes, miraculously, magnificently produce new life. Something of the primal wonder of the world-harried father, staring awed before his newborn's cot, points up marriage. It makes the use of the term sacrament relevant. Truly an interior movement of grace has been recognised by the outer-worldly marriage rite. It makes the law honest and our civilization strong.

What on earth to make of all this? Sometimes DREADNOUGHT is accused of having nothing good to say for same sex attracted relationships. This cannot stand. If there is any magic in our unions, any truth to our love - and there is - it must reflect the God Who is Love. It must not, however, pretend to be something it's not. Thus, we can never get married because marriage is not about us.

Thus, good men must reject the anthropological confusion of the 'gay' model, the tired slogans and 'equality' worship, but affirm serious commitment, the ideal friendship known since Plato. How can I fail to acknowledge that my God-Man surrounded Himself with twelve men Whom He loved and called His brothers? How can I fail to shout about the wonder of such love when I am reminded of it, indeed experience it daily?

I'm humble enough to realise, however, that same sex bonding is different, it's certainly not the same as the love between husband and wife and it is not Christ's love for all men. The Church makes sure we know the distinction and asks us to order our behaviour accordingly. I'm subtle enough to know too, that it's certainly not always inferior to heterosexual love. Christ, after all, never took a wife either.

Do you hear the tension in it? I do. Again, I could be mistaken, but that’s what I am hearing. And that is not at all entirely bad.

And is there a more noble way of bearing this tension? Sure there is. But it entails having to carry our own crosses.

I like the way he ends his post. It hearkens back to Eden, the overarching theme of this blog.

There are degrees of purity - and while nothing can compare with the radiance and sanctity of God's world-shattering love-gifts: the Incarnation, the Eucharist and the remarkable long-distance relationship they represent - still good men and true can search the faces of their friends and find there, however world-tainted, something of the origin of love. A joy, perhaps, that knows nothing of snakes and apples in a ruined Garden.

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