Meditating on Christ’s Death

For my salvation, Lord, this is what you will…

 

The circle of thorns,

the only crown that we deigned to give you in our wickedness,

pierced into your temples – and you hallowed us.Crown-of-Thorns

 The iron spikes, with which we nailed you to

the only throne that we deigned to give you in our worldliness,

pierced through your limbs – and you set us free.Three_Nails_1

.  The lance,

the only honor that we deigned to give you in our waywardness,

pierced open your heart – and you saved us.pierced-by-lance

 Hold us within your Sacred Heart, Christ Jesus!

Pour forth your love upon us, O Lord, and help us, by your grace,

to lift up our begging bowls to you, so that you may fill them…

Fill our hearts to overflowing, Lord!

And, in the overflowing,

may we love one another as you love us.

Amen.

(Prayed when I received Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament and my teeth pierced into the Body of Christ…. )

© 2015 Christina Chase

Where Is God in the Midst of My Misery?

There are times when I suffer real physical pain. Given the already extremely weak and crumpled state of my body every day and, then, adding another physical ailment (which I don’t wish to describe here) that causes the intense pain and severe fatigue, well… it’s just really hard to bear sometimes. At the end of last week and over the weekend, I have been going through this. These times are not very pretty and they are not very fun. Sometimes, I find that my mind gets away from me with an increase of adrenaline in my body and I have to try to focus on something else, usually television, in order to get through it. The point is not that I need to be distracted, but, rather, that the pain itself is a distraction: a detraction from normal routines, level thinking, clarity, and peace.

And I know that there are people who go through this every day. When I pray, begging for relief, I cry, feeling so sorry for not being able to handle it better.

But… maybe, pain isn’t something to be handled….

Once, when I was going through one of these temporary bouts, I decided that, if I’m serious in my quest for truth and if I truly believe that God is love, then I should be paying attention to how I, as a person of faith, deal with trials and tribulations. So, in the midst of my woe, hurting, terribly fatigued, and scared, I asked: what is God doing for me right now? Where is this God of love in the midst of my misery?

Two truths of life came to me right there and then:

#1. God creates and sustains my very existence, as God creates and sustains every living thing, the whole universe. That’s first and foremost, never to be forgotten.

#2. There are things in life that we don’t want, that we don’t choose for ourselves: ailments and diseases, weaknesses and losses, faults and failings, terrors and ordeals – sufferings. Sometimes, we can’t do anything to change them or get rid of them. They’re there and that’s that – but this fact can never change truth #1.

Later on in that day, my mind calmed a bit, although my physical pain hadn’t changed a great deal, except, perhaps, my adrenaline was running low and that could have been the reason for the light settling. Whatever the physiological happenings at the time, there came a clarity, kind of like a light, something like peace. Nothing dramatic, no fanfare. In continuing my earlier exploration, it was clear to me that, in the midst of misery, clarity can come. It’s like a gift given to us by God, not because we deserve it, but because we need it.

Clarity came, a sense of peace and that underlying kind of joy, not because pain had ceased, not because I had followed the rules and regulations, but because I was in need and was open to receive it. I was open to receive what God gives freely to me out of love for me, as God loves and gives to everyone. It’s like the joy that I wrote about in my last article: a free gift poured down like rain, and either our little bowls are turned upside-down, in on ourselves, or are right-side-up, and open. It’s the humility of knowing that I am nothing without God; it’s the recognition, acceptance, and gratitude for what only God can give; it’s the raising of a beggar’s bowl in the surrender that is trust.

The beggar’s bowl… this is the human heart, made by God to be filled by God with Divine Love.

The God of love is ever present… the question is, am I present?

Christ tells us in Sacred Scripture, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”[1] As with everything in life, we must remember God’s initiative. It is not our asking that causes the giving of the answer or even our knocking that causes the opening of the door. The answer is there, the gift is there, the treasure is there, and the door is always opened. But it is only if we ask – if we are in that state of humbly needing, lifting our begging bowls – that we are then able to receive. It is only when we open our eyes to seek that we are able to see and only when we go for the door that we are able to enter. I don’t go out and get true clarity on my own initiative or through my own devices, just as I can’t “get” true joy through my own self-centered means.

God initiates always. We are only able to love because God loves us first.[2] Mercy and peace and joy are always available, waiting for us to receive. But, sometimes, we get so distracted. Everything good and beautiful is present for us – if we haven’t blinded and deafened ourselves with the distractions of the world and of selfish pursuits. For, there are many different kinds of pain. It’s not always physical pain that is the worst.

© 2015 Christina Chase

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Pain  

Getting over Yourself and Finding Yourself

Joy: Why Are So Happy?   


[1] Matthew 7:7

[2] 1 John 4:19

INRI

My cousin and his niece Facebooked me this image with the following question:

INRI

“What do the letters INRI stand for?”

I wrote back and told them that the letters stand for “I’m Nailed Right In.”

Ba-Dum-Bump… But seriously, folks…

Now, I didn’t have to make a joke. But I did. My cousin, who, like me, is part of the lost (poorly catechized) Catholic generation, will sometimes turn to me for answers to Faith questions. He has always encouraged my theological studies and posts. His niece, my other cousin’s young daughter, has that sweet faith potential of little girls who love the pretty and the theatrical. Kneeling beside her small Mary statue at bedtime, sincerely praying for loved ones before sleep, she has an open readiness for God – which I hope the world never makes her close. Certainly, I could’ve answered their question seriously right off the bat. But, I decided to lead with a joke. Perhaps I did so in order to express and share the fact that being religious doesn’t mean being humorless. However… I think I may also have led with humor because I want to be seen like everyone else – you know… flippant about the sacred.

Ridiculing

When a friend of mine had first told me that joke about being nailed right in, I cringed a little. It wasn’t a fear of sacrilege that made me wince. It was more like a feeling that I was making fun of someone good and innocent. Like, if he heard us, it would make him feel bad – and that would make my heart break. I smiled with my friend, however, and I did try to appreciate the humor because it was a pastor that had first told her the joke. But, I wished that she hadn’t shared it with me. I was afraid that every time that I would look up at a crucifix, I would think of those words, I would think of the joke. And, for me, the crucifix is no joke. It’s an exquisitely profound symbol of God’s love… God’s humility… God’s selflessness. The truth of abiding love, and the excruciating pain that love is willing to endure, held up as a sign of victory over death and destruction… Oh, Mystery of Mysteries….

It is Christ on the Cross that answers this common human question:

If God is loving, then why does God allow suffering?

Answer:

“Look to the crucifix.”

We suffer. God knows. But, He doesn’t allow us to do anything that He isn’t willing to do with us, that He isn’t willing to do Himself. God knows.

I didn’t write any of this on Facebook. Instead, I shared a joke about the initials written above the crucifix. I did go on to write that the letters stand for the Latin of “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews”.[1] But, now, my cousins and my Facebook friends may think of the sarcastic alternative when they look at a crucifix. Instead of being overwhelmed by the humility of God in contemplating the depths of divine love, as I have been so overwhelmed, many times, they might only smirk at the little humor.

Before I could be too hard on myself, however, I began to think about that joke a little more… about those words…

I’m Nailed Right In

How many times in your life so far have you been held back or frustrated by your own limitations? Have you ever wanted something with your whole heart, something good and beautiful, and been unable to reach it? Have you loved something, or someone, and watched it get stripped away from you? Have you ever found yourself in an undesirable situation and felt trapped?

These are the times when you are nailed right in.

I’m nailed right in.

God knows. God doesn’t allow us to suffer anything that He hasn’t willed to suffer Himself.

He was beaten, tortured, and stripped. Iron spikes were driven through his flesh, securing his hands and feet with searing pain to the wooden beams. He was caught by the fear and greed of others. He was imprisoned upon a cross, no mercy, no escape.

God knows what it feels like to be weak, to be fragile, to be at the mercy of others who have no mercy, to be unable, to be physically helpless. And whenever we are so – and all of the other little times when we feel trapped, when we feel stuck – we need only to look to the crucifix to know love… real love… and to sense the power in our limitations, the strength in all of our cannots. We are nailed right in, pinioned, held fast – but we are pinioned by grace and held fast by divine love. See His arms opened wide, see His heart bursting open…?

“And so did I follow him who could not move,

an uncaught captive in the hands of Love.”[2]

I am bound to you, O Christ. And my loving will to be so bound is my freedom.

© 2014 Christina Chase


[1] Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum John 19:19

[2] from a poem made famous by Archbishop Fulton Sheen. See: http://livinginthetwohearts.wordpress.com/2009/01/15/fulton-sheen-part-iii/

The Human LORD

If you knew you were going to die, what would you do on your last day?

The liturgy of Holy Thursday begins the holiest part of Holy Week, the Easter Triduum. On this day, we commemorate the Last Supper and also the institution of the Priesthood – and we could just pass over it (no pun intended) as something only religious people care about. But, Jesus is not just a “religious” figure. Being fully human, he had family and friends, personality and appetites. He worked for a living and his muscles got sore as he built things with his own hands. There were people whose company he enjoyed particularly – and foods and times of day and songs and stories that he liked particularly, as well. And then came the day when he knew it was all going to end.

What would you do on your last day on earth?

Being also fully divine, Jesus knew he was going to be killed in a cruel and horribly agonizing way. On the evening before his death, he gathered with his friends and shared a meal with them – his last meal. When he broke the bread and passed the cup of wine, he told them that it was his body and blood given up and poured forth for salvation, and that they were to eat and drink of his body and blood in continuing re-presentation, or remembrance. And his friends were confused and perplexed. After supper, he, whom they called Master, tenderly washed their feet – and they didn’t really know why, although he tried to explain that he was leaving them an example of service and love. All evening, he shared his hopes with his friends, gave them words of advice and encouragement, all the while knowing that they had no idea what he was about to go through. Even when he tried to tell them, they didn’t get it.

Jesus knew he would have to go through the pending ordeal and horror of arrest, torture, and crucifixion without his loved ones’ understanding or support. But… he was willing to go through it anyway for their sake – even for the sake of the friend who would betray him, even for the very people who would seize, torture, and kill him. Despite it being difficult for his loved ones to grasp, Jesus knew that the immensity of his pain and suffering was for their good, for the good of every human being on his beloved earth. Yet, he, very human, was in dread of going through it.

Later that night, Jesus, agonizing, sweat tears of blood, alone. But, he did not run away.

What would you do? (What would I do…?)

Christina Chase

Pain

Pain

is consuming,

just beyond control.

 

I eat the building passion, stuffed down my throat,

the intensifying energy shooting out my fingers flailing,

hard frequency emitting from brainstem

my eyeballs panic to block.  (Anywhere but here.)

Like a switch thrown down

Too late… Too much….

I am done in.

The agony wins

and I am nothing

but pain,

with no awaiting joy.

 

My mistake was in seeking control,

was in fighting.  When pain is divinely willed,

only surrender of self will bear any fruit.

Christina Chase