Coming Through

The rose came through the rain

better than I did.

The Storm fell suddenly,

heavy, wet, and grey.

The rose met the rain with pretty upturned face,

until the burden bowed her head

and she let one of her petals slip,

like a silk scarf

sighing to the ground.

She stood in full knowledge of her vulnerability,

lovely and patient,

absorbing nourishment from the downpour –

Life itself.

More than enduring the rain, she embraced it,

holding on to each cold drop with her petals and leaves

even as the Sun broke away the clouds…

The rose upheld the tears of Storm,

precious medals starring in the Light,

her head still bowed in quiet victory.

I ran in from the rain, bedraggled and cursing,

shutting myself in with my irritation,

shutting myself out from the glory of the rose.

© 2014 Christina Chase – as posted on ChaseChristina.com

Words to Live By

Christian humility and charity are neither timid nor sappy – they are a radical recognition, a bold transformation of life: Metanoia.

Yesterday was the Feast Day of the patron saint of my home parish, St. John the Baptist. In his honor, I’m reflecting upon three phrases attributed to him in the Bible. This voice crying out in the wilderness gave us words to live by…

“… there is one among you whom you do not recognize…” (John 1:26)

We never know when we will have an encounter with the Divine. The truth is that wherever we go, in every moment of our lives, we are in the presence of God… God, who is always watching us… who is always loving us where we are…. If I truly become conscious of this truth in my every waking moment – how will my life change?

For the people of 1st century Israel, to whom John spoke these words, the meaning was of particular and immediate import. There was literally a person among them whom they did not recognize as being any different than anyone else. And, yet, although he was a human being just like them – he was profoundly different, because he was also God.

Christ Jesus walked among many unremarkably. The power of the Creator of the Universe was within him – but, to most, if their eyes even fell upon him, he was just some guy. Like so many strangers that we pass on the sidewalk, on the road, in the office, in the park, or in the mall, Christ seemed ordinary… dismissible. We think to ourselves now that it’s a shame, an utterly wasted opportunity, that some of the people back then went right by Christ without even knowing who he was. Yet… those strangers that we pass by every day… do we not know that they are images of God? And we pass them by without a single thought or care for them. Do we not know that Christ is within each and every one of us? Whenever we skirt around a homeless person, we are skirting around Christ. Whenever we say, Good Riddance, about a criminal who is put in prison, we are saying good riddance to Christ. Whenever we ignore the plight of the jobless or the hungry, of the lonely or the diseased, we are ignoring Christ in his sorrow. Whenever I am cruel to the person next to me, it is like I am piercing that person with a thorn… I am piercing that thorn into Christ.

I am only one person, limited, as every human is, and I cannot be everything to everybody. God knows. Being human like us, there were countless many who Christ Jesus could not help in person during his earthly life, countless many to whom he could not speak face-to-face while he walked upon the roads and through the fields, villages, and towns. His earthly mission was to open.

It’s like, by the Mystery of the Incarnation, a divine portal was created to the kingdom of God – and by his death and resurrection that portal was opened to all. Not all will pass through, because we must choose to do so – we must choose to follow Christ. In order to fully and truly encounter the Divine and enter, eternally, the kingdom of God, we must recognize God’s love for us and choose to follow Christ. My mission (say it with me) limited as I am, is to love Christ… and I do that by loving others as Christ loves me. I do that by recognizing my cruelty to another as cruelty to Christ my beloved… and I repent and ask forgiveness.

I carry out my mission of love (which is your mission, too) limited as I am, by recognizing the gifts that God has given to me, in His infinite love for me, and then giving those gifts in the service of those in need of healing, nourishment, guidance, compassion, and light, wherever I can. There will be times when I falter, times when I fail. But, I will recognize my failures as human weakness – and I will not deplore my human weakness but, rather, unite my struggles with the struggles of Christ as he carried the Cross of Salvation to Calvary. Divine and human, it was only with pain that he could place that key into the lock and grant our freedom. He dreaded, he suffered, he was tormented and ridiculed, he fell flat on his face along the way – but he persevered because of love. Christ loves divinely – infinitely and intimately. Profess my love for him as I might, I cannot recognize him in others – and therefore love him in others – unless I recognize him in me.

“He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

Do I recognize and love Christ within me? Do I recognize and give forth the particular gifts that God has given me? This is what true Christian charity is all about – this is the heart of true Christian humility. It is not overly sentimental, it is not hanging my head down himself abasing shame. God chooses to make a home inside of me… Christ dwells in me in a personally particular way, lovingly unique – as Christ dwells in everybody. Christ is everyone… Christ is you and me and them. Christ IS. That is what we, as Christians, need to be able to see. I open my heart to God’s loving presence and let Christ live in me… through me… through the gifts that are particularly unique to me, which he knows so intimately.

This recognition of Christ is the encounter with the Divine that pulls us through the sacred portal to the fullness of truth, the fullness of life… into the kingdom of God. For, as Christ is ever present, so is the kingdom, so is the loving and saving presence of God. We encounter the Divine, not only in the life to come, but also here and now.

And that’s pretty radical.

“Metanoia, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2)

unpublished work © 2015 Christina Chase

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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Joy: Why Are So Happy?   


[1] Matthew 7:7

[2] 1 John 4:19

Joy: Why Are You so Happy?

People often tell me that I am a happy person, saying it with surprise and wonder as they look at my crumpled up body in a wheelchair. I’m no longer put off by this. When I was younger, I wanted to fight against being called happy, because I was afraid that I was being dismissed as a kind of simpleton, incapable of knowing that I shouldn’t be happy. But, now I think – well… why shouldn’t I be happy? Why is happiness such an unexpected thing to find in me that people consider it remarkable? In thinking about this question, I found this answer…

We think that happiness comes through things, attached to stuff like health, wealth, good looks, or fame. We think that if we only had those things then we would be happy. And yet, there are plenty of people who are healthy, wealthy, good-looking, famous – and miserable. They live unhappy lives of addiction, anger, and loneliness. That’s because real happiness doesn’t come as an attachment. Real happiness (which I like to call joy because “happy” is a sappy-sounding word) has no strings attached. Joy is free. It comes freely, like a true gift.

We all thirst for joy. And I believe that joy is freely given to everyone, like rain pouring down on us. But, we can only receive it if our bowls are open, upturned like a beggar’s. In that state, which is gratitude, our little bowls overflow and we can drink our fill of joy. If, however, we are turned in upon ourselves, upside down, then we are closed off from the reception of joy and, though we may get wet, we will never be filled, never satisfied.

Joy, then, which is what I believe people see in me, is not conditional. It is not conditioned upon a desirable body or prestige. That is why someone like me, someone crumpled up in a wheelchair, weak as waste, severely dependent and limited in my abilities, choices, and lifestyle, can be joyful. I don’t go out and look for joy (which is good because I don’t get out much, and when I do it’s not very far) and I also don’t wait for joy to fall big and obvious on my lap. To some, the joy of living fully means experiencing as many things as possible – lovers, exotic locales, romance, thrills, luxuries, lauded accomplishments, etc. But, this, again, is the false concept that joy, that fullness of life, comes through things.

It doesn’t. Real happiness is free and unconditional – necessarily so in order to be abiding joy or else it could be lost. When all things are gone – physical abilities, money, work, home, friends, small pleasures, even loved ones and mental abilities – true joy remains. Because it is a oneness with life itself, with ultimate reality. It is how I have come to think of righteousness. It’s not about having the right answers, the proper formulas, or desired things – righteousness is holiness, it’s being locked into the good, the true, and the beautiful, it’s having that key of love and gratitude that fits into the universe entire.

It’s letting God love you, through everything, and through the absence of things.

I am not perfect. I make mistakes, I miss the mark, I forget, ignore, hesitate, wish away. But, I believe that deep inside of me dwells, as in a sacred abode, infinite and eternal God. As my source, my core, and my heart, I have nothing to lose, I am never abandoned. I am given the capacity to live infinitely and eternally with Love, with Truth, with Life itself. For, with God, of what should we be afraid?

This, indeed, is what true joy, what true peace is like – and I do not claim to be an expert practitioner in any way! Oh, no! I have fears and sorrows, angst and rage, disappointments and doldrums. Just like all of us do, for we are all human. But, it’s like these wash over on the surface, like clouds across the sky, clouds that can certainly change the weather and bring terrible storms – but the sky is always there. Knowing this truth is the beginning of joy, though not its fulfillment. For now I see only dimly, know only in part… My begging bowl is full and overflowing but, yet, still finite, until… until I am taken up fully into the Infinite Source….

Note:

            Sometimes, of course, we might be less able to open our little begging bowls because of mental illness, like severe depression, or serious psychological trauma. Then we will need others to help us lift our hands and turn our little cups right side up. And for those of us who have always been surrounded by loving people, it is certainly easier to recognize the goodness all around us – but, likewise, it is also easier to become dependent on others for our happiness, which isn’t real happiness at all.

I have that blessing and that challenge. Because my family has been so good to me, I believe that it has been easier for me to be a happy person. But, I have also been a selfish person (as I still can be now if not careful) and my teenage years were ridden with as much bone shaking sorrow as hormones and loneliness can ravage on a young person – especially a young person so continually denied by circumstance. Thankfully, I was created with a healthy sense of humor and the ability to find beauty in the ordinary. These attributes allowed me my first experiences of happiness. And I thought that I knew what real happiness was. But, I only discovered true joy when I began to learn about true love – love that is not conditioned upon pleasure, affection, security, or even familial ties.

For this familial love, though beautiful and good, too often can become centered on the self, on “what’s in it for me”. True love is not loving for my own sake, but for the sake of the other – at the cost of sacrificing myself. My parents had always given me this example, but, though I knew that they loved me, I didn’t see the deep core of Divine Love that they were reflecting. This is the love that I learned in coming to know Christ on the Cross.

Infinite and eternal, all-powerful God condescends to become a human being and gives Himself wholly and completely in love. He thirsts for us and rains His love down upon us…. Whether we receive Him or not, whether we receive His love or not, He gives Himself away anyway, totally and unconditionally. In knowing this kind of love, true love, Divine Love, I also grew deeper in my understanding and experiencing of true joy. And that is the important part of knowing why I am a joyful person.

© 2015 Christina Chase

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Getting Real

It’s time for the ultimate reality check: ”Remember, Man, you are but dust, and to dust you will return.”  The priest tells me this as he marks my forehead with ashes smeared into the shape of a cross.  Thus, Ash Wednesday begins Lent, 40 days of penitence, but, also, perhaps most importantly, of preparing to be restored to the full depth and breadth of reality.  To begin Lent in ashes is to put my life into perspective.  For what is this body that takes up so much of my time, that I fuss and worry over – what is it but dust?  The little pleasures that might be given up for Lent – chocolate, coffee, computer games, daydreaming, etc. – are really only things that will one day become ashes themselves.  I get possessive about things and cling to them as my own, even though they do not constitute who I am.  I must remember that I am dust – dust animated by a soul… God created me, formed this body for me out of the earth, and gave me a spiritual soul to bring me into human being, so that I might fully live in His Creation.  The truth is that I did not create myself; I am not my own source and I am not my own ultimate end.  In truth – reality check – nothing that I have is my own, not even my existence, my life.

We human beings are dependent, as are all creatures.  We are, from the beginning, dependent upon the Will that created us and we are continually dependent upon sustenance: from the air that we breathe, which is not our own, to the lungs with which we breathe, which were given to us.  We are beggars living upon the largess of God’s Creation – with no hope of repayment.  For, we cannot give to God anything that God has not first given to us.  This is what has been referred to as our “empty-handedness”.  And though we may often not care that we are dependent upon a generous God and, instead, revel and indulge in the abundance, greedily hoarding up goods to live self-centeredly, we cannot escape the truth forever.  There will always come a moment in our lives when we wake up to reality and our eyes are opened to the truth.  A rude awakening it will seem to some, perhaps, but a necessary one for the sake of truth.  For, we humans are not only dependent – we are also transcendent beings.  Within us is the relentless desire and longing for truth, for the source of our beings, and for connection and relationship to this infinite and divine Source – for love.  It is in our nature to give and to love selflessly.  It is in our nature precisely because we are created in God’s own image and likeness.

All that God wants (and that is a huge and profound statement: “all that God wants”) is for us to truly and fully live.  We do that by being dependent – by knowing and accepting that we are dependent in true humility.  And we do that by being transcendent, by longing for God and loving selflessly in our empty-handedness.  In the great gift of life, God has given us something truly amazing: freewill.  Perhaps, we could say that this is what is truly ours – our wills.  When I choose to acknowledge the Source of my life, to humbly live upon the divine largess in true recognition and gratitude, and to hold back nothing for my own selfish intentions, then I am close to the Kingdom – I am close to True Justice, Right Order, the Fullness of Reality.  As a humble beggar with my begging bowl upturned, I give to God the only thing that God has given to me irrevocably: my will.  This is the soul of my existence, the soul of my being, the soul of truth.  Everything else is but dust, ashes, and to dust it shall return.  The only perfect offering that I can give to the Creator and Master of the Universe is myself.  My will, given freely, becomes God’s will and in this I am fulfilled, my deepest longing is satisfied, and so the greatest joy is known, perfected in eternity.

With ashes on my forehead, I remember that every living thing, all of Creation, belongs to God.  We belong to God, irrevocably.  Surrendering our will to this truth is the one and only way to receive the fullness of life.  If we seek to only serve ourselves, in self-centered will, then we serve only ashes.  It is precisely because our hands are empty that we are able to experience true love – God doesn’t love us for anything that we have.  The lowest pauper is as beloved as the highest prince, but only the beggar with empty, upturned bowl, who wills only what God wills, is rich in eternity. As St. Paul told the Philippians and tells us now:

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”

Christina Chase