Ephemeral

Sometimes, I feel so small. The world is big and I am tiny, a mote at the mercy of the rough winds around me. I can’t control what will happen next. Mere chaff in a storm, hollowed and wanting, with no power of my own to stay. I could just blow away, far from you.

Sometimes, I feel too thin. Little and brittle, the strands of life, spun glass drawn out too long. Fine filament made for a light that burns so bright… using up its thread of time, then fades away. Nothing here can stay.

I seek hands to grab, muscles press into my flesh and hold me close to beating heart, strong, so that my heart may keep beating, too. But, no creature can hold onto me for long. For, ultimately, this isn’t where I belong.

The veil between the me of here and the me of there is but a sigh, a wisp of cloud – just a little slip, a split-second unretainable, and I’m through.

© 2015 Christina Chase

Unhidden from You

My faith facilitator for this First Friday? The haunting, inescapable truth of Psalm 139, which I have come to know most intimately:

LORD, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. You sift through my travels and my rest; with all my ways you are familiar. Even before a word is on my tongue, LORD, you know it all. Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, far too lofty for me to reach.

Where can I go from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee? If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, there you are. If I take the wings of dawn and dwell beyond the sea, even there your hand guides me, your right hand holds me fast. If I say, “Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light”— Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one.

You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works!

My very self you know.

My bones are not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.

How precious to me are your designs, O God; how vast the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the sands; when I complete them, still you are with me.

 

Prayer:

Lord, may I always be mindful that I am ever in your presence…

Guide me in your ways.

Amen.

For the Feast of All Hallows: The Saint Maker

After I had chosen, intellectually, to become a Christian, but way before I had embraced Christ in my heart, a priest told me that I was a saint maker. And I was perplexed. He looked at me, thin and frail, all crippled and crumpled and stuck in my wheelchair, and seemed a little surprised that no one had ever told me that. Explaining, he said that people were drawn to be more generous, kinder, and gentler around me. He told me that I was a powerful help to others because of my disability. My vulnerability, my weakness and dependency, inspired people to step up and be better persons – to be more like the saints they were created to be. My response? Well… not being right in the heart yet, I said, “But, what about me?” Yup, that’s right. I wanted to know what was in this whole saint-making business for me.

The problem was that I was thinking solely with my head, in terms of the practical: by merely being needy, and even difficult, those around me would be tested in patience and forgiveness and could become better people. Instead, I should have been (and should be now) thinking with my heart as well, in terms of the holy: by imaging Christ on the Cross, those around me are inspired to reflect God’s love and mercy and to become holy ones of God.

For that’s what a saint is: a person whose soul, whose very essence of being, perpetually reflects divine goodness, truth, compassion, and love into the world. And this is the purpose for which every human being is created. We are created in the image and likeness of God in order to receive the light of God’s love and, by truly receiving, give that love back to God and to others.

Imaging Christ

How I was created to live …

I hold myself before God Incarnate and, in the stillness of my holy contemplation of Christ, I let Him impress upon me, let Him form my soul, so that I may resemble Him and, in that imaging, shine Him out, shine out the light of the divine love and goodness that I have received. No one of us can either receive or give all of who Christ is at once – rather, each one of us is called to image Christ in the unique way peculiar to our God-given talents and the vocations to which we are called.

For me, it is Christ Crucified who calls, the Sacred Heart that was pierced. (Gulp and Heavy Sigh and “God, help me.”) But – and this is very important – it is not enough for me to be physically weakened and nailed down by limitations, my deformity resembling Christ in his agony – no. I must also be patient in my pathos, generous in my self abasement, and powerfully loving in my weakness: like Christ. This is what the priest meant by calling me a saint maker: that in my gentle suffering others are drawn to me, and, if I truly image Christ – who was crucified out of love for humankind – then, when they are drawn to my side, they are actually being drawn to Christ. They receive the light of His love, which is what I am simply reflecting out to them in my willingness to be like Christ, to be who I am created to be.

As in a Mirror…

mirror

To become a saint and to be a saint maker is the purpose for which every human being was created. If we don’t take up the call to holiness then we are not fully living our lives as human beings. We are not fully human. Take this analogy:

A mirror is made of particular materials for the purpose of reflecting the particular material things before it. The only reason that a mirror is made is for this reflection. If it is unable to reflect, then the mirror is not truly a mirror. Similarly, we, human beings, are made in the image and likeness of God for the purpose of reflecting God’s loving omnipresence. The only reason that we are made is for this reflection. If we are unable to reflect thusly, then we are not fully and truly human.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI shares this thought about saints: “In addition to the sun, which is the image of Christ, there is the moon, which has no light of its own but shines with a brightness that comes from the sun.” He goes on to say that the saints are like new heavenly bodies “… in which the richness of God’s goodness is reflected. Their light, coming from God, enables us to know better the interior richness of God’s great light, which we cannot comprehend in the refulgence of its glory.”[1]

FULL MOON OVER WATER

In Dante Alighieri’s Paradiso and in The Great Divorce, by CS Lewis, saints in the outer reaches of Heaven are depicted as being clothed in light. They are so brightly resplendent that their distinction is not of form but of being – fulfilled as images of the Divine Love in which they were created. Their unadulterated reception of God’s love shines out in loving brilliance. Meanwhile we, who hem and haw below, who stumble and dither in the dark, need only look up from our self-centeredness, look up with open faces beholding, to be guided by the divine light….

*          *          *

            We are all saints-in-progress, created to help one another delight in the reflection of God’s love. I cannot stop people from calling me a little saint maker. But, I know that God is the real saint maker. If my vulnerability draws out the sweetness in others, it is the sweetness that was already within them, put there by the Maker of human beings. Any goodness, any beauty, any light that we shine is His.

© 2014 Christina Chase

[1] Benedictus, for the feast of All Saints, November 1

Fearfully and Wonderfully

I’m a mess. Physically speaking, I’m a twisted, deformed, atrophied mess. Looking at the severe scoliosis in my own x-ray – the Z shaped spine, near horizontal in the thorax and rotated so that the spinal cord is on the side – even I’m a bit shocked. I look at that and I say, “How does that not hurt?” And I think, “How am I alive?”

Never having walked, I can’t say that I miss the ability – but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want it. Still, it’s the progressive collapsing and weakening of my body that is the worst; the yearly losses of strength and abilities – brushing my teeth, feeding myself, breathing without labor… these are the hardest to bear. – Hard to bear. That’s an understatement. The difficulties, disappointments, deteriorations… I get madly frustrated at times, and I sorrow deeply – but I don’t despair. I pine and I grieve – but I’m not depressed. Why not? Why not?! … Because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[1]

To be alive… it is the gift divine, profound and unfathomably, terribly beautiful. I need not exist at all… but I do. Intimately loved into being by the Infinitely Beautiful One am I. To be alive… this is the rarest of gifts, for there is only one me, and I am me. There is not, and never will be, another me in all the vast and mighty stretches of the universe, the millions of galaxies, the multitude of universes that may exist or come into existence. Just one. Just me. Exquisitely unique. Here I am.

I don’t know why some people wish that they had never been born. I don’t what that’s like. Maybe I haven’t experienced enough pain in my life. I know that there are 1 million and 1 ways to suffer in this world ( – make that 7,267,864,001… and counting). No one else’s sufferings are mine. No one else’s joys are mine. My sufferings and my joys are my own. I live them, singularly unique to me. And I am alive. I am alive.

I am alive!

Do you hear that? Do you feel that?

Do you know that?

I am alive. Here I am. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Let everyone be struck with fear.[2] The whole world trembles and the heavens exalt… because I am. Messy. Real. Present. Alive.

© 2014 Christina Chase

[1] Psalm 139:14

[2] inspired by a letter of St. Francis of Assisi to his Order; see http://www.franciscanmissionaries.com/article/the-identity-of-st-francis/

Epiphany of the Heart

On the Feast of the Epiphany, consecrated to the Sacred Heart, I’m pondering what the word heart means.  And, much to my chagrin, I see the image in the old, I ♥ NY.  The pink or red image ♥ is ubiquitous, whole or broken – on T-shirts and jewelry, in emails and kindergartners’ valentines, or floating over cartoon characters’ heads – so much so that it has become rather sappy and trite.  The love that it’s supposed to represent seems cheesy to me – and I fear that this kind of love (demonstrative, but of nothing at the core) is prevalent in our society.  There is, however, a deeper, more ancient meaning of the heart that shouldn’t be forgotten because it opens a greater understanding of truer love – and of our true selves.

The physical heart is, of course, an organ in the body that pumps blood.  The rate at which the heart pumps changes based on the perceptions and needs of the body, which may be the main reason that the heart has become a symbol of, not only love, but the seat of emotion in general.  Sensing danger, the heart rate changes as part of the fight or flight response, so that a sudden fright may cause the exclamation, “You nearly gave me a heart attack!”  When we are aroused, or excited in any way, the heart also beats faster and harder, and so we say that the heart throbs or leaps.  Studies show that social rejection or loss is “felt” like pain by the human brain – and I know that I have experienced, deep within my chest, the heartache of longing and the heartbreak of grief.  No wonder, then, that the sensitive heart has become associated with love.  It’s unfortunate, though, that the concentration has been on physical kinds of love and that the overly sentimental symbolism and imagery has rendered the heart into a cliché.  We shouldn’t dismiss all heart symbolism as romantic gobbledygook.  In order to refresh and to restore pure imagery, I turn to the spiritual understanding of the heart– which is both mystical and essential – as the innermost self… thus journeying toward greater understanding of who I am as a human being.

“The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant.”  (CCC #2563.)

I believe this needs my continual rereading and personal reflection.  This is, after all, talking about the deepest recess of my being, my sacred core.  It is only through this understanding of the heart that I can ever hope to reflect upon truth, upon the Heart of God… that I can ever hope to encounter truth, to encounter God, in true communion… that I can ever hope to be fully myself.

So, I ask myself the questions that human beings have asked themselves since humans have been:

Who am I?

Where do I live?

How do I decide?

What is truth?

Where is God?