Not Here, Not Yet

Before I share the thought that was given to me through Scripture and prayer, I do want it understood that thoughts of the afterlife, of eternal reward or punishment, don’t influence the choices that I make here and now. Making decisions based on the question “What’s in it for me, ultimately?” just seems wrong. I love because I am loved – because I was loved into being and loving is the way of my being. I choose the good in life because goodness is the truth of life. Okay, that may sound a little gobbledygook-mumbo-jumbo, spiritually esoteric, but I’ll go into it more in another post sometime. It suffices to say, before continuing to the point of this post, that I love the here and now and am not aching with any kind of longing for the life of the world to come.

(But, maybe I should…)

The Wedding Feast in Cana

This was the gospel reading for this past Sunday. It so happened that, the week before, while reflecting upon this Mystery in praying the Rosary, I thought more deeply upon the first thing that Jesus said in this account. And the thought led to another, which led to another…

rosary luminous wedding-cana

Jesus asked his mother of what concern the lack of wine was to him or to her. He told her that it was not yet his time, that his hour had not yet come. What did that mean, really? Would his mother have known what that meant? I had once heard it explained that the “time” referred to the start of his ministry, like, it was not yet time for his ministry to begin, for him to perform miracles. Like his hour of fame hadn’t come, yet. The more common understanding is that the “hour” is about Jesus’s passion, death, Resurrection, and Ascension. But that doesn’t completely explain what Jesus was talking about. I began understanding that the reference was more about the true Reign of Jesus, his eternal hour, if you will – Heaven.

It’s like Jesus was saying, “So, they ran out of wine. So what? That happens all the time on earth, in this world. Of course, at the end of time, in the New Heaven and the New Earth, there will be endless plenty. No one will ever run out of anything that they need or that they desire, for their desires will be pure and their hearts will be satisfied in the Kingdom that is Heaven. But, that’s not here, not now, not yet.”

As I continued praying, the understanding of “Not Here, Not yet” came through in each Mystery. Still in Cana, those who did not “drink their fill” of the first wine offered were the only ones who were able to truly and fully enjoy the superior wine that Jesus offered. The wine of this world is good and beautiful – but we shouldn’t get drunk on it, because the best is yet to come. Best to stay sober, awake, alert. Only if we leave room, make room, make way, for the best can we truly receive the best.

Proclamation of the Kingdom and the Call

rosary luminous proclamation

In this Mystery, we reflect upon Jesus as he prepared people – preparing our hearts and minds – for life in the world to come. He did not say that the poor are blessed because material poverty is the best thing that you can ever have forever. But, it is a good thing to be unattached to material wealth in this life, because then we will be free to experience and receive what is to come. Not finding all of our happiness here and now is actually a blessing – because then our hearts will still long for complete happiness, which is ultimately found in the pure, uninhibited presence of God in Heaven. Applying this to all of the Beatitudes makes them more understandable – and, hopefully, livable.

The Transfiguration

rosary luminous Transfiguration

The disciples on mount Tabor were given an incredibly amazing vision and they wanted to build tents on the mountaintop for Jesus and Moses and Elijah – right here, right now. They thought that this beautiful experience on earth was the ultimate of glory. But, it wasn’t. While still living on earth, they, we, cannot be fully and knowingly in the unmasked presence of God – and this fact was made clear when the Voice spoke and the disciples trembled. After, it was only Jesus standing before them, wearing ordinary clothes, a bit sweaty, dust on his feet – this is what is here in this life. But, because the disciples continued to follow him and to listen to him, they came to experience the ultimate in glory as Holy Ones of God in Heaven. If we, too, listen to Jesus and follow His Teachings, then we will be able to experience, in the life of the world to come, the full glory of which that vision of the Transfiguration only offered a glimpse.

The Institution of Holy Eucharist

rosary luminous Eucharist

In this Mystery, we reflect upon the meal that Jesus shared with his disciples on the night before he was crucified. The earthly meal itself is a meal – but it signifies so much more. The disciples themselves couldn’t even know what Jesus’s words fully meant until after his Resurrection. Even then, the significance and meaning remained Mystery because it is Mystery. Although under the appearance of earthly bread and wine in this life, the Sacrament of the Eucharist that we receive and share is foretaste of the Heavenly banquet that has no end in the life of the world to come.

Like Paul Said

Celebrating the Conversion of St. Paul on Monday, let’s sum up with some of his words: “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.”[1]

The infinite fullness of bliss and glory is coming – not here, not yet… but soon, and for the rest of our eternal lives.

Prepare yourself.

© 2016 Christina Chase


[1] 1 Corinthians 13:12

Hope, Part 2: Eternal Perspective

Continued from Hope, Part 1: The Four-Letter Word

I have never wanted to fall for wishful thinking – I have only ever wanted the truth. Before I became a true-believing Christian, as a preteen, teenager, and young adult, I viewed Heaven as a comforting fairytale and a false hope. Coming to know the real Christ, however, and growing in relationship with him, my understanding of Heaven was inevitably going to change.

I am still growing in my understanding….

I love life here and now and I love God, here and now. There is still a small part of me that is fighting against the thought of Heaven, not wanting to be patronized like a child told to hope.

However… I’m beginning to understand that I am behaving like a child by fighting the reality of Heaven….

Hope Is a Virtue

As a believing Christian and committed practitioner of the Catholic Faith, I know that I must take seriously the theological definition of hope:

“a Divine virtue by which we confidently expect, with God’s help, to reach eternal felicity as well as to have at our disposal the means of securing it.”[1]

“Eternal felicity”….

“Confidently expect”…

Hope As Part of the Big Three

The theological virtue of hope presupposes belief in the existence of eternal life and, specifically, in the existence of “eternal felicity”, or, namely, Heaven. Hope, then, is a firm faith, or kind of knowledge, that one can, through Christ, enter into this eternal life, because the way through which to enter it is given to us by God in Christ Jesus.

I had been thinking that it shouldn’t be hope that helps Christians through rough trials and tribulations. I had been thinking that faith is what does that – the assent, the trust in, and the commitment to God and to what God has revealed. But, if it is not to be mere wishful thinking, then hope, which is that “confident expectation” of “eternal felicity”, is a result of faith. It’s the natural living out of faith.

And that faithful, “confident expectation” that is hope can only exist and be realized through love.

The Reality of God’s Love

Although I am naturally an optimistic and content person, there are, of course, many times when I have been laid low by my disease and disability. In these times, I have been sustained and carried by love… By my love for life and for my family – and by my family’s love for me. Now that I have given myself in faith to the reality of God, I know that this sustaining love comes from God’s love. And believing Christians experience spiritual aid and comfort, not only from human love, but also (and more deeply and profoundly because it is the source of human love) from God’s love and the willingness and eagerness to love God in return.

Christianity is not all about rewards after death – it is fundamentally about the giving and receiving of divine love from pure and generous hearts. I understand, now, that “eternal felicity”, that Heaven, is the reality of God and God’s love for me. And so, too, is the divine disposal of “the means of securing it”. We can never earn Heaven or wishfully think our way into it – it is purely God’s gift, freely and graciously given to all who are willing to receive it.

As a committed lover of God, I am willing to receive all that God wills to give to me.

And, so, yes – Heaven is real, and hope is good.

Living Hope Every Day – Eternal Perspective

One way that I think that we can describe the practice and the effect of the theological virtue of hope in our lives is as eternal perspective. One can say that one believes in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life of the world to come. But, does that belief influence and effect one’s daily life? To live in hope is to have an eternal perspective in the mundane living of every day. For, surely, if one is confidently expectant of something, then one lives in preparation and readiness of its coming.

Real life example: let’s say you’re arguing with someone whom you truly love. The argument won’t last forever and the two of you may even forget the very thing over which you were fighting. Because you truly love each other, you will forgive each other and continue to live your relationship rooted in that love. The argument is finite. But the love experienced, expressed, and manifested through your relationship is infinite, it belongs to eternity – because it is the experience, expression, and manifestation of God’s eternal love, which is the Source and Sustainer of all love. And, so, even in the midst of the argument, you can step back for a moment and regain this eternal perspective. Having this eternal perspective fosters the true forgiveness, healing, and continuation of your relationship’s joyful love, which is carried into eternity itself.

Eternal felicity.

My Hope

So, I don’t do this-or-that hoping, like some kind of wishful, fingers-crossed-wanting, that it will turn out fabulous in the end. I live with confidence. I trust in God’s Word and, so, have faith that eternity is real. The things of God last forever and other things don’t. This knowledge, this “confident expectation”, our Christian hope, is the fruit of our Christian faith, brought into true being and sustained through Christian love.

Thankfully, God is merciful… If my human weakness cannot yet handle the word, then I do not need to think of this thing called “hope”. I need only to live it.

unpublished work © 2015 Christina Chase


[1] http://newadvent.org/cathen/07465b.htm

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

My Particular Body and My Peculiar Soul – My Immortality

The soul is what animates the body, bringing it to life – and my soul, as a human being, is the breath of God.[1] If my soul is of God, is of spirit, then it has no beginning and no end. Eternal. Immortal. For spirit cannot be reduced to parts.[2] Spirit is not finite. However, I can neither say that I, as the human person that I am, had no beginning nor that I am infinite. This is because I am of flesh and spirit, body and soul united as one human person. My spiritual soul animates my material body – and my material body affects my spiritual soul.

What makes my soul my soul?

In contemplating the human body this month, thoughts have come to me that, although the gifts of intellect, memory/imagination, and freewill are “products”, if you will, of my spiritual soul, they only take on unique qualities peculiar to me through my bodily living.

I’m thinking that, maybe, it’s kind of like this: imagine Spirit (that which is nonmaterial, infinite, eternal, divine) as an endless substance that is absolutely everywhere. When I, as an individual member of the Homo sapiens species, first came into being (at the moment of my conception, when the genetic material from my mother and my father combined and began to live, cells multiplying, a singular organism developing and growing) I was immediately a combination of matter and spirit, a unique human person. My body was in zygotic, and later embryonic, then fetal, infantile, juvenile, adolescent, and adult, form and, no matter where my body was or is in geographical location, spirit animates my body.

God, who is Spirit Itself, does not change with the changes of my body – for God is immutable. But, somehow, someway, through the mysterious workings of God, the spirit that animates my body is affected by the life that I live through my body. My intellect is informed through my body and my freewill acts through my body and, mysteriously, my bodily experiences and choices give a unique kind of energy to the spirit that brings me to life: my soul.

The Afterlife

This affected kind of energy is not infinite like spirit, but rather finite, like flesh – that is, it is not always and everywhere. But, because this unique impression, coloring, flavor, or imprinted energy, if you will, is upon spirit, grounded in spirit, it will not die. When the body dies (and the body, being of matter, must die) this particular “shade” of spirit, my soul, will continue to live eternally. (What choices I make will determine how that eternal life is lived… but, more on that later.) As a Christian, I believe that, by the power, grace, and mercy of God, my soul will be allowed to reanimate my body in the Resurrection at the End of Days, through Christ my Savior – though it will no longer be my body as it is now, living materially on earth, but, rather, my body glorified… given immortality in the New Heavens and the New Earth, in the life of the world to come. A profound Mystery.

Well, these are my thoughts, anyway, rather roughly laid out. But, I wanted to share them, hoping that others may have further and/or better insight that they will share with me as I continue to explore. What do you think?

© 2014 Christina Chase

[1] Genesis 2:7

[2] as taught by St. Thomas Aquinas

May

In the month of May, we honor motherhood – and the dead of war.

All over the earth, mothers watch their sons go off to war every day. The baby she once cradled in her arms, lovingly, tenderly keeping him from all of the world’s harms – a soldier now, battle ready, double-edged sword in hand. Hundreds… Thousands… Millions of boys become men ground up by the machinery of war; the blood of beloved sons spilled out, saturating field and forest or mingling with the salty tears of fathomless seas. What gain can be had by so great a cost? What treasure could entice a woman to offer as potential sacrifice a child whom she has raised and loved?

On battlefields and disputed fronts, in gunfights, bombings, and hand-to-hand combat, the cries and gory wounds of war march on… for country! And more deeply… for faraway home… for brothers in arms beside them… and mourning mothers kneel upon the mossing graves, a clutch of flowers in aging hands pressed against the stones.

This Spring, the Earth unfurls her verdant green banners and swells with the peaceful rush of life. This is the time of bright trumpeting daffodils and of violets… and also of forget-me-nots, and tulips reaching up from the ground like offered prayers. The lilies of the valley, demurely bowing their heads, white veiled, emit their sweet and heavy fragrance from the quiet of their leafy grottoes. And the robins redbreast are warming their nests of promised chicks in appletrees thick with blooms, undeterred by frost or storm… until, one day, in the month of May, the sky cloaked eggs will open and reveal new life being born.

Not so long ago, in pasturelands of deep country, farming families would gather at the crossroads to pray the rosary in the cool, clear of a May evening.

crossroads cross

St-Venant-de-Paquette, QC, Canada

In May, for our ancestors knew that the Queen of Heaven sits upon her mossy throne, bedecked with buttercups and bluets, with wild strawberry blossoms at her feet and purple lilacs at her shoulders. Her head is bowed, white veiled, and her cupped hands, like a chalice of petal flesh, catch the tears that are spilling out from her violet eyes and down her cheeks of new roses.

DSCN6716

La Grotte, East-Hereford, QC, Canada

She, too, has watched her son go off to war, like a lamb sent among wolves.

He laid bare the mighty enemy with the spiritual swiftness of his sword, but his brothers went astray and left him to the cruelty of men, to be tortured and humiliated. She saw her beloved son put to death before her eyes and her tears, her agony, could not end the madness, could not save him from the pain, could not spare him the grave. But… the stone that had marked the place where his lifeless body was laid to rest did not green over with the coming spring. The grave did not keep his mortal remains, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, for the life of her son is purely divine – and he did rise. And in rising to eternal life he raises dead sons and daughters, saving all with souls of faith, who valued others more than self.

The Mother of God saw her son, meek and humble and strong, go off to war and, though painfully grieved, did not begrudge the sacrifice – for the treasure won by his blood is the kingdom that has no end, not just for herself and him, but for every person of hope. The Kingdom where love is true armor, love the lance, love the way, love the victory without violence, the glory without gore, the eternal summer, the eternal spring. And, now, every day of firefight and weeping, every day of cold, barren darkness, every day of Renewing Life pushing up tender shoots, of flowers yielding to luscious fruits – every day is a memorial.

 © 2014 Christina Chase

with edits © 2016  Christina Chase


Photo credit: © 2014 Dan Chase