Good News

As I was heading out of church, I knew.

I am healed.

Stained-glass window, Holy Spirit, churchIt didn’t come like a bolt out of the blue or a disembodied voice, or like some televangelist with his palm on my forehead saying the words.  I just knew.  After Mass and some friendly conversations, somewhere between my mental genuflection before the Tabernacle and crossing the threshold out into the world, my worries and prayers concerning whether or not I have cancer had an answer – I am healed.

And I was filled with a light, clear brightness like a many colored stained-glass window radiant with sunlight.  I don’t want to say that this was merely a pleasant feeling, for it was more of a deep-down knowledge.  Later, as I prayed the Glorious Mysteries of the Holy Rosary at home, I again experienced the awareness and was brought to tears of joy.

Even when I thought about how healing has different meanings, that this knowledge of mine might not mean that my uterine fibroids are benign, I still had a sense of peace.  I knew that I was healed and that meant something.  Maybe it meant that I was healed of my fears and my wariness of hope.  Maybe it meant that I would have a peaceful, joyful, and impactful transition into the next life.  I didn’t know for certain.  I just knew that I was healed. Continue reading

Womb to Tomb: Celebrating Pascha 2016

This year, we are commemorating the day of Christ’s death on the same day that we commemorate his birth. A little weird, but wonderful – and not accidental. First, a little history… then Mystery…

Origin of “Easter”

English speakers use the word “Easter” in reference to the Most Holy Day in Christianity. Most other languages, however, use words rooted in the Hebrew word for Passover, “pesach”, as the ancient Christians used the Greek word, “pascha” for the Holy Triduum of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and the Solemnity of Our Lord’s Resurrection[1]. We are celebrating the Paschal Mystery, after all! This is Christ’s “passing over”; he is the Paschal Lamb sacrificed for us – and risen to glory. The friends and familial loved ones of Jesus celebrated his Resurrection on every Sunday and, as the number of disciples of Jesus grew (and grows) this tradition continues. Within the first two centuries, however, Christians began wanting to celebrate the Passion, Death, and Resurrection with especially great festivity and joy once each year. So, the question became, On what date should we celebrate the Pascha?

Calendar Calculations

The key, ancient Christian scholars and leaders believed, was in determining the original date on which Jesus died. Although you might think this would be easy because of the biblical accounts… well, it wasn’t. Finding equivalents in the different solar calendars that Christians used for the days of Nisan in the ancient Jewish lunar calendar, was, let’s just say challenging. (For more on the history, see footnotes[2].) Anyway, in the course of these calculations, ancient Christians also sought to determine dates for celebrating Christ’s birth and conception, and other holy days, always keeping the Pascha as the base, the heart.

Incarnation and Sacrifice

Eastern Christian calculations came up with a date for when Jesus died upon the cross, a date equivalent to April 6, while Western calculations determined that Jesus died on the date equivalent to March 25. In choosing times to commemorate other Mysteries of Christ’s life, including Christmas, ancient Christians, both East and West, seemed to want to give a roundness, or fullness, to his life[3], and, so, chose the day of his conception in his virgin mother’s womb to coincide with the day of his death and burial in a tomb. Beautiful.

Truth and Beauty

We humans have a tendency to get caught up in technical details, calculations, charts, even dates themselves. Scholarly debates still abound on the history of date choosing and calculated dates still differ. But, Jesus did not die upon a cross for the glory of our digital ruminations. He died so that his blood, shed in divine love and mercy, could wash us clean of our sins – and that is something that we are not going to grasp with the math portion of our brains. Jesus came, Jesus comes, to reach the unique and transcendent connections of our minds, to speak to our hearts.

The “calendar date” is not what’s important. What’s important, what’s of earthshaking and ego-shattering importance, is that Christ Jesus is God Incarnate, that he was (is) truly human and truly divine, and that he died for love of us – and rose from the dead so that death will never be the end for any human being. This is why the name of Jesus is above all other names, this is why true Christians willingly sacrifice out of love for God and neighbor, this is why we are a people of hope and joy.

Yet, the dates in the Liturgical Calendar are not without rich significance. The Church lays out the Holy Days for our hearts and minds, so that, throughout the months and seasons, we may enter into the Mysteries of Christ and live intimately with him all year. There is truth in the content of the Holy Days and beauty in the context of their timing. Saint Augustine expresses this reality exquisitely:

For He is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also He suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which He was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which He was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before nor since.[4]

Ponder This

Beautiful timing is befalling us this year and it is something highly worth reflecting upon …. In the Year of Our Lord 2016, we are called to commemorate both when Christ died and when Christ was conceived on the very same day!

Yes, the Annunciation coincides with Good Friday this year, as ancient Christians in the West believed that it should. Mark it and marvel. The thought gives me a beautiful sense of awe. And that sense deepens when I look upon my local church’s statues of both the Blessed Mother and Jesus on the Cross covered over for Passiontide, wrapped in veils, hidden from our eyes… Mary conceived Jesus as she was overshadowed, covered over, by the Power of the Most High… and, when her son, the Son of God, died on the cross, darkness covered the sky and his body was enshrouded and sealed in a tomb… waiting for revelation to the world…

I gaze upon the veiled statue and I can almost see Mary’s belly pulse and ripple beneath the purple cloth …

veiled Mary copyright

And as I gaze upon the veiled crucifix, I can almost see Christ, wrapped in his burial shroud, the cloth starting to move as his chest suddenly rises with the returned breath of life…

 veiled Jesus copyright

Awaiting the revelation of what is hidden from our sight, we mourn, we hope, we celebrate…

Happy Pascha!

 

© 2016 Christina Chase

Photo credit: Dan Chase, inside St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Suncook, NH


[1] See Religion Facts: Easter

[2] the calendar used by Jews in the first century was lunar, with an extra month thrown in once in a while by the will of the Sanhedrin to keep it in line with the natural seasons. Christians used solar calendars, but there were many different calendars, with different months and dates. See: Catholic Encyclopedia: Easter

[3] in-depth exploration of “integral age” of Prophets with a Jewish source here at National Catholic Register ; Also see : William Tighe’s article   Passover to Easter and Calculating Christmas

[4] Saint Augustine. See: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf103.iv.i.vi.vi.html

What Is Holy Communion? How I’d like to Break It down to My Little Ones

Here is what I wish I was bold enough to say aloud about Holy Communion.

My nephews, ages 12 and nearly 10, seem to be uncomfortable around talk of religion – like their mother is and like I used to be. They go to Sunday Mass regularly because of their dad, but I don’t think they get it and I don’t think they like it. Did any of us as kids? Nobody broke it down for me when I was younger. So, here’s my attempt for them – at least on paper…

Holy Communion is spiritual food. Your soul needs to be healthy. Communion, or the Eucharist, gives you spiritual strength to help you to be brave, to be kind, to be merciful, to be generous, and to have wisdom to help you to make good decisions. In the consecrated bread and wine, Jesus gives you himself so that you can be powerful like him.

Now, of course, we’re only human. We make mistakes. We have flaws. And life isn’t always easy in this world. God knows. When Jesus lived among us, a human being like us, even though he is also God, he had it pretty rough sometimes. He and his family were poor. People made fun of him, thought he was crazy, spit at him, and beat him up. I mean – they even nailed him to a cross to die! But, even though Jesus got scared, tired, sad, even angry at times, and even though he terribly dreaded what he would have to suffer on the cross, so much so that he sweated blood – he got through it. He even got through death. Death had no power over him. He rose up from the dead, alive again, body and soul. And he now lives, in a mysterious way, in Heaven and gives himself to us, also in a mysterious way, in the Eucharist, so that we can be strong like him and get through anything, even death, and live forever.

Spiritual food doesn’t just help us get through the rough times. Holy Communion helps us to better enjoy the happy things of life, too, like love, laughter, fun, accomplishments, even forgiveness – which is a kind of joy because it’s so freeing. Spiritually strong, we can become more grateful, peaceful, and happier, because we carry a little bit of Heaven within us.

Remember that we can’t be truly healthy and truly happy unless we take care of both our bodies and our souls. We call Jesus the Bread of Life. And that’s why Jesus invites us to the altar to receive him in the Eucharist – to feed our souls, to help us to be strong, healthy, and happy, with his never-ending love always in our hearts.

Yup. I’d like to say all these things to my nephews… but I probably won’t be brave enough. Other people’s discomfort makes me uncomfortable, too.  Yes… I seem to be afraid of what children who love me will think of me.  Heavy sigh.

Maybe I need to listen to my own words and receive the courage that Jesus is giving to me when he feeds and strengthens my soul in the Eucharist….

© 2015 Christina Chase

The Heavy-Laden One

Who amongst us isn’t wounded?  Who amongst us isn’t crippled in some way?  Who amongst us doesn’t bear the scars of past hurt or the pain of present heartache?  To be a living human is to breathe in and out, to think with the coursing of blood, to weep and to laugh, to taste a little bit of decay with every pleasure’s sigh.

No one can be alive and stagnant.  There must be ebb and flow, the breaking and remolding of every day.  For we do not contain within ourselves a still liquid, but, rather, a flowing stream of infinite love that must be given and received, which wears down every hardness and washes away the places of softness – so that ever and more we may be full of living love.

Do not be afraid.  Thousands have gone before you and thousands more are following; you are not alone.  The One who made the way leads you and protects you on all sides – thus that Beautiful One is the Way. JESUS-carrying-crossWounded, crippled, scarred, and pained, the Sublime One is your heartbeat, is your sorrow, is your joy, is the very marrow of your mind and very soul of your soul.  See how beautiful?  The Heavy-Laden One cries and sings with you – this Healing One waits for you beyond the edge of the last day.

unpublished work © 2015 Christina Chase

How Good We Have It

            Enough said:

            “But your eyes are blessed, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I’m telling you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”[1] ~ Jesus, God Incarnate

            Do we know how good we have it?

            The brightest geniuses from all antiquity searched in vain for what we have, though we may be neither clever nor brilliant. Even in the common era, now, and into the future, great minds will peer into the depths of lifeforms and the universe, scrutinizing matter and energy looking for something that their fine intellects and technologies cannot disclose to them. And yet, we, though we may be neither skilled nor ambitious, have that Something More right before us in loving embrace.

            We, who are believers, impeded neither by historic circumstance nor advanced ignorance, have seen and heard Truth in profound intimacy. The Mystery of Ultimate Reality, the reason and meaning of the finite and the infinite, all revealed through the Will of the Uncaused Cause: we are allowed to find the divine Logos – the Word of God – through the Word of God Made Flesh, who became one of us in order to lead us, transform us, and save us from the darkness of our intellects and the weakness of our wills. We hear and we see. This is true Transcendence, not through measurements or calculations or even awe – not through some thing, but through some One.

            They long to see what we see and hear what we hear – but they are blind and deaf. Have pity on them, practice true compassion, and, in sharing in the wonder and delight of what we can know in common, let us pray that they may be wholly healed and that we may not shut our eyes and ears to the truth with which we have been blessed.

© 2014 Christina Chase

 

[1] Matthew 13:16-17 – Gospel reading from the Memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne

Blood Thirst

Why do we want to punish each other? Husbands and wives, daughters and mothers, sons and fathers, coworkers, and even friends. We feel any slight and we give it back to them; we want them to experience pain and we rub their noses in it. No matter how big the hurt – or how petty and small.

Is it any wonder, then, that God had to do what He did? God became one of us so that he could take the punishment that we want to dole out, the lashes, the torture, the ridicule, the cruelty. God let us make Him low – let us kill him as he suffered in writhing pain – all to take away our guilt and usher in peace by showing us how much he loves us. God satisfies our thirst for blood, for vengeance, for mockery, for violent payback, by letting himself become our whipping boy – and all powerful God bends his human head to our mercilessness, feeling every moment, every tear, every blow of our pain. We killed the only perfect human being that ever existed – because that’s how far our desire to share misery will go.

            And then… and then this Beautiful One, whom we have beaten and spurned and murdered, rises up. He lets us make him low in our meanness, and then… the merciful then… he lets us rise up with him in his glory. Thus showing that true power is in love. He is razed by our thirst for punishment; and we are raised by his thirst for forgiveness.

Christina Chase

Giving Thanks – Eucharist

“For God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son….”  [John 3:16]  There is no more profound truth than this, and no greater love – no better reason for giving thanks.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.  It is a day that we set apart in order to be mindful of all the goodness in our lives and to be truly grateful for the gifts that we have been given.  It is right and just for us to give thanks to God for Creation, for life itself, for our lives, and for His Infinite Love.  Believers, of course, should be mindful and grateful every day.  I will be going to Mass tomorrow even though it’s not Sunday, even though it’s not a Holy Day of Obligation, because I deeply desire to participate in the Eucharistic liturgy on the day that is called Thanksgiving, even by nonbelievers.  After all, Eucharist means thanksgiving.

In the Sacred Liturgy of the Mass, the Paschal Mystery – Christ’s Incarnation, life, Passion, death, Resurrection and Ascension – is celebrated through Scripture and Sacrament.  In the Eucharistic prayer, the outpouring of God’s love through Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross is made present again in an “unbloody manner” [Council of Trent].  As members of the Mystical Body of Christ, we, the Church, pierce the temporal veil through the Eucharistic liturgy and step into sacred timelessness – uniting ourselves with Christ on the Cross in the offering of ourselves to God.  We give ourselves in true love, in thankful praise and solemn promise to God.

In lifting “our hearts up to the Lord”, we receive the fullness of Christ who is lifted up, his heart broken open so that he may give himself to us.  The bread and wine of the Eucharist are consecrated and changed into Christ’s Body and Blood – and we, too, are changed as we enter into his Holy Sacrifice.  And we make his sacrifice our own by living out this love, this surrender to God’s will, this gift of self to others, in our own lives.

I  hope that I remember, not only tomorrow, but every day of the year, that we most beautifully and truly give thanks by giving – ”love one another as I love you.”  [John 15:12]