Redemptive Suffering

The womb that cannot bear new life

is, instead, bearing pain.

Seemingly meaningless and devoid of promise,

for the hard grip – twisted deformed rocks –

makes it unrecognized as gift…

The fruit of love conceived

in union with the Pierced Heart

shedding blood, suffering,

giving of oneself for the other…

The womb that cannot carry

feels the weight of souls.

© 2017 Christina Chase

quote on suffering Saint Faustina

For My Mother

With Mother’s Day coming, I decided to share this letter that I wrote to my mother nine years ago.  For those of you who don’t know me, it’s good to remember, while reading the letter, that I was born with a motor neuron disease that has rendered me completely dependent on others for all of my physical needs.  This letter is rather personal – but I hope and trust that my mother won’t mind.  It shows my own selfishness – and her great selflessness.

On the Occasion of

Mother’s Day

May 14, 2006

Dear Mama,

The reason that I’m writing this little letter is so that you will always remember how much I love you and am grateful for you.  Never forget that you are a woman who is loved!  My appreciation for you, Francine, goes beyond the natural appreciation of a daughter for her mother, because you, Francine, go beyond the natural giving of an ordinary mother.

You sacrifice yourself, giving your pain and suffering to the ones you love. You are, in fact, selfless – and don’t argue. Anyone can plainly see the pain and weakness that your body suffers. And yet, though your back is hunched over, your muscles spasming, your legs dragging, you give yourself to me. You are here for me every day, for whatever I may need. And you are even here for me every day for whatever I may want. You are a deep source of comfort and joy for me.

Mama, you and I both know how the years will play out if you keep giving to me as you do… your spine will become worse, your pain more frequent, and yet… you are willing to continue to take care of me, to give yourself to me, even if it means breaking your body. True, your body is deteriorating quickly on its own, but we know that lifting me and carrying me, and doing all the things that you do for me, is breaking your body more quickly and certainly. For the sake of your body and physical health, you should not hold me. And yet, I know that you will always take me into your arms. That’s sacrifice.

My beloved mother, you give another immediate and personally human dimension to the meaning of Our Lord’s words, “This is my Body, which will be given up for you.” You see, Mama, I see Christ in you… you bring Him to me and I experience something of God’s own love for me through you. I want you, too, to experience God’s own love for you. I want you to know how uniquely precious you are in your Creator’s Own Heart. I, fault-ridden human that I am, love you and want to bless you. Think how much more God Our Father, who is perfect, loves you and wants to bless you. Open your mind, Mama, and your heart and let God love you, faults and all. Though I sometimes criticize you, know that I’m speaking from my own flawed humanness. I love you more than I can say. Our Lord, who knows how you suffer – because He suffers, too – loves you divinely, loves you in your struggle, loves you forever… and He will always take you into His arms. He is giving Himself to you every day. That’s what true love is… and I know that because of you.

So… Happy Mother’s Day, Mama! Thank you for everything, everything! Know that you are deeply and profoundly loved – not just by me and your family, but by the Master of all life, Himself.

 Love Always,

Christina Marie

(and thank you for my name!)

Descended to the Dead

underwater

Have you ever submerged yourself under water, like a lake or a pool, and gone down, down, down? The light, if visible, is far-off and distorted, while all around you, enshrouding you, is a seductive, numbing kind of darkness. There’s an oblivious kind of quiet down there and you would stay below. But, within you is the instinct to rise.

You are made to rise – from the pool, the grudge, the self-pity, the addiction…. You are made to rise up, to see clearly, to breathe freely – you are made for the Light.

But, what if your ability to rise is deadened by self-abuse – by sin? Then, all that is good within you will drown. And your soul will die. It is for this reason that Jesus sacrificed himself on the Cross – he descended to the dead so that he may always be with you, so that he may always be with you even in the deepest, darkest abyss. Christ Jesus is there and stretches out his hand, and parts the drowning waters. You need only to reach out for his mercy and he will take hold of you – and raise you up to the land of the living, to the Light.

© 2015 Christina Chase

This concludes a trio of short reflections for the Paschal Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Blessed and Joyous Easter, everyone!

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

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

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

Lord, Live Your Life through Me

When I consecrated myself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I knew that there was part of the Consecration that would be difficult, if not impossible, for me to do because of my severe physical limitations.  (It’s hard to get around, I stay home a lot.)  Mass attendance on the first Friday of each month is recommended, with five in a row prescribed.  Hopefully, I will be able to do this… but I’m not counting on it.  Meanwhile, I will participate in the Eucharistic Liturgy in the best way that I can: by watching a televised Mass and praying to receive Spiritual Communion.  To help facilitate spiritual participation and communion, I will be choosing and presenting a prayer, meditation, or scriptural passage that’s conducive to true worship.

This month’s facilitator is St. Ignatius of Loyola, who eloquently speaks to the crux of what I was poorly attempting to write about in my last post:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; dispose of it entirely according to your will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is sufficient for me.

This is exactly what God calls me to do, exactly what I have such a hard time doing.  This is the life of Jesus Christ, his human nature crying out to God the Father: “not as I will, but as thou wilt.”  (Matthew 26:39.)  This is the self-giving love of Christ on the Cross, surrendering to Divine Will, pouring out his life’s blood for me.  And this is what is celebrated in the Eucharist of every Mass: the surrender of the self to the will of God in humility and love.

So what does that mean to me and for me?

There is nothing that I can give to God that God has not already given to me.  God doesn’t need monetary tribute or burnt incense or a sacrificed portion of grain or meat.  Even the little things that I “give up” during the season of Lent are not for God – the sacrifices are for me, to help me recognize that material things and self-centered pleasures do not constitute my identity or the fullness of life.  By letting go of daydreaming (my personal Lenten sacrifice) I can turn my mind more fully to God and be more deeply aware of the true gifts and talents that God has given me.  When I use these gifts for God – including my personal liberty, memory, and understanding – then I am fulfilled as a human being.  I’m closer to becoming the person that I was created to be – I am closer to knowing the profound depth of God’s love and to experiencing infinite joy.

From today’s Psalm (51):

should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

To truly participate in the Eucharistic Liturgy, then, symbolized by the bread and wine brought to the altar, I give my whole self to God.  I consecrate and offer my person and my life to Divine Love Itself, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Like Jesus, I seek and choose God’s will.  This is full participation in the Eucharist – in Christ’s Paschal Mystery.  Transformed through redemption, I received the gift of Christ’s love, thus entering into full spiritual communion.  And then I am able to do the things that God wants me to do each day: setting aside my selfish pursuits and indulgences, my self-righteous indignations, and going forth, in the ways in which I am uniquely able, “releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing [my] bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when [I] see them, and not turning [my] back on [my] own.”  (Isaiah 58)

So, why don’t I DO it?    Why do I have such difficulty just being gentle sometimes?

Lord, I want to be like you.  I want to give you my whole self.  Come, live your life through me.

Christina Chase

First

This week’s Bible Burst is a reflection on a piece of Scripture that is similar to one that was already randomly given to me twice before in a year.  (Biblebrainbursts.blogspot.com) So I went in a different direction this time, looking at self-centered emotions and the courage to sacrifice…First.