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.

In the Cloud of Glory a Portal Opens

Mary Series: Part 2 (continued from A Stranger Appears… )

        First troubled with wonder and puzzlement, then sincerely trusting and deeply curious, a young woman’s response to a strange visitor is about to change the world. Of all the human beings to be conceived in all of time, she is the single one chosen for the single most earth-shattering – and earth-redeeming – mission to be given to a creature born of woman and man. The divine message has been revealed to Mary, kneeling on the earthen floor of her childhood home, her hands lying still on her lap, bits of bread dough on her fingers, that she will conceive and bear a son whose kingdom will have no end: the Messiah, the Chosen One of God. Mary wants to know how she, as a virgin, will become pregnant – not because she is doubtful, but because she has faith in God’s word. She just wants to know, in simple and beautiful human curiosity, how it is going to happen. Mary’s angelic visitor, Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, does not punish Mary for asking such an honest and faithful question. Her innocence is rewarded with an answer.

        To Mary, the angel says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Finished speaking, the angel waits for Mary’s response.

        Thoughts blow through Mary’s practical mind like clouds are borne across the May sky.  So, Joseph will not be the father – but, will he know? Will an angel tell him of the pregnancy so that he will not be alarmed and hurt when her body begins to swell with the child? Or will the origin of the child be kept as secret as it is mysterious and, so, she be accused of the adulterous betrayal of her betrothed, the punishment for which is death by stoning? …Son of God… And hear: Elizabeth’s long prayed for baby is given to her – wondrous news from Almighty God!  The thought vapors of Mary’s mind do not gather and darken in storm but, rather, are dissipated by the constant current of Mary’s will, enabling the light to shine clearly.

        For with God nothing will be impossible.

        Mary, ever faithful to first love purely given to her in the spark of her life, believes. She has been told that it is Divine Will for her to bear the Son of God, who shall be conceived in her womb by the power of God overshadowing her. Whatever human interference may try to thwart the plan of Providence, Mary is willing to place herself in God’s hands. No matter the earthly consequences, the cost or risk to her personal life, Mary wills not to be deceived. For, she knows that life itself is the gratuitous gift of Eternal Being – gift created by, with, and for, love. And she knows who she is – all that she has been and all she ever will be – the eternal servant of love. It is because of her great love that Mary will refuse God nothing. She is entirely willing to give all of herself away… to be the poorest of the poor, the lowest of the low, an empty vessel to be filled with God’s incarnate love.
Mary knows exactly who she is and she wills never to forget.

        Never has a human being been more free than Mary is in this moment. Unfettered, unchained, unbound is she by any self-centered concern that is but folly to one who experiences true freedom. Created in the divine image and likeness, Mary most perfectly reflects the divine power of freewill and intellect and imagination in the clarity of her mind, body, heart, and soul, here and now. God wills her total freedom. She must choose. All Creation, the natural and the supernatural, suspends.

        Holding back nothing, with clear eyes, light breath, tender mouth, and her palms upturned, Mary raises her heart to the messenger of Divinity, thus lifted up while still on her knees on the earthen floor. “Behold,” she says simply and wholeheartedly, spreading her arms open wide, “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

        Thus, in pure, free abandonment, Mary completely gives over her person and her life to God, so that God may do with her whatsoever He wills. At the sounding of her last syllables, your word, the angel of the Lord bows down low before Mary and then departs from her, as a lamp light departs with the rising of the sun.

        In the sleepy village of Nazareth, a mist is forming, laden with the fragrance of lilies and roses. Some see it merely as steam rising from cooking pots and others as smoke from the trash burning fire. The mist is rolling sweetly and with greater intensity around the home of the virgin named Mary. Within, Mary quietly, with the utmost peace in all her mind, heart, and body, every limb, continues the making of the day’s bread. As the mist enters like a cloud through the open door, the woman presses her small hands deeply into the dough and exhales, hushed, consumed by love.

* * *

        All cruelty cease in this moment, all pride vanish on earth, for what has begun with the free assent of a human being to God – Restoration to Paradise begins its rush into the world! A modest child thinks not of herself, but only of the Holy Other and, purely giving herself away, allows a portal to be opened through which God Godself enters mortality by assuming human nature.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. …the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters “…the Power of the Most High will overshadow you…” “There I will meet with you… I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat” …the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. … And the Word became flesh… in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily….

        Glory to God in the Highest! Thy Shekinah glory…

        Yes, let there be, in this fraction of a moment in the Eternal Now, not one act of tyranny nor deception nor apathy among mortals – for Truth Itself, Love Itself, is willingly taking on human flesh in utter humility, and thereby sanctifying us all. Oh, glorious heartbeat across the blue and green earth that, in this moment when time was pierced and space was torn, beat with remembered purity and freedom, when human will was married with the will of the Divine and Divine Incarnate fruit takes form! …Yet… only for that gleam of a moment, only for one quick beat of the heart, and then, humans, unaware of the actual living presence of their Savior in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, unaware of the Kingdom of God quickening, return to their forgetfulness, neglectfulness, resuming their fallen, self-centered ways, all…

        …But for Mary…

   Christina Chase

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 Scripture quotes in italics  taken from John 1:1, Genesis 1:2, Luke 1:35, Exodus 25:22, Leviticus 16:2, Exodus 40:34, John 1:14, Philippians 2:7-8

Nigh Unto Me

The beloved student laid his head near the heart of the Christ and asked who would be the betrayer.  I want to be a student of the Master… Do I bow my head to His Sacred Heart?  Do I turn to Him with all the questions, all the seeking, of my life?  Or do I merely name drop and speak at Him with my mouth, never listening and drawing succor from His Infinite Depths?  Is my love for Him merely something to do – or is it the very core of who I am?

Too easily can one who seeks to follow God end up selling Him out for cash ready at hand.  I can either collaborate with those who would put the Christ to death so as to put an end to the call to holiness, unconditional love, bravery, patience, forgiveness… Or I can take up my cross and follow the Christ through my fears, through my temptations, onward and ever deeper into the eternal love of His Sacred Heart, my own heart broken open with the outpouring of His love.  I rest my head upon the Heart of Love, the Heart of Reality, the Heart of God, and ask the Master, “Is it I, Lord?”

 Sharing here also my Bible Burst for this week  (from Matthew 15:8) which inspired this  Divine Incarnate post –

Nigh Unto Me.

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

Of Your Fire

This is a poem I wrote within an hour (as part of my Bible Burst writing project) inspired by a randomly received piece of Scripture and based on my own personal experience as a fragile human being.  I have done this.  And I am still haunted by the ghosts at times, and still feel the pain of the scars – but, by the grace of God, I’m being healed…

Of Your Fire.

Not Fulfilled Yet

I’ve written here that I want to feel sacred – and that I’m disappointed because I thought I would feel sacred by making an act of consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But… what does sacred feel like? Is there such a feeling? What if what I’m experiencing is what sacred feels like: seeking, wanting, trying, not yet satisfied…?

There should be a sense of reverence toward a consecrated place, thing, or person. And, I wonder, shouldn’t there also be a sense of reverence that the consecrated person feels about him or her self? That feeling of being made sacred? To look upon myself no longer as my self, but as belonging entirely to God – that’s a true act of consecration. I should no longer consider my life as my own to do with whatever I wish, but, rather, as belonging to the Sacred Heart – with the inner life of Christ acting, working, through me.

In my desire to feel sacred, I must remember two things: 1.) God is Holy Other. 2.) I am not God. I am what God sanctifies, what God makes holy – at least, I can be what God makes holy if I let God do what God wants to do. Making an act of consecration to God (through any worthy kind of imagery or form, like the Sacred Heart) is making an act of surrender, so to speak. I am to hand over my person and my life to God (hand over my liberty, my intellect, my memory, my will[i]) so that God may make me sacred. So that, henceforth, my choices, my actions, and my words will be for God’s glory, for God’s ultimate plan. I dedicate myself to God’s work for God’s sake – not for my own ambition or comfort or even reward. Therefore, I seek only God’s Perfect Will – living in order that God’s Will may be accomplished through me… oh, let my spirit be willing, Lord, even if my flesh is weak!

Right now, I, human creature that I am of limited flesh and blood upon the earth, do not live purely in the presence of God, in the absence of temptation and sin. Rather, I live in the world, surrounded by distractions and worldliness, living in the weakness of my own flesh, as well as the weakness of others. If I seek only God’s Perfect Will, then I cannot be content with succumbing to temptation and sinning. If I seek only God’s Perfect Will, then I cannot be content with cruelty and injustice. If I seek only God’s Perfect Will, then I will hunger and thirst for righteousness. Christ Jesus tells us that those who do so hunger and thirst will be satisfied. He says that they will be satisfied… not that they are satisfied. For human beings to be truly blessed, to be truly happy, they will mourn and they will be persecuted for believing in Jesus Christ. These who mourn and are persecuted will be consoled and will be rewarded – their happiness, their blessedness, will be fulfilled.[ii] It is not fulfilled right here and right now. It is being accomplished. Not done yet.

And, so, if I am truly dedicated to God’s Will, if I am consecrated to the Sacred Heart and allowing the process of being made holy by God’s grace, then I am laboring, I am trying, I am wanting – and I am not there yet. I am not of the world, but I am still in the world. An Act of Consecration, or the process of being made sacred, while still in the midst of the profane is not the experience of complete peace without hunger, or joy without suffering. I shouldn’t feel satisfied and content. My faith is that I will be so fulfilled, perfectly peaceful and unceasingly joyful… This is Christ’s promise to me and I believe him. I believe in him – for this faith is my act of consecration…. God is consecrating me… here and now for eternity.

Yes, I have to stop thinking about this in terms of my gift to God. This is about God’s gift to me. What do I really have that is truly my own? I can give nothing to God. God gives everything to me. I can do nothing for God. God does everything for me… And through me. I, with the power of the Holy Spirit in me, merely use my God-given soul to acknowledge and surrender to the inevitable truth of who I am.

Even just writing this, I have more of a sense of being sacred. I am seeing with new eyes, hearing with new ears, feeling with new skin. My physical eyes, ears, and skin have not changed – but, perhaps, the attitude of my mind and spirit have changed, or, more accurately, are being changed. Continually being directed less toward self-centeredness and more toward God-centeredness (which is the reality of existence) this is coming home to truth, this is consecration. It is not something extra that I do, for then it could seem as though it were superfluous or unnecessary to life itself. I mean, why make an act of consecration at all? Why not just be like the majority of Christians and basically try to live a good life and then let God’s forgiveness handle all the rest so that I may go to Heaven? But… Consecration is profoundly and simply a recognition of the truth that is always there: I belong to God.

Everything that exists belongs to God. God is the giver. God gives the gift. Not me. With my God-given freewill, imagination and intellect, I can ignore this fact, reject this fact, or neglect this fact – but the fact remains. That which we call “God” is what always was, what always is, and what always will be. And the what is not something that we can ever detect with our tools or formulations. This Absolute, Almighty, Eternal Truth/Being is not a what but a Who. Person is the force and drive behind and within the very creation and existence of matter/energy; Person is the force and drive behind and within our expanding universe; Person is the answer to every why, whether that “why person” be Divine or human – it’s all personal. It’s all a gift.

“Life is a gift” is not something sentimental or trite, something handy but unnecessary, something superfluous to real life. It’s essential truth. God consecrates me through His divine action and I don’t ignore the package at the door waiting for me, I don’t take it away in disgust or disdain, and I don’t neglect to see it, blinded by my own self-centered thoughts or pursuits. I look for the gift and the gift finds me seeking… wanting… trying… and not fulfilled yet. God is sanctifying me…

Christina Chase

 

[i] taken from a prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola

[ii] Matthew 5:3-12

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