It's been kinda hard to post this week as I'm now into the full swing of taking/teaching my classes while keeping the day-to-day schedule of Loyola House.
Spiritual Thought for the week:
This week we celebrated two feasts: the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. It's interesting that they fell back to back. I'll share with you why in a moment.
When Jesuit theologian Michael Buckley teaches his course on St John of the Cross (known for the phrase "Dark Night of the Soul") he begins the course by reading the "Living Flame of Love." This is notable only insofar that, as St John intended it, the Living Flame of Love would be read only after the reader has worked through "The Dark Night of the Soul" and "The Ascent of Mount Carmel" (Note: This is Carmel - the religious mountain - and not the creamy delicious CARAMEL. If there were a Mount Caramel, I'd certainly live there). The rationale is simple: were he to begin with the Dark Night, it is feared that the reader would become discouraged and disheartened (it's tough going!). So, for Buckley, the idea is to give the student the chance to see the end result before embarking on the long journey through the text. I suppose we do this all the time: it's commonplace to have the Freshman team watch the Varsity team practice to show them what their own hard work and labor will result in.
So this week's feasts do much the same for us: the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross draws us into the triumph and joy of of the cross, the ultimate victory over death and sin. And yet, as Thursday's readings show (Luke's Gospel with the Blessing of Simeon), this triumphant celebration is hard-fought and is born only through great suffering and discipleship. One feast bring our goal into sight; the other feast brings us into the reality of lived discipleship. Indeed, we often see Mary as the first disciple and Simeon's blessing to her acts as the curse that befalls all those who wish to live as disciples: to love and follow Christ is to expose your heart to great peril and, in your vulnerablility, your heart will be pierced. To follow Christ in love and out of love will bring each of us into direct and painful conflict, conflict that too often will inflict deep and lasting wounds. We are willing to subject ourselves to this agony not because we're necessarily efficient at it or because we're good at it...we do it because we feel we've been called to it and, living out authentically our call, we feel that we unite our sufferings with that of the Cross and that these sufferings will be also be redeemed, will be transformed, and that our broken and battered bodies will be resurrected in triumph.
Too often I get frustrated with the Church's calendar: it always seems that we're celebrating something! Is it possible that there is that much to celebrate? Yes, I am beginning to realize, there is. And this week draws us into something of the genius of the the Feast Days - they speak to our pilgrim lives, acting as waves that bear us to the crest that we might see the glorious shore that awaits us on the horizon and then, as we slip back into the tumultuous waters, immerse us in the day-to-day struggles of discipleship, of a reality that seems always to threaten us with drowning.
So we might pause for a moment to think about how our hearts have been engaged with the world, about how in answering our call to discipleship we have been challenged and threatened and, in no small way, wounded. Allow yourself to feel this pain, yet do not bow down to it and worship it...this is a temptation, you know! Instead, allow yourself to feel hurt and to feel sorrow and to feel your eyes lift up to see in the distance the figure of the cross, a figure that seems to draw closer to you and yet seems to recede from your grasp. And do not think that you are alone in this...that is yet another temptation! Instead turn your head to see those around you struggling, gasping for breath, straining just to stay afloat or to hang on for just a moment more. See how your neighbor struggles - her problems may be very different from yours - but still see how she labors under them. Though the content of our struggles may be different, we are united in the act of struggling and in the act of journeying together. We journey forward - together - as a people who feel they've heard a small voice call out to them, calling to them in the muck and mire of their humdrum lives...in the blissful moments of new relationships...in the agony of death. We've heard an invitation, a call forward, and we've answered - sometimes in spite of ourselves - with a trembling "here I am" and often reluctant footsteps that lead us step-by-step as a pilgrim people.
I'm getting annoyed with myself because I don't really set out to write these rambling posts when I sit down. It just seems that it's another way of praying - albeit a very public way that openins me to the same critique as the Pharisees when Jesus counseled his listeners to pray in private! I suppose some people do read what I write - I get a few comments (usually the SMMSJ members) and a few much-appreciated emails. Perhaps people come to this site looking for pictures or recipes (I will try to post more soon. I've been busy!). But in a way this blog is my journal, a diary, a confessional. I'd be happy if more people responded, more because I'm interested in people's thoughts and because it lets me know that people at least *read* what I wrtie rather than looking at the silly pictures I post!!
In case I don't write again for a few days, I hope ya'll have a nice weekend. I'm going to make up four quizzes tomorrow, read the "Life of Antony" written by Athanasius, and then tomorrow evening Denis and Drew and I are going to the Detroit Symphony. Sunday will be more work coupled with a trip to the University of Detroit-Mercy Jesuit community where we'll be having dinner.