Saturday, July 19, 2014

"Your empty passion won't satisfy me"

Since my Friday postings lately have usually been both late and hasty, on this Saturday morning, as the fruit of a grace-filled encounter with some friends this morning on FB (Yes, social media can be a succor instead of a vexation- our encounter was virtual, but the grace we experienced was real), I offer a supplemental traditio: "No More Words" by Berlin. It was my friend Paul who invoked this song during our encounter.

I don't know about you, but for me it's often an interesting exercise for me, when listening to some contemporary songs, to replace a human lover with God. I admit, the fit can be both good and somewhat incongruent, even in the same song. For example, in this song, a reference is made to when "We make love..." Now, this might make us uncomfortable when we think of God. But let's not be too quick to dismiss this notion outright. In his reflecting on his marriage to Helen Joy Davidman, C.S. Lewis, in A Grief Observed, wrote about marital sex as perhaps the nearest human analog to experiencing divine love:
One thing, however, marriage has done for me. I can never again believe that religion is manufactured out of our unconscious, starved desires and is a substitute for sex. For those few years [Joy] and I feasted on love, every mode of it—solemn and merry, romantic and realistic, sometimes as dramatic as a thunderstorm, sometimes as comfortable and unemphatic as putting on your soft slippers. No cranny of heart or body remained unsatisfied. If God were a substitute for love we ought to have lost all interest in Him. Who’d bother about substitutes when he has the thing itself? But that isn’t what happens. We both knew we wanted something besides one another—quite a different kind of something, a quite different kind of want
Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, by Bernini, 1647-1652

"No more words/You're telling me you love me while you're looking away." Christ wants us to meet His loving gaze, but we're afraid His brilliance will blind, or maybe even kill, us. The truth is, returning His gaze will both blind us and kill us, but only in order to enable us to see things anew and to raise us to new life. We need to see things clearly and to put to death that part of us that needs to die, our sinful nature, characterized by our self-absorption, which causes us to be attracted to so many ephemeral things. But meeting Christ's gaze requires you to stand there with everything, especially your self-deception, stripped away, which is scary, but it's the only way to gain any sort of comprehension of how much He loves you.

But don't fool yourself
Your empty passion won't satisfy me, I know
So don't pretend that you want me

"In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will" (Rom 8:26-27).

I hope this does not come from a motivation of "Hey, look at me," but I don't mind sharing that my favorite way to pray is to lie prostrate in silence before the Blessed Sacrament. I never feel more like God hears me than when I do this, just letting the Holy Spirit articulate my "inexpressible groanings." I make no claim to any personal righteousness, all this amounts to is just taking some time. I often use words to create a barrier, a smokescreen, between myself and God (I do this with my wife too).

Last night I re-watched an episode from series three of Rev. I was blown away by the scene in which Adam admits to his wife, Alex, that he kissed another woman, touched her breast, and enjoyed it, but still wished he'd never done it. After she vents her anger a bit, her response is amazing:

"Adam, it's not about the...tits
and the willies, and the fannies.
It's about the hearts.
You've broken mine."

Then she graciously forgives him and he thanks her profoundly. Aren't we all, in some way, the aptly named Adam?

I believe it was St Ignatius of Loyola who bids us to pray as we can, not as we think we ought.

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