Friday, November 28, 2008

Victor Hugo on Prayer

“There are thoughts which are prayers, there are moments when, whatever the posture of the body, the soul is on its knees.”

– Victor Hugo

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

C.S. Lewis on Forgiveness

“Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it. That, and only that, is forgiveness.”

--C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

C.S. Lewis on Being Called

From The Silver Chair:

"'You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you' said the Lion."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Victor Hugo on Happiness

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved - loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.

-- Victor Hugo

Sunday, November 23, 2008

C.S. Lewis on Joy (4)

From Surprised by Joy:

…an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and from Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. Apart from that, and considered only in its quality, it might almost equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The duty of delight

From the postscript of The Long Loneliness:

It is not always easy to be joyful; to keep in mind the duty of delight.

--Dorothy Day

Friday, November 21, 2008

The two become one

I was thinking this morning about human love, and how romantic love includes an intense desire for union with the beloved. This type of desire is really a search for completion, for wholeness, and is a reflection of our need for union with and completion through God.

For a moment this seemed like a bad thing. Like a misplacement, like disorder. But as I thought further I realized that it is a God-given thing and is actually rightly ordered. God gives us a desire for completion with and through other humans because each of us is a reflection of God, a carrier of God. When we become one with another we are in fact a more complete reflection of God's fullness, though still incomplete.

The two become one as we will eventually become one with Him.

For now we see through a glass dimly. Just imagine the face to face...

Do not weep

Do not weep; do not wax indignant. Understand.

-- Baruch Spinoza

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Perpetual fast

I am on a perpetual fast.

Please; may it do the work which needs to be done.

Freelance Monotheism

My priest has been pointing me to wonderful audio interviews on various topics lately. This one, for example, is titled the Freelance Monotheism of Karen Armstrong:

I'm still listening to the interview, but I think Karen may tap into the key to mystagogia. She speaks of the study of religion as requiring a "science of compassion", meaning a search for knowledge through 'feeling with'.

She also says that theology is poetry, religion is art, and ritual leads to transcendence.

Lovely stuff...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

C.S. Lewis on Craving

From Pilgrim's Regress:

“What is universal is not the particular picture, but the arrival of some message, not perfectly intelligible, which wakes this desire and sets men longing for something East or West of the world; something possessed, if at all, only in the act of desiring it, and lost so quickly that the craving itself becomes craved; something that tends inevitably to be confused or even with vile satisfactions lying close to hand, yet which is able, if any man faithfully live through the dialectic of its successive births and deaths, to lead him at last to where true joys are to be found”.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Desire for more

“In every person there is a passionate, driving desire for more… The dilemma is that our longings for material joy are almost always partially blocked; our desires for better health and deeper relationships are never entirely possible; and the illusion of world peace seems no more attainable than the gold at the end of the rainbow. Our passion is more than usually stymied. The world simply does not bend to the desires that roar or whimper inside us. Our desires – from picking the quickest line at the bank to the overwhelming hope that our children will walk righteously with the Lord – are rarely satisfied in a way that relieves the ache of incompleteness… Our heart seems to rage against the ache. Our typical response to the heartbreak and sorrow of disappointment is murderous rage… We want someone to pay”.

C.S. Lewis on Longing

From Till We Have Faces:

"It was when I was happiest that I longed most. ... The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing ... to find the place where all the beauty came from."

C.S. Lewis on Joy (3)

“All joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago and further away or still ‘about to be’”.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Idealization versus idolotry

A friend got me thinking about idealization.

Unhealthy, unuseful, and unholy idealization clearly exists, especially in romance. But not all idealization falls into that camp.

For example, in some ways I idealize my children. I think the best of them and recognize their wonderful capabilities and giftings. They are shining stars to me and always will be. They are beacons of what love means. They have changed my life and helped form me, for which I will be eternally grateful.

But just because all these things are true doesn't mean I don't recognize their weaknesses and frailties. I know full well that they are far from perfect. While their strengths and beauty are foremost in my mind and heart, I am still aware of their faults.

The two are not mutually exclusive.

Not all idealization is idolatry.

C.S. Lewis on Answers

From Till We Have Faces:

"I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?"

--C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

No thin veneer

do you think
the purple passion of my love
a thin veneer?
easily cracked?
my love is miles high
and oceans wide
my love is layers thick
and fathoms deep
and any rain of hurt that falls
will water the fruit
which ripens on love's peak

--Chantelle Franc

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dreams of Exodus 1:22

On Saturday night I had a disturbing dream; I seem to be back in a phase of troubled dreaming.

I was at a Disney-esque theme park, standing on the bank of a river which represented Pharaoh's command at the time of Moses' infancy. The water flowed from my right to my left, and scattered across the waters were naked babies floating on small rectangles of wood. Some of them were animatronically kicking a leg in the air and turning over. Others lay fetally curled as if trying to stay warm in the chill water. One model could open it's eyes, but the water lapped over it's mouth and so it could not cry, despite the terror and cold and abandonment.

And the silent parade of sacrificed babies floated on and on.

So strange...

C.S. Lewis on Lust

From Stewart McAllister's CS Lewis's Argument from Desire:

“Someone who wanted to object to this argument might reply with the modern view that ‘divine dissatisfaction’, a constant search for something beyond what we have, is a characteristic valuable for survival. Thus its existence and persistence can be explained on grounds of evolution by natural selection. The price one pays for taking this line is that it makes the desires in question unsatisfiable in principle. If our ‘infinite longings’ do not mean that an infinite object exists to satisfy them, then they mean that we shall never be satisfied”.

“They claim that all our highest desires, whether they are ethical, religious, or aesthetic, are the material products of a lower-order desire (one that could have evolved) that has been first repressed and then sublimated in another form. Great art is, like our daydreams, just another type of wish fulfillment. What we call love is merely a sublimated form of that instinctual lust which lies buried deep in our unconscious.

The lust is primary, originary, natural thing; love is but the artificial, socially acceptable form that lust takes when it is filtered through our elaborate system of psychological defense mechanisms”.

“Why, Lewis asks, must we say that love is a sublimation of lust? Is it not equally possible that lust is a falling away from love? Why must love be considered a projection from below, or evolution? May it not be rather an incarnation from above, a transposition from a heavenly key into an earthly one? Is not the universal human experience that of a search for higher things that goes terribly astray? Of a ‘looking for love’ that goes awry and devolves into lust”?

Monday, November 10, 2008

But who created Him?

My son went to church with me yesterday; a rare occurrence. It is hard to know what he thought, as he doesn't say much. I know he finds my faith confusing in this milieu of radical atheism. But as I tucked him in last night and gave him his blessing, he asked a question which coincidentally had also been raised by a young woman at the retreat:

If God made all things, where did -he- come from?

A good question.

My initial response was that he always was, and that it is a mystery. Not a very satisfactory response, needless to say.

But then the Holy Spirit reminded me that he is outside of time, which is actually pretty helpful. We think of things in terms of pre-existence, existence, and post-existence. But all those things are constructs of time. He is the creator of time, and there is no time before him.

Man asked God's name, and he replied "I Am."

And ever shall He be.

C.S. Lewis on Tribulation

God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially formed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.

-- C. S. Lewis

Sunday, November 9, 2008

He suffers.

As I prayed the other day, I feebly attempted to unite my sins and suffering to the cross and pictured wrapping my arms around Christ pinned there, trying to hold on to it.

And I realized that while this is what He asks us to do, and what He wants us to do, the very action of clinging to it and to Him causes Him pain.

No matter what, He suffers.

Elixer of God

"Our creative discontent, that which drives us to imagine an alternative reality, is the image/imagination of God beating in our breast. The cosmos is pregnant with hints that guide our imaginings. We are called to heal the world in the image of our most beautiful imaginings. The eros of imagination is the elixir of God running through the universe."

--Mordechai Gafni

Saturday, November 8, 2008


My sin is a wound which seeps, spreading infection.

St. Jeanne de Chantal (one of my patrons) is known for having taken a heated knife and carving the name Jesus in the flesh above her heart.

I think she did it to have a visual reminder of who it is she was to love.

I feel like I need that too, along with the courage it would take to make the cuts. But I think I would carve it across my face, with the S on the bridge of my nose, so that I would see it in the mirror throughout the day rather than just when getting dressed or undressed.

The beginning of creation

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire; you will what you imagine; and at last you create what you will.”

--George Bernard Shaw

Friday, November 7, 2008

Over full and trembling

"My heart is a love-filled glass, over full and trembling to be poured out."

--Chantelle Franc

These words make me think of Christ's heart for mankind, so full of a love which will not be received.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Paint Paradise

“You have your brush and your colors, paint paradise and in you go.”

--Nikos Kazantzakis

Prayers of fire

God gave me a glimpse of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane during the retreat.

I saw him praying for his disciples, for all his children who were about to betray him, and for all of us who continue to betray him now. I imagined him struggling against his humanity to pray for them, and winning. And the prayers felt like a fiery fist plunging into his chest and ripping out his heart.

But he prayed anyway.

And as he prayed, he longed for home and cried out to his father "How long?"

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Both and

I've been exploring the dagger beneath the jeweled scabbard, and thinking about the god of the grey mountain in CS Lewis' Till We Have Faces. The god required the sacrifice of a pure young woman, and it was thought that he would devour her.

I often feel like that god; greedy, self indulgent, consuming.

But as it turns out, the god does not actually devour her, though he does take her away from family and friends, and transform her. It turns out that he gives her great love and mystical riches.

One central theme of this book is duality, dual natures. The god is both selfish and generous. The virgin is both delusional and lucid. The virgin's sister is both ugly and beautiful. It is a book of "both and".

And so, I suppose, am I.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Gee I sound sappy

I just reread this morning's posting, which I actually wrote yesterday. Man do I sound like a sadsack! It didn't come out the way it felt. I guess that's always the challenge of writing; trying to find words for what is wordless.

I want to go home...

I was on retreat this past weekend. I'm not sure how the other women manage to return home energized and refueled because I seem to come home worn out and heartsick. Part of that is from being on the prayer team, but not all of it.

Here are some thoughts from my priest on retreating:

Retreating gives us a chance to see ourselves as we are at that moment and it's often not a pretty sight… initially. At first the silence screams and the soul retreats into activity - mental and physical activity. We run away from the bright light of solitude.

But if we don't run from the penetrating silence we will see what needs to be seen. We will experience the redemption that will come with listening contemplation. We will receive the embrace of self-acceptance and the rest of God's embrace, or maybe it's first the rest of God's embrace and then the embrace of self-acceptance.

When preparing for retreat, try to get in touch with your desire for a more intimate communion with yourself and with God, for a freer and richer interior life. It's the difference between living in a bachelor's pad and dwelling in a richly and elaborately decorated old mansion with lots of fascinating and mysterious rooms that have still to be discovered.

It was not a silent retreat, but God still used the time away to communicate with me viscerally, just as He did at the last one. Once again He put me in touch with the ache of being separated from Him. Last year the pain was that of a separated lover, with the strength of mourning. This year it was more like the pain of a young child away at camp for the first time; my soul cried out to go home. It was tinged with a sense of abandonment, a bewildered hurt at being intentionally left behind. My heart begged "Please come and get me, please take me home..."

He made me look at myself in bright light, and I didn't like what I saw.

I feel abandoned to my own weakness.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Retired from dreaming

"Too many of us have retired from dreaming."

--Fr. Robert Dalgleish

Filled senses

In yesterday's sermon, my priest asked us to imagine what heaven will be like. One thought was that all of our senses will be completely filled.

That made me think of John Denver's Annie's Song, the lyrics of which are below. (OK, OK, I concede to having plebeian tastes in music, but this song still makes my soul swell.)

You fill up my senses
Like a night in the forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses
Come fill me again

Come let me love you
Let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter
Let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you
Let me always be with you
Come let me love you
Come love me again

Love within time

Within time, love seems to be both beautiful and terrible.
I wonder what it will be like outside of time?