Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Beautiful, Luminous, Perfect

My son was dealing with the difficulties of bureaucracy.  He had to have this form, they'd get back to him in ten days, he went to deal with it, they closed for lunch while he was waiting.  He called to vent.  For some reason, this felt like a time to give a little push.  "Look, you've been banging your head against the wall for ages on this.  Why not look at where in your life, things have been freely given. Perhaps, that is what you should pursue..."  What I didn't realize was how my conversation with him was a continuation of a conversation I'd had with my daughter. 

She was examining a song for a class.  It mentioned Saint Clare of Assisi's mortification. 
"What is the meaning of mortification? I could get giving up one's hair for Locks for love. (She has friends who have), but what was the purpose but a gesture?"she asked.

Yes. It was a romantic gesture to her bridegroom, to give something of beauty back.  How to explain the spiritual gift of mortification when I'm not so clear on it myself.  Pregnancy is a mortification, or can be.  Giving blood.  She could get giving up a good for one's self for someone else here, but also quickly disavowed that the hair in this case was an equivalent.   "What did God need with the giving up of a good?"  The quick answer of God didn't, but knew Saint Clare and those who would follow her, learn from her, discover her in the history of the Church for centuries to come, would, didn't quite satisfy.

Fasting is a mortification.  She understood that too.  Undergoing the denial of a good to remind one's self of the greatest good, allowing God to work in the absence of feeling too full to seek something that would fill greater made sense, for Lent and things like that.   But what again, did God need of us, that we needed to surrender a gift given? 

And I remembered my words to my son, "Look in your life, where things have been freely given."  The hair was freely given.  That doesn't mean it was easy, only that she freely gave it with a full heart even though it may have (I don't know), momentarily worried her or plagued her --with the "I shall be ugly" vanity of thought.  I suspect that if it did, she was consoled by the permanent beauty she became, as one of the incorruptible.  She would remain beautiful, in having given her beauty back to God.   I can recognize God's humor and grace in His answer to her surrender.  

How to explain that to those who have yet to really walk out into the world and understand who they are, what they are to do, and how whatever that is, God will seek to ask until they say yes or a final no, to bring them to greater versions of themselves than they can imagine.   I could only explain that we are called to surrender ourselves as part of our growth as spiritually mature adults, whether in marriage, in parenting, in holy orders, or in sublimation of our appetites against the age if we live a holy life as single people. 

None of these paths were easy, but entered into and engaged with a full heart, God will pour out the graces making them beautiful, luminous, perfect.   The trick is to come to that point where we say to the Blessed Mother, "We're out of wine." and then being obedient as we're made to deal with filling jugs with water and taking some out into the world to be judged. Trusting that in this obedience, somehow, Christ will turn what is water in our lives into the best wine.

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