Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

The Friendship of Christ, Chapter 8: Christ in the Saint

 Previous: Chapter 7, Christ in the Priest

You are the light of the world. -- Matthew 5:14

I often tell my religious ed classes that each person is a unique, irreplaceable, unrepeatable example of God's creative love -- a glimpse into God that we'll never get any other way. Like the facets on the tiny diamonds in my wedding ring, each revealing something new about the stone, every person has the potential to shine forth some part of God's creative power that has been hidden until now. When the facets are crystal clear, they allow light to pour through them in every color. 

I'm pleased to see that Benson uses this image as well:

They [the saints] have, by the help of grace, hewn at the stone of their human nature, by mortification, by effort, by prayer--even by the final strokes of martyrdom itself--until, little by little, or all at once by sudden heroism, there has emerged from the gross material, not the angel of Michael Angelo, not merely a copy of the Perfect Model; but, in a real sense, that actual Model Himself. It is He Who has lived in them, as really, though in another manner, as in the Sacrament of the altar; it is He Who now appears in them in the culmination of their sanctity, visible to all who have eyes to see. Certainly it is not He Himself, pure and simple; since there still remains in every saint that film or glass of his own personal identity which God gave him and can never take away. For it is exactly for the sake of this personal identity, and for the service which it renders to the promulgation of Christ upon earth, that the saint has been created and sanctified. To stare upon the Sun unveiled is to be struck blind, or at least to be so dazzled by excess of light as to see nothing. In the saints, therefore--through their individual characters and temperaments, as through prismatic glass--we see the All-holy Character of Christ, the white brilliancy of His Absolute Perfection, not distorted or diluted, but rather analysed and dissected that we may understand it the better. 

It is the lifelong struggle of humans to realize that the imperfections that we consider "ours" -- the yearning to cling to some pleasure, the death-like grasp on The Plan, the small tendencies to comfort and security and power that manifest themselves in self-absorption and lies and the little ways we use other people -- do not truly add any flavor to our character or interesting edge to our personalities. Every person on earth -- except the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom Benson rightly devotes the first half of this chapter -- has known the bitter pleasure of clutching some favored sin closely to ward off the suffocating dullness of sanctity. If I give up this stupid thing, which gives me some fleeting pleasure, what is left? The long boring slog to heaven.

The saints are proof that surrender does not bring death. Each had to shed a layer of earthly scum -- St. Francis had to molt off the whole dead skin; St. Therese had to chip and scrub at the thin dulling film on the window. And what they received back was not a bland robotic persona, but their own amazing personalities, strengthened, honed, and brilliant. Every bad thing given to God is purified; every good thing is given back a hundred-fold. The saints are not more naturally gifted than everyone else. They just keep giving what they have to God, and God keeps giving them themselves.

Lately, when I've been assailed with temptations -- not to do cruel or evil things, but to do good in fun and interesting ways that God has not asked of me right now -- I've handed them to God, saying, "Give this back to me in Heaven." If all good comes from God -- if God is truly all-good -- then nothing good can be lost. Every love is already his and will return to him. Our gifts are already his, as in the parable of the servants and the talents. The saints know: everything is his.

Once learn that Christ is All, and not merely one among ten thousand--that is, He is All--that there is no glory or grace anywhere that is not His, no perfection that is not relative to His Absoluteness, no colour that is not an element of His Whiteness, no sound that is not in the scale of His Music--once, that is, to rise to what it is that we mean when we name him God; once escape from that modern spirit of rationalizing away His Deity in the hope of seeing His Humanity; and behold! "all things are yours... and you are Christ's: and Christ is God's."

Next: Erin on Chapter 9: Christ in the Sinner 

No comments: