Thursday, October 11, 2007
This morning I attended a small conference, which meets every month, designed for DRE's and Youth Ministers. The topic was with regard to Theology of the Body, the speaker was wonderful, and as usual, I was struck by the simplicity of the concepts...and how they apply to all of us.
A couple things hit me; the first was with regard to "the call" given to those who serve in ministry in some form, be it priest, religious, or lay ministry. Always, when someone talks about us being "called" to where we are, I am completely humbled...what am I doing here? God called ME?
It's shock. Complete shock. I look back upon my past, I see in a flash the last several years...and I can't feel anything but a mix of relief, humble recognition of my sinfulness, and the love of God. The focal point behind the speaker was a large crucifix; and every time I heard the word "call", my eyes and heart shifted to that image.
Seriously. I don't really understand how I got here. I have no idea how I went from where I was to where I am now; a student of Graduate Theology, staff in a parish, a faithful Catholic. How did God do this?
And of course, the speaker began then, and at the beginning, she spoke of, naturally, the beginning for us all, the beginning of John Paul II's Theology of the Body.
The first concept was original solitude; God created Adam, in His own image and likeness, and bade him to have a blast in naming the animals. This Adam did, and indeed, had a great time. So there he was, in the company of the animals, recognizing the gifts of God, recognizing all that he had, recognizing that God's creation was wonderful. But upon reflection, he realized there was no one like him, and he recognized his lonliness.
Man was alone; he saw that he was different from the rest of creation, he saw that he had the gift of self-determination, something all the animals did not have. He saw that he had an inherent dignity in his relationship with God that was not possessed by the rest of Creation.
He stood alone before God; he stood naked before the Lord, realizing who and what he was, and God also recognized that it was not proper for Man to be alone.
Skip ahead a few millenia, and we look at our world today. Things are a mess, are they not? Our fallen nature has lead us through disastrous catastrophes, with the current culmination of the slaughter of thousands and millions of children upon the altar of the god of self-loving inconvenience. We have seen the wars, the destruction of life, the loss of our sense of who we are because we cannot see God, and our society simply doesn't care.
Today I also realized that not only have we fallen so far, but this lesson is even more personal. It was a moment of that self-knowledge that comes only by the grace of God, right on the heels of the sense of "calling".
In reflecting, I realized that God has called me to my own personal "original solitude". In answer to my prayers and struggles of the past, God has taken me through years of sludge and rejection of Him, has helped me redefine happiness, and has delivered me from the darkness of those years. Where has He brought me, exactly?
To the beginning. To original solitude.
I live alone. God saw that I was alone, and so gave me a dog, which I named. But she is not like me; I must train her, I must feed her, I must care for her, because she can do none of this on her own. In her original nature, she does not have the ability to care for herself or even think beyond a short period of time. I love her and thank God for the gift of this pet, and it's nice to come home from work to a joyful greeting. She makes me sleep better because she is protective; she reminds me of God's love in moments of isolation, and she makes my life better, if not easier.
But then enter the solitude; she is not like me. It is not natural that a woman (or man, for that matter) be alone. The natural world is a gift, but it is not a substitute.
Every so often I stop and realize that I am alone and totally dependent upon God, and while He has been very good to me and in his faithfulness to Himself will continue to be so, I am still alone.
I do not look at this only from the perspective of marriage because the reality of our human existance covers so much more. Instead, I consider that, throughout history, it was never proper for women to live alone. Single women lived with their families. Married couples lived with their families. There were provisions to care for widows, especially widows with children.
We all suffer from the Fall, and Jesus came to ransom us with His blood, but the effects of the original sin remains in our natures. Our disobedience is ingrained; our understanding of love is twisted, and our definition of happiness is warped beyond recognition.
And although Jesus died for us, our sin have continued from generation to generation. It is a domino effect; once it has begun, it cannot be stopped, so the sins of the fathers are visited upon the next generation...and the sins of their sons have effects to the next generation, and the sins of the grandsons...and the effects continue. From the Fall, there has been a snowball effect, for each generation suffers and reacts to the sins of the previous generation.
It is ongoing. Jesus saved us with his blood by opening the gates of Heaven; without his blood, without his own fulfillment of the covenant, there would be no Salvation. Yet God allows us to live out our decisions, watch the effects of our sins, and stands ever ready, ever reaching for us, ready to offer us mercy.
Yet in this warped world, things have gone so awry; our dignity is constantly undermined. We damage each other and call it "love" when it is anything but love.
And in this world, even as we seek the company of others, we still stand alone before God, naked, ashamed, but unable to look into His eyes.
I have come to see that the Single state was never intended, just as Death was never intended; indeed, it is unnatural to be alone. We are meant to love and be loved, within God's original and fully self-sacrificing love. We are meant to live for others, not for ourselves, but the battle that rages within us is between the love of God and the love of the world.
The very reality of the solitude so prevalent in our socity is nothing short of disturbing, for at its core, it shows how far we have fallen. How is it that the evil one has managed to separate the ewes from the flock; the better to take them down?
And we have cooperated.
I do not believe that all women are meant to marry, nor are all men meant to marry. I believe that the majority of people are called to the priesthood, religious life, or married life. But there are some souls God calls to His own purposes, and they have existed since the Fall. Yet it seems unprecedented that people live alone in houses with their pets.
It is unnatural.
That solitude is a lonliness; not in the pithy lonliness of poetry and prose, but a deeper lonliness which recognizes that solitude before God is something we all experience. We recognize that we all stand alone, and in that lonliness of solitude, we see who we are, and who God is; and we are convicted in His love.
I have come to realize that my current state in life is related to this original solitude; God has taken me to a place where I can face Him and Him alone, I stand, in lonely solitude. Even as He sends me into the world each and every day, to serve Him and His people, in the end, I am alone before him. Single. Solitary.
And from the depths of this solitude, from the depths of my sinful soul, from the depths of my disordered sense of love, from the depths of my warped idea of happiness, I thank God for seeing me for who and what I am...and leading me ever closer to knowing the true definition of what it means to look into His eyes and understand what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God.