Thursday, November 22, 2007

the circumstance of Thanksgiving

At Deep Furrows, I have often reflected on the significance of circumstances. It astounds me that every circumstance can be the occasion of an encounter with the Mystery Who makes me, Who makes everything.

By themselves, however, circumstances are ambiguous; beauty is ambiguous. The stars may make us hunger for a face responsible for their beauty, or they may tempt us to controlling events through studying their patterns. And the choice is not either-or, for some scientists are both attentive to the details revealed by the stars and remain openly seeking the Mystery Who made them (it's eminently reasonable to both go to the doctor and pray to the Mystery Who makes the doctor!).

At the meeting of Communion and Liberation Responsibles in La Thuile, someone spoke movingly of the disasters and sickness over the past year, which brought him closer to Christ (p 43). In response, Fr. Julián Carrón clarified and corrected certain points:

«We have not to wait for some disaster to happen. There is a constant presence, which we call Church, that is the presence of Christ who has promised to be with us 'all days, until the end of the world.' This is the presence that reawakens us constantly. There is no sickness or circumstance able to awaken us continually like the Church, like this presence that constantly challenges everything.»

In the reading for Thursday Afternoon in my Book of Hours, I'm always struck by Colossians 2:17-19, which begins "Reality is the body of Christ." The NAB has here "the reality belongs to Christ." The edition of Adrienne von Speyr's commentary, The Letter to the Colossians says that "the substance belongs to Christ" (95). And the Douay-Rheims has here that "the substance is of Christ." I'm fond of the Douay for its ecclesial history and for its confidence in presenting difficult passages closer to the literal.

The gist of Colossians 2:17, then, would be that regulations on eating and drinking in response to seasonal feasts are shadows, signs to point to God. But God is substantially present to us, through Christ in the Church (I'm reading a bit broadly here). The definitive form of this presence is first of all sacramental and secondly the people generated by the sacraments (baptism, communion, confirmation particularly).

We can only recognize reality as the body of Christ if first we have encountered Christ the head of all things in the Church. And if we allow those things to remind us of Him and draw us nearer to Him. Otherwise we lapse into superstition, or worse, idolatry.

Two more quotes should round out this Thanksgiving reflection:

«Only the person who contemplates the beauty of nature in God and is accustomed to regard it as his voice, his sphere, the mirror of his countenance [cloud and darkness are His raiment, Psalm 96], can, even in his mature years, experience nature as naively and ecstatically as in his eighteenth year, without a drop of melancholy.» (Balthasar, Grain of Wheat, 8)

To what serves mortal beauty
Gerard Manly Hopkins

TO what serves mortal beauty ' —dangerous; does set danc-
ing blood—the O-seal-that-so ' feature, flung prouder form
Than Purcell tune lets tread to? ' See: it does this: keeps warm
Men’s wits to the things that are; ' what good means—where a glance
Master more may than gaze, ' gaze out of countenance.
Those lovely lads once, wet-fresh ' windfalls of war’s storm,
How then should Gregory, a father, ' have gleanèd else from swarm-
ed Rome? But God to a nation ' dealt that day’s dear chance.

To man, that needs would worship ' block or barren stone,
Our law says: Love what are ' love’s worthiest, were all known;
World’s loveliest—men’s selves. Self ' flashes off frame and face.
What do then? how meet beauty? ' Merely meet it; own,
Home at heart, heaven’s sweet gift; ' then leave, let that alone.
Yea, wish that though, wish all, ' God’s better beauty, grace.

May the beauty of this Thanksgiving day be truly a eu-charist for you, dear reader, a time to turn to You-Who-make-me and thank Him for everything, for his good gifts.


clairity said...

Thank you for this lovely reflection. Some would grudge this extravagance of celebration, but it is great to see this sign that today is of hope and gratitude.

Suzanne said...

I looked up the Colossians verses in my Greek study Bible, and that verse 17 from chap 2 is literally translated, "which is shadow of the things about to be, the but body of the Christ." Then, looking it up in the Greek concordance, it seems that it really is usually (and in almost every other place it is used) translated "body." Thank you very much for the reflection.

God is extravagant in His gifts, isn't He!!

Freder1ck said...

Thanks, Suzanne, for following the translation to its roots!

It's an astonishing phrase, and yet Fr. Carron insisted upon it at La Thuile.