Thursday, December 13, 2012

Questions

Are we reed pipes? Is He waiting to live lyrically through us?
     Are we chalices? Does He ask to be sacrificed in us?
Are we nests? Does He desire of us a warm, sweet abiding in domestic life at home?

These are only come of the possible forms of virginity; each person may find some quite different form, his own secret.
Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God

The first two years I homeschooled my children, I didn't come up for air. I read some books about homeschooling, but there wasn't much out there and I didn't have the internet!!!! Of course, there wasn't anything to speak of on the internet anyway. I didn't meet many other homeschoolers, or spend any time with those I did meet. Then, I attended my first homeschool conference. The first night, I picked up a catalog from one of the vendors and stayed up a good part of the night reading that catalog, which was much more than a list of books. One article described seven different theories of homeschooling and their positive and negative aspects. When I read it, a light went on in my head--or maybe and explosion went off in my head. I realized that I had been using six of the seven methods. No wonder I was overwhelmed. So, I got it down to about three, and things were better after that--not that I was ever the world's best homeschooler.

When I read that article, I discovered a principle that helped in many areas of my life. I've made the same kind of mistakes with my prayer that I made with my teaching methods. In the past 40 years or so I've come across a lot beautiful prayers, a lot of wonderful ways to pray, a lot of inspiring saints that I would like to emulate, but try as I may, I can't do it all. Loading up my morning prayer with one great prayer after another is like trying to put a couple of dozen eggs into a pint basket. Things are going to break and get messy. Trying to work in too many different kinds of apostolates (not that I am one to put myself out much) is going to draw me away from my primary apostolate, which is my family.

Therefore, Miss Houselander's questions really help to simplify the jumble we can make of our lives. What is it that we are made of? What did God create each of us to be? A nest would make a lousy chalice. You can't make a warm, protective home in a reed. So she suggests that we occasionally step back and envision ourselves the way that we were when God created us, the shape that we had before we acquired all the things that clutter up our lives. Thankfully, the Church year sets aside times for us to do this.



Along with this discovery of who we are made to be individually, she adds this reminder of the purpose which underlies all of our lives.
     The purpose for which human beings are made is told to us briefly in the catechism. It is to know, love, and serve God in this world and to be happy with Him forever in the next.     This knowing, loving, and serving is far more intimate than that rather cold little sentence reveals to us.     The material which God has found apt for it is human nature: blood, flesh, bone, salt, water, will, intellect.     It is impossible to say too often or too strongly that human nature, body and soul together, is the material for God's will in us.
We're neither angels nor beasts. We must be constantly aware of the rift between our bodies and souls that robs us of the integrity we were originally intended to have. We're continually tempted to abandon one for the other and therefore cripple ourselves for the purpose for which we are created. It's when we surrender both body and soul to God to let Him knit the two together (and it's a sort of blasphemy that they should be two) that we can best begin to know, love, and serve Him.

AMDG

12 comments:

  1. I always found the answer in the catechism to the question of why God made me heartening and not at all "cold," as Houselander did. "God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next."

    But then she cast the sentence differently, leaving out most of the clauses referring to "Him".

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  2. I don't think I ever thought it cold, but I think it was pretty much head knowledge. This made me think about it more. I wonder if in the adult version of the Baltimore Catechism they take the Hims out.

    AMDG

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  3. I didn't grow up with it like y'all did, and I'm sure it's a very different thing to hear it for the first time at thirty. But it never struck me as cold, just plain and matter-of-fact, which is not exactly invigorating but better than extra-flowery, which was probably the other option.:-)

    I can't relate real well to Houselander's images of what we are--they're so feminine.

    Can't say I've ever really had the problem of loading up on too many great prayers.:-)

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    1. I can see that the nest is feminine, but not so sure about the other too. Could you elaborate?

      AMDG

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  4. The chalice, in somewhat the same way. I'm not really in a position to elaborate at the moment, if at all--it would be hard to articulate.

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    1. Well, I know that they are receptacles--not the best word, but I don't have time to think of a better--but we all have to be that before God. We can't receive Him otherwise. I mean, any example I could think of would have to have that same quality which I think is what you think of as feminine--and it is.

      AMDG

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  5. Maclin's shying away from Houselander's feminine images stirred something in the back of my mind about C. S. Lewis saying somewhere that in relation to God we're all female.

    Just found this article over at Touchstone that touches a little on this idea. A titbit: "... to the returning Christ, we all have a feminine relationship: we are His bride."

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  6. Ha, I should have googled that statement about C. S. Lewis before I posted because I see that I must have gotten it from one of M. Scott Peck's books.

    So, it's possible an Emily Litella "never mind" is in order.

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    1. It goes way back to the Fathers somewhere.

      AMDG

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  7. Right, I'm very aware of that line of thought, and it's certainly valid. But it doesn't, as they say, speak to me--I don't see a clear way to incorporate it into my spiritual life, except in a limited sort of way during actual prayer.

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  8. The sons who do their father's bidding (or not), the stewards in relationship to their masters, the workmen and fishermen – perhaps these are more immediately resonant images for a man?

    But it's not just the Fathers, also the Prophets who speak of us as female in relationship to God.

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  9. Yes, those kinds of things speak more to me. Actually I have a long-planned essay on this which I hope to write next year.

    There's also the traditional idea of the soul as feminine.

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