Category: creation


tiger

 

Very often, late at night, looking out at the faint outline of trees, the vast dark skies and eerie moonlight floating above, I think of nature, and God’s wisdom displayed therein. You know the “beasts of earth” and “birds of air” type stuff- and how man was given dominion over them. Too unfortunately, some Christians interpret this as a harsh dominion. Protestant Christian philosophy seems to harbor innate hostility towards nature, a “take and kill what you want” attitude which allows devastation of natural resources. “What use is fussing about the temporary world?” they say “God’s going to destroy it all anyway.”

Now, Catholic philosophy has long said “Let all that lives and breathes bless the Lord.” Some of our great saints, such as Francis of Assisi, Kateri Tekakwitha and Hubert, the patron of hunters, walked amongst nature and saw God’s hand at work in it. We see, on Christmas day, the newborn Jesus adored by lowly ox and ass. We tell stories of mules bowing before the Eucharist and doves landing on popes. To the Catholic Christian, natural things convey supernatural realities. After all, we’re those weirdoes who believe that bread and wine actually becomes the body and blood of Christ. And I fancy only a Catholic would stop and ponder the deeper, theological meaning of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book.

Though the character of Mowgli, considered neither man nor wolf, strikes me as a sort of savior-figure, who masters the animals and destroys their chief enemy, there is something perhaps more subtle that catches my eye. It is the jungle’s creation-story, in the second installment which foretells when every animal will fall under one law. During a severe draught, a truce is declared for sake of survival. At the water hole, where animals drink, none of them may kill or hunt another. Here, Mowgli learns that Shere-Khan, the tiger, killed a man, asks why and then hears the jungle creation-story.

It begins with a creator-god…or elephant; who makes all the jungle creatures, all the land, water and food. All animals only eat plants and fruit- they are innocent. It is the Tiger who brings sin into the world. He gets banished and fear takes flesh in the form of hairless, cunning human beings. The tiger returns, admits his crime but then slays the human out of pride. He says: “I killed fear” but because he did so, man, that fearsome creature, learns to kill and deal death. Here we see the motif of creation, paradise and original sin. Interestingly, the Tiger is given one night yearly to venture forth and lawfully kill a man.

Blood begets blood. From first-kill comes first-predator. Man is fearsome, a most-wise enemy of nature who, forgetting his primordial home, builds villages and fires. He holds dominion over the animals, trapping and killing as he pleases. His tools are deadlier than any tooth or claw. Hurt by that first sin, he sets himself against nature. Likewise, Adam and Eve battled animals and forces of nature after expulsion from paradise. In Eden, they never needed fire. Yet, out in the desert, they needed not only fire, but nets, spears and knives. Against the emergent onslaught of sin and death, man devised many tools and deadly strategies. However, his enemy was- and always will be the Tiger, the agent of that first sin. A cunning predator, the Devil has allowance into our homes, a work-permit towards our destruction. Scripture compares this enemy to “a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” Pride breeds pride. In a vicious cycle, man and Devil ever threaten the world around them.

Here, the story ceases to give further insight. The rest could be guessed. I believe that henceforth, man is given a choice. He can fashion nets to save animals- or to slay them. Whether he kills for food or for pleasure makes the difference. The way he kills speaks volumes about his soul. For if God made man in His own image, ruling over the beasts, his humanness and mercy betray God. When merciless and cruel, he betrays another. By no mistake, we regard a man who loves animals as sensitive and kind but think a man who hates them as heartless and frightening. An animal-lover mirrors God who condescends to lesser beings. Like God, he feeds, tends, looks after the weak and gives shelter. He is fatherly, like a husband. The man who beats, tortures or starves animals echoes the Devil who only undermines and destroys. We would never trust him with our children!

Now, I’m not saying the perfect Christian is a tree-hugging hippie- no, I’m saying that Christian faith obliges us to care for what is beneath us. We act in God’s image whenever we feed a stray dog, scare a possum off the road or knock a bird’s egg back into the nest. A stewardship has been placed in our hands. How should we use it? We’ve all heard the saying: “Nature, red in tooth and claw.” But how, tell me, shall be man? Isn’t he more than tooth or claw? Has he not received a rational mind, ruling over the earth, wielding bow and trowel, both hunter and gardener, modeled in the loving image of God?

 

 

Nature red in tooth and claw,

man beheld natural law.

Creation laden death and glory,

forests ring with man, his story.

 

I twas a gatherer for God first gathered

the starry sky.

I twas gardener for God first planted

the greenest byre.

I twas fisherman for God first schooled

flocks of the sea

And I twas archer for God first plucked

feathered breed.

 

Lo, but after fall,

I gazed upon nature all.

Man the killer, not under law,

held fin, leaf and feather

beneath red claw.

 

Then I twas ever to bleed,

keep from bleeding

and to make bleed.

 

Once, no thing slew,

now we all slay

lest slain.

Credo

What is this Catholic faith of ours? What does it mean to be Catholic? It is history, beauty and majesty. It is a love story between God and man. It is not the mundane entertainment of the world nor is it some abstract concept of our intellect. It is a real covenant relationship, a way of life lived to the fullest. It isn’t the way of death, some sterile, modern standard that is pressed upon us day in and day out, no it is life- defying death. Jesus spoke of this saying:

“I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly” -John 10:10.

Too many people look at our faith as a set of rules and doctrines. They don’t realize that these rules and doctrines are actually a deposit of rich treasure, lovingly passed down by the apostles, and those saints and martyrs before us, originating from Christ’s undying love for us. Our doctrines and expressions are a gift, a sweet yoke. Not like the yoke of the world which burdens and destroys us. We must cast that yoke off and leave it behind. Then we can truly understand the Church’s wisdom, which is as a fount from heaven.

We worship in a liturgy because creation is liturgy, love is a liturgy. It is an act of giving and receiving and then giving again. It is speaking and being spoken to. God has always spoken to us in the law of gift. Moved by love, He spoke and all things in the universe were made and He pronounced them good. Each person, created in God’s image is a gift to be given. Christ offers us the gift of His very flesh and blood. He makes His life our own and we, enraptured by this act of love, can do nothing but adore and cry out “Amen!!”

Catholicism is a wedding, lasting throughout the ages. It is a lush garden where souls are planted and tended, where men become saints. God’s only son, the loving Bridegroom leapt down from heaven and became flesh to rescue us, to deliver us from sin and death. He gave all he had, his very life, for us. When water and blood poured from the side of the crucified Christ, a bride was taken and many sons and daughters were born anew from this union. We become God’s own sons and daughters. Because of this new identity:

“The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” –Psalm 92-12

In this family of the Catholic Church, we have a foretaste of our promised inheritance. As a wedding gift, He bestowed the Holy Ghost, the spirit of God, so that in a spirit of hope, charity and self-sacrifice, we may show others this Kingdom of God. The husband and wife reveal God’s covenant with man, made from the beginning. The priest’s celibacy shows his mystical marriage with the Church, the chosen Bride. Nothing like this has ever happened! Through the sacraments, which are seven jewels of great price, God makes us partakers in His Divine Life. Everything that belongs to God now belongs to His people.

“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” – Song of Solomon 6:3

What we see in the visible Church points to a wondrous, unseen reality. Our communion here on earth is united to a greater communion in heaven, those who have fought and loved before us. Out of their sacrifices, modeled after the One Sacrifice of Christ, comes our power and strength. We are weak and have nothing in this world for our treasure is elsewhere.

The Catholic faith proclaims the forgiveness of sins, that when Jesus climbed up on that rugged cross, He undid the sin of Adam and reopened the gates of paradise. And how immense is God’s love that when a priest says “I absolve you from your sins” that through the blood of Christ, we are washed clean. Our faith is one that believes second chances are possible!

“Love covers a multitude of sins” – 1 Peter 4:8

This is our faith, why add or take anything away from it? Why not love and cherish it as Christ loved and cherished us? Catholicism is the pure water in which we have been reborn. It is the Precious Blood we drink. It is God’s Holy Spirit moving and breathing within us. It is the anticipation of life and resurrection and of every good thing in the world to come.

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Sooner or later, every Catholic “goth” chick will pick up devotion to the Mother of Sorrows. Perfect right? While I wrote some poetry about Our Lady at Calvary, weeping over the crucified Christ, early on in my spiritual journey, it wasn’t until recently that a true devotion emerged. If you venture to read my earlier post “The Mother of a Priest” (June/17/2013), you will learn how a friend’s crisis urged me to cling closely to Our Lady, especially in her sufferings. Now, my love can do nothing but continue and grow for Our Lord’s dear mother as she stood by His side- even at the hour of His bloody execution. How tearful and resolute, she watched her priestly son offer sacrifice!

I am not a mother, nor have I ever been, so it wouldn’t be accurate to say I know the feeling of losing a child. Nor can I imagine the torment of it. However, I have seen things and people that I deeply loved be destroyed, get violently taken from me. I have seen close friends and family suffer. I know that feeling, watching, just wishing you could do something…anything- to take their pain away. I know well this powerlessness, this bleeding compassion, such grave heart-ache.  And if there isn’t some kind of suffering right before me, I can imagine it.

I can’t decide which was more agonizing for our Blessed Mother, seeing the cruel torments inflicted on her son or knowing He so passionately loved these tormentors. That same mankind who, blind to grace, lacking love for God and utterly ungrateful, actually took enjoyment at the victim’s suffering. “He has come to save you, to give you eternal life, to heal you, to deliver you from your demons,” she must have thought, “and here you spit and mock him!” Certainly she may have cried unto the crowd: “Yes, your hatred crushes me- yet even moreso His love!”

This was the High Priest of the New Covenant. Mary clad him in the fair vestments of human flesh. Her lullabies were hymns. She offered the first-fruits of her maternity: warmth and milk to His infancy. Patience and wisdom in tender childhood. Rightfully would a priest lament, should his sacred offering be torn from his hands and desecrated or his holy vessel cast upon the ground.  Would he not rend his garments at seeing the temple destroyed? How much more did Mary lament seeing the immaculate Lamb of God stripped, broken, abused and rejected! How sharply she mourned, seeing the precious temple, born from her womb, destroyed! That men crucified His Only Son was such blasphemy that God Almighty rent the skies in two, snuffed out the sun and draped Calvary in darkness.

Mary spent her whole life preparing that offering, dressing him in garments of virtue, perfuming him with goodly faithfulness. Yet surely, did she know?

Yes, she reckoned the words of Simeon: “This child is set for the fall, as a sign of contradiction and a sword your own heart shall pierce.” She knew it, expected the day, the hour when her dearest son would appear as Messiah- and subsequently fall to dismay. Yet nothing could prepare for the flowing blood, the wounds and tears more bitter than gall. Her pondering heart could not bear the sentence, the scourging, the crown of spines pressed down, the rough, wooden cross and the cold nails. Thus, like Abel, she surrendered her choicest lamb to the cruel altar. Here, commenced the world’s most heart-wrenching liturgy. When Jesus cried out “My God, why hast thou forsaken,” Mary remembered the angel’s greeting “The Lord is with thee.” When her precious son, at last, bowed His head and said “Consummatum est”, she raised her arms, having given everything, and answered: “Fiat.”

But the most beautiful thing about Mary’s sorrow was that it came with true victory. No temporary grief over some earthly loss, her tears conquered evil; they erased the sinful pride of Eve and consecrated womanhood forever. They also consecrated manhood- for at Calvary, Mary showed herself mother to all who would call themselves disciples of Christ. Given the good water of such perfect tears, the bloody cross became a tree of life. At this altar, John the Beloved, made the first act of ministerial priesthood. Taking Jesus’s dead, broken body from the gruesome wood, he laid it like a precious host in Mary’s hands.  There, she also showed herself the mother of all priests.

Words cannot describe what an epic mother Mary was. It is with good reason that Scripture describes in few words her espousal to God. Her betrothal sealed in tears and blood; she emerges as the joyful daughter of Zion, the desired beauty of ages. Christ wore a ring of thorns and she, the wedding-band of blackest sorrow. In a heavenly place no longer sorrowful, Mary still desires we recall and venerate her sorrow, offered alongside the Savior’s passion. The poor, virgin-girl from Nazareth has left us with a resounding declaration that all human weakness can be sanctified, united to His suffering. Her example gives strength to Christians everywhere.

By her great pain, Mary stood as advocate of those in pain, bringing forth her Son’s healing balm. By wretchedness, Mary became a refuge of sinners; ever-beseeching executioners lay down their wicked instruments and turn to God. She cleansed Calvary’s hill with tears, saying to the dust: “From this garden, man will be created again.”

A warrior in her feminine way, Mary Most-Sorrowful drew that sword from her own heart and handed it to Christ so He may at last slay the Serpent! How the black rosebud, bowing her head, bloomed forth the white lily! Weeping, did Mother Mary bury her most-precious wheat and rejoicing, she carried back the Easter sheave.

 

So heartily, I end:

Virgin Most-Sorrowful,

Remove from us the dark veil of sin

so we may greet your Son’s dawning light.

O Widow Un-widowed,

Keep vigil when we lack strength.

Mother of Mercy,

Hold your silver lamp against the night.

O Moon,

Shine upon our graves, guide in death’s grim hour

and hush the avenging angel.

Mother Most-Sorrowful,

Black Rose of Calvary,

pray for us.

Crucifixion with sun and moon.

Crucifixion with sun and moon.

 

You believe in the God who created the heavens and the earth. So let us remember that when He had created all things, He declared them to be “good.” Let us remember Our God, who after He created man and woman, declared them to be : “Very good.” Why very good? The universe, the earth, sea, beasts and birds, they were good. The sun and moon, night and day, they were good. But man, he was pronounced “very good.” Stooping down, God then crafted the jewel of His creation: the woman. He made her man’s helpmate, his spouse, mother, sister and daughter. Then truly, did God say “It is very good”!

The man was made like the sun at day, providing by his guiding light and strength, creating life in his rays or subjecting it to burning heat. No corn gives ears without the sun nor do trees put forth their roots. Yet the sun is charged to rule half the day and the moon rules the other. Thus, woman is made like the moon, cradling life in her silver beacon, nurturing, killing nothing. Lilies do not bloom without the moon nor does corn lay down its seed. Without the moon, seas cannot rise and feed the earth. See how both sun and moon are needed and not one has greater importance than the other? The same with man and woman!

What if the moon decided she should be like the sun? Should she try to rule the day, giving light and burning rays? What if she busied herself with furrows instead of the sea? Would not everything die? With great reason did God give half the day to the sun and half to the moon for if only sun, the earth would bake and wither and if only moon, growth would cease and the seas flood.

Remember that God fashioned man like the sun and woman like the moon. Therefore each holds partial rule. Adam was given Kingship and Eve was made Queen. In the King is creation, justice, force and command. In the Queen is nutrition, mercy, reason and intercession. One does not take place of the other. Or is God’s work deficient in some way?  Maybe you admit this scheme of things… but still you claim that such was the old world and in the new world, Christ sees no difference between man and woman and in their terms of service. Let me instruct you…

When Saint Paul says in his letter “There is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, man or woman…” he means their station before God. No longer does the Jew stand greater chance of salvation or the freeman or the man. All are free to partake in Christ’s Passover, in His new life and in His salvation. Things of status or cleanliness do not matter anymore but one’s purity of heart and perseverance in faith. Moreso, all can take the Holy Eucharist- provided they are free from grave sin.

In the heavenly liturgy, just as in Eden, there is surely distinction. While both Adam and Eve join in hymns to God, Adam must give the offering. Recall how the fathers offer sacrifice- not the mothers. Though the mother prepares the table and candles, she touches not the Paschal lamb. Thus why the risen Christ says to Mary “Touch me not” and to Thomas, “Put your hand into my side.”

Maybe you still say, “Look how women were superior disciples of Christ.” This, I concede to you. Besides John the Beloved, Our Lord had no more loyal friends than Mary Magdalene and Mary, his mother. Indeed the Samaritan woman posessed greater faith than Thomas who claimed he would die with the Lord. Martha had more charity than Philip who said the thousand could not be fed. If anyone should have been charged with offering Christ’s Eucharist, it should have been Mary, his mother of matchless faith. Yet, he did not take her into the Upper-room.

Being an apostle doesn’t make one more holy. We see the example of Judas who betrayed and Peter who fled. Women were charged with spreading Christ’s words and deeds, asked to witness miracles, give prayer and sanctify their households. They were not told “Do this in memory of me.”

From Genesis to Revelation, men are chosen to stand in the person of God. In the Old Covenant; fathers of great dynasties gave mediation and in the New; chaste eunuchs. Women have always stood by man’s side, at the foot of the cross, at the side of the altar, offering goodly prayers, their undying devotion and sanctity.

Keep in mind that a bishop, no matter how holy he may be, can never offer motherhood to God. He can never offer a womb or a fairness like the moon. He lacks the jewel of creation, which is to be a mother, daughter and sister. Man stands in the person of Christ but woman, she spreads her arms in the venerable person of Mary. Christ was the Lamb of God but Mary was the Ewe. Man offers sacrifice but woman offers her glory which reflects like moonlight, a glory never to be stolen away or diminished.

 

Picture the most beautiful sight you could ever chance upon… perhaps a snow-swept mountainside or an iridescent-feathered bird of paradise. Imagine the most luxurious scent you could ever smell… a whiff of burning frankincense, a sultry gardenia blossom. Imagine the sweetest sound you could ever hear… a virtuoso’s symphony, the tinkling of sleigh bells. Imagine the most delicious taste and the most pleasing thing you ever touched. Oh how great these things are!

Now, imagine this: that all the wonderful sensations in the world are but a foretaste of heavenly things. The pitter-pat of rain and awesome clamor of thunder are but hints of the majesty of God. Morning sunlight on your skin is but a shadow of the Blessed face of God. All our satisfied- and unsatisfied appetites are only a foreshadowing of our consuming desire for God. Our senses are gifts, love letters sent to us that we may delight in creation and look forward even more to the Creator. That first bite into a ripe mango, the caress of a lover’s hands, the rumble of a cat purring on your lap, all are reminders of a Creator deeply in love with us!

I remember reading in the Old Testament that no man has seen the face of God, for if he should gaze upon God, he would die.

“And again he said: Thou canst not see my face: for man shall not see me and live.” – Exodus 33:20.

Because God is so indescribably beautiful, more splendid than anything in the universe, we would simply die from beauty. Our sinful ugliness would quiver in the Divine Presence and not stand to live. But the amazing thing is that God took all His killer-beauty and became man! That Beauty which withstood not a slightest imperfection, descended to walk amongst abject ugliness and sin. Truly Jesus, in one of his most shattering statements, told his disciples:

“He who has seen me has seen the Father” – John 12:45.

How the Lord deigned to wrap us in divine love and terrific beauty! How Love and Beauty Himself met death so we may see the Father, He who lit stars and painted planets with His fingers, who commanded the sun to burn and rise!

Perhaps one thing about as scandalous as God becoming man was the fact that through Jesus Christ, man could become like God.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” – 1 John 3:2

Ponder this a moment…In the Beatific Vision won for us by Christ, we will at last see the face of God- and we will not die!! Truly these are the depths of love and beauty of which, we can readily perceive every lovely, beautiful thing in the universe is but a foretaste. More than sensuous, resplendent and enrapturing things, we were made to desire God from Whom every goodness comes. Yet God does not stand apart on account of our lowliness… He does not deprive humanity of our One Desire because of our guilt; no He brings the One Desired to us!

The greatest, happiest memory we have lived is a taste of God’s love. Whatever ravishes us: the canvas of stars above, the embraces of romance, a stirring motet, Mona-Lisa enshrined, a romp with your kids on a summer day, is a small taste of what God has stored for us. It is written in Paul’s letters that eye has not seen nor ear has heard what God has in mind for those who love Him.

stairway_to_heaven_by_tizz77

Moreso, when God enters into us, we become beautiful for it is our souls that are His desired. God stooped down into our mean existence, not a little- but all the way. God became man, suffering and wretched man, to reclaim His one desire. Thus, it only makes sense the beloved would be shaped into the image of the Lover. On earth, the Christian soul may yearn in expectation, groaning within us, awaiting the blessed moment when beloved and Lover unite. Upon our deathbeds, may we joyfully incline our ears as God whispers, in sweetest poetry, saying:

See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.

Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come,  

the cooing of doves is heard in our land.

The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.

Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.”

–          Song of Songs 2:11-13