Oh Lord, purify me, make me a chalice in which you dwell, offer your sacrifice in me and spread your love through me. Let me shine like gold, adorn me with the jewels of virtue that I may always be open to you. Fill me. Overflow me. Let me be like that most perfect vessel, the Singular Vessel of Devotion, She to whom I cry for protection against the Evil One. I ask this for your glory, for the vessel is nothing without the sustenance inside, the cup nothing unless it is filled. Oh Lord, purify me.

Give me a word, Abba

Sunday, June 24, 2012

St. John and the Real

Ok, so I like Icons.
Today is the Birthday of the Baptist. We often think of him as this rough almost hobo who "cried out in the desert" and went around pouring water over people's heads. Now, it's true that he was rather free with water in his proto-sacramental sort of way, but too frequently we think of saints as these distant extra-human beings who do all this weird stuff. The reality is that they experienced the same things we do.

Actually, reality is what I'd like to talk about. Reality is deep. To say that ice cream is a frozen mixture of egg, milk and sugar is not only simplistic and definitional, but also shallow. There is much more to ice cream than its ingredients and its temperature. What of the refreshment it brings to numerous lake-goers in south eastern Wisconsin? What of the joy it brings to those same lake-goers? Ice cream is, in short, yummy. But that's also not all it is.

But even more than ice cream, we ourselves are deep. As the Gospel from yesterday (New Lectionary) stated, if God looks out for the sparrow and the wild-flower, how much more each individual human? We are even deeper than plants, animals and frozen deserts.

Our depth, our reality comes from being made in the image of God. True, we are fallen beings, but because God inscribed his Love on our hearts and minds, we are able to connect with him on a profound level. That connection can come through emotion, it can come through thought and it can come through our actions, but to allow all our experiences to be flavored by just one is to short-change God's gift, to reject the depth of Reality which he bestowed upon us.

God is, ultimately, Reality itself. Our lives are real because all life, all creation participates in his existence. We long, by nature, for the real, the authentic and He is the fulfillment of that longing.

Often, however, he draws us to himself through other things, other people. Thus we get the sacraments, signs which are that which they signify. The bread and wine are changed to His Body and Blood and through the appearance of food, we are brought into contact with reality. Our faith is deepest when all three aspects of ourselves assent to and embrace that reality. Truly, a faith which is not bolstered by emotion is still a valuable faith (who can control what they feel about something?Even John the Baptist felt abandoned and unsure when in Prison he sent his disciples to make sure that Jesus was indeed the Messiah), but it would not be out of place to say that with the emotion, our experience of God is that much deeper as it involves our whole person.

It is through sacrifice and a proper approach to the inevitable suffering of this world that we are able to focus our intellect, emotion and will on the Face of Reality. Just as a vineyard is pruned, we must strip away all that tempts us to stay swimming in the shallow end. Reality can be as scary as a bottomless lake. "Out of the depths have I cried to thee, o Lord!" But if we call to Him and he brings us up from the depths of ourselves, we will be able to truly appreciate the depth of his Love, which is the Ultimate Reality. We are called by our creation to participate in that Reality, that Love which is the Life of God Himself.

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