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

Monday, December 2, 2013

What do we deserve?



As subjects of the King, all that we have is a free gift from Him and nothing that we have do we deserve. We do not deserve money, clothes, human affection, education or food except that God has given all this to us in creation. He has made us so that our nature calls out for these things which are His to give, but we do not deserve them, for our wills are not with His. We turn from him and so we do not even deserve the gifts he has already given us. One such gift is the Mass.

We don't deserve liturgy that appeases our aesthetic sensibility. We don't deserve liturgy that elevates our souls to the contemplation of the ineffable. To put it bluntly, we deserve hell, except for the sacrifice of Our Lord on the Cross, which is enacted in each Mass on the altar. So we shouldn't complain if what we get is felt banners and not silk vestments, liturgical dancing instead of the rubrics, Marty Haugen instead of Thomas Tallis. The Mass, after all, is a great gift to the people of God and we should not take it for granted.

But we should also not take it for granted.

Lest you think I am being confusing, let me explain. Our Lord established the Church in a human context which brought about the flourishing of beauty in expression of worship. In fact, humanity was made to imitate its creator in making things that are "very good." The gift of our humanity, and the gift of the Church are not to be taken lightly. No, we do not deserve existence or to be made in the image and likeness of God or the Incarnation, or the Church herself. But God has seen to it that we have been given these gifts, and to turn our backs on them is to deserve them even less. God does not need the commemoration of his Sacrifice to be in any context, for the commemoration of that Sacrifice and the worship of our God is not for Him. It is for us. He does not need our worship, but he deserves our worship, and for our sake he established a Church which leads us in that worship.

But let us not take it for granted, this great gift! Part of this gift, which makes it all the greater, is its appeal to our human nature and our desire for beauty. It draws us in so that our needs are better met. Should we, the poor in beauty, refuse the charity of Him who is Beauty Himself? If we do, we forget that it is we who need him and will instead depend on our own efforts in providing our needs.

Let us, then, lose ourselves in the charity of beauty, let us not refuse the gift of the Mass. Let us not strip it of its beauty because of agenda or pride. Let us instead allow the beauty to draw us closer to the Giver. We do not deserve it, but he has given it to us. Let us not throw it away.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Ordinary and the Beautiful

One might not think that a single yellow brick, chipped with age and discoloured by years of exposure to the dirt and dust kicked up by students would be beautiful. It is, in fact, sort of ugly. All of us have experienced a beautiful sunset piercing the trees and reflecting off of a nearby water-feature, or perhaps the sharp profile of a highland crag against a steel-blue sky overlooking the dark swirling North Sea, or maybe yet the wild, untamed mountains and ravines of ruddy Wyoming.

All of these are nature, and they are not made by us. They do not belong to us. They are Other, just as God is Other and only he is responsible for them. They are, for this reason, such a powerful witness to his presence that we feel the tug, the desire for a union with the unattainable, the infinite.

But what of my brick? It is also a connection to the infinite in the sense that it is a connection to history. Our lives are but a series of encounters with eternity and history is the collective memory of humanity's interaction with the infinite. We are like stones skipping across the lake of eternity and will eventually sink into it and be consumed by it.

But we eventually encounter a spot of eternity where someone else has been before. It brings the great fabric of time, the small corner of eternity, into greater perspective. This brick may have been touched by thousands of students, been witness to countless graduation pictures, stood steady as presidents and provosts passed on their responsibilities, as great discoveries were made and great social strides accomplished. It also has seen tragedy and discord. It in fact speaks loudly of the human condition. A building is a testament to the struggles and joys of not only the generation that built it, but all those who follow after as well, and each brick has its part in that history.

All things, ordinary and extraordinary, tell of the great gift of God which is this life. Can we pass up that leaf pile that calls for jumping? (Well, if there's a machine sucking them up, perhaps.) Can we ignore the single dandelion that has found its way into bloom? Can we say to a squirrel eating a nut, "No, you are unimportant?"

We should not, for all speak of God's love and all call us into a greater understanding of his infinite goodness.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Kindness

I mentioned to one of my friends at dinner last night that there is a distinct difference between being "nice" and being "kind." It's something I've been thinking about a lot recently, mostly because I can see the difference in myself. "Niceness" is a somewhat self-centered attitude, where people's perception of you is the most important. If you are nice, you'll look good and attractive to people, right? But "niceness" is a very shallow thing whereas "kindness" is not. Kindness is directed to another person. It is true attentiveness to the needs, wants, and situations of others. We can spend time with another person, but it takes a kind person to seek out that person and give them your time. See the difference? One is seen as "spending" time, a cold, businesslike word, and the other is "giving" time, a personal word.

Kindness is so much more important than being nice. You can act pleasant all you want, but it isn't enough to truly be a friend. Everyone has interior struggles that are not addressed through exterior postures. Everyone! Even the person who is the most confident, the most put together, the most happy person! There is an attitude at the University of Notre Dame that in order to be successful, you need to appear happy, put together, busy, self sufficient....the list goes on, but it does not allow for vulnerability which is the opening to Love.

This vacuum of vulnerability means that all sorts of harmful vulnerabilities rush in to fill it. We allow ourselves to be used and use others. We succumb to alcohol, the party scene, the loose sexual morals which all make us vulnerable, but in all the worst ways. Vulnerability results in pain and the shattering of our innocence when it is not accompanied by genuine love.

But when we are kind, we are making ourselves vulnerable and allowing vulnerability in others to come through and the sharing of healthy vulnerability in a safe, sober situation is the gateway to love. Selfless gift of time and attention, even if that means leaving someone alone is true love. Even this vulnerability can result in pain, but as we know, the greatest act of love was an act of suffering, with a resurrection afterwards.

No bad can come from true kindness, only from the false vulnerability so rampant on college campuses which can trick us into thinking it is love. What is really is is a loud cry for love that we can answer if we will give to each other the time and the love of true kindness.



Friday, October 25, 2013

The Sign of the Cross

I was watching a television show called Fringe the other day which is a pretty good show, though not nearly as good as Person of Interest. One scene from a climactic episode of the third season of Fringe was of a man in a somewhat nondescript liturgically inaccurate Christian chapel of some sort. He was, as is often the case in these situations, asking God for a sign, even though he didn't believe in him. (Another example of this might be George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, though he did believe in God and it wasn't in a chapel. It was, in short a much better scene.)

The man in Fringe wanted a sign from God so that his son might live. I thought about this for a minute, and because there was a great shining cross in the scene, it reminded me of how a Father once allowed his son to die for the sake of the world (which, incidentally, this son was also going to be doing..they really can't get away from Christian imagery, can they. Peter Bishop? Come on. That's as bad as Christian Shepherd from Lost, incidentally created by the same person as Fringe.) Anyway, this man was asking that his son might be saved and that God might give him a sign to show him that this would happen, and I thought "Doi, you're looking at the cross, the greatest sign God ever gave and it was a sign of suffering and of sacrifice."

We sometimes forget that when we ask for a sign, God will oblige us, but often the sign includes a loss, a sacrifice, a death either of our desires or our goals. Ultimately, the end of the Cross Saga was a resurrection, and so God too will bring life out of the death of our desires. However, his greatest sign was the cross, and we can't forget that that's how he works.

So let us sign ourselves with the Cross, and continue to ask God to work in our lives and bring us to the resurrection through the purification of his sacrifice.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Something a little light-hearted

Today, in class, we talked about light and how different colours interact. I could go on a long-winded theology of light, but today is not that day. I will just point out that the word in English for the opposite of heavy is also the word for the opposite of dark, and that God takes away burdens and illumines our lives.

And who couldn't use a little more ljoss-ness? (ljoss adj. bright [Old Norse])

So, first, yesterday was a Good Day. It involved a lot of sudden inspirations, lack of sleep, and friendship.

First off, if you haven't gone to adoration recently, hie thee hence to the nearest adoration chapel and get thee on thy knees. I don't mean to be demanding, but boy is it a source of grace, especially when your friend texts you and says "I need you to cover 15 minutes of adoration stat." (this isn't a true quote, but he he said something like this, only using the word "stat" isn't his style.) (stat, btw, comes from the Latin "statim" meaning immediately.)

My studio had a pretty good midterm review, and although Stairs Must Be Moved, etc., I am feeling pretty good about this.

I am still struggling with the question of whether I should go carve stone in England, get a nice cushy internship in the US, apprentice myself to the stone mason on this project, be a traveling musician based in Nashville, attend classes at the Prince's School of Traditional Arts, or go to grad school. So many options, and so man reasons to do none of them. Oh well.

Finalmente, I had a nice glass of vino (or goblet or mug) with a friend who is an artist, and if we didn't solve all the problems of art and the cultural renewal of the Church, we sure talked about it and agreed a lot more than we disagreed. One bein of contention was the value of the Middle Ages and specifically medieval art. This is one of my favourite subjects.

I haven't yet written my paper for my class that's due today, although I've started it, but all that seems rather mundane in the face of the encounter with grace that was yesterday.

God is wonderful. Find time for him.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Triumph of the Cross: Accepting the Five Wounds

It's almost said too much that it's strange that the Cross is the symbol of Christianity. For some reason, we celebrate the torture and death of the founder of our religion. We, in fact, have a feast day dedicated to God's triumph through the Cross of Christ. What is perhaps stranger is that though Christ died on the cross for our sins, we still suffer. Wasn't the crucifixion, death and resurrection supposed to be Christ suffering in our place?

But this, of course, is thinking of it all upside down. The Triumph of the Cross is that death and sin and suffering were defeated, but the grace from this victory is continually working in our lives so that when our time comes, we my rise in greater glory. Glorious indeed would it be for God to bring us automatically to himself, but how much more glorious when we have accepted his grace through a life of hardship and allowed him to enter our lives freely?

And so just as St. Francis did on the feast of the Triumph of the Cross, we too must accept the five wounds of Christ. No, most likely these wounds will not appear in our flesh as they did for St. Francis, but spiritual suffering is just as much suffering and we all experience it.

Let me be Scholastic for a bit. The Five Wounds of Christ correspond to five spiritual sufferings which we undergo. The first wound is memory of sin and pain. At the Crucifixion, Christ was able to experience all the pain from the memory of the whole human race about the sin committed by us. For us, we remember our sin, how we have hurt others, how we have hurt ourselves as pain. This is often mislabeled guilt. It is in fact more like remorse, and it hurts like hell. At the end of Harry Potter, the hero of the story asks the villain of the story to be a man and try for some remorse. This is because it truly takes strength to accept that you have sinned and done wrong to others. It takes strength because it hurts. God takes all this pain from remorse and it becomes one of the wounds of His Son on the Cross. Our remorse is pain, and it should be there, but if we accept it as a manifestation of the wound of Christ, we can let Him have it and cause grace to flow through the remorse.

The Second Wound is a loss of spiritual motivation. We may not always experience this as pain in the same way as remorse, but when we realize that we are slowly slipping into a spiritual darkness, our souls are not happy and it can lead to despair. Once again, if we look to Christ, we can find a place from which grace can flow. While he was on the Cross, he called out "I thirst!" He was experiencing the parched feeling in his body as we feel it in our souls when we can not find the enthusiasm for God's plan. He channeled this pain into the sacrifice which God demanded of Him, so must we not also do the same if we wish to live a life of Christ? The grace will grow in us if we accept this second wound and allow Him to transform it to be a part of his redemptive act.

The Third Wound is separation from those we love, our families, our friends. This can come in the form of physical separation, but is all the more painful when it is a spiritual or emotional separation. This wound Christ experienced first when his apostles abandoned him at his capture, but he brought all this suffering into fulfillment in the act of accepting the wounds of the Cross. If we are to accept separation from those we love, we can only do so in the context of the Cross and accepting that our redemption and eternal happiness depends on whether we accept the wounds and thus the grace that accompanies them.

The Fourth Wound is the suffering of injustice, false accusations, slander, judgmental thoughts and rejection from a community. We certainly do not deserve the community we are given, and we do not deserve love, for we do not give love perfectly. However, God created us for one another, and it is a great suffering to be rejected, even by people we do not know! This is an experience of those with homosexual tendencies, those who struggle with sin, those who don't have it "all together." But the greatest injustice of all was the one which Christ himself experienced, for he did love perfectly and was still treated with contempt and ridicule by his own people. This fourth wound is another opportunity, if we unite our own rejections with those of Christ, for grace to grow in our lives. Oftentimes, we do deserve rejection for our actions, but of course that connects the fourth and the first wounds, remorse for sin, and pain from rejection. All of these pains can be accepted as an extension of Christ's sacrifice and thus can not only work for the redemption of your soul, through the grace of God, but also can be an opportunity of Grace for those you have hurt through your sin and those who judge and reject you falsely.

The Fifth Wound is perhaps the worst, and it is related to the Second Wound. If I were a true Scholastic and not a tired blogger who should be working on a project or reading a saga, I would have ordered them differently. But I am tired, and I hope you can forgive me.

The Fifth Wound is separation, or apparent separation from God. Perhaps Christ was just reciting the 22nd Psalm when he cried out "My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?" However, he may have actually experienced the feeling of abandonment from God. We certainly do. We feel often as if He doesn't care. We have pain, and it doesn't matter to him. We need something and he will not listen. He will not show us a sign. He will not speak to us. We are very sad. The funny thing is, it is very often not because he is not there for us that we feel this way, but because we have not abandoned ourselves to his mercy and joined our Five Wounds to Christ's.

If the Cross is truly to triumph in our lives, we must accept, as St. Francis did, the Stigmata. But our Stigmata will not show, it will not bleed. Our unity with Christ will be less visible. But it will only truly be a stigmata if we accept the wounds of Christ and allow them to be for us a source of grace, healing, and salvation. Our suffering is no longer ours, and thus no longer superfluous because we will have made our suffering into His and offered it on the Cross for the salvation of the world.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Second Desolation

The normal way of the spiritual life is like a sine curve; equal amplitudes in both the positive and negative direction on a pretty frequent and regular basis. Now, this isn't always the case, for often the negatives outweigh the positive and sometimes it is the other way around. But whatever the case, there are times of desolation in the spiritual life, where it doesn't seem possible that God cares or that your life doesn't seem quite blessed, but also times of consolation where it seems (and it is) that God has a plan and wishes to create some great good out of our lives.

One wisdom of St. Ignatius is that when you experience this great consolation, immediately thank the Creator for His creation in your life, then offer the next moment of desolation and doubt into his hands to nail to the cross so that you might accept the pain and confusion as a participation in the Ultimate Sacrifice which takes away the sins of the world.

The Gospel for today was about the action of the devil. All pain and evil, desolation and sin makes the devil quite excited for it means that the pain of separation from God which he experiences eternally is shared by members of God's creation. We all long for communion and a common sharing of experiences, and the devil himself does, and thus puts roadblocks in our way. The Gospel, however, speaks of the casting out of demons and the "cleaning up" that occurs. Jesus says that the demon which is cast out then "goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that man is worse than the first." (Lk. 11:26)

We might experience a calming of our spirit, a relief from our pain, a ledge on which to rest on this Long Climb to perfect beatitude, but the devil returns in greater force when he realizes that we are advancing on the path to holiness, and the Second Deolation is "worse than the first." If we are not prepare, if we have not asked God to take the Second Desolation and the Third and the Fourth and so on, we will not be ready and we will slip back down past the ledges of grace which we have found to be such consolation.

One of the devil's strategies is to make us despair, and so when we see our consolations slipping by, we start to despair and see them as passing, as fleeting, as unimportant. But of course, they were not. They will always be in your memory and will always remind you that God grants us these moments even though we do not deserve them in our fallen state.

And if the devil wants communion in his pain of separation (which is just the fiery love of God wrongly considered for no one, not even the devil is truly separated from Him), we also desire communion in our pain, but this should never mean that we cause others pain so that they might join with our pain. Rather, we should join in the communion of the Cross, considering our pain as the greatest source of grace and together basking in that grace, that severe mercy, that soothing justice.

And if there is one defense against wrongly considering the love of God as pain, it is the defense of Our Lady's mantle. She experienced the Crucifixion and Death and as none other, but in the same way she also experienced the Resurrection and the fulfillment of the Sacrifice as no other. She understands pain and suffering and the redemptive quality it has, the source of grace that it is, and God has given her command over His grace, to dispense as she wills. If we are to prepare for the Next Desolation, we must allow her to wrap us in her mantle and hold us close to her heart which is united with the Heart of Christ, which constantly offers sacrifice to the Father and understands our suffering, that being the meaning behind the Incarnation.

Our suffering is never the final answer, and it is never done alone. Not only is Christ our mediator through suffering, but we always have the opportunity to suffer with those around us, not in a diabolical way of causing each other pain, but offering our suffering along with theirs into the hands of Christ so that his Sacrifice might be all the more present in our lives.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Intellect and Love

Oftentimes, we don't understand things. We don't understand God. We don't understand why we do things we shouldn't (cf. Romans 7) We also don't understand why Dominos makes such a great pan pizza, but all their other pizzas are terrible.

One of the main things we don't understand is love. God Himself is Love, so this sort of makes sense. Our intellects can grasp the existence of God, although in a very limited way, but we can only know God personally and love him through His Revelation of Himself, specifically the Incarnation. His love is only understandable through His actions in our lives. We can not force our brain to be clear on this subject.

And if we are to love God in return, we can not force our brains to be clear on that either. It is hard to know how to love each other, but it is especially hard to know how to love God. But knowledge comes not merely through working through a problem in your head, especially since our heads are full of thousands of conflicting messages, emotions, thoughts. Knowledge is only complete through actions, understanding is achieved through charity.

We often become confused because our brain is telling us two things at once: "I totally want that burger from Burger King." and "Wow, that is a disgusting thought." Or perhaps, "I want to reconcile with my friend who caused me great pain," and "But jeepers, he caused me such pain and I don't know if I want to be his friend anymore." It makes it harder when there is no closure to the pain, no resolution, and seemingly none on the horizon. But LOVE is not a thought. Love is not even merely a desire. If we truly wish to forgive, to love, to find clarity, we must decide to act. We mustn't let our pain dictate our decision to forgive.

But it is not we who act alone, for because of our fallen nature, we need supernatural grace to close the gap between what we ought to do and what we can do on our own. Perhaps, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, in our pre-fall state, we could have forgiven by our very nature, but we must above all ask God's grace to descend upon us and grant us the ability to forgive and love, not only those who have hurt us, but also ourselves for having hurt others.

We can not force our minds into a clear picture of love, for it is only focused by the grace of God acting in our lives. It is up to us to allow this grace in, like light which can illuminate our darkened intellect. And the grace is from a God of Love, and thus a God who acts always for our good, not merely desires it. If we are to imitate him, we can not just want to love, but through his grace we must truly love through our actions.

Love is a tough business, and it's often fraught with confusion, but if we hold on to our Queen and ask for her aid, she will dispense that grace just as she gave us the Source of Grace in the greatest act of Love in human history.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Seven Odysseys: The Third Odyssey

I've been a little remiss in posting these Odysseys over the last couple days. This is partly laziness and partly a funk, and partly my own odyssey I'm on. Prayers would be greatly appreciated.

I think I'll move on to the odyssey from anger to understanding and forgiveness. Many of us humans are sinners, and it is only right that we should respond to the sins of others in anger. I certainly do. But often we get stuck on this anger, holding grudges, resenting, even hating another person for the harm that person has done to us. Hurt is very real, and we can't say that another's sins are good. However, if we hold on to that, we are still in Troy. We have not yet reached Home--Ithaca.

Anger can also be directed toward someone for an imagined slight. So and so didn't treat me how I wanted to be treated. She won't be my friend, he didn't help me when I needed it. We hold grudges, keep count, and resent those closest to us.

And anger, in the "Trojan" sense, will very frequently turn into violence. Our loss of control when confronted with the failures of others is counteracted with a grasping after power. Any violence we do is really just a show of power. I won't let you treat me like that. I am the one really in control. If you do that, I can still do this. I will stay n control.

And this anger, this violence tuns into a war, and is thus probably the closest to a real Troy.

But where can we find our Home? Where is Ithaca? How can we forgive and understand while still not accepting evil?

Well, let me tell you, it's not always effective to reason yourself into forgiveness. "Oh, I should forgive her. She didn't really hurt me, and she's sorry." That's a good start, perhaps, but often we experience a deep emotional pain as well, which can not be healed by forcing rationality down our throats. When we want to forgive, often the devil throws another obstacle in the way. Another monster to overcome, another sea to cross.

And we don't need another sea to cross, we need to see the Cross. It is the image of true forgiveness. God died and rose, he acted to forgive, and we must act as well. But most of all, we must depend on him. If we are to love each other, forgive and avoid anger, violence and resentment, we must embrace the cross and never let go. We must love each other as He loved us, sacrificing our pain for the good of the other.

Oh, Lord, help us live the life of the Cross!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Seven Odysseys: The Second Odyssey

This week, I'm discussing the Seven Odysseys which are our journeys from vice to virtue, our conversion from darkness to light, our road from doubt to promise. The second Odyssey is the journey from lust to love.

All of us struggle with all the seven deadly sins, but it always seems like lust steals the stage. I think it's because we're most afraid of lust in other people, as well as ourselves. If someone is a glutton, we might be disgusted, but we're rarely afraid. Anger can cause fear, but only if it becomes violent. Pride, the root of all vices, causes resentment and contempt, but not fear. No, lust has a special place in our hearts and we're deathly afraid of it.

Lust hurts us, I suspect, so thoroughly because it distorts not only the way the human race continues to exist, thus is a distortion of God's creative plan, but also distorts what is the image of God's love for his creation. A man who lusts is like a God who uses us, which is to say no true God at all. If we as Christians are called to love as Christ loved the Church, we'd better not put lust in its place.

But sadly we do. And lust destroys our relationships with each other and our relationships with God. We spit on his creative plan and his love for humanity when we distort them. And we treat each other not like the creations of God, but toys we fashioned for ourselves.

What an adventure, what chaos, what monstrous violence! And there seems to be no escape from Circe's cave. No escape from the storms of Poseidon.

AND YET!

There is an escape, and it is exactly that which lust grievously defiles: The Cross. Odysseus ordered his men to tie him to the mast of his ship when the sirens sang, and we must let ourselves be tied to the Cross. We are not strong enough to fight concupiscence and lust, but God has won the battle.

The Cross is true love, and in order to travel from the Troy of lust to the Ithaca of love, we must embrace it. We must give of ourselves in sacrifice, even when we fall prey to temptation. We must forgive each other when we fall, and so live by the standard of the Cross.

And most of all when lust hurts us in other people, or we hurt another person with lust, we must fall at the foot of the Cross and beg for the mercy and grace of God to heal us all.

The worst response would be to accept that we are at sea and that we may never come home, but God is calling us, and His Son is looking for us, searching the seas for His wayward wanderers. We must let him find us and take us into His arms onto the cross so that we might love more deeply, truly, and faithfully.

Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Have mercy on us, sinners!

Surprised by Grace

Once in a while, God acts in your life. Actually, that happens pretty often. The first fall day at Notre Dame? That's God. (NB: I'm pretty sure that Autumn is God's favourite season.) The sounds of a cello playing a piece by Bach? That's God too. Sometimes we forget about these things, take them for granted. So many little things are made possible by the grace of God. In fact, everything exists because of the grace of God.

We often think that God's grace is only present in the amazing and astounding things of life. Say you get a new job, a job you really wanted. Or perhaps the "queen of all [your] dreams" walks into your life. Or maybe you managed to get home in a blizzard without wrecking your car or dying. All those things are God's grace on our lives.

Or maybe he's present in the great pains we have. Perhaps you lost a lot of money, or hurt someone you love, or missed a great work opportunity. Maybe you have a chronic illness that may result in your death. God's grace can be and is present in these situations, and we can recognize that. 

Also, the Sacraments are God's grace in our lives in a very unique way. We receive God Himself in the Eucharist. We receive His forgiveness in the confessional. We receive the gifts of the Spirit in Confirmation. Our slavery to sin is purged in the waters of Baptism. And the awful thing is, we can take these for granted too.

How much more, then, do we take for granted the little things? The ripple of water, the look of seasoned wood furniture, the voice of the woman you love, your desires, your hopes, your tastes, your knowledge, your emotions, your thoughts, your routine. All these things are moments of grace and God is trying to work through them for the betterment of your soul.

But we often miss that point and ruin it royally.

God, however, forgives. That's the sign of God. If a person forgives, that's a sign of God working through them. We must forgive, and beg forgiveness so that God can work through us and in us. And all throughout this forgiveness, God's grace is still doing its thing. It's still finding its way to you in the little things. It will, in fact, never stop.

The call, then, is to be continually surprised by grace. To turn to a life of gratitude and wonder. If we let that go, we have forgotten about God.

Let's not forget about God. Let's not forget the little things, the Moments of Beauty.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Seven Odysseys: The First Odyssey

An odyssey, properly understood, is not so much an epic adventure of daring, but an often distracted voyage from a place of war to a place of peace. From Troy to Ithaca, with rather a few detours in between.

Or perhaps this is an epic adventure of daring. At least it can be. It can also be a dull and muddy slog through a marsh. It occurred to me that to develop virtue and thus open yourself more fully to the grace of God, you must leave the "Troy" of your vice, that action which tears your soul and and drags you around in the dirt, and come to the "Ithaca" of virtue; you must come home.

We Catholics name seven deadly sins, which are, for all intents and purposes, our seven Troys. Each day this week, I will take one of the sins and think about our odyssey to virtue. The First, in no particular order, is envy.

Envy is the vice where we recognize a good in another and resent that good and that person because we ourselves do not have that good. It drives us humans apart. Envy is something like a false idea of Justice. If my friend has a car and he's no better than I am, why shouldn't I have a car? Don't I deserve it just as much? Why does she get that award when I've done just as much work and am a better person besides? Why is he so happy when he's clearly living in sin and I'm trying to live virtuously and am supremely unhappy?

The problem with envy is that it is selfish, impatient and attached. We think we know the state of our soul and that as long as we are trying, we ought to get something in return. And it ought to come now. And in the way that we want. This is an extremely dangerous Troy. It is a Troy of resentment, anger, and hatred.

But how hard it is to travel over the seas to Ithaca! Oftentimes, God's wind, His providence seems slack and uninterested. Sometimes it seems like the only way you can make it home is by going from island of hope to island of hope only to realize that the very land which seemed to be a place of rest housed a giant monster waiting to eat you, or a seductive demi-goddess trying to distract you.

But our goal, our virtue which we hope to attain, our Ithaca is true Justice, gratefulness and generosity. We are finally home when we look at the goods that others possess and think with happiness how happy they are. It is when we wish for more good to come their way, even if they don't deserve it.

And this Home, this Ithaca is when we realize that we don't deserve the good that we have and yet are thankful for it and do not go grasping after other goods which we neither deserve nor may ever be given.

The sea is rough. No wonder the ancient Hebrews were so afraid of it and made it the symbol of chaos. Ithaca seems so far away. But Odysseus made it back to Penelope and we too can make it from Envy to Justice, generosity and thanksgiving.

With the help of God.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Emmanuel

One of my favourite images of Christ is Christ the King. Perhaps this is because I love the Middle Ages so much, or perhaps it is the other way around. He hasn't told me yet. Being a knight of the King, and also, of course, the Queen, means a certain responsibility to His mission. This means sometimes going out into the wild and encountering hardship.

And one thing that often comes with being on said mission is a feeling of loneliness, of despair, of apathy, of betrayal. Does the King really care that I am far away from Him? Does He really care that His mission isn't all strawberries and cream? Isn't it more likely that I will never see Him again?

And this can lead to further feelings of: "It's not worth it. Maybe I just won't go back to Him since He doesn't care." And herein lies the problem. When we get to this point, we sort of have committed Blasphemy against the King.

The thing about this King, however, as opposed to other kings, is that He is never far away. He is, in fact, always closer to you than you are yourself. We think we're alone, but we aren't.

Distance (this is a slight digression) is always difficult to deal with. We tend to see only the reality of physical separation and thus we lose hope. We think "We can't deal with this. We're not going to succeed. We're not going to survive this mission. We are alone."

Boo, hoo.

But we forget the spiritual reality of Nearness through the love of God. C.S. Lewis often made the point that the Spiritual Realm was harder and more "real" in a sense than the material realm. It hurt more, but it was also able to span distances that matter can't. It can pierce even through the folds of time.

And this is why God is always near us. He is the almighty spirit who pierces completely the folds of time and matter because, as eternal, He is always present in all times and places. His nearness has been made known many times throughout history, but most importantly when He pierced the very matter He created and took possession of it and clothed Himself in it. Never has He been closer to us than when we can touch Him through our bodies, which God made to enact our wills. Jesus Christ, the King, is always with us in spirit, penetrating into our lives with the sharpness of the Eternal, but is also with us daily and even hourly in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist He abides with us in physical form and thus always relates to us through our bodies and our souls.

So on our missions, whether we be separated from those we love, or are with them daily, let us remember that we have a God who never abandons us and will always hear us when we call on his name.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sad Sights of the Internet

My sister got me involved in Pinterest. I never had a moment to use it until this summer and now I’m baking delicious Earl Grey cookies and suggesting little DIY tips and admitting, somewhat shamefully, “Oh, I found it on Pinterest.” I told my mom that Pinterest is the new way for people to spread their bizarre tips from their grandmas about rubbing garlic on bee stings and putting vinegar and baking soda in your hair to make it grow faster. And who knew that the white stain a wet mug can leave on wood can be erased by rubbing in some mayonnaise or toothpaste? (It's true and saves you in the event you set your french press down in the wrong spot while your mother was out of town.)

While it is often a great way to prevent boredom and find clever ways to solve issues, Pinterst falls victim to all the issues of the modern age: namely promoting skewed thoughts on body image or outlooks on life. You know those super cheesy pictures people post with text formatted over an image? They look a little something like this:

Wut. Go read the catechism.
Or this:

Ugh.
Or:
Just no.
And this is just sad: 
"Your dream body"? No wonder people are confused when they get so many mixed messages. When Dove's Real Beauty Campaign videos spiked in popularity some lone voices warned that "Dove is owned by Unilever which owns AXE which puts out ads that objectify women and perpetuate those same beauty standards that Dove attacks in its ads."

Anyways, that's a whole 'nother topic for another time. In terms of these pictures and quotes that circulate around the internet I feel like they aren't really helping any problems but just perpetuating mindsets. Especially the "romance" ones. Yeesh. A number of these are all linked to specific tumblrs and the ones with the "thingsboysdowelove" signature have made it famous enough for clever and hilarious parodies. Such as:

And:
And last but not least:
It sort of reminds me of the ignorant literary references that go something like "I want a romance like Romeo and Juliet!" or Taylor Swift singing "I was a scarlet letter". What? No, no, no. Think it through, people, and don't get sucked into superficiality.
Dove is owned by Unilever which owns AXE which puts out ads that objectify women and perpetuate those same beauty standards that Dove attacks in its ads. - See more at: http://www.sandpapersuit.com/2013/04/dove-axe-unilever-and-real-beauty.html#sthash.NFycy45S.dpuf
Dove is owned by Unilever which owns AXE which puts out ads that objectify women and perpetuate those same beauty standards that Dove attacks in its ads. - See more at: http://www.sandpapersuit.com/2013/04/dove-axe-unilever-and-real-beauty.html#sthash.NFycy45S.dpuf
Dove is owned by Unilever which owns AXE which puts out ads that objectify women and perpetuate those same beauty standards that Dove attacks in its ads. - See more at: http://www.sandpapersuit.com/2013/04/dove-axe-unilever-and-real-beauty.html#sthash.NFycy45S.dpuf
Dove is owned by Unilever which owns AXE which puts out ads that objectify women and perpetuate those same beauty standards that Dove attacks in its ads. - See more at: http://www.sandpapersuit.com/2013/04/dove-axe-unilever-and-real-beauty.html#sthash.NFycy45S.dpuf

Monday, July 8, 2013

Lazy

I recently finished the book "A Severe Mercy," which if you haven't read it, you should. It's the story of two lovers who find Christ and allow Him to transform their love into something quite supernatural.

Without giving too much away, the point the author is making is that no matter what, our earthly loves must die, must in fact be given to God to sacrifice in order for them to be resurrected and created anew according to God's plan for us.

Well, it's damned hard to give up everything to God. In the Schoenstatt Movement (a movement within the Church to which I belong), there is the concept of the blank check, which is essentially giving your whole soul without reservation to Our Lady, who dispenses the grace of God, so that she might take any amount out of us to be used for the Kingdom. It's something I've always wanted to do, but never gotten around to officially.

So, after reading "A Severe Mercy," it became even clearer that this is something which God wants of us all. So I decided "Yes, let's do this."

Then, my spirit was willing but my flesh was weak:


In short, the moment that one WANTS to make some major step in the spiritual life, the landscape starts to look less like this:

And more like this:

It's kind of daunting and it becomes easy to just say "forget about it." For those of us who both don't like forgetting about it and are assailed by impatience, it not only becomes daunting, but also completely, desperately impossible. The minute you determine to do something good for your soul, some demon comes in and says "heh, nah, not worth it," or "umm, no you can't."

And sometimes I listen.

But there's another better way. Is easier always better? In short, no. Look at these pictures:

View from top of Mountain
View from top of Plain
Road to Mountain
Road to Plain
My apologies to all those who live on the Great Plains or similar climates, but the mountains are so much more exciting. More hard work, to be sure, greater risk of falls and you might have to try over and over again, but in the end it's worth it.

But I can't do it alone. In fact, I can't really do it at all. God must perform his perfect sacrifice in the person of Christ and all I can do is say "Here, take this too, if you will."

And...he will.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Home

A question that has occurred to me is: Can we find a home here on earth? What I mean by that is some place where you belong and where God has granted you particular rest and consolation. I am particularly prone to restlessness. I don't like staying in one place for very long, but it's mostly because I want to find Home. I want to be there and stay there and be at peace. St. Augustine would say, and I would tend to agree with him, that my heart is restless until it rests in God. But can we rest in God to any degree here on earth?

This may be heresy, but I think you can. Especially for those of us who are called to the married life, God will give some place, some situation a special gift of his presence so as to help create a grace-filled, peaceful, restful space for a family to develop. This peace, this rest is not foreign to the human experience. I have been on a silent retreat and I have felt the rest and peace that it brought. I have been in the presence of a loving human being whom I can love in return and felt the joy and serenity which I desire.



All of these things which hint, I know, at my heavenly home, also point to my home here on earth: my vocation, where I am to live, what I am to hold as important, what I am going to support and promote, with whom I will spend my life.

And this earthly environment, this HOME can only be the resting place for the longer journey, the inn on the way to the city. But God will give us an inn which will recall the heavenly city even more, and though we find peace and rest and joy there, our longing will still be there and be intensified.

At least I hope it will. I pray it will.
I want to go to there.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Does truth offend?

Oftentimes, we humans hear something that someone says and react with offence. Sometimes it is a politician who says that rape victims can not conceive. Sometimes it is a priest who says that the doctrines of the church must be updated to address the needs of the world. Sometimes it is a magazine who says it eschews labels. Sometimes it is a theologian who says that we are all sinners.

Some of these things may actually be offensive, and thus our offence is proper, but let us look further as to how we respond to this offense. When the politician remarks on rape, do we immediately discredit everything he stands for? Does he become the cone of shame around the platform of his party? When a priest dismisses doctrine, do we immediately flee from the sacraments he performs? Do we seek out other priests, ones we KNOW will give us Christ fully? Do we spread rumors about the priest in order to diminish his reputation and move people to our side?

We do all these things and more. It is natural to over-react to offence, to extend our offence at words to offence at a person. We let the person become the enemy. We make what they do define who they are in full. Not that what someone does is not directly related to who they are, but it is certainly not the whole picture. If we allow one thing that a person does define the rest of their activity and their existence, we would not get very far in interacting with anyone.

As we all know (and St. Augustine reaffirms in the opening chapters of "City of God"), we are all sinners and to some degree all deserve punishment for our offence against God and against our neighbour. We ought to correct each other in charity and strive to correct ourselves first of all, but we must not let our sins or the sins of others get in the way of our love for them.

And we must especially be prepared to listen to the truth they have to tell us, even if one aspect makes us uncomfortable or is in itself untrue. For example, St. Augustine is pretty hard on marriage, calling those who are married "weaker," which for those who are married can attest, it's not weak work. Plus, so many of those called to the "higher" vocation turn out to be much weaker and fall much harder than those who are married. The wording of St. Augustine might (and does) offend many people, yours truly included. However, the correct response is not to reject everything St. Augustine says as being the blatherings of an old cynical repressed man from the 4th century. We should try to understand what he says and why he says it. Then we should distinguish those teachings that are true from those opinions he holds that are offensive. Is it truly offensive, or are we just being sensitive? If the latter, we need to re-examine ourselves before we reject a Saint of the Church. Otherwise we risk alienating ourselves from the sound teaching of the Church and through it the Love of God.

We all do this, separate ourselves from truth because of the bearer of the truth. We must remember that the truth does not depend on who tells is. The truth is eternal and fixed. Christ is the Truth and he speaks through even the roughest most uncouth instruments. It is up to us to let our eyes see the Truth and let it transform our perception of the messenger so that we might see him or her as God does.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Purity

Purity is a funny thing. You can be impure in action and in thought, but it seems to me that one of the greatest temptations to impurity is to talk about purity. (Irony is not, of course, lost.) We talk about purity a lot and there are different approaches. One is what I call the Shock Approach. It goes like this:

Impurity is bad because PORNOGRAPHY. (In which I mean that some sort of sexual encounter is somewhat described, either in a positive light, as in a pure sexual encounter, or in a negative light...or else pornography is talked about in abstract terms.)

Then there is the Sentimental Approach which can be summed up as:

Purity is good because LAMBS AND KITTENS. (In which I mean that purity is seen as a glowing light filled action which can not but inspire those who encounter it with joy and Innocence.)

Thirdly there is the Intellectual Approach which generally proceeds thus:

It would seem that Purity is good because our approach to people ought to be grounded in HUMAN DIGNITY.

I always thought these approaches to purity were a little unhelpful, silly, or unhelpful. (Not a typo) For one thing, the Shock approach does not promote innocence or purity because it just talks about sex, which inherently won't make you impure but it certainly is not going to make being pure easier. Plus, pushing something like purity with shock just seems against the nature of purity (Intellectual Approach alert), which is unassuming and humble.

Being Sentimental is one my pet peeves, but I will not go ahead and blanketly condemn it. That would be silly. However, to reduce purity or any sort of virtuous endeavour to something which is meant to appeal to children, or appeal just to the emotional part of the self, the virtue may not last any longer than the emotion or your childhood. Which would be a shame.

Talking in the abstract, however, as the Intellectual Approach leads us to, is no more helpful. We can talk about how we are all made in the image of God and that means that we have human dignity (whatever that may mean), but without a firm relationship with Jesus Christ Himself, our understanding of God's Image and Human dignity will be rather stunted. 

In the end, the development of any Christian virtue, such as purity, can only come through a relationship with the Trinity. We can talk purity and push purity, talk modesty, gender roles, promote innocence, fight cynicism, but in the end we will do well only if we promote a culture of faith and spiritual renewal.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

History

I have been known to belittle history, specifically the study of history, which is rather ironic since my areas of study are architecture and medieval studies, both intensely historical. I think my problem with the study of history is its complete unreliability. "History is written by the victorious," or however the saying goes. Historical documents, accounts, and artifacts tell at best half the story--the story the victors want to you to know. Or else, the propaganda is of the kind which is designed to give the culture/country/civilization credibility in the greater culture of the time.

Also, our understanding of history comes, if not from these primary historical source, from historical textbooks and analysis from "experts." These experts, as all good humans do, have prejudices through which they read the primary sources. Are these any more reliable?

Yet, I am studying historically-oriented disciplines. Why? It all comes down to trust, I suppose. We have a need to trust and be trusted. Human civilization is just a microcosm of our own individual struggle in this human life. We try to project a strong front when a strong front will help us, even if we feel like our lives are falling apart. Only if we truly lose control do we let on about what's been going on for years. The British saw their Empire fading, and yet they held on tenaciously to some semblance of strength. Even when they were being bombed to smithereens by the Germans. It's doubtful that they would have been able to win the war without the Americans, the New Empire on the rise, but up to that point, the British attempted to express themselves as the same strong Empire they were in the 19th C.

We put up a front like this and want to hide our failings, especially from those who love us the most--we don't want to lose this great gift of love. We want a continual trust from others. But we really must be willing to trust those we claim to love and who love us. Love us vulnerability, and it means pain when the lovers are failures at love, which we all are. Our past can be whitewashed to save face and just become another piece of history, or we can throw in our failings with our successes and see where it goes. We need to trust those we love and who love us.

Because God loves us and we can trust Him above all. If we can not trust the people in our life to love us, we will find it hard to trust God. Trust is a hard thing to do, but it's an even harder thing to gain, especially after trust has been broken. God doesn't need to trust us, however. He offers Himself to us regardless of whether we deserve it. He gave His Son to us to do what we wanted with Him. We broke trust by killing him, but God turned it around and forgave even those who spat on him and jeered him.

Can we not do this for those we love, for much smaller things than killing the Son of God? It is the easy path to hold against and not to trust. To trust is work. It's hard.

Darn.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Desire and Passion

We all want control. 

In some sense, all of us, no matter how introverted or phlegmatic, want control. We want the world to run the way we think it should. We want people to behave. We want Wrong to submit to Right. We want Peace not Strife (or do we?)

All this seems to dominate our interactions with each other. We grow angry over injustice, then we have to speak up for true justice and if others don't agree? We run them them over with our just anger. It's a world of competition where each competing "justice" just tries to out-yell the other. We are, one might say, a passionate people. Passion comes from the word "to suffer," but I have the distinct feeling that all our passion is causing much more suffering in others than it is in ourselves. In fact, I think we're rather a masochistic society; we rather enjoy suffering. 

We enjoy working long hours on projects about which we are passionate. We enjoy working out to the point of exhaustion. We enjoy the rough and maybe painful love-making so often promoted in our culture. 

But it's all about control, in the end. We want to control not only the outcome of a project, or our bodies, or someone else's body, but also how much pain we feel and when. We will not submit to advice, to reason, to someone else's needs, or to anything outside our own minds boiling over in passion. 

We all want this control. In reality, however, what we desire is desire. 

Desire is the strong urge to be lost in something. It depends on the value of that thing, or person desired, not the control over it we have. Yes, we want to have the thing desired (a sunset, a beautiful Gothic building) but what we truly desire to have is only attainable in giving yourself over for the sake of the thing. When I stepped into St. Thomas on Fifth Avenue in New York, I did not feel the passion of wanting to possess the beauty in order to control it...in order to use it in my own designs. I just wanted to sit in the church contemplating the beauty. I almost didn't want to take pictures, knowing full well that to possess an image of something will always be as ashes before the experience of the thing itself. 

This desire, the desire to be with the thing (or person) desired, but not to control, is exactly how our relationship with God should be. We should not limit him in our passion for a cause, nor should we try to control his action in the world. We are meant to be his instruments, not he ours. We should not take our human causes and put God's stamp of approval on them where he did not put it. 

But even less should we try to separate what is God's will with what is true, good and beautiful. To do that is to say, "Here, God, you can go in this box. I'll keep an eye on this box." If we do this we miss the point. We are once more trying to control when we should be submitting. 

And the irony? In passion, we are not even in control, though we really really want to be. And in desire, we submit so that we are free. We are "slaves to passion" but if we truly desire the good, we are free to do what we want. Let us forget control, then. If we desire the good and let it guide us, our projects, our causes will become easier, simpler. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

A little question of Apses

The Apse in Question
My sister, blogging at Niggle's Sketchbook, recently posted about a certain apse painting which was painted by a graffiti artist. She thinks it's beautiful and elevating and I don't particularly.

The fact that it has the ability to lift the mind to God (whether it's mine or my sister's) means that there is some merit to it. Because I don't see it as clearly as she does, that means I have to blog about it.

Thinking further about the apse in question, I realized that it's what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI might call a "first step in a movement toward a different way" of considering "urban" art. It's by no means perfect and by no means the best which can be done in graffiti. Nevertheless, it is moving in the right direction and when I first saw it I thought, "How cool that people are getting back to the traditions of symbolic painting.

Speaking of which, icons and apse mosaics/paintings are probably my favorite form of religious art, so I have pretty strong feelings about it. I've also done a lot of thinking on the subject. Even in early Christian iconography there were poorly done icons and brilliantly done icons.


This is somewhat crude.


Compared with this.

Or this.
And this is modern AND traditional.


The poorly done ones were not bad in the sense that they broke down the faith of the believer. In fact, they could be used very well by the early Christians to pray with reverence to God.

I don't think this quite captures...something...
The fact is, I don't like the style of the apse painting. It's crude and cartoony and seems to exaggerate aspects of the painting for no reason. Then again, I've never seen it in person, so who am I to judge? I do think, though, that this doesn't show the full potential of the art form and that the style was chosen because of the penchant of modern liturgical artists to be somewhat abstract and cartoony.

All in all, I believe this to be a wonderful first step in a movement toward a renewed sense of the sacred by elevating a "low" art form for the glory of God. I just hope that future graffiti artists will go beyond what is expected by the current trends of liturgical art.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Out of my Depth


Psalm 130 happens to be one of my favorite psalms. I remembered this when musing about being "out of my depth", what I believe to be a swimming term for being in water too deep for you. Perhaps it is ironic that I am a terrible swimmer and therefore out of my depth in this original sense of the phrase. (It could very well be that I made that up and that it's something different. I don't know.)

Anyway, there are many things in which we are out of our depth. Perhaps a parent feels he is not raising his kid properly. Perhaps a singer feels that she is losing her voice. Perhaps a teenager finds himself socially inept next to the slourishing social lives of his friends. In all these situations, these folks are "out of their depth". I've been out of my depth in certain situations and probably always will be in some sense.

But that's exactly the place from where God expects us to him. "Out of the depths have I cried to thee oh Lord!" It is precisely when we're not good enough and when we fail that we must look to Him to solve it, look to Him to be good enough, look to Him to pull us out. We might be clambering out of our proverbial caves (cf. Plato), but we can't do it as long as we're holding onto the rope of our own strength. We need to be able to trust that God will fulfill His promise. We need to be able to wait "as the sentinel waits for the dawn." Patience and Trust. Faith and Hope. And probably Love.


Love waits. We always hear that phrase about chastity, but it's true in all sorts of other circumstances. A mother waits for her son to truly apologize for not taking out the trash. That's love. If she ordered him to apologize, it is not his apology, but her apology spoken by him. It is not a true apology. Love always seeks the truth. Two lovers who wait to be married before having sex are not merely giving it up because it's good to suffer (*diabolical laughter*) but because having sex is a communication of an idea: I am yours! (pax, Jason Mraz) I would not be yours if I could just take myself away from you for whatever reason. That's why marriage, a promise to ACTUALLY belong to someone else, is the only context in which sex makes sense.


And this is also our relationship with God. We may or may not promise to belong to him, but whether we like it or not, we do belong to and with him. (pax, Taylor Swift) He knows that and continually makes covenants with the people of this world, vowing to love them and "be their God" while they are his people.


Love waits. If we truly belong to someone (A mother belongs to her kids, in a sense, or a husband to his wife) then we will be patient with them no matter what the timing is, no matter the cost.


Although Advent is the traditional season of "waiting" and "anticipation," Lent has it's own flavor to bring. The people of the world had been waiting for the messiah for centuries to save His people. Lent is the time when we realize that the ideas we had for the world aren't necessarily the best of ideas or the most helpful to our salvation. Lent is the time of failed dreams and apathy. We must deal with the first and overcome the second (the second being the first step in overcoming the first.) We must realize that we may fall and fall often, but that as often as we are "out of our depth" in the life of holiness, God is there to pull us out and we would do well to cry out to him and cry out often.



Monday, January 21, 2013

Ramblings on a Snowy Day

It is beautiful outside. I know this because there is a freeness in my soul that I feel when I step outside into the snow and sun. There is probably more beauty in one flake of snow than in a thousand beautiful buildings (I should know, being a potential architect). Then again, we wouldn't be able to see the beauty of said snowflake without the light from the sun (or a lamp, I suppose, but really, who would replace the light of the sun with the light of a lamp?) The sun illuminated the snow as it illuminates everything in the world. The funny thing is, the sun is also the downfall of the snow (not as in it makes the snow fall down, but as in it causes the snow to melt.) The thing which makes the snow the most beautiful--shows its whiteness most brilliantly, its crystaline structure most clearly--is the thing that in the end destroys it. If the snowflake were to speak to the sun, I could imagine the conversation to follow in this way:

Snowflake: Oh, Sun! You are amazing and you make the whole world shine with your light and in fact you make it clear that I myself am beautiful!

Sun: That is right, your beauty is great, but don't get too attached to it. Narcissism never did any snowflake any good.

Snowflake: Don't be such a downer! I'm not Narcissistic! I am a piece of frozen water that developed around a speck of dust in a crystaline formation that was caused by the Water Cycle!

Sun: You are a very smart Snowflake, but remember the water cycle is your cause, but I am part of the water cycle as well. You would de well to remember that the beauty that I give you is only possible as the expense of you one day continuing in the water cycle.

Snowflake: What do you mean? Do you mean I won't be a beautiful snowflake forever? I will lose the bloom of my youth and go through all sorts of Trials and then m...elt?

Sun: Yes.

Snowflake: No, I shan't. I shall remain frozen and you will illuminate my beauty.

And with that the snowflake melts. Too bad, right? Well, it turned out that the snowflake tried so hard to stay frozen that his effort is what melted him. He didn't want to think about his proper place in the water cycle even though it was inevitable. Not only was it inevitable, but although he lost the beauty of being a snowflake, he gained the beauty of being among those who mark the passage of time. His obstinancy closed him to that reality.

I THINK this was supposed to a metaphor.