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, 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.


Robert Gotcher said...

When a child is born into this world,
The creator and the earth unite
Showing forth a glimmer of the Divine.

But, the earth is muddy, rocky and grey.
Will the glimmer be buried too deeply to shine?

Love begets love and light begets light.
Grey gives way
Hope is revealed and
This world rocks!


Robert Gotcher said...

Note: mom actually left the poem, but she was signed in with my name.