Heart of the World

Don’t you see how the sunrise bursts?
Don’t you see how it lights the sky?
He is showing you His burning heart,
Which beats for you day after day.

And this sunrise you see,
It would be no less radiant if you alone saw its glory.
He is showing you His throbbing heart,
Which loves you so much it kills Him.

The only response to this resplendence,
The only answer you can give,
Is your own heart, so feeble, so broken,
Which loves Him so little in return.

That is all He ever wanted,
All He has asked of you.
He can take your beaten, humble heart,
And make it radiant like the rising sun.

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How Could Any Love Be Greater?

It is love ‘to the end’ that confers on Christ’s sacrifice its value as redemption and reparation, as atonement and satisfaction. He knew and loved us all when he offered his life. Now ‘the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.’ No man, not even the holiest, was ever able to take on himself the sins of all men and offer himself as a sacrifice for all. The existence in Christ of the divine person of the Son, who at once surpasses and embraces all human persons, and constitutes himself as the Head of all mankind, makes possible his redemptive sacrifice for all. (CCC 616)

Yes, “there is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for his friends.” It’s a verse with which I am very familiar and have been forever, but it never really hit a chord for me. It could be because when it came down to it, I don’t know if I would lay down my life for my friends, and I’m not sure I would be willing to undergo the brutal, inhumane torture of his scourging and crucifixion, even for those whom I love dearly. This is because I am lacking and God is not. My love is deficient and His is eternal, pure, and perfect. But still, I was never able to understand why this was the way God chose to redeem us when it seemed so…wasteful.

That changed when I watched the Passion today and went to Good Friday service. It became more about acceptance than self-infliction. God didn’t do this to Himself to prove to us that He loved us. He accepted our hate and transformed it into something beautiful by being obedient, by loving us, even to the end. He knew me intimately at that moment of Judas’ betrayal. He knew me, knew my hardened heart and insufficiency and looked into my soul, ready to make it new. And suddenly, the cross became something that could save me. This path would be the one that could set me free. And because of that, because He could pour out everything for the sake of my heart, He did. That is Love. He didn’t do just enough to help me get to heaven, He gave me everything, His heart, His body, His life. He gave it all, and He gave it willingly.

Because His cross was the path to my heart, He embraced it, kissed it, and felt joy upon seeing it. The point is not that he just accepted death, He didn’t just choose to die in my place, to take the punishment for my sins. Rather, He loved it, He willed it, He embraced it, solely because His death meant my chance at life. There is no greater love than this:

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I Still Remember

I have forgotten the things you told me. I remember the conversation, the connection, the confiding, but I’ve forgotten the words. And while I would give anything to hear your voice again, to listen to all of the words you have to say to me, somehow, they don’t seem to matter. What matters is that I don’t ever remember a time when we didn’t talk, and the deep, profound, unbreakable connection we had is one that I will never find with another soul. You were it for me. You were my love.

I have forgotten all of our arguments. I remember that there was only one thing we ever fought about, and how after you left I removed it from my life. It just took you leaving for me to finally realize how right you always were; how intimately you understood my heart and my needs, when I couldn’t even see two inches in front of my face.

I have forgotten all of my past sadness. I remember that you were always there. You were always there. You were always there. I remember how warm, how comforting, and how at home I felt in your embrace while I cried into your shoulder and you held me, you played with my hair, and you knew exactly what to say when I felt like my small griefs were beyond repair.

I have forgotten the summer night chill. I still remember the taste of your special hot cocoa  after we had finished hours and hours of movie marathons, sitting out on our front porch watching the stars. We’d talk about God and astronomy and I would not trade anything in the world for those memories.

I have forgotten what car you drove. I remember we would go everywhere in it together. I was your adventure buddy and you were my best friend and we were inseparable. I remember Starbucks runs and daily Mass and matinee movies and impulse Barnes & Noble trips.

I have forgotten what we ate. I remember that you’d pick me up and take me to the lake at lunch and we’d walk and eat and laugh and I felt like the luckiest person in the world because you were mine. And I don’t think I ever told you.

I have forgotten how tired I was those last few months, staying up with you in the hospital as the nurses would poke you with needles and check your vitals every 4 hours. I remember that I got to do what I had always wanted to do for you: take care of you, the way you always took care of me. I got to nurture you and love you and cook for you and help you every morning into your chair. I got to help you publish your book and see you cry as we put the hard copy in your weak, bone-thin hands.

I have forgotten the last thing I said to you. I still remember our last hug. I still remember hugging my best friend for the very last time. And sometimes, the only thing that gets me through it all is the hope that I will get that chance again.

I still can’t watch our old go-to movies. I still can’t look at your picture without feeling  a stabbing hurt. I still can’t go more than two or three days without crying myself to sleep. I still miss you more than words could ever even come close to describing. I still can’t think of my future without you there. I still have so much that I want to tell you.

But mostly, I wanted to say that I still love you. And I still remember.

And you’re still my mom.

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Let’s Talk About Twilight

I know. Twilight, Justin Bieber…I promise that I’m a grown adult and not a lovesick teen. But I truly believe that our creative faculties as humans come from God, and are therefore good to some degree. That means that all truly good art and music and movies reflect God on some level, and knowing Him more completely opens the door to seeing Him everywhere. Even in Twilight.

There are two specific reasons why Twilight has appealed to the masses. While it is exciting and, in my opinion, Meyer knows how to tell a story, the theory behind the love reflects two very distinct points about the relationship we crave with God:

1 – To Become Like Our Lover

Bella is obsessed with becoming like Edward. It is almost tiresome how badly she wants to be turned into a vampire and be his forever. She turns away from her friends, her family, and everything she has ever known because she is in constant pursuit of this one wish. While this obsessive, single-focused love seems unhealthy for us mortals, it is precisely what we are called to have with God. How different would my life be if I was this obsessed with becoming God’s? After all, our goal as Christians should be to become as Christ-like as possible so that we may spend eternity with him, by his side.

2 – To Be Fiercely Pursued

By Edward

I know that it has always been my deepest desire to be pursued. And no matter what criticism Twilight takes, no one can deny that Edward pursues Bella beyond reason, beyond all common sense, even to the point of being creepy. Isn’t that exactly what Christ does for us? There is absolutely no reason why He should pursue us. We are fragile, tiny, specs. We are humans. We are gone in a blink of an eye. He is something immortal, unbreakable, divine, and yet He chooses us. He waits for us. He has waited centuries for us.

He has died every day waiting for you. He has loved you for a thousand years. And will love you for a thousand more.

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By Jacob

Okay. So a lot of people were frankly disturbed by this whole “imprinting” situation where a werewolf is able to imprint on a lucky girl, and it’s like, as Jacob puts it, “All of a sudden, it’s not gravity that is holding you to the planet, it’s her. You would do anything, be anything for her.” Pretty intense, right? What drew me in about this situation wasn’t the involuntary adoration and commitment by the wolf, but the response it elicits in the woman. Jacob talks about how unlikely it is that a person would ever reject that level of admiration, commitment, care, affection, and honest, genuine love that is exactly what you need, when you need it. And we agree with him.

So if Christ offers me this powerful, other-worldly, unending, and absolute love, who am I to reject it? He offers me, in one relationship, everything I could ever need from another person.

All I have to do is be open to receiving it.

Christ Crucified

Preparing for Lent

I hate Lent. I always have. To me, it’s always been a time when I meant to do so much more than I ever achieved and Easter came leaving me feeling like I didn’t deserve it. I hadn’t prepared my soul and I did the fasting and the praying and the mourning with a grumbling heart. For me, Lent was always a time for self-denial, and I couldn’t see past the sacrifice. However, the more I try to understand love, the more I’m realizing that Lent could be so so so much more than I’m giving it credit for.

It could be resplendent.

The key is engaging my heart, understanding the love behind the sacrifice, and I believe the key to that is taking the time to prepare for Lent before Ash Wednesday so that I can be ready to accept the hard stuff with grace. This is the first year I’ve tried this, and also the first year I’ve tried something besides giving up a favorite treat or my snooze button or praying a decade of the rosary every day. (While these are all good things, they didn’t get me anywhere closer to Christ, which I believe to be the point of Lent).

This year I’ve invested in two books, both which offer daily meditations specifically for Lent, focusing on two different aspects of God and our faith. Shoutout to The Littlest Way for the recommendations! I also learned that the St. Louis de Monfort preparation for Marian Consecration starts on February 21st, and after some prayer I’ve made the decision to do that as well.

Anyway, I figured that now would be a good time to start preparing for Lent, as it’s only a week and a half away. I read the introductions to both books and the preparation (I’ve chosen to do Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory instead of the traditional preparation), and I have to say that for the first time in my life, I’m excited for Lent.

From Rediscover Lent by Mathew Kelly:

My favorite passage from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) appears as the first line of the first chapter, and it reads, “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (CCC #1).

God never ceases to draw man to himself. So. Beautiful.

From Reflections on the Passion by Charles Hugo Doyle:

LOVE moves and governs all things. Tell me what you love, and I shall tell you what you are. If your love is for the world, you are its slave. If your love is for Jesus Christ, you are free…

Jesus Christ alone is worthy of your whole heart. But you cannot love Him if you do not know Him…We must know the details of His sufferings, if we would know the excess of His love.

Jesus Christ ALONE is worthy of your whole heart. Often I get frustrated about not feeling love, not being at peace or passionate about Christ. I feel lukewarm. But how am I supposed to love Him if I do not know Him? Really, truly love Him?

From 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC:

So, it’s Mary’s great God-given task, in union with and by the power of the Holy Spirit, to form every human being into “another Christ,”…Therefore, every human being is invited to rest in the womb of Mary and be transformed there, by the power of the Holy Spirit, more perfectly into Christ’s image.

In other words, as Ven. Fulton Sheen so powerfully puts it:

Can you not see that if Christ Himself willed to be physically formed in [Mary] for nine months and then be spiritually formed by her for 30 years, it is to her that we must go to learn how to have Christ formed in us?

Only she who raised Christ can raise a Christian.

Only she who raised Christ can raise a Christian.

BOOM. MARY. JESUS. LENT.

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On The Weight Of Glory – Part 2

Last time I left off, C.S. Lewis was saying that mankind, in general, was far too easily pleased, with misplaced and essentially weak desires. You can read the first part here. I’ve omitted a small excerpt talking about proper rewards. If you want to read the entire chapter, you can do so here.

Now, if we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object…

…If a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy.

In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you – the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both.

We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name.

 

This week has been a struggle. I haven’t felt like writing, or praying, or doing anything really, and as a result I just keep getting more exhausted, making more excuses, and being more sad. I’m remembering all of the nights like these when my mom would make me hot cocoa and we’d stay up late and talk. I’m thinking about how much she loved this song and this scent and this movie. I’m frustrated when my work suffers because I can’t concentrate.

C.S. Lewis is always my fall-back, and with excerpts like this, it’s no wonder why. It is my desire for good which makes me want my mom back. But I always fail to remember that the good is in the future, not the past. This desire for good has manifested in my mind as my desire for my mother because I believe that she was one of the closest things in my experience to Heaven. And my tiny human brain just assumes that those memories were the real thing when they were only a sample, a symbol – fallacious to a degree.

My real desire for happiness, for joy, for peace, for my mother, is in the glory of eternal life. And as long as I am fixated on the past, on my own grief or self-pity, I will never get there. I must remember that this is but a journey, a sea voyage, and if I fall in love with the boat I’ll never reach land.

This, too, shall pass.

Note: Everyone has experienced loss, frustration, disappointment, and grief, and I am no different. My life is no longer about me losing, it isn’t about “poor Mariah,” this is about me recovering from years of forgetting how to love. Only then can I heal.

Severus Snape: A Tribute

The death of Alan Rickman saddened me more than I would’ve ever expected from a person I have never met. I was, in fact, a little embarrassed that the news made me cry, but after I figured out why I was feeling that way, it seemed completely natural.

First, I recently lost my mother to cancer, and now the word makes me feel so much both for the people who must suffer through it and for the family who must watch. It is a vile disease that steals a person’s body away, but it is also a disease that brings about more love, understanding and true character than any other I have witnessed.

Second, Alan Rickman did his job remarkably well. So much so, that every time I saw him on screen I fell in love: I personally identified with Alexander Dane, I was captivated by Elliot Marston, I wanted to be wooed by Colonel Christoper Brandon, and, of course, I was madly in love with Professor Severus Snape.

Now I want to start this with three disclaimers, just to get them out of the way.

  1. I am a recent Harry Potter fan. While I have seen all of the movies, I have yet to finish reading the series. I understand that they are much better and say so much more about this character than I am aware yet, and I can only say that I am looking forward to discovering him more.
  2. I am a recent Harry Potter fan. I was not allowed to watch or read the series as a child. I support this decision of my parents’ 100% and will probably not allow my children to read the series or watch the movies until they are older. If you want to talk to me about why, feel free to leave a comment.
  3. I am an enormous Snape fan. I have been thinking about writing down my thoughts for a while now, but they still feel disjointed and not enough. So forgive the length of this post.

 

Severus Snape

Long ago I had a teacher. A sallow-skinned Slytherin with long black hair. I hated him and he seemed to hate me, too. And though I branded him a coward he was, in fact, the bravest man I ever knew.

Always picked on, always misunderstood, always hated. But he was clever and oh, so very brilliant and, despite the lack of love given to him his entire life, he had the largest heart that I have ever seen in any character. He loved so fervently, so irrevocably, that not even after she married his tormentor, not even after she died,  did he cease to love her.

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And when I say love, I mean love. There are countless characters who “love” so “deeply” that they become cynical, cruel, and revenge-thirsty after their love has been taken from them, whether by another person or by death. Instead, Snape’s love changed him in a completely different way. It saved him from the clutches of death, it brought him to the light, and it allowed him to care for a child that was not his. Snape’s love made his large heart brave and loyal. Snape’s love made him good.

And that’s the only thing that love should ever make us.

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Lilly Potter

She had a way of seeing the beauty in others, even, and perhaps most especially, when that person couldn’t see it in themselves.

I am often so taken by Snape’s profound love for Lilly that I forget that Lilly was a beautiful, loving, and exceptionally kind person. One that is so so so rare in this world. Seeing the good, seeing the beauty in every person, even when they can’t understand it themselves, is what real love is about. And I do not believe that Snape would’ve been the character he turned out to be had Lilly been less of who she was.

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Snape and Lilly understood love. And they both allowed that love to transform them.

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Cover photo cred: Nathaniel Emmett