"Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,
Which in the very thought renews the fear.
So bitter is it, death is little more" - Dante Alighieri (Canto 1, Divine Comedy: Inferno)
I've been doing very badly in my spiritual life recently, for many personal reasons that I won't bore you with here. But the other day I was talking to someone about why they were a Christian. One woman said she had never been afraid of Hell and never became a Christian because she wanted to go to Heaven, but primarily was a Christian because it felt true and made sense of her life. I realized that I am not that kind of person. I am the man of imperfect contrition. I'm the one in the crowd that Christ warns 'unless you surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees' and then cling to him because of my weakness. I'm the one in the church who Jonathan Edwards would've looked at when he warned that I was on the precipice of Hell hanging by a thread, and so to flee to Christ. That's me.
I find when life goes well, my religion fizzles out. In boldness occassionally I pray: Lord take away my comfort. In this life perhaps for us weaker brethren, comfort and obedience are mutually exclusive.
Today -ex nihil- out of nothing, I woke up and realized I had no obligations today, I started laughing and evil sounding laugh and was thinking about all the laziness and indulgence I could get away with. Then I looked up and saw the plate of Papa JPII that I have on my wall, the shrine to St. Francis of Assisi, and the Crucifix, and realized what I'd done. I immediately felt to guilty to go to God (which I know is theologically an error). So I began praying my rosary. Actually I began singing/chanting my rosary in Latin.
I was once told that in Catholic theology, when you leave a state of grace, it is as if you are at home and Christ has walked out the door and is waiting there. If that is the Christology of grave sin, then my Mariology of grave sin is that it is at this point where Mary kicks down the door and asks you to invite Christ back in, and the sad look in her eyes just gets you, and you have no choice. (if a Presbyterian reads this, this will be where he rends his garments and exclaims that I have made the ultimate Moses out of Christ, and added a goddess to replace him)
In any case, this was what I felt like today. I finished my rosary, confident that someone was praying for me. But then I was overwhelmed by the love of Jesus, and how everyone that loves, is really only expressing his great love, the love he and the Father share. That Our Lady is merely a reflection of what God would pour into all of us if we would let him. I thought of living in a lawless plain, and in the storms coming to a giant stone crucifix and gathering about the foot of the cross, sheltering myself and gathering a fire. That's my life out of grace, I can still cling to the cross, and the angels and saints wander about this plain in disguise.
I then opened my mother's bible to read a beautiful passage of messianic prophecy from that ancient divine, Isaiah:
"Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken. The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly." - Isaiah 32:1-4
I love that passage, all scripture speaks of him!
It would seem that in summation, all of this could be summed up as : umbris ad lux - from the shadows to the light (of Christ)
It is from the darkness of life, from the trials, from the recognition of my sin, that I turn to God. May I never forsake him.
(epilogue: So then I felt quite good, and picked two flowers from our garden and put them infront of my statue of Francis, and an image of Mary, and thought 'oh man, all the pagan warnings are going off in my head right now, this must mean I'm actually acting like a normal Catholic')