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Posts Tagged ‘Divine Mercy’

For part one, click here Christ's Wounds“Caravaggio – The Incredulity of Saint Thomas” by Original uploader was Dante Alighieri at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Tm using CommonsHelper.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Caravaggio_-_The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas.jpg#/media/File:Caravaggio_-_The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas.jpg

We spoke in part one of how Jesus Christ, through His death and Resurrection, takes up the wounded “geography” of our fallen world and makes even the scars of our existence capable of leading us to the Divine.  It is indeed a new Flood, more momentous than the one braved by Noah, crashing upon the world with new life, immeasurable power, and life-giving mercy:

Send forth your spirit (…) and you renew the face of the earth. – Ps. 104:30

Beowulf But before we get into that, it might be helpful to flesh out the “old geography” a bit more with a concrete example.  One particularly fascinating manifestation of the old geography is the worldview of the pagan Anglo-Saxons, which J.R.R. Tolkien touched on in an essay on “Beowulf”:

(…) [H]e who wrote (…) ‘heroes under heaven’, or ‘mighty men upon earth’, (…) [was] thinking of eormengrund, the great earth, ringed with garsecg, the shoreless sea, beneath the sky’s inaccessible roof; whereon, as in a little circle of light about their halls, men with courage as their stay went forward to that battle with the hostile world and the offspring of the dark which ends for all, even the kings and champions, in defeat. – “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics”

This is just one example, but you get the idea.  Some variation of this ambiguous outlook on life has been present throughout all ages, and survives in more “modern” forms today. Until Christ returns to restore all things, there continues to be hardship, turmoil, suffering, darkness, and even death in the world.  But the whole of creation has in a sense been “baptized” by Christ’s saving work, so that the darkness of a world “ringed with the shoreless sea” and haunted by “the offspring of the dark” — in short, the mystery of evil (both moral and physical) — becomes taken up into and transformed by the mystery of the Cross. Christ Crucified by Velazquez“Cristo crucificado” by Diego Velázquez – [1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cristo_crucificado.jpg#/media/File:Cristo_crucificado.jpg

The Cross is very important to the understanding of Christianity — not because it is a gloomy or sadomasochistic religion…far from it; rather, because neither does it lean towards the opposite extreme of “Pollyanna-ism.”  The Christian teaching on heaven, redemption, and the victory of good over evil no more minimizes or negates the very real sufferings of the world than the Resurrection of Christ negates the horror of the suffering inflicted on Him.  But Our Lord has joined Himself to our suffering, and has thus given it a whole new meaning. He has done this as a sign of His infinite love for us, and in invitation to fellowship with Him.  This is how He will ultimately heal us, rather than by orchestrating our deliverance at a safe distance. Pieta

“Michelangelo’s Pieta 5450 cut out black” by Stanislav Traykov, Niabot (cut out) – Image:Michelangelo’s Pieta 5450.jpg. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Michelangelo%27s_Pieta_5450_cut_out_black.jpg#/media/File:Michelangelo%27s_Pieta_5450_cut_out_black.jpg

What we have now is what I would call Pietá spirituality.  Instead of seeing darkness, we can look at the world and see the scourged body of Christ in the arms of His mother, blood and water pouring out of His sacred side as a “fountain of mercy for the whole world” (to quote a Divine Mercy prayer).  As one person, I cannot solve all the evils of the world.  But if in my immediate situation I can minister to my Lord even a little bit, tending to those of His Wounds that I can see in my fellow human beings (or elsewhere), then perhaps I am not doing too badly. One more post — stay tuned.

Images from Wikipedia

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Erik_Erikson“Erik Erikson” by ?Original uploader was Waveformula at en.wikipedia – http://www.wpclipart.com/famous/psychology/Erik_Erikson_2.png.htmlTransferred from en.wikipediaImage comes from WP Clipart[1] which ONLY features public domain images and provides extensive source information on their “Legal” page: [2]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Erik_Erikson.png#/media/File:Erik_Erikson.png

The great twentieth-century psychologist Erik Erikson once fittingly described the mother as a young child’s “first geography”:

[The child] may indulge in experimental excursions on her body and on the protrusions and orifices of her face (…) and the basic maps acquired in such interplay with the mother no doubt remain guides for the ego’s first orientation in the “world.”

(Erikson, p. 220)

So the early experience of the mother in a certain sense informs our view of the world — both as far as “mother earth” is concerned and in relation to our wider worldview — subsequently.  But it is not just a question of physical features.  We human beings are profoundly interpersonal creatures; and as infants, when we are totally dependent on our providers for our every need and extremely sensitive to our environmental influences, we absorb the emotional states of those closest to us.  This, like much of the infant’s experience at this basic formative stage, can have a far-reaching and long-lasting impact.

Now let’s imagine, from a Biblical perspective, the experience of the first human babies, whose whole existence early on subsisted in a loving and provident mother who, at the same time, bore within herself an unnameable sadness, a deep and incurable scar left by the memory of a primordial Fall from Grace — which Fall affects all the world, since it is mankind’s “stage.”

This broad psychological, emotional and spiritual inheritance, this great “genetic memory,” certainly finds its way into the psychology of humankind as a whole, and of each of us individually, in various ways.

Saint_Anne_with_the_Virgin“Angelos Akotanos – Saint Anne with the Virgin – 15th century” by Angelos Akotanos (attribution) – scan from A Guide to the Benaki Museum, by Angelos Delivorrias. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Angelos_Akotanos_-_Saint_Anne_with_the_Virgin_-_15th_century.jpg#/media/File:Angelos_Akotanos_-_Saint_Anne_with_the_Virgin_-_15th_century.jpg

Having gone from a natural to a Biblical perspective, let us now move from the broadly Biblical to the specifically Catholic.  I’d like to reflect a bit (speculatively, of course) on the infancy of the Blesséd Virgin Mary, whose “first geography” was her own mother, St. Anne.

A brief refresher on the Catholic understanding of Mary: She was by a special grace from God preserved from all sin, both Original and personal, from the moment of her conception.  Hence, she was outside the realm of Original Sin alluded to above.

St. Anne, however, was not.  She was most certainly a very holy woman, but she was not without the effects of sin…Original or personal.  She, unlike the child she bore, had a part in the sadness of our human condition.

Since Mary did not inherit Original Sin in the first place (unlike the rest of us), neither did its effects in her mother pass on to her (as it tends to do with the rest of us).  But Mary was not outside the realm of human sympathy.  This means that without any participation in the guilt of humanity, she would presumably have inherited and intuited from her mother a connection with human suffering, with the tragic “geography” of human existence, and from this a deep sense of compassion…

Madonna and Child“15th-century unknown painters – Madonna on a Crescent Moon in Hortus Conclusus – WGA23736” by Unknown Master, German (active 1450s in Cologne) – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:15th-century_unknown_painters_-_Madonna_on_a_Crescent_Moon_in_Hortus_Conclusus_-_WGA23736.jpg#/media/File:15th-century_unknown_painters_-_Madonna_on_a_Crescent_Moon_in_Hortus_Conclusus_-_WGA23736.jpg

…and this she would have given to her divine Son, Jesus Christ, in giving Him a human nature.  He, in turn, would subsume all this in His own flesh and lift it up in His Resurrection.

Christ's Wounds

“Caravaggio – The Incredulity of Saint Thomas” by Original uploader was Dante Alighieri at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Tm using CommonsHelper.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Caravaggio_-_The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas.jpg#/media/File:Caravaggio_-_The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas.jpg

Mass-attending Catholics will recall this past Sunday’s Gospel, which recounts Our Lord’s post-Resurrection appearance to St. Thomas the Apostle:

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

(John 20: 27-28)

We’ve all been wounded in one way or another, and we all know woundedness in the depths of our being.  But the good news is that Christ’s own Wounds are not only sympathetic, but saving.  Hence we can say that the Apostle Thomas was the first to come into intimate physical contact with the new geography.

As you might have guessed, I do have more to say on this subject.  But it can wait 🙂

Images from Wikipedia

Reference

Erikson, E.H. (1963). Childhood and Society (2nd ed.). NY: Norton.

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For parts one through three, click here

Remember the “name game” we played in Part 2?  Well, I’ll ask you to grant me just a little further indulgence in this.

frozen_anna_gray_hairI said that the name Elsa was a variant of Elizabeth, hence a connection with St. Elizabeth.  Well, Anna, as I also mentioned, is a variant of the name Hannah.  Hannah, in the Old Testament, is the mother of the prophet Samuel.  As a young woman, her situation is almost identical with that of St. Elizabeth.  Both suffer from barrenness.

But, as with Elizabeth, Hannah is graciously granted a child.

Hence Hannah and Elizabeth are in parallel circumstances in the Bible.  So, in fact, are Anna and Elsa in “Frozen.”

Both, you will recall, bear some mark of the scapegoat — Elsa in her strange powers, Anna in the streak of gray in her hair.  Furthermore, a mutual salvation occurs between them at the end; both are saved from “frozen hearts” (though in different ways).

Hans and ElsaContrast that with Prince Hans, whose way of relating to Elsa (and Anna as well, though in diluted form) shows all of the characteristic signs of scapegoating.  Recall Anna’s comment at the end to the effect that he is the only one with a “frozen heart” in Arendelle.

Original Sin

“Michelangelo Sündenfall” by Michelangelo Buonarroti – http://www.heiligenlexikon.de/Fotos/Eva2.jpgTransferred from de.wikipedia to Commons by Roberta F. using CommonsHelper., 9 September 2007 (original upload date), Original uploader was Nitramtrebla at de.wikipedia. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Michelangelo_S%C3%BCndenfall.jpg#/media/File:Michelangelo_S%C3%BCndenfall.jpg

“Frozenness” is very much an effect of the Fall of our first parents.  Consequent upon their initial transgression in the Garden, Adam and Eve’s relationship goes from one of honor and love to one of blame (Gen. 3: 12) and use (Gen. 3: 16).  And of course, blame and use are the sole “stuff” of people’s relationships with their scapegoats.  The latter are blamed for the ills of society, and they are at the same time used for the maintenance of order.

But with “a little bit of love,” as the Trolls would say, this can change.  People go from scapegoats to “fixer-uppers,” and we come to see that in fact “everyone is little bit of a fixer-upper” (emphasis mine).

frozen-happy-endingWe haven’t really spoken much about Elsa’s perspective, so I’ll say this: There are basically two different ways of being that result from the “frozenness” of the Fall, both of which have some foundation in fear and self-preservation.  There is, of course, outright selfishness and ego-assertion, as is the case with scapegoaters.  But there is also the self-centered condition of despair, and this can cause people not only to accept, but to cling to the scapegoat position.

And something like this, unfortunately, happens to Elsa.  She is so discouraged by her “different-ness” that she will not allow herself to be loved…or to love, except in the form of isolating herself against those she fears she may hurt.

Divine_Mercy_(Adolf_Hyla_painting)2007-08-16But Jesus Christ and His angels bring the world this striking message: “Be not afraid.”

Jesus Christ comes to reveal God to us, but He also comes to reveal to us the mystery of the human person.  Consider the Holy Wounds in His hands, feet, and side; He enters into our woundedness, and shines the light of divine mercy upon it.

Thus the God-Man makes it possible for us to see two things: 1) We are all wounded, all “marked” in some way…not just a few isolated “scapegoats”; 2) We do not need to be afraid of this.  God is love and mercy itself, and by His grace, we can find hope and healing — and this will often come through touching others in their woundedness, and making ourselves vulnerable to them in ours.

In her own way, Princess Anna got that…and so should we.

Another way of saying “to end something” is to “let it go,” correct?  I think I’ll let this commentary go with “Let It Go”:

Divine Mercy image from Wikipedia; remaining images obtained through a Google image search

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Batoni_sacred_heart

About 80 years ago, a Polish nun named Sister Maria Faustyna Kowalska received private revelations from Jesus Christ focusing on the depth of the Divine Mercy and the world’s desperate need for it.

(Note: These were private revelations and are therefore not required content of belief for Catholics; but the Catholic Church has approved these revelations as being worthy of belief, and they have inspired a wonderful devotion among the faithful.)

Why do I mention this?

Boston_Marathon_aftermath_people

Well, a couple of days ago a friend of mine was reading the latest on the bombings at the Boston Marathon.  This person has very young grandchildren, and commented on how scary it was to think that her grandchildren would be growing up in a world like the one we have today.

When Jesus appeared to Saint Faustyna, He promised that in a time of unprecedented evil, He would respond with unprecedented grace.

Since Saint Faustyna’s death in 1938, the troubles of the world seem to have grown progressively greater.  The world as a whole seems to be less safe, and the moral compass of Western civilization is clearly less steady.

At the same time, the Divine Mercy devotion has grown in popularity and in practice (especially since the pontificate of John Paul II, who has been called the “Divine Mercy Pope”).

As bad as things may seem, God has not forgotten us…far from it.  In fact His love and mercy are infinitely greater than we could ever hope for or imagine, and He only waits for us to turn to Him with our whole hearts.

Here is a link to the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, for anyone who is interested:

http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/mercy/dmmap.htm

Images from Wikipedia

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