Thursday, December 03, 2009

How shall I that am grass touch with my hand the fire of Thy divinity?

Today I was at Franciscan for Mass and was privileged to hear Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston preach. He talked about the Feast of Epiphany, and how the gospel readings for the first part of Advent are all epiphany moments of Christ: light shining into the world and allowing that to be seen which only God can make visible. Just typing this makes me pause again and reflect that everything we can know is a gift from God. In His light, we see light.

Cardinal DiNardo mentioned an ancient hymn used for the Feast of Epiphany which puts these words into the mouth of John the Baptist: How shall I that am grass touch with my hand the fire of Thy divinity? The reference is to the prophet Isaiah, who says that all flesh is like grass, and of course when grass touches fire it is consumed by that fire. And yet, God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. The fire does not come to destroy, but to transform. And He transforms us as a people, just as He did with Israel of old. And yet, the encounter is personal: it is my hand that touches Christ's divinity.

This really struck a chord with me in light of something I was meditating on earlier today. Let me see if I can grab this and throw it out into words. What I saw is that within love, there is death. What I mean is this: If my heart is drawn out in love to someone, it is true that I am responding to a true and real, flesh and blood person, circumstance, situation. That is undeniable. However, it is also just as true, because of the Incarnation, that I am being drawn out by God through the sign of this true and real, flesh and blood person. The ultimate meaning of every quiver of love in my heart is that God calls me to Himself. He is my ultimate destiny. If I love my friend, it is true that my relationship with my friend has deep meaning, but it is finite. It is a sign. Not "just" a sign, as if humans are meaningless pawns through which God manipulates our lives. But the real meaning of our lives carries an even greater meaning, as a sign of God's love. When I see the sign, I remember I am made for eternity, for the infinite. As the old Farrell and Farrell song said: "The things of earth can never satisfy/only the bread of life can fill a man inside."

So, what I saw is that the stirring of love in my heart reminds me that I will die, and come to my ultimate destiny. Is this sad? No, not really. The emotion that comes more readily into my heart is trepidation. No one controls the moment of his death. The ultimate things we need for utter fulfillment are simply not within our control. I do not fulfill myself. Yet, what I need for fulfillment is so freely given, so richly, abundantly, tumultuously poured forth upon us by the Blessed Trinity that the trepidation that instinctively arises in me is not from fear of abandonment but a fear of coming completely undone. A fear of "losing it" in the most glorious sense of the world -- losing all of the shackles, all of what binds, blinds, hinders, frightens and thwarts us. It is a sort of fear of that which the heart actually desires and longs for more than anything, or rather, of the only thing the heart is really longing for within every other attraction.

The fear of God... being enveloped in awe of Him... being given the vision of myself as I am, and God as He is... Come, Lord Jesus come. I cannot bear the glory of your presence, but only say the Word and my soul shall be healed...

No comments: