Sunday, May 23, 2021

Overcome with Paschal Joy

It’s in the Easter season prefaces to the Eucharistic prayer, “Therefore, overcome with paschal joy, every land, every people exults in your praise and even the heavenly Powers…sing together…”

Every time I hear that line I wonder, am I overcome with paschal joy? Are we, here in this church, gathered around this altar overcome with paschal job? What does overcome with paschal joy look like anyway?

Joy is perhaps not the word I would have chosen to characterize this particular spring, shadowed as it was by the pandemic and by familial tragedy. Yet. Still. There it is, a stark declaration, not as a hope, not as something promised to some at some time to come. Here and now, the preface promises, every place and every person, are overcome with paschal joy. So sing.

Novelist Léon Bloy wrote in a letter to his fiancée that joy was the surest sign of the presence of God. (No, that was not Teilhard de Chardin.) Be on the look out for joy, there you are likely to find God. I wonder if it is the opposite that I need at this moment, to first seek out God and perhaps then joy will erupt. Perhaps to be overcome with Paschal joy is to be overcome by God.

There are a profusion of buds on the rose bushes under my back windows. But on this Pentecost day, just a single red bloom. I came out here to pray, to submerge myself in God, and there it is. A single blossom of hope. I’m overcome.


Photo is of my mother's roses.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Feminine or masculine genius

Necessary emphasis should be placed on the "genius of women," not only by considering great and famous women of the past or present, but also those ordinary women who reveal the gift of their womanhood by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives. For in giving themselves to others each day women fulfil their deepest vocation. Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts. They see them independently of various ideological or political systems. They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them. In this way the basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity and there is constantly revealed, in the variety of vocations, that beauty not merely physical, but above all spiritual — which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women. —John Paul II Letter to Women 29 June 1995

There was a recent editorial in Our Sunday Visitor wondering about whether "masculine genius" was a thing. I read it and wondered briefly if the real masculine genius is convincing (at least some) women that they are fundamentally created by God to be servants, to do the work of seeing and accommodating the emotional and material needs of others before anything else. That the default assignment of emotional labor to women is not cultural, but ontological, and therefore unavoidable. Men might be able to do these things, but it is women's "deepest vocation." Women are thus created to enable men to do...what precisely? What are men's deepest vocations, if not service?

I remain convinced that service is fundamentally what we are called to do as Christians, not by virtue of gender, but by common vocation. We are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, accompany the sick and those in prison. We are called to kneel at each other's feet and wash away the dust of the day.  Should men not see each person as they are, acknowledge the human dignity of each person they encounter? Should men not be able to perceive the strengths and limitations of others? Ought they not be oriented toward service? To serve is not a particular genius, but a universal call realized in particular ways by particular people.

My particular genius is quantum mechanics, work which has aided in the development of drugs for cancer, hypertension and AIDS. It is not to keep the family calendar, or arrange flowers for the altar. The first is a skill that can be mastered by any competent adult, the second perhaps requires a sense of color and proportion and of the sacred, which a quick gander through the works of "the great masters" suggests is not limited to women. 

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Eat Sleep Sit


It arrived in the mail last week, an envelope with a single used book, carefully wrapped in brown paper, inside. Eat Sleep Sit, Kaoru Nonomura's account of a year of training at the Zen monastery Eiheiji. I had ordered a used copy weeks ago, though I could have gotten the electronic version in an instant.

I'm glad I waited, the physical book is beautifully bound, it lies open in my lap without the need to hold it. Printed in Japan in 2009, the typesetting is plain and spacious. It is a joy to read. Why are hardbacks so often glued rather than sewn? I know, money. But this is such a small and delightful luxury.

The book itself is reminding me of Nancy Maguire’s Infinity of Little Hours, which follows Carthusian novices through their first years and early training. 

Photo is of monk Thomas Yūhō Kirchner, in the old training hall at Tenryu-ji, in Kyoto. I visited with a class in 2016.