How many times I recall educated American (and European) friends protesting that while they might believe or feasibly be able to believe in God, they could never believe in a childish idea of a Bearded Sky Daddy(TM?). For some reason I’ve never found the traditionally imagery of God the Father to be revolting. Like this:
It’s the whole Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But my question is, what advantage or appeal comes from thinking that God is a vague force of nature with no personhood, no Incarnation, no relationship to you or me? So many of God’s best qualities are qualities that manifest in the relationship of persons: love, compassion, tenderness, mercy. Even the conversation of prayer!
Why do odd details remain in memory? I remember fragments of dreams and moments from childhood, some with greater clarity than more recent memories. Why are they kept so vividly? I have deep sensory memories of the spindles of a dining room chair, the glitter of a formica counter, the warmth of sunlight on a wooden floor.
Or the smell of gym mats, the alternating enthusiasm and confusion felt during a children’s martial arts class, the green color that grape jelly makes when put on your scrambled eggs.
What about the spiral metal of a screen door (through which small children view the world like cloistered nuns)? The surprise of white filling in an orange popsicle. The double popsicles, always neatly broken in two to share. The glittery tassels on girlfriends’ bicycles. The rattling soda straws on younger brothers’ tricycles.
A dream in which I walked along the top of a low wall, following my mother to the store, only to look up and see that she was now far, far ahead, out of range of my voice.
The sound of typewriters in an office below our apartment; the circling splashes of light on the walls as cars passed by outside; a swan in a pond at the park.
These moments of strangeness or anxiety seem most common in times of new experiences, especially in early childhood when simple things like a visit to the neighbors or a trip to the store were full of novelty.
Just today I saw a quote from St. Augustine about the profundity and expanse of memory that struck me. I can’t find it again now, though, so it will have to remain half-remembered for the time being.
The more intense memories now seem to be those of God. I marvel sometimes to see little children who have a life of prayer. I didn’t, though I can see in hindsight a constant clumsy seeking, and the constant intercession of Our Lady and my Guardian Angel, unrecognized at the time. But these more recent memories of God’s mystery and love and intimacy are more vivid now than the faded strangenesses of long ago. Sometimes it seems even the long-ago memories are colored by that new wonder and tenderness, as if my whole life has been infused with His mercy.
I received such a lovely email today from some Carmelite hermits in the USA. I post a few excerpts here, lovely for meditation. You can find out more about them or donate to support them at their website.
“How I’d love to show you the lovely infinite horizon beyond creation that I experience and contemplate… He reveals and makes Himself known to souls that really seek to know and love Him. Everything on earth… seems to shrink, to lose value before the Divinity which, like an infinite Sun, continues to shine upon my miserable soul with its rays. Yes. I have a heaven in my soul, because God is there, and God is heaven.” -St. Teresa of Jesus of the Andes
“Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary specifically under her glorious title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel entails a certain realization and acknowledgment of the primacy of the spiritual life, of the interior life of human beings who are endowed with a spiritual soul created in the image of God and made for eternal union with Him.”
“As we gradually grow in a knowledge of the mysteries of the Catholic faith revealed by the Son of God incarnate through His Church, we will find the depths of our souls enkindled in love and zeal for God and His eternal, immutable Truth. This divine love will sanctify and purify our souls and dispose them for more intimate interior communication and union with God, in anticipation of the fullness of union with Him in Heaven, for which we have been made, and which alone can make us truly happy, no matter how much the world, the flesh, and the devil lie and deny that fundamental truth of human existence.”
Yesterday’s feast of Our Lady of Carmel was touching, and reminded me how very dependent we are on God’s mercy not only for our mere existence, but for every sustenance. That He gave us His own Blessed Mother to keep us, console us and guide us is a treasure. Here is another image of Our Blessed Mother, from Avila, Spain.