Part 2: The Sword That Pierces My Soul Too
Part 3: Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi
Driving on the highway earlier this week, I inched along a 10-20 miles stretch (approximately) for an hour. Patience not being a ready virtue of mine; I saw this traffic as an insurmountable burden and began wallowing.
WHY, I thought, WHY IS THERE SO MUCH TRAFFIC ON A TUESDAY IN THE EARLY EVENING? WHERE IS EVERYONE GOING?! WHY ARE TWO LANES GOING INTO ONE? WHY IS IT HOT? WHY IS THE TRAFFIC NOT MOVING? WHY IS MY IPOD DYING? WHY ARE THE AVETT BROTHERS SO AWESOME? (See, even in my wallowing, I had reason to rejoice!)
Then a little voice: why not pray the rosary while you wait?
When I was in D.C., I used to pray the rosary on my metro ride. When I was at college, I would say it in fellowship at 10 o'clock every night in the chapel. In Columbus, I would say it on my walk to work. Back home, I would say it on my drive to work. All those times, whenever I would say my prayers, even when I didn't want to, peace would abide in my heart.
I wanted inner peace. I'm working on patience. So I prayed. I appealed to Our Father and greeted blessed Mary, the Mother of God, full of grace. What power the Hail, Holy Queen! seemed to hold over me now: "To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve!" The plead to St. Michael to defend us in battle, to be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the Devil burned feverishly on my mind and lips.
Then, barely 20 minutes later, it was over. It was the first time I had started and finished a rosary in months, and I had a traffic jam to thank for it. Sometimes, it's what we dislike most which bring about our true happiness.
Lucinda Williams has a new song called "Blessed." She sings, "We were blessed by the minister/ Who practiced what he preached./ We were blessed by the poor man/ Who said heaven is within reach. We were blessed by the girl selling roses/ Showed us how to live./ We were blessed by the neglected child/ Who knew how to forgive./ We were blessed by the battered woman/ Who didn't seek revenge./ We were blessed by the warrior/ Who didn't need to win./ ... We were blessed."
(Her new album is the same name as the above song, for those who want to scope her out.)
I began counting my own blessings: because the traffic was going slow, I could admire the green grass between the highways and the cornflower blue sky and the different shaped clouds. I work a stable job with flexible hours, and I was driving down to spend time with B. and his family because he had a day off from the hospital. I own the car I drive and can easily afford gas. I have air conditioning in my car; I am not a construction worker in the hot and humid weather outside, working with machinery and on asphalt. My ipod can be re-charged. I am not sick or dying or outside the realm of God's mercy. The Avett Brothers are so awesome and I am listening to them. And so on, and on.
The Devil is a jealous fiend; if you are happy, if you are grateful to God, he tries to weaken the connection between the two. If you are unhappy, then God is an easy target. The Devil draws the lines, and plants the thoughts. He wants you to hate God, and thus be your master. He wants your soul. Perhaps this sounds extreme: a little Devil Went Down To Georgia, even. But do not be fooled. It is the Devil's greatest victory to have people not believe in him; it makes his work so much easier.
By counting my blessings, I did three things:
1. acknowledged God's goodness
2. accepted God's goodness
3. thanked God for his goodness
Happiness is not circumstantial; joy is not found without trial and error. When nothing seems to be going your way, and the world is conspiring against you (yes you, personally and deliberately), it is imperative to look at the bigger picture. For God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son-- and would send his Son again, if you (singular) were the only person in it. That is how much he loves you.
On Sunday, the Pope spoke in the courtyard:
"[Jesus] is waiting for us to completely trust in him," said Pope Benedict XVI. "Jesus wants to educate the disciples to bear with courage the adversities of life, placing their trust in God." He implored us to call on the Virgin Mary, who is the model of complete trust in God.
We can see this in Luke 2: 25-35, in the story of Simeon: Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel."
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed."
"And a sword will pierce through your own soul also" -- for Mary did not just have the joy of being the Mother of God, but watch her Son die cruelly on the cross. Moreover, she had to bear the undue ostracism of other people: she bore a child out-of-wedlock, who is both publicly adored and despised. And she, the mother! I get upset when things happen to my siblings or the ducklings I babysat in college; I cannot imagine the feelings mothers experience.
|As Mary says to the Devil, "Oh no you di'ent!"|
"This does not mean that the anger, hatred and power of God are not infinitely greater than the Blessed Virgin's, since her attributes are limited," wrote the saint. "It simply means that Satan, being so proud, suffers infinitely more in being vanquished and punished by a lowly and humble servant of God, for her humility humiliates him more than the power of God."
For what "Lucifer lost by pride Mary won by humility. What Eve ruined and lost by disobedience Mary saved by obedience. By obeying the serpent, Eve ruined her children as well as herself and delivered them up to him. Mary by her perfect fidelity to God saved her children with herself and consecrated them to his divine majesty."
When spiritual dryness is unbearable; when God seems far away; when the Devil whispers lies -- cry to Mary, as you would cry to your own mother. Ask for her help, on behalf of you, and ask for her intercession to her son, our savior.
Mary is here to help us poor souls. The feast of her assumption into Heaven is in three days. Be humble enough to ask for help, and she will lovingly scoop you up, and banish these nightmares and delusions away. She knows and understands the pain in our souls. The Devil may be sneaky, but the story has already been told: Jesus conquered death. The Holy Spirit moves our hearts. God wins. Glory awaits us!
(Part 1 is here. Part 3 is coming. Stay tuned! Pax Christi.)