Monday, June 09, 2008

Gratitude and shadows

Yesterday I went through my nightly ritual of opening Gabriel’s door and peeking in on him before retiring for the night. It is always a gentle, sweet moment, to see him sleeping with his arms tucked up around his head and his legs for once relaxed, but on this night in particular I was just overwhelmed with God’s generosity to me in blessing me with my little family. Michael, Gabriel, and our “baby-in-the-belly”, all with a roof over our heads, fresh and abundant food to eat, and a circle of generous family and friends extending out around us.

My husband and I have committed to pray the Magnificat daily as a couple (part of the endeavors of the Teams of Our Lady group we are a part of) and so often saying this prayer can seem like just dutifully reciting a stream of words together after dinner. Last night, however, it was a gift that I knew these words by heart, because they seemed to fit my sentiments so precisely–the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name!

One thing I struggle with, however, is that my moments of gratitude are often tinged by fear, a shadowy fear that seems to whisper that I shouldn’t rejoice in these moments too much because they are precariously perched on the edge of an uncertain future, and an accident or sudden unforseen circumstance could change things instantly, bringing suffering and sorrow.

I was comforted and challenged by the words of C.S. Lewis in his book The Four Loves (the recent discussion book for our Team). He speaks of how in all of our earthly loves and joys are really just faint echoes of the heavenly life of love that is the Trinitarian communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which we will hopefully one day participate in. This is a consoling thought, because it is so often hard for me “desire heaven” when I consider it as an unknown, unexperienced “place” rather than something I have known and desired–in all of my desires–all along. I think this is all tied to the fact that for me emotional, affective love of God has of late been an elusive element of the spiritual life. (Lewis himself characterizes such “emotional” love–attachment to God that basically “feels” the same as our attachment to our loved ones on earth– as a supernatural gift, and thus not something to be attained or acquired by virtue of our own effort or willing.)

I thought Lewis’ thoughts below on this topic seem like a good elaboration on St. Paul’s words in 1 Cor 13:12: “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.”

“We were made for God. Only by being in some respect like Him, only by being a manifestation of His beauty, loving-kindness, wisdom, or goodness, has any earthly Beloved excited our love. It is not that we have loved them too much, but that we did not quite understand what we were loving. It is not that we shall be asked to turn from them, so dearly familiar, to a Stranger. When we see the face of God we shall know that we have always known it. He has been a party to, has made, sustained and moved moment by moment within, all our earthly experiences of innocent love. All that was true love in them was, even on earth, far more His than ours, and ours only because His. In Heaven there will be no anguish and no duty of turning away from our earthly Beloveds. First, because we shall have turned already; from the portraits to the Original, from the rivulets to the Fountain, from the creatures he made lovable to Love Himself. But secondly, because we shall find them all in Him. By loving Him more than them we shall love them more than we now do.”

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