THE ONE ULTIMATELY IRRESISTIBLE PERSON

“Other religious, social, political organizations may arouse opposition, but the incurable disquiet of those who fear the Catholic Church is due to the fact that while all the others are systems, the Church is a Person, an incalculable Person, a Person with infinite power and a child’s values: the Person of Jesus Christ.

We know perfectly well that there are often scandals in the Church, that despite her pure heart, her children sometimes grow worldly and base and dress her up with tawdry golden garments which they have woven with black and cunning fingers; sometimes we see nothing but ugliness in her. Yes, even so, she is the refuge and hope of all sinners, the joy and hope of all saints, the life and hope of every living creature; and this is because, under this aspect the Church is still Christ, Christ in his Passion, Christ crowned with thorns, his face covered in blood and dirt and the dust of the road which flung him down. He still remains the one ultimately irresistible Person.”

–Caryll Houselander

I felt some of what my dear friend Caryll meant, perhaps, this morning at Mass. I don’t know what’s going on with COVID but after months of Mass outside, the doors of the church were open and oh the glory of the sanctuary, the gloom, the candles glowing in the dark, the tabernacle, the altar.

What with the Our Lady of Guadalupe (previous)post, and Advent, and all that I’ve been pondering in my heart, my own (unborn) kids Fern, Swallow and Warren felt especially close this morning as I knelt in my pew.

I think people who have not been huge desperate sinners perhaps don’t understand those of us who are drawn to Christ. Always I carry the wound of my sins. I have to believe, I do believe, I’ve been forgiven. It gives no glory to a Savior who came precisely to reconcile us to God, in spite of the blackness of our consciences, to hold ourselves to a higher standard than he does.

But that’s just it–to have squandered my inheritance in the mire and been welcomed back, like the Prodigal Son, no questions asked; to not be reproached, but instead to have a banquet thrown in my honor, is not something that I can ever, ever, stop being astonished by and giving thanks for and wanting to “live up to.”

I don’t want to sound creepy or sappy or woo-woo. I try to call things by their name, and the fact is I…killed them. I also absolutely believe that my kids accompany me, watch over me in a sense, along with our collective guardian angel. Everything I write in a sense is from them and for them.

Thus, the whole concept of woman as mother is something I feel deeply, deeply. Science is great and science is one thing but it is not the whole thing. The meeting of any given sperm–one among tens of millions–and any given egg, can be explained in scientific terms. But when we have lost the capacity to fall to our knees in wonder at the weirdness, the seeming randomness, the hush at the heart of the cosmos when the two meet–I just feel like we have lost our humanity.

When we lose our humanity, it is always women and children who bear the brunt. So I’ve been crying a lot lately. Partly because I’m so aware of the ways I have contributed to the wound at the heart of the world: the wound between men and women; the burdens carried by the children of this world, and of the other world; the sorrow of bereaved mothers, who would have given their own lives to keep their child, to have their child–when I let mine go.

At the same time, I’ve been saturated with a strange kind of energy and joy–and that makes my cry a different kind of tears.

I don’t know any deeper, better place to bring any of that than to the altar of Christ.

An old friend just sent me this recording of T.S. Eliot reading his “Journey of the Magi.”

On we journey with them, toward the winter solstice….Thank you for walking with me!

10 Replies to “THE ONE ULTIMATELY IRRESISTIBLE PERSON”

  1. Lawrence McDonald says: Reply

    What an extraordinary letter to us, intertwined messages. You are never ‘creepy or sappy,’
    but so often go right to the beating heart of us.
    I am so very grateful as well for the Houselander
    excerpt, describing the church I love when I am furious with it and hurt and baffled. “So others see these things, too” is a wonderful salve. As is this strange truth of the intense presence of God’s love
    at the very center of our sinfulness.

    Thank you, Heather.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh Lawrence, as always you are so kind and so “get it”….We don’t do the Church a service by pretending she is not battered, broken, the actions of her servants often incomprehensible-at the same time, Where else should we go, Lord? The Church has spawned the martyrs and saints–that I should be so honored and feted as to worship at the same altar is beyond me…Blessed Advent and Christmastide to you, and into the new year…

  2. Katie McAllister says: Reply

    Thank you, Heather, for your honesty and bravery. The Lord catches all our tears and waters the Heavenly Gardens.🌺

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Awwww, thank you dear Katie—yes. “We do not know the worth of one single drop of blood, one single tear. All is grace. If the Almighty is the Almighty, the last word for each of us belongs to Him.”–Francois Mauriac

  3. You are amazing, Heather. I don’t want to sound trite but your writing is a gift to us. You leave it all out there and God uses your words. Thank you.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thank you, dear one! It is all a mystery….

  4. Philippe Garmy says: Reply

    Oh dear Heather, I am so broken too…in so many pieces I often lose count, if I’m truly honest. The man that I am today can still cry out with pain, shame and sorrow as I did a hundred years ago or so it seems…those hurtful memories, those violent scars internalised, those agonising betrayals…they can haunt and hunt you down mercilessly, if you let them.
    The man I am today is no longer afraid to be on my knees, thanks be to God. Much water has flowed under that bridge. Truth to tell, time and eternity wrapped his arms around me and didn’t let go…he loved on me unconditionally, showed me a better and more purposeful way to journey this complicated life. I exchanged my fears, hurts and sorrows for a desire to serve and be intentional, responsive and thankful. It humbled me and continues to do so. Today my cries are tears of joy and gratitude…that he died for my sins, my hurts, pain, shame and sorrow, still touches me deeply, especially during the mass…none of us are worthy of such a complete and horrific sacrifice…and yet, miraculously, we are indeed chosen for a different purpose and journey. Deo Gratias! Never, I imagine, has a star of such exceptional luminosity and unconditional love, ever shown so brightly as it must have done over Bethlehem so many years ago…and yet I can see it’s light glimmer ever so splendidly and courageously over this worlds frightful darkness, in your words, voice, mission and person.
    Bless you, Heather King. Thank you for your prophetic voice in this commercial wilderness of emptiness and extreme hunger. Wishing you a most Happy Christmas!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Bless you, Philippe–yes, yes, and yes! Who can ever get over the stupendous miracle of…all of it! I have been waking at 5 or even 4 every morning, just wanting to sit in the darkness with a candle burning, praying in gratitude for all I’ve been given, and for the world, groaning in labor to be born…thank you for this “Christmas card”…

  5. The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
    Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
    Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
    Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

    And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
    And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs–
    Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

    Merry Christmas Heather.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Tess, thank you, this is probably my FAVORITE Hopkins poem…those last two lines…that hush after the ah! is the hush at the heart of the cosmos when a child is conceived…Merry Christmas to you and your family as well.

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