God First, Family Second: Reflections from a Solo Date With God
A guest post.
I was able to say all twenty decades of the rosary and I was able to follow it along with the stained glass depicting each one in the church of Holy Rosary. What a privilege to note that there was a round motif happening in rather random middle panels and there they were after counting — twenty in all. What a gift that this church was built after Pope St. John Paul’s encyclical that established the luminous mysteries. This is what the Lord gave me to see from recent to remote.
The Blessed Mother was crowned as the Queen of All the Universe because She was, above all things, Mother. She accepted a Baby. She yielded to Motherhood. She was obedient and delighted and accepted what God invited. To be the Mother of God is something incomprehensible to any woman, but in her smallness, knowing that She doesn’t even have knowledge of a man, She accepted whatever the Lord sees fit to use Her: I am the handmaid, slave girl, loving daughter of the Lord; do with Me as You will.
How beautiful it is that under the panels of the Assumption (where Jesus glorified and exalted towers above His little Mama Mary whom He welcomes into Heaven finally) and the Mary’s Crowning (where He bestows Her Her Ultimate Titles — Queen of Everything!) there is a painting where Jesus is crowning her and she stoops ever humbly to receive it. Below six male saints, including Sts. Joseph/ Peter?, Dominic, Francis of Assisi, Benedict, maybe St. Thomas and another Dominican, give honor to Her.
I realize She is exalted for not founding congregations or doing mighty works or literature as these men did. She did it by aiding them, helping them as Her children and of course as being the Vessel by which Jesus was borne into humanity and saved all of us. This is how we will be exalted as woman — by being ourselves, and not by being a man. She Herself said to a woman, appearing in our generation, that women are saved through being wives and mothers. Once again, Mary didn’t play to the male saints’ club; She has her work, just that women saints and saints-in-the-making have their assignment. It is the HOME. IT IS THE CHURCH AS WELL AS THE DOMESTIC CHURCH. It IS THROUGH FAMILY.
As I peered through the panel of the Ascension where only the letters are to my eye level and the stylized figure of Jesus looking upward in anticipation of His union with the Father, I see that the gold in the glass has made the home, street and trees outside seem like a vintage print. I see why there is much emphasis in a grand and stable church building. It is to last generations. It is to stick. The cathedrals of Europe stand as a testament to this. But they speak too to the enduring quality of the church. “The gates of hell will not prevail against the church…I will be with you until the end of time”. Whatever architecture the outside world may have, the interior presence of Christ in the Catholic Church will always be present. He stays and waits and throbs inside the tabernacle, seeking company which many parishioners here are happy to oblige.
How great it is that in praying the Luminous Mysteries and seeing the inspired design in the glass that there is almost an embedded lesson in it if we note Jesus’s life in ministry in reverse and apply it to our current ministry.
INSTITUTION OF THE EUCHARIST — We feed from the Source of all Good, the Bread of Life, which daily can nourish us in the Mass, so we must avail this great gift.
TRANSFIGURATION — We cannot be but remade into the image and likeness of God, having imbibed His Word and Flesh; Jesus died that we have divine likeness, says the prayers in the Apostolate for Holy Relics (relictour.org) which this church hosted last night, so we must not stain it and keep it bright white.
PROCLAMATION OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD — Our Love of God spills our into good and charitable works. Women’s good works, are particularly stated in St. Paul in his First Letters to Timothy, chapter 5: 10 (raising of chlidren, practicing hospitality, washing the feet or assisting the holy ones, helping those in distress and constancy in charity — involving herself in every good work). Are we doing this? I have come to see this is our daily-do list.
WEDDING AT CANA — It is interesting that the stained glass artist chose to depict Mary and Martha here, with Mary both apostle and devotee, washing Christ’s feet with abandon as that woman whom much was forgiven, and Martha, doing her kitchen duties. This is our call to be lovers and ministers of our home, our earthly spouse — attending and making cozy their nest — and lovign God, savoring and leaning on His word. This is the apostle’s higher call — TO LIVE THE VOCATION OF HOLINESS AND MARRIAGE TO THE UTMOST. This is the long-haul but surefire ticket to eternal happiness.
BAPTISM OF CHRIST — Then God will say, if we have done above — feeding on Christ, imitating Him in light even in the rough roads of life, creating that early heavenly kingdom that all can know and love the Lord more, but more so we because we savor that our spousal love represents the Spousal love of Chirst and the Church and we hang on to His every Word, GOD WILL SAY TO US, AS HIS PLAN HAD BEEN FROM THE START, TO UNITE ALL THINGS IN HIM: (your name here) THIS IS MY BELOVED WITH WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.
Finally I see in the middle, like a shadow, the LARGE CROSS THAT FINISHES the first four sorrowful mysteries in stained glass. Jesus’s neck has fallen to the side, gettign separated almost. Connect my Body to its Head, He says. And I came to see that He wants more people on the Eucharist, devoted and coming to Church as I had done, by His grace, I who has been away for many years and was in danger after my reversion of becoming lukewarm. Christ, I see, was not afraid to go into total darkness — He chose to lose everything — being in Heaven, with the company of the Trinity and suffer teeth-gnashing and comprehensive mutilating tortures, blasphemy and humiliation and finally dying so we will not have worse experiences in hell for all eternity. Christ who is so conscious of His mission of saving man from certain damnation gave everything so we can have what was denied Him in life and to have heavenly happiness too.
We cannot shirk from suffering. Martydom is the way. It is not natural, even unnatural, to opt to be killed, like the deputy sheriff, staying outside the school when the active shooting was happening. Which makes Christ and all the saints that preceded and followed Him, more admirable. Will I offer to buffer between a berserk coworker and all others, knowing I could take the first hit? When it is framed in this fashion it is easier to say yes because high drama makes the contrasts easier. It is in the subtle deaths that we cannot agree readily. The extra two hours to write a letter advocating long-time safety in society by not passing a suicide bill or a divorce bill. That fifteen minutes through fatigue that you can just out a You Tube video to promote the joys of marriage or to say prayer with a sick friend. Or to pay your parents’ recurring bills without regret. Or making sure that the hubby gets a good night massage or couple prayer time by cutting in your sleep.
Death is available to us daily. It comes in metaphor form in sleep. God is the creator of life, but built time so we can make more use of the latter. I who have been cavalier with time spent with the Lord lately has realized the value of being lavish with time with Him. This day spent with no agenda but with a do-with-me-as-you-will abandon to the Holy Spirit has given fruit that is Lenten retreat worthy, undoing the lukewarmness and praying that the grace to be on fire stays permanent. In Jesus’ Name.