A Good Friday Reflection

Two reflections ought to take place this day: the historical death of Jesus, fully human and fully divine, and what that death demands of us.  For the first reflection, a good friend and mentor has put into words so perfectly well here.  As for the second reflection, I offer you this:

Perhaps Lewis Carroll had in mind the story of Lucifer’s fall from grace when he wrote Humpty Dumpty. Alice’s conversation with Humpty Dumpty presents the reader with a clear illustration of prideful arrogance. Dumpty’s pride causes him to dismiss Alice when she noticed that the wall is too narrow, and in the course of the conversation, he proceeds to redefine words as he wishes. Alice points this out to him, but he simply ignores her and proceeded to further show his arrogance through exalting himself as a great poet. Shortly after the conversation, Dumpty had a great fall. Dumpty’s fall is caused by his pride, as was Lucifer’s.

Pride was the first sin, and it has become a ubiquitous sin in our time. This is the reason why children are taught not to be prideful through fables and stories like Humpty Dumpty, the Hare and the Tortoise, the Mouse and the Lion, and etc. God, our parent par excellence, teaches us the same lesson in humility, not by story-telling, but through love-showing. The Incarnation shows us that humility is the answer to pride, and such humility requires some kind of death, even of that which we value most, life.

Martyrdom proper, however, is hardly something the modern Christian comes across daily; instead, the he must undergo another sort of martyrdom, the denial of the self and all its thirst for those things that are not of God. God cannot live in a full heart, and neither can He live in a heart partially full. When it comes to God, it is a matter of all or nothing at all. The soul must make room for God, and in order to make room for Him, it must deny its sinful inclinations, and thereby, it must deny the self. The image of Christ needs to be limned upon the soul so that human pride may realize that it must be bitterly charred by proper humility in order to prepare itself as a place for God. All human dross must be crucified to that cross and buried before the soul can receive its God.

God, for His part, is ever near and ever calling. As the poet Francis Thompson so brilliantly illustrates, God, like the hare, is ever extending His mercy and love with “unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace” after the soul. The jealous God will not have anything other than Himself filling the entire human heart. Run as he might, Thompson finds himself encountering the goodness of creation refusing to turn its back to its Creator. The soul, therefore, must seek shelter in the ever-present and ever-ubiquitous cross. Thomas a Kempis puts it wonderfully when he writes in the Imitation of Christ:

The cross, therefore, is always ready; it awaits you everywhere. No matter where you may go, you cannot escape it, for wherever     you go you take yourself with you and shall always find yourself. Turn where you will—above, below, without, or within—you will find a cross in everything, and everywhere you must have patience if you would have peace within and merit an eternal crown.

The soul must realize that it is worthless and vile in its sinful ways; that it does not deserve the least of love, and yet God remains ever near. If the sinner is to have hope, the self must die in order for it to rise. Death must encounter human desires in order for the life of Christ to be had abundantly. The heart must forfeit all that it loves, absolutely everything, in order for it to receive Him who demands every little piece of it. And in doing so, the heart finds quenching for its thirst—that indefinite and deafening thirst that caused Augustine to put it into these eloquent words: for thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.

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