July 24, 2013

“But it does not seem that I can trust anyone,” said Frodo.

Sam looked at him unhappily. “It all depends on what you want,’ put in Merry. ‘You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin–to the bitter end.  And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours–closer than you keep it yourself.  But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word.  We are your friends, Frodo.”

The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien


On forgiveness

April 4, 2013

“A great deal of our anxiety to make excuses [for our sins] comes from not really believing in [forgiveness], from thinking that God will not take us to Himself again unless He is satisfied that some sort of case can be made out in our favor. But that is not forgiveness at all. Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it.

When it comes to a question of our forgiving other people…forgiving does not mean excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or bullying. But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive. (This doesn’t mean that you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart – every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.) The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily, in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough. As regards my own sins it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are not really so good as I think; as regards other men’s sins against me it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are better than I think.One must therefore begin by attending to everything which may show that the other man was not so much to blame as we thought. But even if he is absolutely fully to blame we still have to forgive him; and even if ninety-nine per cent of his apparent guilt can be explained away by really good excuses, the problem of forgiveness begins with the one per cent of guilt that is left over. To excuse, what can really produce good excuses is not Christian charity; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.

This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life – to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son – How can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night “Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.” We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.”

–“On Forgiveness,” from The Weight of Glory, by C.S. Lewis

January 23, 2012


July 26, 2011

His lovely words her seemed due recompense
Of all her passed paines; one loving howre
For many years of sorrow can dispence:
A dram of sweet is worth a pound of sowre:
She has forgot, how many a wofull stowre
For him she late endured; she speakes no more
Of past: true is, that true love hath no powre
To looken backe: his eyes be fixed before
Before her stands her knight, for whom she toyled so sowre.

The Faerie Queene, Spenser, I.iii.30

This is the picture of a woman’s heart, for good or ill. God said as much in Genesis.

At home with God

October 6, 2010

At home, when all is done, life itself begins. Christ was homeless not becasue He despised simple happiness–He did have a childhood, family, home–but because he was at home everywhere in the world, which His Father created as the “home” of man. “Peace be with this house.” We have our home and God’s home, the Church, and the deepest experience of the Church is that of a home. Always the same and, above anything else, life itself–the Liturgy, evening, morning, a feast–and not an activity.”

–Father Alexander Schmemann, December 14, 1973

I am intrigued by Father Schmemann’s idea of the church as something not primarily about activity, even mental activity. Because churches show their love actively in the world (one hopes), one can get the idea sometimes that they are almost primarily a society for the promotion of the Christian life.

If I understand Schmemann correctly, what he’s saying is that the church is a place where we meed God, who existed before all time. And yet we are welcome in Christ, like a family. The church is far more than the sum of its activities, or even its doctrines, though it is those, too. It is a transcendent, cosmic, home.

“We may confuse this obsessive need for difference from the parents with the child’s quest for individuality. That would be a misreading of the situation. Genuine individuation would be manifested in all of a child’s relationships, not just with adults. A child truly seeking to be her own person asserts her own selfhood in the face of all pressures to conform.”

“Precisely during our children’s adolescence, just when there is more to manage than ever before, and just when our physical superiority over them begins to wane, the power to parent slips from our hands. What looks to us like independence is really dependence transferred. We are in such a hurry for our children to be able to do things themselves that we do not see just how dependent they really are. Like power, dependence has become a dirty word.”

Hold on to Your Kids, Gabor and Maté

“I must release the other person from every attempt of mine to regulate, coerce, and dominate him with my love. I must leave him his freedom to be Christ’s. Human love constructs its own image of the other person, of what he is and what he should become…Spiritual love will meet the other person with the clear Word of God and be ready to leave him alone with this Word for a long time, willing to release him in order that Christ may deal with him…From the first moment when a man meets another person he is looking for a strategic position he can assume over and against that person. It is vitally necessary that every Christian face this danger squarely and eradicate it.”

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer