Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dignity is Hypersensitive

This past Tuesday after getting my goods at the Opus art store's weeklong "Boxing Day" sale (a must for any "artist" who regularly buys art supplies), I stopped by a church to go to Adoration. There at the side adoration chapel was a sign saying it was closed due to the snowy conditions, and I pressed the button one more time, and a man came to the door. I believe he was there with his wife (on some special unscheduled thing) and explained they would be covering the Blessed Sacrament shortly, in a few minutes, but that I was welcome to come in for those few minutes.

I knelt in the intimate space and after several minutes the man went up and closed the tabernacle-type compartment that holds the Host and ciborium.

Just a quick visit; but one can't describe the sudden-permeating, imperceptible flush of peace that came upon watching the man close up that box, one wing at a time, as I got up and made my bow. It was as though something in me corresponded to the closing up of the Blessed Sacrament; I got my time in as I could, and then that time, few minutes that it was, was taken in and wrapped up: I could depart in peace.

But Christ stayed with me as I left; staying in that way that is closer than your own self.

And I was reminded of a certain refrain that has been occurring to me over the past few years, and which I have, naturally, been forgetting. But every time it comes back to mind it is more than just a thought.

To clumsily put "the thought" into words, it might be something like this:

The touching point of our contact with Christ is the summit of our own unique dignity.

To expand on that sentence would perhaps be something like this:

We cannot make one moment out of our contact with Christ without our dignity awaking; Christ cannot touch without planting, awaking, causing to bloom that dignity within us.

To encounter Christ is to also encounter the infectious feast that surrounds Him. This feast has a manner and courtesy; a way of acting which the guest is to follow, which is imparted to "the guest" of this feast without explication, instantaneously as it were - like someone who knew not a wit about a certain dance joined into that dance and was danced through it, without effort. And the Master would look upon this one as a dancer, and love his dance; and not look upon him as a waif who only got through it because of the graces imparted.

A crummy psychologizer would probably put it something like this:

Christ sees how great we can be and He brings out the best in us.

But of course such a statement is nothing more than fodder for seagulls. Because in a very real sense we have no best in us for Christ to bring out. It's a rather mysterious thing because in one sense Christ speaks to our own unique dignity and sees the image of God within us and will make His point of contact there.

Yet we speak of how we really have nothing with which we can claim Christ's communion; our only claim being through the undeserved mercy of Christ Himself. Yet Christ makes His point of contact with our inherent dignity.

We too often come to an imbalance here. Some would regard Christ as the aforementioned warm and fuzzy psychologist who simply "brings out the best" in people; someone who is almost reduced to a projection of ourselves, who helps us to "realize our potential".

I want nothing to do with this Jesus. Jesus is a concrete giver of gifts - not metaphorical gifts that were "gifts that were there all along". He is a giver of Himself. And he chastises, purifies those who He loves. Of course there is the other extreme in which we reduce ourselves to nothing more than puppets, ones who, like that fearful receiver of the one talent, woodenly and willingly make no progress (in faith); make no correspondence between the gift of dignity that Christ has given to us and the further gifts of the Holy Spirit and eternal life He wants to give us.

A key to this mystery can be found in the fact that we live our lives, not one of us excepted, at interior odds with our true dignity. We do battle with it; sometimes are amazed and surprised by it; sometimes are afraid of it; sometimes recoil from it; sometimes outright disbelieve it, and on and on. This is nothing other than being born into the state of original sin.

There is a state of silent recollection in which Christ wants to meet us, because He wants us to keep our special dignity - even in the state of mortal sin, in the mire of the most debased state, He does not desire us to fully (and thus selfishly) indulge the horror of that debasement, but Christ wants us to cling to some scrap of His gift of dignity. For He meets us there, and kindles a fire.

What is that "scrap of dignity" but the conscience that tells us we have done wrong? Thus, that which may appear to others as being undignified, like going down on one's knees, and weeping; the beating of one's chest in repentance; the raw, utterly awkward mouthing out of one's sins before a priest, are strange precursors, little buds, that unveil one's own special dignity.

And that dignity Christ loves, like the man who falls in love with the woman he is to marry. Our dignity, as it grows, opens us up to communing with Christ. Dignity speaks to dignity.

If Christ's point of contact with us is none other than our inherent dignity, then imagine what nature of offense and hurt people give to Him when they deliberately mock, blaspheme and desecrate and, well, sin. For dignity speaks to dignity. Dignity is hypersensitive. When this dignity does not meet with another's dignity but with indignity, it is cut to the core. And Christ doesn't have the strange recourse that we have when we encounter indignity in others; that is, the realization that we too have caused and do cause offense (though of course we find it still incredibly hard to forgive). For Christ is without sin.

And just as dignity is hypersensitive to another's indignity, so dignity is just as sensitive to another's dignity.

If so, then if we are to call ourselves lovers of Christ, how can we be insensitive to the present insults He receives? In other words, how can we not try and make reparation?

To go before Him in the tabernacle without a thought and go on one's knees and simply say, "Jesus I come here before You to make reparation for the insults You have received".

Or before the image of His Holy Face; before the image of Him within our hearts?

What better way to start the New Year than going before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and, in spite of how one may feel otherwise, simply saying those words?

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