Sunday, January 24, 2016

MERCY UPON ALL

Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you.  I Jn. 2:24

This verse from the first Letter of St. John carried me back to my childhood faith and how the Ursuline nuns in Oklahoma and the Dominicans in New Jersey added to all that my parents taught me and gave me a picture of a Catholic world that was to my childish mind a miniature of the Medieval Synthesis that I encountered later in college, actually in Art History.  

But it also brought to mind the priest whom I met as a freshman who became my spiritual father and led me into an adult faith that continues to nurture me now.  After I had taken his course on Philosophy of Man, I realized I had not only encountered someone who understood the faith at a depth I hadn't even imagined existed, but who lived it as well.  He was Hungarian so many of my recollections of things that I learned are tinged with a slightly Transylvanian accent.  The summit of all my courses was a graduate course on the Trinity, where my classmates were primarily seminarians.  My final paper was a comparison of the Nicene Creed of 325 and the Constantinopolitan Creed of 381, which he included in his book on the Triune God for later classes. 

When my husband and I were married, we flew him to St. Louis as the main celebrant of our wedding.
We had five priests, and my father-in-law, who was not Catholic, told us it looked more like an ordination than a wedding!  We had picked out our Scripture passages carefully, but when he arrived, he asked if we could change the Gospel reading to Matthew 7:24-27, the passage about the two foundations, because he had written his homily on that.  Of course, we agreed,  and I never hear those verses without hearing them read with a Hungarian accent, and remembering how in his homily he said, "This marriage vill be built on the rock of the Church," and so indeed it was.

When our son was born, he was named for him, and he was very proud of that fact, although he was sent back to Hungary to help reopen the Cistercian monastery where he had been ordained, and never saw him.  He celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his Ordination back in Hungary, but sent us a prayer card with the verse he had chosen which summed up all that he had taught me and so many others:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom of God!  How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways (Romans 11:33)!

When I got my Bible to copy this down, I noticed that the verse just before it was "For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all."  Reading this in this year of mercy I pause before all that is inscrutable and unsearchable in the Divine Other who yet reaches out in love to each of us.  

I had forgotten that I had called my paper on the Trinity "Perichoresis."  I used that same title years later on a poem, which I will close with here.
PERICHORESIS

For Gilbert Hardy, O.Cist.


The Greeks knew; while Latin defined
God in more static terms
perichoresis drew the Trinity
as a dance among lovers--the dancing more
than movement, Being poured 
out in being, a waterfall of grace
sparkling from the dancers in a radiance:
love dancing, the dancers perfectly expressed
in their dance, never confined
by our understanding of gavottes and turns
and filling of place
kinesthetic yet completely at rest
perfectly one: a symphony of three
springing into concert eternally,
infinitely resonant -- deep
beyond voice and instrument and sound
past meaning yet more profound
depths plumbed becoming height
dizzying in the triune shine
of brilliance surpassing heat and light
entwining the dancers who still keep
all in dance.


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