The Old Garment

Somewhere in the Bible we’re advised to lay off the old garment. Another passage is the description of the new garments washed white in the blood of the Lamb. Putting these two texts next to each other with yet another, the parable of the old wine sack, seems appropriate and enlightening in these last days of Lent, and in the first days of spring (as it happens here in Wisconsin where warm weather and growth have finally made themselves known). How often life falls back into the old, the fallen, the worn out. A tear in life often just doesn’t mend to hold any liquid no matter the quality of the new fabric patch. It seems surprising. After all, if I find some small source of inspiration, shouldn’t that mend life, bring me back to life? Isn’t that the key to living?Jacob_blesses_Joseph_and_gives_him_the_coat

I’ve found that emotions are mysterious, and often cruel to the unsuspecting and trusting. They suddenly throw me into an inexplicable mood, perhaps not at such great heights or depths, but more often into the state of ennui, the state of the dreadfully ordinary and old… That is the old garment, properly ugly and worn to instill sincere and sober humility. But while the atheist has to remain satisfied with whatever humility is gained from these rags, the redeemed person has gotten a raincheck, a new set of clothes adorned with jewels! As a member of Christ’s Body, I am told to put on Christ. Faith’s necessary; hope’s essential. We are promised a new garment, and an escape from the ennui of un-redeemed creation.

This morning, I remembered this promise when I read the letters of St. Clare to Sr. Agnes of Prague. Encountering St. Clare via her words, I was quickly reminded of what my weak faith and my feeble hope had lost, namely, that God loves. Like St. Clare says:

[The Lord Jesus Christ] has adorned Your breast with precious stones, placed priceless pearls on Your ears, surrounded You completely with blossoms of springtime and sparkling gems and placed on Your head a golden crown as a sign of Your holiness.

How quick God is in responding to me whenever I call! He responds promptly to even the helpless, the weak, the small, small glance around. When I see how empty I am, how old my clothes are, how torn the garments, He comes quickly to remind me of the beauty of His promises. Truly, the promises of God are forever beyond my comprehension. I have to accept that the worm-like state of me now will always be surprised and forgetful of His promises, and I must try once again to renew my faith, hope, and love and respond to the loving attention God gives me. He makes everything new.

It is not a small gift to be allowed to put on Christ. It’s not a momentary inspiration, a little glimmer of hope, a silver lining, but far more. Perhaps that is why I forget it. To put on Christ seems to mean to start all over again and throw out all the preset ideas and expectations, because they are, without fail, products of my own narrow thinking, not God’s.

In the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the daytime prayer reading for Midafternoon stirs up the mind, perhaps already in the claws of the “demon of the afternoon”, the demon tempting the soul to ennui, to slumber, as he is traditionally known in the religious order of Carmel. An unknown Greek author exclaims:

And so as we gaze upon him who is our king and lord and God, and upon her who is queen and lady and the Mother of God, contemplating them with the clear-sighted eye of our minds, let us repeat again and again unceasingly: The queen stands at your right hand, robed in a gown of gold with adornment intricately wrought.

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Just on loan from the little King

It’s easy to forget that life is a gift. I am reminded of this now while I’m carrying my fifth child. Many days I am nervous about my child, his health, his future life. Anxiety pairs up with a tense grip around what is mine. Both responsibility and desires for everything to turn out just right become preoccupying… Yet, we only have life on loan–our own life as well as the lives of those given to us. It’s not easy to accept but still necessary. We are not in control of our own life or others. Still, we are truly given the life of others as well as our own life. Particularly children are given to us as gifts. The same goes for our spouses; they also are gifts entrusted to us directly from God. The sacrament of marriage confirms both the gift of our spouse and the gifts of our children. So, how does one hand life back to God? It isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a throwing back of a gift in God’s face. Once He entrusts them to us, He obviously expects something of us, as caretakers of His gifts. In fact, it often strikes me with force that we are accountable even for the faults of our children, because by their lack of understanding and their inherent dependence on us their faults are not really theirs, but ours… Yet, the desire to acknowledge and always remember that our gifts are on loan is a desire for what is right, and it ennobles us because it gives praise where praise is due. It is just. It keeps the mind healthy and the heart at peace.jesus-boy-with-globe-1493.jpg!Large

There is a little King to whom I like to entrust my life and every other gift I get from God, especially my children. He is the little King of the universe, of time and outside time, to whom everything belongs, to whom everything is due to return. The little Infant Jesus, particularly in His age of three, has the childlike lack of care of what belongs to Him, because he assumes (rightly) that everything does in fact belong to Him. Also, as a child, He forgets the difference between what belongs to Him and what belongs to His mother. Everything is shared between them. As mother I can be His (little) mother too, and share everything with Him in that trust and friendship that forgets the differences. It is not so hard to remember, in His presence, that He is in fact in charge. Living is a good game, shared between us. It’s a delight for us to share. Life, even in its hardest moments, its most frightening moments of life and death, becomes easier in His company. He comforts in the way a child comforts. Dwelling with Him, walking with Him, talking to Him, and begging Him for everything–both strength and wisdom, love and patience–is part of the intimate friendship He offers me: yet another of His gifts, and the best of all.