Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Thank God for humanity
In early August, 40 hours before I returned home to a muggy 99 degrees at Saint Meinrad, I was standing at 12,736 feet in a brisk 29 degrees at the top of the Little Matterhorn. In front of me and to the right was Switzerland; at my back, Italy; and far to the left, France. Immediately below me was the raw power of centuries-old glaciers, frozen water slowly sculpting the hard, barren rock and soil. Far below, in the lush and green valley town of Zermatt, from which I had ascended, it was a balmy 80 degrees.
It seemed to me that all the complexities, contradictions, and conundrums of this earth had converged and risen to that very mountain peak. At no other point in my life had I plainly seen so many incongruities laid out before me in such a harsh yet profoundly exhilarating manner that suddenly made all the sense in the world. In fact, it was the only thing that made sense in the world.
What made this so was not the view itself, as beautiful as it was. Rather, it was something in the foreground that paradoxically put everything into perspective. It was a towering, weather-beaten crucifix [heading this blog]. Of itself, that is not unusual; a crucifix is planted on practically every mountain peak in Switzerland. What caught my eye was a small engraved plaque beneath the corpus. It bore a simple message in several different languages:
Be more human.
With those three words, what I have been searching for the last seven years—beginning with my spiritual “reawakening” in 2003, through three years of prayer and discernment, and four years in monastic formation at Saint Meinrad—came into fuller view. The scene atop that mountain, I realized, reflected the landscape of my soul—with all its harsh yet beautiful complexities, contradictions, and conundrums. And at the center of it all stands Christ crucified—God made man—urging me, “Be more human.”
I had long ago intellectually and spiritually accepted the paradox of two natures in the one person of Christ—fully human, fully divine. Like many others, however, I have struggled to accept that truth in human terms, to live with imperfection in the process of being redeemed by Christ—in regard to myself, others, and in the circumstances of ordinary life.
In a striking moment that can only be called grace, the reality of that seemingly incompatible co-existence of humanity and divinity was finally evident to me from a mountaintop perch halfway around the world. Paradoxically, to become more human is to become more like Christ, who, “coming in human likeness, humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:7-8).
I realize now that I am called to become more human, and I have my monastic vocation to thank for that. Though it is a call not without difficulty, it nonetheless gives me joy I never knew was possible. And this joy—divine delight may be a better term—energizes me with gratitude. So, I thank the One and Triune Source of this delight for:
My very being as a child of God, and my redemption through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
My “spiritual reawakening” in 2003 and ongoing conversion.
My family and friends.
My sobriety (going on eight years)
My participation these last four years in the life of Saint Meinrad Archabbey—the place, the people, the life of prayer, work, study, and the relationships I have begun to build here.
All of life’s challenges—the complexities, contradictions, and conundrums—that have stretched me and helped me persevere and grow amid difficulty.
The opportunities I’ve had here to contribute to worthwhile projects, to study, to travel, to live a life of prayer with a group of very different men committed to the same way of life and community.
Most of all, I am grateful to be a monk of Saint Meinrad, and to be a human being made in God’s glorious image. Blessed be God forever!