Tuesday, September 24, 2013

50 Days of Prayer - Day 32

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Day Thirty-Two

The Transcendent

St. Jeanne Jugan comforts a dying woman.

Yesterday we prayed the Way of the Cross.

There are days - or months - when all seems hopeless.  Life is simply an avenue to death.  The way leads to the cross and only to the cross.  

The world of Orwell's 1984 is like that.  The novel is not only about the terrors of living in a dystopian totalitarian regime; it is not merely a political novel.  It is also about the prison of life in any world where what we do loses meaning, where all seems as lost and hopeless as did that dreadful Way up to Golgotha.

But at one point Orwell's main character, a prisoner of despair and doom if there ever was one, realizes something ...

If you loved someone, you loved him, and when you had nothing else to give, you still gave him love. When the last of the chocolate was gone, his mother had clasped the child in her arms. It was no use, it changed nothing, it did not produce more chocolate, it did not avert the child's death or her own; but it seemed natural to her to do it. The refugee woman in the boat had also covered the little boy with her arm, which was no more use against the bullets than a sheet of paper. The terrible thing that the Party had done was to persuade you that mere impulses, mere feelings, were of no account, while at the same time robbing you of all power over the material world. When once you were in the grip of the Party, what you felt or did not feel, what you did or refrained from doing, made literally no difference. Whatever happened you vanished, and neither you nor your actions were ever heard of again. You were lifted clean out of the stream of history. And yet to the people of only two generations ago this would not have seemed all-important, because they were not attempting to alter history. They were governed by private loyalties which they did not question. What mattered were individual relationships, and a completely helpless gesture, an embrace, a tear, a word spoken to a dying man, could have value in itself. The proles, it suddenly occurred to him, had remained in this condition. They were not loyal to a party or a country or an idea, they were loyal to one another. For the first time in his life he did not despise the proles or think of them merely as an inert force which would one day spring to life and regenerate the world. The proles had stayed human. They had not become hardened inside. They had held on to the primitive emotions which he himself had to re-learn by conscious effort. And in thinking this he remembered, without apparent relevance, how a few weeks ago he had seen a severed hand lying on the pavement and had kicked it into the gutter as though it had been a cabbage-stalk.

What stands out in the Way of the Cross are the "completely helpless gestures" - the wiping of the face, the sharing of the burden, even Our Lord's prophecy to the wailing women (a hard consolation, that): the events that transcended the suffering were the apparently "completely helpless gestures" that seemed to make "literally no difference".  The soldiers kick a severed hand into the gutter like a cabbage-stalk; Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.  That wiping did nothing to save him from death, to save the world from the ugliness of that hour.  Or did it?

Love transcends even death - though the day gets darker yet (as we learn tomorrow, meditating upon the crucifixion).

Let us pray to have the courage to make the gestures the world around us, the world of brutality and force, considers to be "completely helpless".  Let us pray to have the courage to console - and to share compassionately the sufferings of those in need of love.

To you, Immaculate Heart of Mary, we consecrate ourselves – our hearts, minds, wills and lives and all those works we undertake so they may be for the glory of God, for the sake of the Gospel and the salvation of souls. Holy Mother, our Queen and our Joy, give to our hearts the dimensions of yours and form us in the image of your beloved Son.

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