Saturday, April 14, 2018

Easter Joy and the Incarnation

My love for the Easter season is well documented, but I can't help myself. We focus so much on Lent as Catholics. Lent is the solemn preparation of discipline that is valuable to appreciate the sacrifice that Christ made for us and it is necessary. However, the Church gives us 50 days to just rejoice and sing all of the Alleluias and I think that we don't allow ourselves to fully enter into it. So, I try to make the effort and remind myself that this is a season of joy!

This was a piece from an art show I participated in a year or two ago, however, it is not my work of art. I can't take credit for the work or the quote, but I do love the sentiment!

I love this quote from Pope Francis because I agree that for some reason we have to be bold and be brave in order to be happy, it seems. Happiness is certainly a goal for all, I would hope, but for some reason we won't let ourselves really live it or enjoy it.

The Easter season is a joyful time for many reasons. I love the readings from the book of Acts where the apostles are really living the Gospel on their own for the first time. They are preaching and teaching and going out and putting their faith into ACTION. They are becoming the Body of Christ and it is beautiful to re-hear at this time of year.

I am currently reading a couple of different books (I'm always in the middle of at least three books at a time...) that have meditations on the Incarnation. The Incarnation refers to God becoming Flesh, so we often think of the event of the Incarnation at Christmas. But Ronald Rolheiser, the author of The Holy Longing which I am reading with a group of Catholic women, points out that they Body of Christ is also a way that God becomes flesh. God becomes present through us and our actions.

So hearing about the Body of Christ being formed by the apostles during this liturgical season and reading about the Incarnation has added to this joy of the season for me (the beautiful, finally warm weather also helps) and it makes me think about ways that I am actively bringing about the Incarnation. How is God becoming flesh in the world right now? In what ways?

Our American Christian culture has a weird relationship with "the flesh" and our bodies. We are super into fitness, but then abuse our bodies with chemically induced and preserved food and things that are bad for us. We want to look perfect but then hate our bodies if we don't. We use our bodies to experience pleasure, but then often feel guilty about it later.

I believe that God became incarnate to show us that our bodies are good and how to use our bodies. Namely, he used his body to help others. He walked and traveled to heal and serve others. This is how we can use our bodies and our Body of Christ to bring about God on earth as well.

Rolheiser also asserts that we have responsibility for making our prayers heard and "in fleshed" as well. Because as Christians we pray "through Christ" and one of the ways Christ becomes present is through us. We need to be His hands and feet in a real way. If we are praying for healing, we need to do things to bring about that healing ourselves. We need to reach out to others, seek help, help others. Rolheiser uses the example of the woman with the hemorrhage in the Gospels as an example. She wanted to be healed, so she reached out and touched the robes and garments of Christ. She pushed through the crowd surrounding Him and she was healed. What are some ways that we need to "touch the hem of Christ" for ourselves? For others?

In another book that I am reading by the author of "A Wrinkle in Time", Madeleine L'Engle on Faith and Art, L'Engle refers to art as a form of Incarnation, which I totally agree with. A reason that I believe art and music transcend through culture and time is that the artist is somehow channeling the divine and making God come to earth in a new way. Art and music have been ways that I have tapped into the spiritual when maybe my prayer wasn't being "heard." It is a way for us to take our prayer and the Incarnation into our own hands and create something in which He becomes incarnate.

 This weird abstract took me way longer than you might expect... I enjoyed the process of getting to this maybe more than I enjoy the end result, but that's okay! The process is maybe the most important part sometimes.
I did this by looking at the negative space around the image which also was a really good exercise.

I really like these meditations on the Incarnation in the Easter Season. We do think about Christ in the flesh during this season, but it's really through the apostles and the Church that He comes "in fleshed" at this time. I love this meditation on all the ways that Christ becomes "in fleshed" and hope to carry it through to Pentecost!


Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Easter Alleluia 2018

Happy Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday! It has been a whirlwind of an Easter Octave, but a very good and blessed one.

As has been the case for the past three years since I've moved to Richmond and become active in the RCIA program in my parish, I took part in the Easter Vigil again this year. However, at the rehearsal the week of the ceremony, I was called to be a last minute sponsor for a 10 yo whose godparents weren't able to make it into town.
It is always an honor to guide someone in their journey with God and the Church, especially young people! It made Easter extra special again this year. 

Our Spring Break is always Easter week, so on Easter Sunday, I met up with a friend who is also a teacher and we took off for our planned road trip to Gatlinburg and Nashville, TN!

Hanging out in the Smoky Mountains

In front of the Grand Ol Opry!

So full disclosure- I'm actually not really a country music fan. I just love music in general and I know that some country stars are the roots for Rock and Roll and Pop music which I am more of a fan of. I also had been to Gatlinburg as a kid and remembered its kitsch and wanted to experience it again. My friend and I had fun in TN and kept busy doing all kids of quirky things like the Salt and Pepper Museum (yes, that exists and it is glorious!), climbing in the Smokies, driving to a Cherokee reservation, and witnessing the dinner theater treasure that is the Dolly Stampede (I remember attending this show as a child and it being called the "Dixie Stampede" then. I think it changed its name for political correctness, however, the "South" team still won in the competition we watched this week...yikes). 

Tennessee was fun and pretty but definitely an eye opening experience. My friend and I live in our cozy liberal bubbles in California and Richmond, respectively. While I do experience people who disagree with my political views quite often here in VA, I wasn't ready for the blatant racism and aggression that existed in the souvenir shops, roadside attractions, billboards, tshirts, etc all over TN. It was frustrating to see people holding onto a hateful past instead of moving on with unity and openness. 

I was also surprised by the ingrained evangelicalism there. My friend and I were often greeted with phrases relating to God and His blessings which I'm obviously not offended by, however, I'm not sure all visitors would say the same. After learning a little more about country music and its history in Gospel and Tent Revivals, it makes some sense why the evangelical Christian culture is also very deeply rooted. It was just an overall eye opening experience to see how this part of the country lives and I pray that we can all come to some middle grounds to heal the societal wounds that still obviously exist. 

Arriving back in Richmond made me appreciate this city a lot more! I love my quirky little artsy city. 
Today, I played for a Mass at a parish in Church Hill for Divine Mercy Sunday. The priest gave an awesome homily on Doubting Thomas and Mercy and I would like to share some of his points here. 

Father noted that Doubting Thomas (and the subject of today's Gospel reading) often get a bad rap. Father pointed out that doubt is not necessarily a bad thing. Doubt keeps us from getting stuck in our ways. Doubt can lead us to question the status quo. It can push us to find answers that move us forward. 

However, we have to keep our doubt from leading to fear which is where the problems begin. Father gave us a reminder for Fear as an acronym. He said it can stand for: False Evidence Appearing Real. I feel like this speaks volumes for the fear and fake news in our country today. It speaks to some of the racist things I saw this past week as well. To relate it to the Gospel, the apostles were afraid after the Crucifixion. They went and hid in the upper room. 

Meanwhile, however, Mary Magdalene was brave and took a risk and went to the tomb that Easter morning. And she was rewarded by being the first to see the risen Lord. Father called her today the "apostle to the apostles." I love that! A woman as an apostle! It made me think that Pope Francis has so much ground to open up the possibility for a female deaconate and that is one of my prayers for the Church. I think we have so many examples in Scripture and history of women preaching the Good News just like Mary Magdalene. She was the one who went and told the others the Good News that is the crux of our faith- that Christ resurrected from the dead. That is pretty incredible!

Mary Magdalene and St. Thomas were not afraid to question and they were shown mercy. We are all in need of God's mercy in some way. We've seen it in a very real way this past year or so especially. Fear only brings about more false evidence. If we are brave and take a risk like Mary Magdalene or question like St. Thomas, we will be given mercy and more likely to show mercy to others- the mercy we all need. 

Happy Easter for the next few weeks! It's my favorite liturgical season!