Omnis Spiritus Laudet Dominum
Today marks my 28th birthday.
In my twenty eight long and interesting years on earth, I have come to respect two groups of people: devout Christians and complete atheists. This is because both have confronted the grave ugliness of existence head on and have attempted to wrestle with it. For the former, the terror of being is only a step in a process from which something more beautiful than we can ever imagine will one day emerge. For the latter, nothing will emerge, and man must cope with this nothingness and cruelty the best he can.
One of the people I most love in my life is an atheist. Normally, we don't talk about religion, and if we do it often turns ugly. On one such occasion, he almost screamed at me:
"Where was your god when all of that f#%ked up sh#t was happening to us? Where was he?"
My mind turned back to all of the hardships, the heart ache, the horrible dark nights that I had to suffer so young that I would not wish on my worst enemy. And he was older than me, so he knew much more about what was going on than I did.
I went back in my heart to that darkness, and I was silent. Where was God in all of that? Why was God silent?
There is a passage in St. Augustine where the Church Father goes back to the foot of Calvary, and asks a question of the Good Thief crucified on Christ's right. He asks why, out of the lawyers and scribes, those devout people who prayed in the Temple, fasted, and gave alms, that brutal criminal was the only one who knew what was really going on. Out of all of those people in that society who read constantly the Law and the Prophets, only one person understood all of it that day. When St. Augustine asked how he had obtained at that darkest hour the insight to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Good Thief replied:
"I only looked upon His face. And I understood all."
When that atheist asked me that question , Christ was also asked, and He too was silent; bloody, looking down, with a sad and suffering look on His face. There is no rationalization for human suffering. All of those things that happened to us when we were little could not be justified in a million years of theology and polemics. But there is the suffering face of Christ, looking at us, suffering with us, and that is the only explanation capable of pulling us out of the mire.
A little under eight years ago now, I was in the gutter as a human being. I wasn't a heroine addict or anything like that, but I had no purpose in life, no reason for being. I had no love. And I suffered so much because of it. I was angry at the world, at the Church, but most of all I was angry at myself since I couldn't face the the brutality of poverty and a broken home with the courage that I thought I had. I was hollow on the inside. Jesus came to me, extended His hand and asked me one question:
"Do you trust me?"
This was as if to say: "I know that you have suffered and are suffering. I know it doesn't make sense and you are angry. But I will help you. Do you trust me?"
It took me months and some difficult decisions, but finally, trembling with fear and cold, I said, "Yes, Lord, I trust you."
And He has helped me carry my cross ever since.
There have been nights in the cloister, in the desert, and on the cold mountain that I have almost felt that God wasn't there. But I always knew He was. No matter what happened, I have always prayed:
THE LORD is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?
And I have not been afraid. God has taken care of me. And when I was unable to carry my cross, He carried it for me. God is good. You will never know what God can do for you until you give Him your heart and trust Him.
Today I received the greatest gift a man could ever receive: the love of a woman. This is not an example of "name it and claim it", have faith in God and get lots of nice things. This is another invitation to the Cross. There have been two women on my mind all day long, my new beloved and my deceased grandmother. It was my grandmother who carried the Cross for me when I was so young until she couldn't be with me anymore. And I have told my beloved that my love for her is beyond that of looking into her dark eyes, hearing her joyful laugh and swooning at her melodious sighs. It is a love that will help her to carry her cross, and if necessary, to carry her cross for her, as my grandmother carried my cross for me. That is the only love that can respond to the absurdity of the fallen cosmos. It is the only love that can make all light and life, love and joy. It is the love of the gaze of Christ hanging on the Cross. May we all accept it into our hearts and let go of the darkness that binds us.
And that is MY birthday gift to all of you.
I love you, my Muse.
I love you, Grandma.