Sunday, December 21, 2014

The First and Last Vocation of Every Christian

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During the war, Caryll Houselander's spirit was stretched, and her ideas matured.  She drew on her deep spiritual reserves, her sense that all human suffering was a hallowed participation in the suffering of Christ and the belief that that suffering was in fact redemptive.  In this she shared deeply in the Catholic understanding that looked to divine suffering and led the devout to make reparation for sin by consecrating personal suffering to the divine redemptive movement inherent in Christ's suffering.  To be a "victim soul" was the height of spiritual attainment.  Daughters, Houselander offers a clear and unabashed call to embrace the cross in your lives, confident that it is part of His redemptive work and a share in the depths of His love.  

Because He has made us "other Christs," because His life continues in each one of us, there is nothing that any one of us can suffer which is not the Passion He suffered.  Our redemption, although it was achieved completely by Our Lord, does, by a special loving mercy of His, go on in us.  It is one unbroken act which goes on in the mystical body of Christ on earth, which we are.

These things are mysterious, we can't understand them with our brains, but now everyone is going to learn to understand them in sorrow, in courage and in sacrifice.  Now the time has come for each of us to prove our Christhood.

No one of us is alone.  All are one in Christ, and we can be strong in the realization that we are together and that we share in all and every grace of one another.  We are one, not only with each other, but with all the Church, the saints in Heaven, the faithful on earth and the souls in Purgatory, and we have, all of us, the strength of our adored King, Christ, - as our sword: His strength and His meekness, His love and His forgiveness.

Some of us, perhaps all of us, will feel sometimes hopelessly alone; certain griefs that we shall know make one utterly alone even in the midst of real friends; certain circumstances which will become fairly general give us the loneliness of homesickness, and events may cut us off from one another physically.  But there is not a single thing that any one of us can do which does not affect every other Catholic, which is not, in a mysterious way, his deed too. . . .

This is the first and last vocation of every Christian, to love, and all other vocations are only a shell in which this vocation, to love, is protected.  So whatever part each of you plays in life, it must be done only as a channel through which love is poured.  Love alone, love only, can save us from being swamped and swept away by the evil passions that this war with evil must set loose - hate, fear, despair.

And love can and will save the world, because this war is Christ's Passion in us, and if we dare none to act by faith and to pledge ourselves to let His love be as strong in us as His pain is, then it will bear fruit, in proportion to its magnitude of grief.

Love, and love alone, can make life welcome to us; we can help one another love, as never before and nothing else can comfort, encourage, be patient and heal, as love can do now.
We must walk in Christ's steps; in this "dry wood" foretold by Him, we must have our eyes on the "green wood," on the Christ-Passion in which all things are already new, our first springtide, for which we are again sowing seed, and in this He is our great example of love . . . .

We can imitate Him literally.  He was mocked and crowned with thorns: He remained silent.  If our determination to love our enemy, to include the enemy in our prayer and sacrifice, is at moments beyond us, we can imitate His gentle silence, and go on, go on wearing a crown of thorns in our mind.  He welcomed His cross and took it up Himself and put it on His shoulder to carry it.  We can face all in His spirit, not glad of suffering for suffering's sake but glad that, since we suffer we must, we can carry our share of the cross as a loving work for each other to help our common redemption.  We can think too, that the load the soldiers carry is the cross, and the same applies to the weight of stretchers and to all the heavy material loads; they, too, are part of the weight of the one cross laid on us.  We can imitate Him by welcoming it, and if it seems too heavy at times we can still turn to Him and say: "We praise Thee and bless Thee, O Jesus Christ, because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world."

He was stripped naked.  We also can be stripped of all we have, and not only our material goods, but of our ambitions, the closeness of friends, our hope of human joy; in this we can, like Our Lord, prepare for sacrifice.

He was sacrificed on the cross.  Some will literally imitate Him in His death, and all of us know that when a Christ dies it is Christ Who is dying, and His love has overcome death.

All of us can literally imitate Him in the wholeness of sacrifice, in offering all that we are - and that, stripped of our selfishness - to God, as an act of adoration to God and of love for one another . . .  .

Caryll Houselander