Friday, March 25, 2011

Mountain climbing, the Lenten journey

“For writers, musicians, artists and all who create beauty: for attention to the divine voice within them as they work so that they may do their part in the transfiguration of the world…we pray.”

My ear instantly caught on the word “writers” and my thoughts reeled around to hear the rest. Suddenly, my whole attention was rapt in the words being spoken from the sanctuary. I was in shock and felt touched, empowered and like I wanted to cry - all at the same time. These were words of comfort, oh sweet comfort, after a long and grueling few weeks of work. Out of the ordinariness of my life, this prayer drew me and refreshed my heart with meaning and purpose. Just as the prayer was lifted up by the church, alighting on wings to the throne of God, my soul felt lifted up. I wondered if anyone else had heard what I heard in the Prayer of the Faithful last Sunday at Mass. I felt acknowledged and appreciated by mother Church.

The words reverberated in my mind, cooling it with the fresh water of knowing that I was not alone. My work mattered and the Church was praying for me. She was praying and appreciating the intimate, personal workings of artistic creation and the writer-artist. While contemplating on the divine miracle of Jesus' Transfiguration on the mountain (Sunday's Gospel reading), the Church was thinking of me, the artist...this small, weak creature who is invited to participate in the work of the divine artist!

“Beauty will save the world,” said Fyodor Dostoevsky. This, in a way, is the writer's mission. And someone recently reminded me, "With wisdom and experience come words that carry great responsibility."


I am reading Purgatorio from Dante’s Divine Comedy for Lent. It is a fascinating and soul-cleansing way to stare at the seven deadly sins and their effects in our lives and to strengthen our resolve to pursue virtue rather than vice. Despite the punishments we bring upon ourselves because of our sin, God's mercy is abundantly greater. I love the way Dante shows this via the beautiful instrument of poetry.

Dante wasn’t kidding when he compared purgatory–the aligning of our spiritual lives to God’s divine and loving will–to climbing a mountain. The mountain is an appropriate allegory to our spiritual journeys on earth, for the way is narrow and steep, treacherous and demanding. In our upward climbing, we are prone to slipping backward, and the climb requires vigilance and attention. Sometimes we must watch our every step. I remember hiking up the Alps in Austria. The journey was exhausting but worth every drop of sweat!

In the Scriptures, it says Jesus often went up the mountain to pray. Jesus preached the Beatitudes and taught the crowds about the kingdom of God...from a mountaintop. Jesus invited his disciples to see His glory in the Transfiguration...on a mountain top. Jesus carried a wooden cross up the mountain of Calvary and gave his life for us...on a mountaintop.

The message is clear and simple. In order to see God, we must go up the mountain. In order to understand His Word, to witness His glory, to encounter His saving grace, we must go up the mountain. We shall ascend by leaving our vices and sins behind, by conforming our lives to godly virtues and purifying our hearts. In the same way, those who have died in faith but still bear the weight of sin, must go through a period of time whereby they are refined by God's love. "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God" (Matt. 5:8).

Let's make it our goal this Lent to follow Christ up the mountain. As we do, we will draw closer to understanding and seeing the awesome power and grace of God. Refined by virtue, we might attain the hope of our salvation at the summit of our lives: to look on the astounding beauty of the Lord’s countenance and to be in communion with divine love.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful thought - that our mother Church IS praying for us. For all of us. I love those moments in mass where something clicks and for just a passing moment we really, fully understand our place as a member of the body of Christ.
    Beautiful .