Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Reading Mother Teresa--XVIII

I have, above my desk, a crucifix my sister gave me when she told me she said she'd become frustrated because she really didn't know what to do with it.  She knew it wasn't "ours" exactly, meaning roughly, "Protestant," but understood at the same time that the cross--big and hefty, by the way--was nothing to sneeze at.  She'd received it as a gift from a proud old Roman Catholic woman, a client she visited regularly in her job as a social worker.  But that old crucifix made her feel uncomfortable somehow, as if she couldn't--or shouldn't--somehow own it.

I know what she meant very well--that big thing seems, well, too boldly gothic for an real evangelical.  We like our crosses clean and bright and shiny, not adorned with the semi-clad body of a suffering Christ.  Somebody put up three crosses in a new subdivision here, right along the street.  Nice.  Comfortably pious.  They're all empty.  I can't imagine the same person would put them up adorned with bodies.  That would be unsettling, after all.  That would be even, well, gross.  We're all about "resurrection."  Evangelicals want to tell the whole story of holy week with its grand finale, rolled-away stone, and those burial garments folded neatly as if the grave were a fine motel.

Traditionally, at least, that is not true of Roman Catholics--and certainly not Mother Teresa, who led her life as someone who believed deeply that "sharing Christ" had less to do with putting a fish on her bumper or a cross on her lawn or a tract in a bathroom than deliberate placing herself as close as she could to his suffering every day of her life.  Honestly, that idea is as foreign to an evangelical mind like mine as Jesus Christ in feathers and beads as an Dakota warrior.  

Mother Teresa thought of herself, remember, as "his bride," and her longing to be with him actually began on the cross, in his passion.  She wanted to suffer. She wanted to hurt.  She wanted nails through her hands, if not literally, metaphorically.  She wanted to be up there on that crucifix, sharing the pain of his own broken body.  She looked forward to pain.  She relished it.  She made his misery her own personal joy.  The crosses in her lives weren't clean, weren't bright, weren't shiny, part of an attractively designed bit of sanctified landscape design.

Mother Teresa "longed for a complete union with Christ," her spiritual biographer says; and because she did, she "could not do otherwise than be united to Him in His suffering."

My sister couldn't just toss that big crucifix and I know why, because her brother can't either.  It stays right up here on my wall.  It seems to me that the image of the suffering Christ is something I somehow missed, growing up Calvinist, growing up Evangelical.  It may well not have been part of my world, but it can't be edited out of the story, not even for pious reasons.   

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps one also experiences "Joy to the world, the Lord has come", being in complete "union with Christ" and "united to Him."
Experiencing redemptive forgiveness and new spiritual birth in Christ can free one from the angst of selfishness and me first sin, and also open one's life to peace and joy. When Mother Teresa visited the needy in Gallup years ago, she looked tired, but radiated and shared her sense of peace and joy.