Today, I visited a deserted chapel on my morning walk with my husband. I had tried to visit the chapel a couple of times during ‘social distancing’, but someone else was always there before me. This morning, finally, the chapel was empty. I went to visit the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. But was He really there?
I looked for the red sanctuary candle. Yes, it was lit. He was there. I was reminded of the ending of the great English novel, Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh: “…There I found it this morning, burning anew among the old stones.”
A couple of decades ago while on a family visit to Wisconsin, I stumbled upon a lovely crucifix in an antique store. The entire piece is hand-carved from a single piece of olive wood, and it’s only six inches tall. I couldn’t believe my luck when I bought it for a song! Over the years I have owned several crucifixes, but this one has always been my favorite. I marvel at the skill of the unknown artist, but even more at the artist’s obvious love for the Crucified Lord, as demonstrated in the detail and beauty of the carving. I have no idea how old it is. Perhaps the artist is already in heaven, smiling down every time I take it off the wall and hold it in my hands while I say my prayers.
Ever since my conversion to Catholicism, I have been fascinated by the mystery of the Incarnation, regardless of the time of year. Christ among us as true God and true man – this mystery seems completely illogical, and at the same time, a stroke of Godly genius. How else could we, who had lost our original connection to God, find him again unless we had a human person, who was also God, to bridge the gap.
One Christmas morning a few years ago, I had a startling realization. Prior to that, I had unconsciously believed that God gave us his Son in the Incarnation, only to take him back in the Ascension. That morning, I suddenly realized that God gave Jesus to be our very own forever. How can I understand the magnitude of this gift? Now my prayer is that God will give me to Jesus to be his very own forever.
My husband is a practical fellow. When we walk, he watches the ground to make sure I don’t trip while I am gazing at the tops of the trees and the sky. I can relate to the disciples who couldn’t stop looking at the sky after Jesus ascended and disappeared from view. As usual, the angels had to explain things, and now they remind me that my feet are still on the ground. There is still work to be done here.
“….Why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11 NRSV, Catholic Ed.)