Sunday, 2 March 2014

The Long, Hard Winter

Those of us in the States have been bombarded this weekend with yet another huge snowstorm. Last week, most of the days saw below zero Fahrenheit temperatures again. As we limp into March, the sky and land resemble December or January.

I am in the deep countryside. One of the daily treats is seeing Whitetail Deer, turkeys, Bald Eagles, Cooper's Hawks, Peregrine Falcons, Red-Tailed Hawks, Merlin Hawks, and myriad types of birds, such as the Downy Woodpecker, Flickers, Cardinals, Juncos and others. Last Tuesday, I saw two coyotes.

What has struck me is that all nature has been redeemed by Christ, as is our teaching in the Catholic Church. Nature is not depraved, or evil, or an illusion, as some religions hold.

In fact, the animals exhibit a freedom we humans in this cold do not share, as we are suffering from the consequences of Original Sin. Such consequences are illness and physical death, a clouding of the intellect, concupiscence, and the loss of Eden, ending in toil and pain connected to the work of our hands.

As I watch the Bald Eagles soar across the sky looking for rodents in the hedges, I am reminded of the great work we humans must endure to gain and prepare food. As one having the worst asthmatic attack I have had in four years, from central heating dusting ducts and the cold, I think of those great birds flying in the frigid temperatures, and I watch the herd of deer paw the ground for grass to eat.

My sins result from the consequences of Original Sin, but God is calling me to transcend these results and become perfect, even as the Heavenly Father is perfect.

To endure suffering forms a large part of this purification. Those eagles do not have to be purified. They do not have immortal souls stained by sin. These animals represent the world of the material, beautiful, transcendent in its way, but ephemeral. My soul is made for eternity, and, therefore, must be cleansed of all sin and the tendencies of sin, so that I can enjoy heaven and the Beatific Vision.

As a virtual prisoner in this cold,  I do envy, just a bit, the freedom of my fellow creatures. Yet, my prison is my freedom. Ironically, in the spiritual life, that which is painful and involves suffering frees us from ourselves.

Reflecting on my own egotism and need for perfection, I watch the eagle following the great rules of instinct. Its will is not free, although the animal seems to be free.

My lot does not look free. In fact, quite the opposite. Yet, I can achieve a great freedom in this room with the dust and the cold, coughing and taking the good meds ordered from my physician.

Such is the call of the human in this world--to be in the world, but not of the world. And, that means that my freedom must be won, not given. I am a daughter of the King and as any good "princess", I have to endure some trials to earn my title. The plot of fairy tales is based on redemptive suffering. All humans share this.

Not so the eagle in the air above me. It is given grace and strength as pure gift. But, I, too, can ask for such. But, this demands faith, and reflection, trust and prayer. God makes me grow up in this animal kingdom, from being a child to relying on Him to becoming a wide-eyed adult, aware of my limitations in this big world. I can understand why some theologians think that the "non serviam" of the evil one came from his knowledge that Christ would become a Man, and have to live in this odd state of spirit and body, not merely being spirit.
But, what lies ahead, if I persevere,  is eternal life with God, not merely the dust of the earth. This is my faith, as I sit ruminating on yet another cold day in this long winter.

Isaiah 40:31

31 But they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

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