Discovering who we are as human persons has become an incredibly difficult thing as of late. Commercials tells us that we can buy our value, by enslaving ourselves to their product. The media tells us that we will be valuable as persons insofar as we conform to their criteria as showcased in the images of magazines and music videos. Science (well Darwinists who claim to be representing science) tells us that we are not innately valuable, but just an accumulation of years of random freak chance evolutions. Basically, all the cultural forces that we define as authoritative are implying that we are freaks, but most of all, telling us that we are essentially worthless. Religion, which in many places is not permitted a pulpit amidst these loud voices, well, we insist that you are not only innately and essentially valuable, that you are a sacred manifestation of the Divine Image.
An Anecdote about “Regina” and “Brenda”
In the summer of 2003, shortly before I decided to follow this call to Religious life, there were these two girls, who we will just call Regina and Brenda. I knew them both for years, and had been close to them as friends. Regina had talked less after she confessed to me that she had sex with her boyfriend.
Both Regina and Brenda confessed that their boyfriends were cheating on them, and instead of dumping the creeps, they went about trying to pretend nothing happened. Their identity was so dependent upon these losers that they believed they were nobody and nothing if they actually did the right thing by dumping them. Sick really, to think your whole self worth is based on some loser’s acceptance of you who trivializes your value.
Since Regina had sex with him, and Brenda was generally unchaste, the bond they developed forced them to deceive themselves. After some straight-forward painful challenging counsel, and a lot of prayerful support, they dumped the creeps.
Unfortunately, I am not friends with either of them, since these rebound girls immediately jumped on me, and left me feeling constricted over the fact that I really felt called to be a monk.
In the beginning
The truth in the Genesis Creation story is that we are created in the Divine Image. As bearers of the Divine, we are Sacred, infinitely valuable, and subject to God’s passionate Love. Taking it a step further Augustine derives insights of the Trinity through self-introspection. For Augustine, we find God’s presence, not from looking out into the skies, but looking into the depths of our hearts. “God is closer to us, then we are to ourselves.”
In addition, Augustine understands the Trinity as Father, Son and Spirit, but also as Lover, Beloved, and Love. The Spirit (Love) is the principle of Unity between the Father (Lover) and Son (Beloved). If there can be a why to our existence, it can be principally discovered in this dynamic of Trinitarian Love. We are invited to share in Trinitarian Life, which is a life of all consuming Love.
In the Name of the Father and the Son
We are Baptized into Trinitarian Life, but we are also configured to the Identity and Mission of Christ. Christ, who is the Alpha and Omega, who In the Beginning the Word with God, and who is God, and in whom all the cosmos is directed. Because we are “Anointed” with Chrism, we are “christs” who is the Anointed One, the Priest, Prophet and King. As ‘christs’ we were Anointed as Priests, Prophets, and Royalty. To be Priestly, Prophetic, and Royal, requires more of us then manipulation, and petty misery. We are called to a greater purpose, and Jesus takes us up, and draws us into this amazing adventure. Not only are we drawn into a Divine Trinitarian Life of Love, but suddenly we are configured to a Mission to preach and Baptize, to invite others into Trinitarian Life, in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to the ends of the Earth. Most of all, Christ, the Son, becomes the center of our lives, out of which radiates all that we become and do.
Beasts and Angels
Augustine said we are somewhere between Angels and Beasts in the natural order. Because on the one hand, we are of the earth, living things, flesh, blood, appetite, desire. But we also have our sights set on something beyond this world that we cannot always articulate. Today they throw condoms at us, to have safe sex, and control the population, because we are just beasts to be neutered. Nothing is so subconsciously insulting to say that you have not the resources within you to be a better person, so we will just throw a condom or a birth control pill in there to compensate.
You are not just some beast, you are a bearer of the Divine Image.
Commodification of the human person and romance
I don’t think it is difficult for us to see how the human person and romance are commodified. Young people pay the price for not conforming to what the culture says gives us dignity by eating the right organic Free-Range Chicken Salad, purchasing the right Jordan Cements, or getting that Botox treatment. Those who do not have access to being the “right” kind of person are reduced to suicide, self-harm, eating disorders, and selling their souls to unchaste relationships where they are commodities.
You are not just a thing to be used, you are Consecrated and Configured to Christ the King, your center, making you Princesses and Princes.
When I have a good exercise it hurts, I sweat, my heart beats faster, and I am shorter on breath. I do feel great in the long run, but it has a positive effect on my body. Virtue does to our inner-self what exercise does to our body, even exercise in general nourishes greater virtue in the soul.
In the Tradition of our Faith we believe that there are 7 virtues: Faith, Hope, Love, Justice, Prudence, Fortitude, and Temperance. Temperance was a word that I never heard growing up, it meant self control. You mean that if I eat candy for breakfast lunch and dinner I won’t be healthy? You can’t be serious, because it makes me so happy!
God has put our sacred lives in our hands, and who are we to not gratefully respond responsibly.
Lent becomes a time that we learn, we exercise our virtues, by giving up our wasted time on things, and reassert our dignity and direct ourselves to the divine, whether through deeper prayer or service. Augustine often spoke of Christ as that inner teacher. When I saw myself as disciple, and Christ as teacher, often times the image of Sensei, Coach, Jedi Master, helped me to be who I was, turning to Christ who teaches within.
Trinitarian Life and the Family
The Family becomes a place where the Trinitarian Life is modeled, in that we are introduced into the Dynamic of Love, we are disciplined in virtue, and are configured to the Mission of Christ. It sounds awfully idealistic, I cannot say that my family always measured up. Sometimes God’s grace penetrated me in amazing ways to be a better person, but not by being spared over much suffering by the consequences of other people’s mistakes.
I believe that God has made us for a Divine Family, and an earthly family becomes a tangible witness to that. Sure we can learn about the Trinity by some equation, if only we were just mathematical beings. We are not, we are emotive, affective, and physiological, and it is only right for us to learn about God in ways that are emotional, affectionate, and physical. Can there not be a better place for which we receive our identity instead of being overly reliant on some creeper cheating loser immature fickle girlfriend or boyfriend?
The consequence of this is, that our relationships ought to honor something so sacred and special as a Family, meaning that when we take love and sex outside of that context, not only does it fail to help us see the wonderful Divine Truths that God has embedded in the Natural Cosmos, but we end up cheating ourselves of these truths and reducing our Divine Dignity to enslavement to lower things.
Since we know we are deceiving ourselves when we try to control our infatuation, we have to imbue our lives with deeper truth. Instead of enslaving ourselves over to lust, we need to allow ourselves to be swept up into this great adventure that is the Mission of Christ. Instead of convincing ourselves that we will find love in something as precarious as another immature person, we need to spend more time grounding ourselves in that Love which is solid. We need to develop a deeper relationship with the Trinity, in our personal prayer life, and in and through the Church.