Collect for Candlemas

Almighty and ever-living God, we humbly beseech thy majesty: that, as thine Only-Begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in the substance of our flesh; so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts, by the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


It is a largesse of spirit—courtesy, generosity, humility, charity—which is seen in the corporal vehicles—say, the carnal vehicles, of the women. They define the doctrine in their gestures; the mind apprehends it. It is the same doctrine which is defined intellectually … by the Christian philosophers. What is Christianity but a doctrine of largesse? The doctrine of the Trinity is a doctrine of largesse; the doctrine of the Incarnation and the creation is a doctrine of largesse; the doctrine of the Redemption is a doctrine of largesse; the doctrine of heaven is in every way a doctrine of largesse.

—Charles Williams, The Figure of Beatrice

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Had a really great session with my counselor yesterday. So, I’ve done some shit that is just horrifyingly awful. I confessed (as part of my general confession when I first became a Catholic), so I have long known, rationally, that those sins forgiven by God; but letting go of the urge to punish yourself is weirdly hard.

I’ve always been annoyed by the language of forgiving yourself—I mean, forgiveness is a relational act, right? so it sounds dumb to talk about doing that to yourself, except in a sort of allegorical sense, maybe? Then again, we do relate to ourselves, don’t we. Anyway, whether forgive yourself is a silly phrase or not, it certainly expresses a truth, that it’s hard to accept God’s forgiveness. It’s easy to believe that there’s nothing you can do to wipe away what you’ve done, but curiously hard to believe there’s nothing you have to do to try. Maybe it’s our chronic fear of being taken in by something too good to be true … They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their only prison is in their minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.1

Point is, my counselor helped me be taken out. It was scary while it was happening, because I don’t know that I had ever been quite that vulnerable with Christ, and some of the memories I was dealing with are still sore to the touch. Surgery is scary. But I jumped in, because it isn’t like I could avoid it forever, except in hell. Better to get it over with, like vegetables at the dinner table as a child.2

It felt almost exactly like looking Christ in the face. No, in the eyes. And looking someone in the eyes and telling them about some horrible things you’ve done, in plain English, is terrifying.

He forgave. He already had, of course. But I had to tell him specifically instead of generally, because I had to see the forgiveness happening, had to have it re-presented, to credit it for myself. I don’t know if it’s my Calvinist upbringing or my ego or just run-of-the-mill neurosis, but, while it’s easy enough to repress and ignore my faults, it’s very hard indeed to believe that they’re forgiven, pardoned, by the Person whose opinion of me matters the most.

I have a hunch that this clinging to guilt has something to do with why chastity is so frightfully difficult for me. I suspect it’s not quite as simple as using sex as a direct anodyne for guilt or shame; I mean, I think I do that too, but there’s something else going on in here. (Isn’t it funny that we live with ourselves literally all our lives, and yet find our minds and feelings so mysterious? It’s so Lost In the Cosmos.) My impulse toward self-destructiveness does seem almost that simple, an attempt to restore psychic balance through self-punishment.3 Chastity per se, though … there’s an anguish in it that I don’t think can be explained merely by the frustration of a self-destructive impulse. All the same, I think my interior universe got a little more harmonious, which I hope will make things a little easier—at least to understand, and maybe to do as well; though in writing that I can’t help but think of Jesus’ strange saying, If any man do his will, he shall know of the doctrine. Who knows—maybe that comes next.

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1C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle, cap. XIII: How the Dwarfs Refused To Be Taken In.
2My unofficial motto for the last twenty-five years has been This is gonna hurt. I’m not a super healthy person, if you hadn’t already gathered that from the everything about me.
3That doesn’t work, it turns out.

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