A Reasonable Sacrifice

Mstyslav Chernov | Fresco Paintings At The Entrance Lane of St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery (Night View) | Kiev, Ukraine, 24 October 2009

Mstyslav Chernov | Fresco Paintings At The Entrance Lane of St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery (Night View) | Kiev, Ukraine, 24 October 2009

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The landscape stretches like a heartache. Endless, perpetual, the numinous line between now and then; there seems to be no end to the pain. Modern souls live in broken bodies.

Amid the gloom still the light pierces through. It is a fighting chance that indeed fights on.

And this fighting chance has a name. It is called sanctity.

Sanctity: the capacity to praise despite the anguish and the pain. That surrender of a heart that knows it is infinitely loved, accompanied in the miserable landscape of suffering.

Sanctity: the choice perseverance in spite of failure.

Sanctity: the daring belief that all is yet not lost.

Sanctity: the cry that pierces modern Gethsemane nights, and accepts the unacceptable.

Sanctity: the choice for hope anchored in the Love that Himself inspires the piercing cry ‘I shall love Thee, O my God’ even when the heart is numb and the body broken.

But what is it that so captivates? That so shatters the numbness and the paralyzing emptiness and propels this choice?

Could it be anything at all? Anyone at all?

Could it be but Christ, visibly suffering — the crucified body of God, broken yet living? Dead yet meant for rising?
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‘Man is an apprentice, pain is his master: Nothing can be known, except so far as man has suffered.’

-Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, ‘L’éternelle Vie et la Profondeur de L’Âme’ 2.6 VI

But who can be so strong and yet so frail? Who can stand — persevere? ‘But he who endures to the end will be saved (Mt. 24.13).’

A captivated mind and a conquered heart endure when they are purified in suffering.

The mind assents by grace and so chooses to hope. This is the mind that wills to believe as it doubts — the mind made to see the Truth that sets us free, and is captivated by it, glimpsing its veiled light.

The heart on the brink of breaking is won by the wisdom of Love. This is the heart that desires God as yet it bleeds. Grace conquers it, and propels its chosen love.

And of this all is born a hope tested in fire — a hope purified, strengthened — enduring.

The hastening flight of summer wings,
The haunting sense of passing things,
The emptiness the future brings
Echo a dull refrain
With the time-imprisoned soul,
That hears the clanging seasons roll
Their changes round the shifting pole
In monotones of pain.
What trust within the restless years,
Their broken hopes and passing fears –
A desert watered by the tears,
And cockle for the grain!
One Hope shines out from Galilee,
That Life that walked the raging sea,
And blossomed on the bitter tree
That looked o’er Kedron’s plain.
One faith amidst the fleeting sense,
One stay onto our impotence
One steadfast buckler of defence
Against the world’s disdain.
One Love to flame our weak desire,
And like Isaias’ coal of fire,
Chasten the heart that dare aspire
To that eternal fane.
One Hope, one Faith, one Love, O Lord,
To lead us with a triple chord –
Three rays from thy eternal Word
To make the dark way plain.
-Condé Benoist Pallen

Why choose hope, then, when each time hope seems to fail us?

Because hope is a reasonable sacrifice. The only reasonable sacrifice.

And we are made to make it. Whatever the cost. Because we are made for more than the mediocrity of un-redemptive pain; for more than meaningless agony. We are made for more than the waste of ourselves.

In hope, the gain is all — the One who is all in all.

Any other choice would be loss upon loss, leading only to a further final loss. Then the numinous line between hope and despair would be entirely blurred — erased.

And we would have denied God permission to save.

So much is really at stake. Now. A modern ancient struggle persists for souls so loved.

Hope saves. It is the only reasonable sacrifice — an exercise of the weakened will that strengthens the heart in its hour of darkness; a healing salve for times when all else terribly fails; a harbor that assuages the stormy bitterness of pain yet remaining, and reveals mysterious grace in misery.

The landscape might well be stained with blood. But still hope reigns. As silk threads capture the iridescence and glory of midday light, so also the soul that chooses hope over despair.

Here loss is won; victory gained. This is sanctity — a choice rooted in a reasonable and sacrificial hope; a choice that costs us our self-reliance in order to give God the chance to save us, realizing we cannot save ourselves. To hope in this way, to stake our hope in His victory, is to give ourselves that fighting chance that dispels the night in the massive mystery of pain.

O death, where is thy victory? Where, O death, is thy sting?

Make, O Lord, the dark way plain, amidst this world’s disdain.
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You may reach Maria Grizzetti at IncarnationandModernity@gmail.com