caro factum est

Only God saves; only God forgives sins; from God alone comes grace. Blessed be God for His mercy!

And here is a greater mystery. God took a physical body in the Incarnation; and God took a mystical Body in the Church.[1] What a man uses his body to do is assuredly the work of the man: no one would watch a lifeguard save someone’s life and say, “it wasn’t the lifeguard who saved him, but the lifeguard’s hand!”

It was the work of Christ that, in His physical body, He died and made atonement for our sins. And it is the work of Christ that, in His mystical Body, He applies the grace of that redemption through the Sacraments and sanctifies us in our daily lives.

in earthen vessels[2]

Indeed, such an economy of salvation only showcases the work of God. God took on a physical, temporal, frail, subject-to-temptation body to redeem us; God established a physical, temporal, frail, subject-to-temptation Church to apply the graces of that redemption to every successive age. Just as He demonstrated the unimaginable power of His grace by using His Humanity as the means of salvation, so He demonstrates it in the Sacraments by using our humanity and the common things of our lives to continue offering that salvation to the world.

Satan did not prevail over Christ–and the gates of his kingdom will not prevail over the gates of ours.

How great the God who would work through our own flesh to save us!

You led your people like a flock[3]

 And so He has always done.

After all, God could have vaporized Pharaoh and caused His people to wake up in the Promised Land; instead, He asked the most unlikely man imaginable to lead his people out of Egypt.

He who could have created the children of the promise out of nothing chose rather to involve a man: though He could have raised up children from the stones,[4] He raised them up from Abraham.

He who could have wiped out sin with a thought and saved the faithful without their help called Noah to build a boat.

And He Who could have peopled the world and perfected the garden with a word instead called a man and a woman to share in His fruitfulness and His stewardship of creation.

So this is our God. Salvation history throughout the Old Testament is precisely the record of His association of men with His saving plan. And He who led his people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron (despite their weaknesses and outright sins) still leads His flock by the hand of all His popes.

For the New Covenant is the fulfillment of the Old.

of dust from the ground[5]

The sacramental economy of salvation is true to more than history. Consider Genesis:  creation itself shows us that spirit works through body. And re-creation is true to creation. God will not be thwarted. He does not scrap the world when it goes awry. He will not work around the flesh, the corporeal, temporal world in which we live–in which we are washed and fed and forgiven in time and space. Instead, He will redeem it.

In Genesis, man was created as an enfleshed being–in fact his body was created before his soul, and they were joined in a unit never meant to be dissolved. In Revelation, man is promised the redemption of his body. The beginning and the end of Scriptures (like the Alpha and Omega, Himself a Man) combine to affirm that the human person is incarnational, body-and-soul. And it is as such that we are called to meet our God.[6]

For God calls us to an intensely personal encounter with Jesus Christ: an encounter which must take into account every dimension of our being, and of His. An encounter in which He meets us bodily in our flesh: brightly in our eyes, audibly in our ears, tangibly on our tongues.

We must meet Him, in the common parlance, “in person.”

How personal the encounter in which Christ comes to me in the Eucharist, in which He feeds my physical and spiritual body with His physical and spiritual Self! How personal the encounter in which I use the body and the words God gave me to enter a confessional–and in which I hear Him say, through the man He has given authority as His minister,[7] that I have been forgiven!

Let us not neglect to meet Him in the places He comes to us.[8]

in the things that have been made[9]

It is the glory of things that they are able to bear God.

It is one of the marvels of the sun that a diamond refracts its light in a thousand ways: the diamond’s colors bring the sun close to us and tell us something new and beautiful about its pure, invisible light.

And it is one of the marvels of God that He comes near to us in the waters of Baptism, in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, in the person and words of the priest in Confession. The Sacraments show more perfectly and more beautifully the mysterious mercy of the God who is determined to save creation through creation: the God who came as a Man and continues to work through men to bring all things into one with Him–things not only in heaven, but on earth.[10]

the ministry of reconciliation[11]

There is one mediator between God and men: Jesus Christ.[12] And we are His Body.

What God has joined together, let no man separate.

Let no man deprive the Head of His hands, Christ of His Church, the Priest of His priests.

For ours is the God of the Incarnation, the God of Creation: the God Who, in His strange and boundless mercy, delights in making man the instrument of grace.



[1] the Body spoken of in 1 Cor. 12, Rom. 12, Col. 1, etc.

[2] 2 Cor. 4:7

[3] Ps. 77:20

[4] Matthew 3:9

[5] Gen. 2:5

[6] What a poverty to confine “person” to “spirit”–to try to deprive of its meaning my physicality, my need for physical sustenance and communion! (As though I were to insist on only talking to my friend on the phone because a communion of spirits is more “personal” than a physical encounter!) But God always works with who we are. He is not a God of impositions but of invitations: a God not of artificial reconstruction, but internal regeneration. True to the nature He created in us, He offers salvation through a human community and, in the Sacraments, answers to our deep need to receive Him in body as well as soul.

[7] John 20:22-23

[8] cf. Hebrews 10:25

[9] Romans 1:20

[10] Col. 1:20

[11] 2 Cor. 5:18

[12] 1 Tim. 2:5

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

give me your hands

The dead king laughs, and slaps the back
Of his scheming prodigal son;
The general forgets his plan of attack
And whether his war was lost or won.
All tears are stopped; those who dreamed of wrongs
Awake to find their hearts and joys are mended.
The stars stand uncrossed. Ophelia’s songs
Are sane again, and all her sorrows ended.
The best part of a play’s the curtain call,
Where in a land beyond amends
The last act’s murder, the first scene’s fall
Are undone—and the sinners are friends.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


3rd Sunday in Advent ~ 2016

How strange that, amidst these readings on rejoicing, we get one slipped in there on mere endurance. Brethren, be patient. Patiens: suffering. Brethren, suffer. Brethren, endure. How can the same heart be patient and also rejoice?

Rejoice: not that you are comfy, but that God is near.

Rejoice: not that you are comfy, but that God is here.


You are the Goal; and You are also the Way.

You are the wedding-feast; and You are the pilgrim’s daily bread.

You are the End; and You are the one Who carries us there.



The very action of holding on proclaims
that there is something worth holding on for.

Every moment announces that You are near.


We would not have the strength to hold on
unless You were the strength in us.

Every moment announces that You are here.



There are two reasons to rejoice, whatever our cross: that He is with us on it; and that He will save us from it.

Veni, Emmanuel: a mystery. Come, You Who are already here. This is our song, our redoubled rejoicing.

Be with us, God-with-us, and we will run to Your Presence in Zion.

Let the lame leap; let the captives be set free. Let every ache You suffer in us be redeemed.

Gaude, gaude! Emmanuel nascetur pro te Israel.


Filed under Uncategorized

immoderatio omnis

Scattered thoughts on mercy.


We are very good at things we can measure, sounding the height and width and depth of things which have limits. But mercy is immeasurable. Who shall weigh the water from a gushing spring? Who will moderate the sun, or be offended that it does not dim its rays?

We are used to thinking in Aristotelian terms of a good thing as generally being the mean between two extremes. Don’t go overboard; what is healthy and normal, apt to our nature, is found in moderation rather than excess.

And yet mercy is always extreme. The very nature of God is an excess, an overflow. How strange it is that, from the Garden of Eden, we have always balked at this, always had difficulty believing God is our Father, always resisted asking for what He longs to give us. (What if Adam and Eve had simply repented?)

The earth was formless and void.

They have no wine.

Christ’s first miracle, like God’s first act in time, was a response to the simple fact of emptiness. And the gift has been pressed down and running over ever since. So His mercy sees the void in us and runs to fill it beyond all need and comprehension.


Salvation does not consist in beating the breast but in walking back to God. Judas and the prodigal both acknowledged their sin, but only one of them returned.

Only one of them acknowledged that it was to a Father that he addressed his words.

I have to remember this. I may acknowledge my sin, I may pray a Psalm like 51 and know uncomfortably how very true it is of me, and yet do so in a way that is morose. I am wretched, God. I am wretched. I am looking at how wretched I am. I can’t get away from how wretched I am. Behold my wretchedness. And I forget to add that I am a son, and He is my Father. I forget to look up, to find Him already running toward me down the road. I forget that the grace of seeking Him can only come because He has left everything—the shepherd in the wilderness, the housewife overturning all the furniture, the child in the manger—to find me. I forget that the angels in heaven rejoiced, with real and expansive joy, when David the adulterer and the murderer mourned my sin is ever before Thee.

David acknowledged he was sick; but David asked for healing, and believed that it would come.

Sorrow is only holy, I suppose, when it is part of a larger joy. The bent head, the face ashamed, the fist beating the wicked heart—must be part of a turn to Godward, a real expectation of and readiness to respond to the mercy we will find there, yearning to make us saints.

O, God, You long to pour out Your mercy upon us.

We must accept it; we must become its ministers, its conduits, channels through which it may burst from Your heart and overwhelm the world as the waters cover the sea.

So often You give mercy to one of us through another. Moses stood in the breach before You, and You showered Israel with grace. Mary asked for wine from You, and it exploded by the gallon into jars.

There is nothing tame or rational about mercy. Mercy is wild, superabundant, bursting all our categories. And it is natural. For God alone normality is defined by excess; mercy is unbounded; infinity is the measure of Love.

We may take offense at it; we may balk at the fact that we can neither justify nor understand it, that it is too big for us to control.

Or we may enter into it and let God change everything in us.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

propter magnam gloriam tuam

They shall see My glory. —what a longing is in the Old Testament for the glory of the Lord. I guess we’re used to thinking of glory as a kind of brightness, an accidental quality of God which for some reason He is awfully concerned about but which we don’t particularly need—and which, if anything, only distances Him from us.

I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east.

Glory is no more separable from God than light from the sun. Without it we, like the sunless earth, are formless and void: incapable of substance.

Glory is the greatness without which we are disconsolate, unable to adore.

Glory is the presence of God. It is that in which our deeds must be wrought; that which they must reflect; that which we must learn to bear. It is that for which we hunger and thirst; that for which we long more than the eye for light, more than watchmen for the dawn.

And we saw His glory, glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Glory is God’s face turned to us.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized


For Sadie Jasper and Elisha, on their wedding-day.

An old man exiled on an island
(who when young had leaned back
on the Heart of God) at last
found his eyes so steeped in love
that the present moment melted
and Jerusalem descended dressed
as a bride for her husband, bright
as burnished jasper. From a sky
swirling with thunder and angels,
stars in flight and a dragon
ravening for the world, swords
springing from mouths and a Lamb
alive but somehow slain, the city comes
clad in familiar gems: no wilder things
than the things we know can offer,
embodied, the wedding of strength
and light.

At last the stones cry out: at last
no longer fleeting, beauty
is tuned to earthward, homing
to the center of love. And the bride
comes down, the treasure revealed
for which the wise man ran to give up

So the men who heard God call
through the lilt of a human voice
have always run–from fathers, fields,
tax-collections, nets: so the one
who offered his oxen on the wood
that yoked them, turning
from the pyre of what he’d been
to chariots of fire.

The jewel and the prophet both
are sacraments of yes, the promise
made when morning blessed the deep:
one, the covenant gleaming
on Aaron’s breastplate and the streets
of Christ’s beloved; the other’s voice
and vision burning with the news
of coming day.

May you, the bride, simplicity
gilded with grace, glistening forth
from untold facets sparks
of sudden flame–even
in shadow may you be still
a harbor for the light. And bridegroom,
you whose forebear felt the whirlwind
smolder with God, may your fingers
listen at the edges of wood and stone
for the voice of Him who sounds
this world to bring us home.

May He without Whom nothing
is strong or holy bless you, keep you,
and shine on you in the place
where St. John came; and may He
Who joins you now fulfill
the promise of your names.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


I heave myself up from rolling
thickblanketed slumber
to mumble me and midnight back

to God:

Magnificat, a Memorare, fragments
of a Psalm, whatever odds
and ends might tumble through
the waves of sleep and trail off (unheard) to glory
be — how should I dare to offer Him
such meager crumbs of praise?

I shuffle to the window and dip
my head under the half-blind to a breeze
crisp with grass and pine. Below,
a snort and footfall,  splotch
I can’t quite see–the apophatic elk,
betrayed by the munch and snicker
of each squeakily-bitten blade.

Above, the moon lies round on the rim
of velvet sky; on the screen, two shafts
of lambent gold, a cross is traced
between her rays and the waking
of my eye.

I the receiver; this world
the gift to bless Him by.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized