Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Lord: Chapter 26, “The Son of Man”

Dear friend,

This series of open letters to you, a treasured schoolmate from long ago, about Romano Guardini’s book on Jesus Christ, The Lord, is having the desired effect. Or effects. At least for me. I don’t know for you.

One effect is that I am forced to re-read and re-re-read each chapter to push my brain to some better, deeper understanding of the book—in hopes that this effort will bring me closer to Jesus. I know that must sound very Red-State to you but I’m a Catholic now.

Another effect, and this is what I want to write about here, is that this meditation on the book in light of our experiences together at boarding school so many years ago is stirring up memories. And lots of crazy other stuff. Last night I spent dreaming. You would have thought I had the flu or something, the way I tossed and turned and threw my blankets around.

I dreamed of events long ago, and made-up events of dreamtime that might have a connection to long ago. I dreamed of a Lexus dealership in Alexandria, Virginia, and determined in my dream that I had to visit it, because many of the important characters from those boarding-school years and what came after now live and work there. Lexus? Alexandria? Are the two x’s important? As in what—chromosomes?

All I can or want to say is that there was a sense in my dreaming, which seemed to last all night, that there are big stories and clues to big mysteries buried there, at a luxury-car dealership south of Washington. You used to live in Washington. Any connection?

Well, so. What connection could this dreaming possibly have to do with chapter 26? Yes, that’s what these letters are supposed to be about, so I will tell you.

Jesus, when talking about himself, uses two terms. One is shepherd, as in, “I am the good shepherd and I know mine and mine know me, even as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for my sheep,” as in John 10.

The other is that odd phrase that has always perplexed me, the Son of Man. I won’t go into any more chapter and verse in this post, but instead will offer only a general sense of what is meant here. Though we rebel at the suggestion that we are sheep (if He is the shepherd) and though the idea of Jesus’s being our Son is counter-intuitive, both notions offer the possibility of an intimacy between me and the Lord that is beyond my ordinary understanding. In Guardini’s words, “No one is so warmly, so intimately, so excellently human as he. . . . He who would penetrate to man’s heart, to the core where all true decisions form, must pass through Christ.”

Christ cares for me and knows me (the shepherd), Christ loves me so much that he is side by side with my heart. These are odd notions for our modern, scientific minds—and our ordinary Blue-State mentality too. But these are the notions of Christianity.

Back to my dreams. We lived in a dream, were brought up in a dream—of confusion, conflict, war, rebellion, sex, and drugs. (Yes, as some recent posts have hinted, we’ve got to get around to drugs at some point, but not yet, not centrally here.) Pandora’s box opened and the dream figures poured out.

And what did we do to deal with it all? We began with the drugs, and some of us took the sex farther than perhaps we should have. Not me, I was a choir boy, relatively speaking, and I’m not being ironic.

And then we turned away from our parents’ solution to soul disturbance, traditional Western religion, and we looked for relief in Eastern religions and disciplines (the Maharishi! the Maharaji! the Moonies!). Then some of us turned from lighter drugs like marijuana to heavier ones like coke (again, not me, I’m just sayin’) and addicting drugs like alcohol (I’ll take the 5th). And now, forty years later, our generation is often found trolling the self-help shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, looking for something to deal with the nightmares.

And all along Jesus has been the shepherd, the Son of Man, and somehow, beyond any common sense, it is the promise of Christianity, especially in its purer Catholic form, that if we go to Him, he will know us and tend us. If we go to Him, we will find him closer to our hearts than we can even imagine.

These are strange notions, strange promises, but they are the promises of the Lord.

Be well, my friend,

This series of posts continues here with chapter 27.

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