Saturday, April 11, 2015

STUMBLING, TRIPPING, FALLING, COLLAPSING

JESUS FALLS THE FIRST TIME
ERIC GILL, 1917
WOOD ENGRAVING ON PAPER

The other day a print interviewer asked over the phone, "Now what's the name of your new book?"

"Stumble."

 "Scumball?" she replied.

The title wasn't my idea. If I were going to that route, I actually would have chosen COLLAPSE.

Anyway, that was my laugh for the day. And I was reminded how several months ago I was in Omaha over the weekend giving a Day of Recollection for some truly fine women of the Heartland. My hotel was downtown and after cruising around Old Market on foot, I decided to go to a Saturday vigil Mass at St. Mary Magdalene Church. Having miscalculated the time, was running a teeny bit late. In fact, a few blocks before the church, I started sprinting.  

So there I was, all 62 years of age of me with a purse and a tote bag, trilling along at top speed and just as I approached the door, my foot hit a loose piece of sidewalk and I went sprawling and I mean sprawling. My first thought was My phone! Not I hope I didn't break my leg, or arm, or jaw, any of which I could easily have done. Stuff did fly out of my purse and though the phone was fine, the breath was knocked out of me and out of shock and fear I emitted a kind of strangled scream. A guy who was hanging around the side of the church regarded me kindly lying there in a heap and said, "Are you okay?" 

Of course I felt like a complete ass. "Yeah, I'm okay," I chuckled, or tried to chuckle as I righted myself. In fact, I'd badly bruised one knee and scraped the palms badly enough that they were bleeding. Stigmata! I thought as I limped up the stairs to Mass. 

But seriously, inside from the back right-hand corner of the sanctuary (which was packed to SRO), I thought about the Stations of the Cross and how Christ fell three times and how when you fall, it's not some delicate, elegant thing. Our human instinct is to stay standing as long as we possibly can. A true fall is never orchestrated.  It's a sudden, complete loss of control that is anything but graceful and that we can't help but experience as a humiliation. 

JESUS FALLS THE SECOND TIME
ERIC GILL, 1917

When we trip in public, we always immediately look around to ascertain whether anyone saw us. Then we glance behind us to see what "the culprit" was and shake our heads in disgust to telegraph to the people who did see us stumble: I'm not a klutz, some jerk left a pile of dog poo on the sidewalk or The city should really spend some dough on making this place safe for pedestrians or Did we just have an earthquake?  

On the way to Calvary, Christ didn't have that option. No human would think to make up a God who died the way Christ did, and who underwent what he did on the Via Dolorosa. No human, geared toward worldly power and success, would be given to see that our falls, our wounds, our collapses don't exclude us from fellowship at the human table: they're our ticket in. 

This morning's Magnificat reflection, by Adrienne von Speyr,  begins with a reference to Mary Magdalene:

"The Lord appears first to the former sinner. She is the first to experience his being alive. And from this, she comprehends the cross. All the sins of the work, also her own, which were so visible, struck the Lord on the cross. But because she is no longer a sinner but, rather, was converted by the Lord already before the cross, he appears to her. She is surely to embody in her person the absolution that is granted to all sinners on the cross." 

JESUS FALLS THE THIRD TIME
ERIC GILL, 1917

1 comment:

  1. I was very moved by that reflection by Adrienne von Speyr today -- and was fascinated (elsewhere in Magnificat) by your Credible Witnesses article on Christina of Markyate!

    Oh, yes, to falling -- physically and spiritually, when it happens, we're like "how the bleep did that happen?" But getting back up, with bleeding palms and banged-up knees and liberally egged face, that's the thing!

    I suspect that Mary Magdalene is a kind of patroness of mine. But that's a long story!

    Thanks for this post, H.

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