Thursday, July 10, 2014

Episode 31: Grace

Previously and most recently, I started reading some of Flannery O'Connor's writings, first her short stories for class and now some of her spiritual writings. Below is a quote on from The Province of Joy, on the section titled "The Cost of Faith" and afterwards an essay on her short story, Everything that Rises Must Converge. Enjoy :)
I don't assume that renunciation goes with submission, or even that renunciation is good in itself. Always you renounce a lesser good for a greater; the opposite is what sin is. And along this line, I think the phrase "naive purity" is a contradiction in terms. I don't think purity is mere innocence; I don't think babies and idiots possess it. I take it to be something that comes either with experience or with Grace so that it can never be naïve. On the matter of purity we can never judge ourselves, mich less anybody else. Anyone who thinks he's pure is surely not.
I sent you the other Sewell piece and the one on St. Thomas & Freud. This latter has the answer in it to what you call my struggle to submit, which is not struggle to submit but a struggle to accept and with passion. I mean, possibly, with joy. Picture me with my ground teeth stalking joy - fully armed too as it's a highly dangerous quest. The other day I ran up on a wonderful quotation: "The dragon is at the side of the road watching those who pass. Take care lest he devour you! You are going to the Father of souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon." That is Cyril of Jerusalem, instructing catechumens. (To "A," January 1, 1956) 

St. Martin’s Abbey

Gus Labayen

Illuminating Grace Accepted:
The Parable of the Prodigal Son
Flannery O’Connor Everything That Rises Must Converge

RELS 201 | Introduction to New Testament
Fr. Killian Malvey

The gospel of the grace of God awakens an intense longing in human souls and an equally intense resentment, because the truth that it reveals is not palatable or easy to swallow. There is a certain pride in people that causes them to give and give, but to come and accept is a different thing.

-Oswald Chambers

Divine grace is what is provided to us by God which is undeserved. It is shown in the salvation of sinners and the resulting blessings He has given us. Our experiences with grace is provided freely by God. It deeply resonates with our human spirit and is available to anyone who is willing to accept this by its nature. This is edifying throughout time and, in this case, our readings of the short stories of Flannery O’Connor and the parable of the Prodigal Son. Here I will discuss the main characters Mrs. May from Greenleaf & Julian from Everything That Rises Must Converge and how they accept grace. I will also relate these short stories to the Prodigal Son and how the Father acts with compassion in the right though totally unexpected way.
In the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) the younger son took his portion of what would be his from his father and squandered it away in dissolute living. Then a famine came and he set to live with the pigs. This son came to his senses and came back home saying “... ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands’ (Luke 15:18-19).” The father sees him, embraced and kissed him. He says to slaughter the fattened calf and to get the finest robes and put a ring on his finger saying “... for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” Suggested by the parable’s title, where the focus is placed on the fault of the son, we can observe how ungrateful he was to his father. Though in the light of grace, the father becomes the focus when it states plainly that his son was dead to him. The father disowned him and wanted no business with his son though he was “filled with compassion” for his him; filled with illuminating grace, this most edifying act was a change of heart where any ordinary father would have scolded and disgraced him. This is also shown the in the sudden acceptance of grace by Julian to act as an instrument of grace.
Julian takes his overweight Mother in Everything That Rises Must Converge to the YMCA on Wednesdays to reduce her blood pressure. Most of the story takes place on the bus to the Y and shows a racist Mother and the thoughts of Julian bent on sadistic spite. As the story comes to a peak, the mother admires the negro child accompanied by his mother saying “Oh little boy!... Here’s a new bright new penny for you, (418)” but is knocked down by the mother. Julian is reminded of the old home she grew up in with Negro slaves that he never got and attempts to teach her a lesson, scolding her for the way she’s acting and recursively mirrors his actual rejection of everything that his mother stands for. In what becomes the most shocking is when the mother suddenly changes and says to Julian, “Tell Grandpa to come and get me… Tell Caroline to come get me (420),” referring to better times in the mansion she grew up in. She sees her son in a true light, the truth of how his son has been treating her. Crumpling from an apparent stroke, Julian suddenly is illuminated in the a light of losing his mother saying “Mamma, Mamma!” As he is running towards lights, it goes further showing that though he has suddenly seen the truth of the situation, the “lights drifted farther away” and has to confront his feelings of guilt and sorrow. This symbol of light is also shown in Greenleaf.
Mrs. May in Greenleaf is confronted by the bull, a sign of fertility and sacrifice.  The story ends with the bull piercing her as she gazes into the bright sky like she “has been suddenly restored but who finds the light unbearable (333).” The overreaction to kill an innocent bull resulted in her own death though she realizes this too late. However, there is hope as the end, Mrs. May “[is] bent over [the bull] whispering some last discovery into the animal’s ear (334).” These are the points of O’Connor’s short stories- a revelation usually at the expense of a character’s life. The message of grace available to everyone, even to the sinner that ironically becomes an instrument of grace.
In my new life as a monk, in the Prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict, Benedict says “What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of his grace (RB, Prologue v. 40). It is evidenced that authentic prayer is what is genuinely good in my life. Romans 12:9-21 gives insight to what is good, “Let love be genuine… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good.” When hardships arise or a restlessness of heart becomes the usual, no matter how little, it is only by coming to God and accepting his grace that fulfills the soul. The acceptance of grace then becomes an act of our spirit, of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things (Galatians 5:22-26).” May we all live by example in our journey as followers of Christ.

- 行者劉暢

1 comment:

Stu said...

You post reminded me of one of my favorite scriptures:

James 1:5 "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."

I hope you got my letter.