Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Consolation of the Happy Ending

Last week we were asked to suffer with Jesus in his crucifixion - this week of Creighton University's Spiritual Exercises style retreat asks us to share Jesus' joy in his resurrection ...

This week we contemplate, using the Scriptures and our imagination, the experience for Jesus of being raised from the dead and his sharing of that experience with those he loved. What inexpressible joy Jesus must have had at experiencing eternal life, as a human being! Having just experienced the depths of our suffering and death, he now knows what it will be for us to experience the life of the Resurrection. And how he must have delighted in sharing that joy with those who suffered with him at the foot of the cross! .... Finally, I contemplate our risen Lord sharing his joy with me.

The first time I made the retreat, I just didn't understand this week. I had a hard time imagining Jesus being, well, joyful, just as I had had trouble imagining him suffering the week before. I thought God was impassable. It's taken me a while to let Jesus be emotional. It's still a struggle.

I read something the other day, J.R.R. Tolkien and the Significance of Fairy-Story by Andrew Schuman, that touched on joy -

[W]hat Tolkien calls “the Consolation of the Happy Ending.” This consolation ... is a sudden and joyous ‘turn’ that occurs just as all hope is lost, a good catastrophe— eucatastrophe, as Tolkien called it— a “sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur.” ..... For Tolkien, eucatas"trophic joy possessed great metaphysical as well as personal significance ... The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation" ...

So, if I understand this correctly, maybe that kind of joy is like what's found in this Jane Kenyon poem ...


There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.

It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

I must contemplate some more.


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