Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Yes or No Question

Are we living in a world "beyond good or evil," as Nietzsche pronounced and modern-day nihilists insist?  In other words, is life simply defined by the "will to power"--by the strong imposing their subjective opinions, or their personal preferences, or their irrational rage upon the most vulnerable?

Or are we living in a world defined by fundamental daily decisions between good and evil?  In other words, is life itself a question of saying either "Yes" or "No" to the Good, the True and the Beautiful? 

And if we are honest enough to acknowledge the reality of good and evil, are we willing to reflect on our decisions and re-examine our deepest commitments?  As a nation, are we willing to ask whether we are building a civilization of love, or whether we have embraced--at our core--a culture of death?  Is our latest horrifying tragedy merely a deep wound in need of mending, or does it signal a festering affliction in need of radical healing and long-term rehabilitation? 

Are we being called to radical conversion--both communally and personally?  On a personal level, perhaps this is a moment to ask whether we are saying "Yes" or "No" in our daily decisions.  Perhaps it's an opportunity to remember that a "No" to the Light is never neutral; it's always a turning toward the Darkness.  Maybe it's time to see that "Yes" is the only truly human option.

Writing in England amid the carnage of World War II, as nations confronted an ideology driven by the will to power (and as these same nations too often responded to evil with evil, thus perpetuating the lie of the "No"), Caryll Houselander meditated on Mary's fiat.  Mary's "let it be," her simple and perfect "Yes," is the only alternative to the ever-lurking "No."  As individuals and as a nation, we know what the "No" looks like.  Houselander reflects on the "Yes" which alone has the power to change our lives, our country, and our world. 

Please accept the following as a prayer on behalf of  all those who grieve and mourn, and all those who live in darkness and the shadow of death (from The Reed of God, pp. 12-13):

Our Lady said yes.

She said yes for us all.

It was as if the human race were a little dark house, without light or air, locked and latched.

The wind of the Spirit had beaten on the door, rattled the windows,
tapped on the dark glass with the tiny hands of flowers, flung golden seed against it, even,
in hours of storm, lashed it with the boughs of a great tree--the prophecy of the Cross--
and yet the Spirit was outside. 

But one day a girl opened the door,
and the little house was swept pure and sweet by the wind. 
Seas of light swept through it, and the light remained in it;
and in that little house a Child was born, and the Child was God.

Our Lady said yes for the human race.  Each one of us must echo that yes for our own lives.

We are all asked if we will surrender what we are,
our humanity, our flesh and blood, to the Holy Spirit
and allow Christ to fill the emptiness formed by the particular shape of our life.

The surrender that is asked of us includes complete and absolute trust;
it must be like Our Lady's surrender, without condition and without reservation.

We shall not be asked to do more than the Mother of God....
What we shall be asked to give is our flesh and blood, our daily life--
our thoughts, our service to one another, our affections and loves,
our words, our intellect, our waking, working, and sleeping,
our ordinary human joys and sorrows--to God.

To surrender all that we are, as we are, to the Spirit of Love
in order that our lives may bear Christ into the world--that is what we shall be asked.

Our Lady has made this possible.  Her fiat was for herself and for us,
but if we want God's will to be completed in us as it is in her, we must echo her fiat.