The Messiness of Advent

Dear fellow pilgrims,

This Advent for me has been quite active. Well… about as active as a very pregnant woman can be. Right now I’m about eight and a half months pregnant, and my favorite activity for the past few months has been “nesting,” getting my apartment clean and organized and ready for baby boy #2. I’ve been trying to connect that idea to “nesting” in my soul for the coming of baby Jesus, cleaning out the dusty places of my heart, organizing the clutter that has been keeping me occupied and worried instead of open and generous.

The first time I was pregnant, just two years ago, I had a similar focus about “making space” for the coming of Jesus. My Advent was so powerful, deep, and contemplative. I had time and much fewer interruptions, so it seems, to enter into quiet prayer and think deeply about the mystery occurring in my womb. Now, being pregnant during Advent for a second time with my first baby boy now a curious and active toddler… things are a little different. I have things to do, people! Like waddle around taking care of a little toddler while making sure I catch my breath and my beachball-sized belly doesn’t hit any corners. And vacuum. Everywhere.

Today, when I was vacuuming the always-dirty dining room area, Leo (our toddler) was being less than helpful. I was getting pretty frustrated with how it was taking forever to clean up his mess from lunch, and I began to lament interiorly about how cleaning up messes will be a job I will do as a mother pretty much all my life. I began to think about the repetitiveness of cleaning up as a rhythm of life on this earth, as a consequence of original sin. Because dust is just a bunch of dead particles, and basically any other activity having to do with cleaning (showering – sloughing off our own dead skin cells) also can tie into consequences of original sin in our earthly lives. My contemplation ended around being grateful that one day in Heaven, I won’t have to clean up anymore. I can just hear the choir of moms in Heaven rejoicing now…

When I took a little more time to calm down, I realized it was around Leo’s nap time, and he was probably fussy because he needed something and not because he wanted to ruin my plans to clean up our apartment. As I walked and pushed his stroller while he drifted off to sleep, the Lord met me again to continue this “dirt, sin, and nesting” contemplation. I read the Psalm for today on my phone:

“R. Let the Lord enter; he is the king of glory.

Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?

or who may stand in his holy place?

He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,

who desires not what is vain.”

I saw myself fervently cleaning, rearranging, dusting, organizing the things cluttering my heart. Check, check, check. Yes, I totally was following this Psalm. My plans for Advent were being executed well. Martha-heart, engaged and satisfied. But then I read it again and the refrain stood out: Let the Lord enter.”

My mental image changed. I saw myself for what this process really was: me trying to make my heart clean in the way I thought Jesus wanted it to be, keeping my hands tied against sin in the way I think He wants me to, to keep my desires away from things that I think are in vain. I wasn’t really letting or inviting the Lord to enter into these things at all.

Turns out, it had been much too long since I had truly invited the Lord to enter into all of my preparation, and He was only “there” because I trusted my own plans were following His “orders” more than I wanted Him to be intimately involved with them.

I thought the result He wanted was just a clean place for Him to reside, not that He actually wanted to help me clean, and have that process be as much of a purpose as the end result. But again, even thinking in terms of an “end result” is faulty, because of original sin, we will be fighting this inner battle all our lives.

My heart softened. I teared up. What a Mary/Martha moment… Jesus doesn’t want me to just produce my own clean heart, my own interior life, He wants to help me in the process of cleaning. I need to allow the Lord to enter. He wants to be there in the mess, in my mess, showing me where to go next, what to do in order to make my heart ready for Him to reside comfortably and happily within me. I pictured myself frustrated with my progress, but having Him take my hand gently and helping me begin again.

How much better are His ways than ours! Sometimes the transformation we so desperately long for – or the transformation we tacitly deny because we are too into our own plans – is just a simple invitation away:

“Lord, please enter into my mess. Show me what to do.”

One great truth of Advent is that Jesus entered into our earthly mess. Our collective, awful, dirty mess of a world stricken by sin and wandering from God. And He’s not afraid of it, He’s drawn to it. The way He loves us is being in the mess with us, taking on our flesh without taking on our mess. He teaches us how to be in the mess of life without becoming a mess… or messier than before. And because He is the Way, He must be in our processes. We must invite Him in without being ashamed of our mess. And many times, the mess we so desperately need to clean is the one most invisible to us, in the darkest corner of our hearts. We must invite Him in to reveal us to ourselves.

As we anticipate Christmas, let us be reminded that Jesus arrived into this world in a dark, messy – and unsanitary – cave. There are many quaint and pretty ways to visualize and portray the Nativity scene, but let’s ask the Holy Family to reveal to us the more unsavory elements of the Christmas story. Let us meditate on the reality of the Nativity scene. (As a pregnant woman, thinking about farm animals rolling around in the dirt while Mary labors and gives birth is enough mess to think about.) Let us enter into their mess so we can better grasp the truth of the Incarnation, how it completely overwhelms and transforms the mess of humanity into a proclamation of the endless merciful love of God for humanity.

Pax Christi!

-Alyssa

Beyond fearing Doomsday

Dear fellow pilgrims,

If you read/listen to the news on a daily basis – especially when tensions with North Korea were higher – follow what scientists are saying about the breadth and depth of impacts of global warming even in our lifetime, and, ok… maybe if you already have a tendency to worry about things… it’s easy to worry about the end of the world.  Heck, there is even a Doomsday Clock that tells us how close the world is to a global catastrophe – i.e. how many minutes until midnight – a terrifying symbol controlled by a group of scientists.  Right now, it’s at “two minutes until midnight”, the closest it’s ever been to midnight since 1953 (during the beginning of the Cold War).

I grew up in a non-denominational church where the pastor frequently talked about doomsday, and even preached to the children in the room (me) that we were probably going to be among those who would experience the “End Times.” Ok… and does anyone else remember those videos with Kirk Cameron about people disappearing up out of their clothes during the rapture? Those movies were fun reminders of the end of the world, too. My piano teacher even had brochures in her bathroom (that was otherwise decorated with fluffy pink things) about “reading the signs of the end times” that you could leisurely peruse while sitting on the toilet. I guess you could say that my Christian upbringing included a liiiittle bit over a “healthy dose” of eschatological awareness.

So, yeah, it’s easy to be scared of these potential catastrophes we can’t control. It’s also equally as easy to, in the face of being freaked out by the world, retreat to your distracting internet sites of choice and cover up the fear with mindless entertainment. The best way, however, involves facing these fears, no matter how realistic they are (because deciding that can be a whole other can of worms) and then surrendering them to God, proclaiming His victory and lordship over all things, and proclaiming your role as one of His rescued children.

Today, Jesus speaks of this intense anxiety and fear of the people during the end of the world to His disciples in the Gospel reading:

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,

and on earth nations will be in dismay,

perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.

People will die of fright

in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,

for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

 

But then, He also speaks of the end game and our role in it:

“And then they will see the Son of Man

coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

But when these signs begin to happen,

stand erect and raise your heads

because your redemption is at hand.”

 

“Stand erect…”, do not cower in terror, children. “Raise your heads…”, have confidence enough to look directly at this terror and trust in the Lord more than competing voices tell you to fear. Why? Because “your redemption is at hand,” your salvation is imminent, your God is near.

It’s so easy to be afraid, my brothers and sisters. Way too easy. But no matter when the end of the world will be, and how we or however many generations ahead of us will be experiencing it, we know our faith, hope, and love in the Lord will be the anchor of all hearts in whatever turmoil is encountered. Because building the strength to endure worldly turmoil is not God’s ultimate purpose for our lives, but rather, our redemption, which is the ultimate manifestation of His glory. Our goal is not to just hang on when things get really tough and seemingly unbearable. This is necessary and good and promotes many good virtues, but God wants to use these perseverance and virtues as a conduit for a greater and greater manifestation of His grace, which is always a gift to be received and not something to be grasped at.

Jesus makes all things new; He does not just want to get rid of all bad things. There is Heaven after the end of the world, not just the seared and barren land we see in apocalyptic movies. There is a wedding feast we are all called to as part of His Bride, the Church.

There is always a greater song to be sung over the ruins of Babylon, which we see in the first reading:

“Alleluia!

Salvation, glory, and might belong to our God,

for true and just are his judgments.

He has condemned the great harlot 

who corrupted the earth with her harlotry.

He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

 

The first reading reminds us that the world is ending because the ruler of the world is the evil one, the “great harlot,” and “the wages of sin is death,” which is a judgment. But may we be judged favorably when our time has come, to be counted among those avenged and redeemed, as our Lord intends and hopes for each one of us.

And above all, let us not be afraid!

Pax Christi,

-Alyssa

 

Leaves the Ninety-nine

Dear fellow pilgrims, 

In today’s Gospel reading, I hear Jesus responding to the Pharisees’ implicit belief that tax collectors and sinners are to be shunned, avoided, looked down upon. (“He welcomes them? Why?”) Interestingly, Jesus does not address a broader assumption of the Pharisees – that they are not sinners but those people obviously are – but rather, highlights His Identity as Redeemer, finder of the lost. Jesus is also responding to the Pharisees’ implicit beliefs in Him as someone who is on the earth to make an impression, be a big name, gain power, shake things up. (“Why would someone like him be with people like them?) 

No, Jesus tells them in two parables that He has come not to wine and dine with the elite, but to seek and find the lost. He is on a rescue mission, not a publicity tour promoting his new ideas about the world. The lost sheep are the ones He is looking for, because His joy is bringing them back into the fold. 

Perhaps you too thought of the very popular worship song “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury when you read this passage. (“Leeeeaves the niiiiinety niiiine…”) I think this song has gotten so popular because it speaks the Gospel message to the heart of this generation of young people who longs to be seen and chosen out of the crowd as an individual worth losing everything for.

It’s easy to feel like your love as a millennial is being pulled in a thousand different directions. We are so used to calculating risk and reward with relationships – and also used to internet algorithms literally calculating which ads will draw our love and affection towards which products – that we are so compelled when we encounter a reckless, uncalculating love.  

Why did the sheep wander? Why do we wander from the fold?

I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s easy to fall into the lie that our absence wouldn’t be noticed or appreciated. We forget how we are loved. We forget that we are irreplaceable. That image of the shepherd leaving all of his other sheep to find the one lost sheep speaks truth into that lie in  my heart of being forgettable. And even if I am forgettable to other people, Jesus will never leave or forsake me. 

In this passage, Jesus is helping the Pharisees see both the lost sheep as worth the sacrifice and Himself as the determined shepherd, looking to keep his flock together as one. And, even more so, He is highlighting that He seeks those who are lost because they are lost; He rejoices when they are found, and desires others to share in this joy. 

Jesus, may we yield to your pursuing of our hearts. 

Reclaim the lost of this world, especially those who are farthest from your heart. 

Show us the parts of our heart that are still far from You.

Thank you for never giving up your pursuit of our hearts. 

Pax, 

Alyssa

All (of our) Saints Day

Dear Fellow Pilgrims,

Today we celebrated our Church Triumphant, that is, all the saints in Heaven who share the beatific vision of God Himself. They are those described in our readings today as “robed in white,” those who have “survived the time of great distress,” those who have “washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” In the communion of the saints, we celebrate those who have gone before us triumphantly throughout life, holding onto Christ more and more during this life to then be carried by Him to their final destination: the very center of His Heart and Being. We praise God for our family in Heaven, who petition for us, the Church Militant, night and day.

My favorite description of what the Saints do for us is probably Fr. Mike Schmitz’s anecdote from one of the times he and his family completed an Iron Man competition. Side note: It always strikes me as odd how normal Fr. Mike talks about his family doing Iron Mans… because it’s totally not a normal thing to just say your family “does;” and Iron Man consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, followed by running a FULL marathon – 26.2 miles. Anyways, each competitor has exactly 24 hours to complete this (insane) race, and if they do not finish within that exact time frame, they are marked as a “DNF” (did not finish), even if it’s one second after the 24 hour mark.

So, after Fr. Mike and his excessively physically gifted family finished their respective Iron Mans, they decided to wait at the finish line. He mentioned there is a tradition of some folks who finish their Iron Mans earlier on in the day to go back into the race and run alongside those who need extra encouragement to get to the finish line, and how fun it is to watch people finish the race again with others they have helped “run in.”

One year, Fr. Mike said there was one last guy who was a few miles out from the finish line and it seemed like he was not going to make it in before midnight, but the announcer encouraged people to go help run him in. After more and more announcements informing the rest of the Iron Man people about this man, it’s becoming actually possible that this guy may make it to the finish line in time. Fr. Mike describes this giant crowd of people who have already run their race running in with this guy, who is absolutely sprinting towards the finish line with everything he has. He ends up finishing the race with just a few seconds to spare, in an incredible effort that could have only been possible with the help of all of the people who had ran back to run with him and cheer him on.

This is such a powerful vision of what the communion of the saints is to our race in life, a family I like to think that I “married into” when I made vows to the Church during my Confirmation as an adult about seven years ago. And truthfully, a profound encounter with the communion of the saints was a huge impetus that led to my conversion to the Catholic Church from non-denominational Christianity.

I was just studying on a normal night in college during my freshman year at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. I was alone in my dorm room, nothing special was happening, until I felt a sudden onset of spiritual attack (a term I didn’t quite know or understand at the time). I felt bombarded in my mind and spirit, all at once, with feelings of doubt, despair, loneliness, confusion… it was an onslaught I didn’t understand, but knew intuitively that it wasn’t a mental breakdown. This was torment from outside me, not a symptom of dysfunction from within. I ended up calling or texting quite a few friends to come over and/or pray for me. No one picked up or texted me back, and I was feeling even more lonely as this attack continued. Then, I remember having an idea to “test out” this “communion of the saints” I knew about from my studies on Catholicism. It was as much as a last-ditch effort as it was a sincere SOS call into a spiritual realm I didn’t even fully believe existed.

“All you saints and angels in Heaven… if you’re there, please pray for me!”

And then, I felt an even greater onslaught of peace hit me like a giant ocean wave. The wave instantly quenched the fire burning within me. It left as abruptly as it arrived. I was left with a very clear conviction that the Saints’ intercession was real. I had felt it in my bones, in the depths of my soul. I had felt the effect of their intercession, and felt their love in that they responded to my call in a time of distress. I like to think in my own little story about my spiritual life that in that moment, all the saints who would help me in my life, who I would get to know personally, stepped forward and claimed me as their own (enter Pier Giorgio Frassati! “And I shall give her friends. She needs some friends.” followed by St. Therese “I can be her friend!” – she was my confirmation saint).

After that whole ordeal, I attended a praise and worship adoration event where I finally heard a definitive answer from God about His Presence in the Eucharist. (Read more about my testimony here if you’d like.) So now, when I look back on my whole testimony, I see how the evil one was trying to attack me on the precipice of a major encounter I was to have with God, and also how the Saints took me under their wings when I asked for their help. They ran and rallied behind me and helped me finish that little race, that challenge before me at the time.

And so, on every Solemnity of All Saints, I think back to when I first learned to believe in their goodwill for my life, and how powerful that intercession was. As a practice, when I go up to receive communion, I ask all of the saints to pray for a worthy and efficacious reception of the Eucharist. I’m sure there’s a way you can incorporate throwing up an “All you saints and angels, pray for me…” prayer during one of your spiritual or everyday routines.

The saints are always waiting for us to ask for their intercession. Let’s keep them busy.

Pax Christi,
-Alyssa

Fire and division: Preparing for Advent

Dear fellow pilgrims,

Today, I feel like the readings today are so strong and self-explanatory they do not even need to be discussed. St. Paul is speaking such fire to the Ephesians in an amazing series of verses we should all memorize. (Check out my brother’s blog post about how a changing understanding of this verse was pivotal for his decision to become Catholic). And, Jesus is challenging our view of Him as the one who brings only comfort and joy and peace to our lives.

Across the two readings, here is what I see…

These readings leave no room for Christian mediocrity or laxity. St. Paul longs for the Ephesians to be filled with the “fullness of God” that “surpasses all knowledge.” Jesus longs for the world to be set on fire with His love, and already aches for it to be “already blazing.” Jesus goes on to say that He has come to incite division, which says to me that if your belief in Christ and discipleship with Him are not producing any friction or difficulties in your life, you’re not really living out His teachings. Jesus’ message does not fit into a neat and tidy box we can open and admire when it’s convenient and put away when it’s scary or inconvenient. Jesus anticipates His own death (the “baptism” He speaks of), which itself would testify to the boldness of His message and its implications.

I also see a theme of family being the place where either division or wholeness manifests.  The readings speak of families as the Church as well as domestic families and across generations. God “names” each one of these families, He knows in advance in what context we will encounter our faith in Him and also challenges to that faith.  Most often, it is the hardest to evangelize and talk about God with those closest to us… but we must do so to be authentic in our faith.

It is so difficult to speak with family about difficult issues of faith because of the fear of division, but without genuine sharing and knowledge of each other, how authentic can we claim these relationships to be? Of course there are complex family issues that take a long time to pray over and find the right time and way to communicate in the most effective way, but how often to we use that plan to shield our own sense of responsibility instead of propelling us to deeper prayer and discernment? How deep is our belief in Heaven as our one true home, heaven as the undivided Heart of God?

(Note: I also have to mention that I have seen many Christians abuse this verse, and other verses in the Bible that talk about how the world was against Jesus, to justify uncharitable ways of confronting people of their sin. As St. Paul says, we must first be “rooted and grounded in love,” but this does not mean being endlessly accepting. There is space here to jump off into a broader discussion and more research into a “right” way of having conflicts between Christians and between Christians and Non-Christians that I encourage us all to have in conversation with others in person!)

As we approach the beginning of Advent, I invite us all to examine how we long to keep our relationship with Jesus in a comfortable space where we are not challenged but always affirmed.

In what ways have the fires of love for Jesus in our hearts grown dim?

How have we compromised the authenticity of relationships with family members or close friends over not wanting to cause division, when we are really being called to witness to the truth of His love?

How can we anticipate celebrating a very warm and fuzzy holiday season with wide-eyed wonder, but also humble reverence and holy fear of why God came to us as a helpless infant?

I don’t have all the answers for you, but I can assure you that if you ask, God will guide your heart to special treasures of contemplation that He has in store for you this Advent.

Pax Christi,

-Alyssa

Treasuring our Gospels

Responsorial Psalm

PS 145:10-11, 12-13

R. Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Making known to men your might
and the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Your Kingdom is a Kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.

Dear fellow pilgrims,

Today is the feast day of St. Luke, who is best known for writing his Gospel and the book of Acts, which details the days of the emerging Church. These books together comprise almost a fourth of the New Testament, which is not a trivial contribution! St. Luke was also a close companion of St. Paul, and is mentioned in several of his letters, so it’s clear he was very involved in early Christian missions. The Holy Spirit had a very special role for him as one of the four Gospel writers, and this – if you take some time to think about it – was probably a call that began as a very small inclination to write these things down that grew into quite the enormous task, which then led to a global impact he could never have dreamt of. St. Luke was, as the responsorial psalm proclaims, a “friend who made known the glorious splendor of His Kingdom.”

What strikes me more and more as I read about St. Luke is how attentive and thoughtful this man must have been, especially to the Blessed Mother, who is featured much more in Luke’s Gospel than any of the others. (If it wasn’t for the details St. Luke provided of the Visitation, we probably wouldn’t even say the Hail Mary!) He heard the call of the Holy Spirit to be a vessel and interpreter of these divine, earthly happenings, as a kind of appointed treasurer of nascent Christianity. I think it is definitely worth our time to contemplate the gifts of such a character, and how the age we live in presents unique challenges to treasuring our own lives. For we should desire to preserve the treasure of our life and pilgrimage with God for our own understanding and instruction as we follow Him during this life, but also for future generations to understand how He has worked wonders in our specific circumstances and time.

We live in a world where our lives are able to be constantly documented and selectively uploaded to share with others for comment and affirmation.  While there are merits to this system of life documentation (e.g. I’m so glad my iPad keeps and organizes my photos of Leo as a baby because then… I don’t have to), I think it also does some damage to the way we think about our memories and how we live our own, unrepeatable lives.

For one, we can lose our grip on personal ownership of our lives. If we constantly have the opportunity to post about our lives, we will begin to get into the habit of seeing the moments of our lives through the lens of our social media followers, thinking about how other people will react to things we post, crafting the way we tell a story for the maximum impact in the type of persona we want to project or leaving out details that would reflect a person we would rather not have others see. This view can slowly eat away at what should be our primary focus of sanctification, that is, learning to live in closer and closer communion with God, living more and more within the heart of God that is reserved for your eyes only. He thirsts for your attention and affection, and no one else but you can quench that thirst.

Secondly, we can learn to see others in a more utilitarian way, as in, value others more of what they provide to us (e.g. “Unfollow – boring feed. Follow – exciting feed.”) rather than the intrinsic goodness and likeness of God in which they were created. When there’s so much of our own choice involved with what and who we see on our feeds, as well as how we interpret the little information we receive from a visual and text rather than interpersonal communication, it can be easy to slip into uncharitable thoughts and assumptions about others or ourselves, depending on who is getting the short end of the comparison stick.

To bring this all together, let’s revisit the psalm. We Christians should be a people whose discourse is Kingdom-focused, people who are more interested in God’s work than any other economical, political, or entertainment work. This outward focus, however, begins with an inner focus on your individual relationship, work of sanctification, and destiny with God. We bless the Lord when we take care and time to remember, write down, and share with others the works of His hands. When it is a gift given to others to specific friends to cherish and care for, to really receive in an intimate way that is vulnerable and risky instead of publicizing the gift and longing more simply to be seen and acknowledged.  And when we take the time to invest in friendships beyond our screens, we will truly know the splendor of the Kingdom. There just is not a substitute for presence, for true presence with God and other believers, as anyone who has been to a Frassati retreat knows! In this Presence – when we worship and gather – we find ourselves, we are formed, we are encouraged, we are seen, and we truly see others.

I encourage us all to rethink our relationship with social media or our internet browsing, even if it’s the two thousandth time we have done so. (*raises hand*) God always wants more of us, and often times, we do not understand this truth enough to remove what hinders us to give more of ourselves to Him.

We often have that vague feeling of not being satisfied with the use of our time, but still finding ourselves slip into old habits. Here is a piece of my journal that describes a breakthrough God gave me in prayer about my own struggles with properly using social media.  I pray it will bless you as you think and pray about treasuring your life more and more in the presence of God and not the world:

“…when I seek companionship and attention and entertainment from social media, Your Heart hurts for me because You see the longing in my heart and want to give me true food, true drink. You long to satisfy me, but You submit to my own will in that You don’t force me to look at You. For the first time, I see my struggle through Your eyes. It became less about my failings and more about the reverence You give to my freewill and how the source of my desire is meant to be filled by your according to Your designs. I give my own sin too much power when I see my continued habits that do not reflect the fullness You want for me as just my own failings.”

St. Luke, pray that we may learn to see more and more clearly the treasure of the Lord’s work in our lives as an unfolding love story meant to be shared and praised among the faithful.

Pax Christi,

-Alyssa

“Learn to be in the unknowing”

Knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up.
If anyone supposes he knows something,
he does not yet know as he ought to know.
But if one loves God, one is known by him.

Dear fellow pilgrims, 

I honestly couldn’t get past this first paragraph in the readings today. It cuts so deep to the heart of the human experience of wading through all the unknowing in our lives while simultaneously knowing that we all just want to be loved, truly and completely. 

Many of us struggle with anxiety, including myself, and it’s another way to describe struggling with fears, mostly of some (or all) unknowns. My particular brand of anxiety involves trajectories of worst-case scenarios bursting through my mind and into outer space at the speed of light. I have recently realized that this particular defense or coping mechanism “makes sense” to my unconscious mind because THEN at least I have a series of “knowns” to cling to. But these imagined “realities,” or a feigned sense of “knowing,” do not soothe the initial fear of the unknown void, but rather, inflates or enlarges the void. 

“…but love builds up.”

Love is the answer to fearing this void of unknowing, even though it can seem equally mysterious or unknown at times. Knowing what love is, however, requires us to first have faith in God and love Him back.  When we do this, we learn that we can only love ourselves and others when we primarily rest our minds and hearts in the fact that we are truly and completely known by God. And only in this knowing and loving gaze of God can we be content in our unknowing. 

If anyone supposes he knows something,
he does not yet know as he ought to know.”

But God is Love and also omnipotent: He is perfect love and perfect knowing, and so, we learn to both love and to know things through Him.  There is a certain “unknowing” needed for true knowledge, evidenced by the second sentence of the verse. Any good scientist, historian, or journalist will tell you that. A true intellectual always couches their theories and evidence between what is known and what is yet unknown, and there wouldn’t be scientific progress if people hadn’t bothered to research what is and is not yet known. In the same way, our “knowing” of anything – including and especially God – must be held with a bit of mystery or reverence for the unknowns of that subject.  We praise God for loving us, we return His love with our love, while never knowing fully what this means, at least when we are still on this earth. Unknowing plays an indispensable role in both fully loving and fully knowing, so shouldn’t we learn to be in unknowing? That is a clear message I heard in prayer: “Learn to be in the unknowing.”  So obvious, so necessary, and yet… so difficult. Learning to be in our areas of unknowing sans anxiety is only possible when believing in the primacy of God’s love and providence over our lives, which necessarily and ironically involves faith or unknowing. In other words, we are only content in our inability to be sure, completely knowing, when we have faith in the intention of the One who made us that way.

So, I hope this ramble-y musing of mine has helped you think about at least how the concepts of loving and knowing intersect and depend upon each other, but mainly, how our authentic knowing depends upon receiving love from God first and foremost. And, how loving God, being known by God, knowing God more, and loving God serve as mutually amplifying and purifying processes within our souls. 

Pax Christi,
Alyssa