Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Advent Day 10

“The Devil tempts that he may ruin and destroy; God tests that He may crown.”
This is attributed to St Ambrose, whose feast day is today, and it seems to fit in with the Old Testament readings for today
Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end,
her guilt is expiated;
Indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.
 So often these days I feel like God is telling us something that it's hard to really hear and understand.  He goes from talking about our sins to talking about how He longs to comfort and console us.    I get the sense that it is all of one piece, but it SOUNDS like two different messages to me.    It seems like if I really heard or really saw, just for a flash, it would be like a harmony my ears aren't capable of hearing, or a vision in an extra dimension that I had only seen by way of flattening into my perspective.

I am preparing my two youngest boys for First Confession this Saturday and this seeming dichotomy is much in my mind.   I am telling them to search their young hearts for where they have gone astray, and bring it to God, so that the Shepherd will gather them in His arms.    It "feels" negative to me to talk about sin to such small children.

That isn't how they seem to take it though.    There is a feeling of relief, somehow, emanating from Paddy and even from Aidan.   I don't mean they aren't nervous, because I'm sure they are.  I am still nervous when I go to Confession and it has been twenty years.   The relief comes from somewhere else. 

It reminds me a little like Chesterton said about the way in which fairy tales represent truth:

Fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.

Now remember that Chesterton is talking about the true aspect of fairy tales!  I am not saying that the sacraments are fancies: quite the reverse; they are entry points or intersections of physical things with far deeper realities!   The analogy I am making is that my boys emerging into the age of reason are fully aware of some of the darkness around them and in them.  

Some religious education directors back in the 80's would not prepare the children for confession before First Communion, because they thought it would do the child a disservice to make him think of himself as sinful.  

The sense I get is that it takes no telling to make a child aware of that.   A child is very aware of his sin.  What he receives in repentance and confession is a remedy; more than a remedy; spiritual armor, and a chance for treasure and a crown.

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