Monday, April 4, 2011

Hallowing the House: Entryway

"Behold the holiness of every person"

Going through Thomas Howard's book Splendor in the Ordinary, I notice that two themes keep cropping up. His style is that circular kind you may have run into -- more right-brained and spiral, not linear/sequential. He will keep touching repeatedly on themes in different lights, as if he was holding up a crystal to the light and letting the light glance off the different facets.

One theme is the fittingness of ceremony, distinction, forms, customs. While I was washing the dishes today I was thinking that our American culture was built on informality and equality and action rather than formality and hierarchy and ceremony. I know why we did it. I am actually rather fond of the American form of civility. Howard does not criticize it; rather, he tries to point out what we might be missing as we get increasingly spontaneous and casual. Those ceremonies weren't there just to protect unfair privilege. They were there to show reverence for something deeper than the things themselves.

Another theme that gets repeated throughout is the sacrificial aspect of Love. "I lay down my life for you." I was thinking about that while I was fixing dinner (pizza out of a box, sorry). Why did God make it so that everything has to die or at least diminish so that something else could live or increase? Later I was reading the Catechism, about Our Lord's Life. He came to lay down His life for me and for others. Dying, He restored our life. And of course, He said that we find our life by laying it down. Hell is a place of devouring and hunger and greed; Heaven is a place of voluntary sacrifice, that restores more than was given up, and of gratitude for gifts received.

That brings me to one more thing I wanted to mention while I was thinking over this book (and why I'm having trouble blogging it). The over-arching theme, covering both Ceremony and Love, is Heaven. In some ways he presents the home and family as an allegory of Heaven. If it becomes a foretaste of Hell, that was never what it was meant to be. In those cases, it has been corrupted, co-opted, like so many other good things. It's not the fault of the thing itself; it's like a desecrated cathedral.

I haven't even gotten to the entryway yet -- I guess this is the pause before the guest enters the house, when he scans the outside of the house and wonders whether he has the right address and what it will look like inside!   My house right now is in a cocoon of snow, so any visitors would probably wonder if they will slip going up the front steps to the porch, and if there is a fire inside!

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