Source and Summit

From Jeremiah 39: 1-10 “gave them [the poor] vineyards and fields at the same time.” (Verse 10) Sometimes I’m going to do a bit of a different sort of reflection like today, I’ll be telling you a story of something that bothered me for a long time and my search for meaning, a real example of ‘Seek and Ye Shall Find.’ So without further ado, a brief intro

To start, we are the poor, to whom the Lord gives the vineyards and fields, so that we can partake of real food and real drink, in the Eucharist, for those of you who have dropped by from some unknown to me part of the World, I am a Catholic, so I believe in the real presence of Christ in the Bread and the Wine at mass, just so you are aware, also you are welcome in this place.

So I’ll continue, You have seen the title of this page, ‘Source and Summit.’ This is a common phrase that is tossed around about the Eucharist: “The Eucharist is the source and summit of the faith.” The phrase isn’t explained as well as it should be in my experience and was almost tossed around willy nilly. I say this only because of my difficult journey in understanding what it implied and what it meant. It was very hard for me to conjure an image of what two words implied by their context. I racked my brain for hours on end in order to find an answer, without resolution. For a while I was convinced that ‘source at the summit’ described the Eucharist more accurately, which is untrue as I discovered later. But I was persistant in my quest to discover meaning in these two words, at some point, I brought the argument outside of my mind and ranted about the phrase to my Morning Crew, which brought about helpful discussion. Slowly but surely, through discussions like this, many hours of pondering and lots of prayer, the misunderstanding between my understanding and this phrase was eaten away, until I could say with absolute honesty “Alright, this is a mystery of the faith, so I’ll never fully grasp the metaphor, but I can accept what I’ve discovered, and keep moving forward in this journey of understanding for the rest of my life. And that’s alright.”

Right before I came to this statement, I told myself a story. Because I discovered an image, a point of reference for reflecting on this phrase, a story that begins with a connection. It came up in another search of mine, that of undertanding the virtue of Charity. Charity in the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1827 is defined as, “The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which ‘binds everything together in perfect harmony’; it is the form of the virtues; it articulates and orders them among themselves; it is the source and the goal of their Christian practice. Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love.” [emphasis added] After reading these underlined parts, I concluded that Charity could also be said to be the ‘source and summit’ of all the virtues. So with that connection made I kept it in my mind, and as usually happens once a month or so, I thought about the Divine Comedy by Dante. Specifically the second part, Purgatorio, with its iconic Mt. Purgatory, well iconic for those of us who have read it…

The people who are climbing up the mountain are cleansed of their sins by practicing the opposing virtue, so that they purge themselves of their selfishness before they enter heaven. I’ll do a more full analysis-reflection on Mt. Purgatory later on, but the important thing for my journey here is that Dante is climbing up the mountain for a specific purpose, he is following the vision of the most beautiful woman he has ever laid eyes on, Beatrice. Beatrice is eventually the one who leads him on his journey through heaven. Essentially after I made the connection from the title phrase to this Mt. Purgatory, I saw Beatrice as a symbol of Lady Charity, because she is the reason for Dante’s entire journey, being seen at the very beggining, leading him to his guide through hell and purgatory, Virgil. As well as being his reason to continue climbing up the mountain, the source of his strength if you are following along with my train of thought. She meets him at the summit of the mountain, after his journey of purgation is completed. And there it was, my image: a mountain with a river running down the side.

So here is the meditation, as you read this, stop and picture it in your mind, try and imagine all the sensations that go along with such a journey. There will be two or three (small breaks in brackets).

To begin, you get a taste of the most delicious, clear river water, at any point of the river’s course, whether is has become a small brook or stream, or is a wide rolling river (this would depend on who introduces you to Christ, your background and how open you are, among other things). Wherever you begin the journey, you follow the allure of where this delicious river water comes from, because it is an incredible mystery. So you follow the running water until you reach the base of a towering mountain, the peak of which must have the source of this pleasant liquid. You wait for what seems like days, anticipation and tension building until something snaps and you have to make a decision. Do you take the first step? “I do” we say in our Baptismal vows, and this is that decision point, this mountain is the mountain of Christianity, Baptism the first step. “I DO!” you take your first step up the mountain, and the hike is tough, you knew that it would be, but it really hits you as you start the climb, and you know that later on it becomes steeper and you just want to curl up into a ball and cry and quit, but you go back to the river and remember why you are making this journey. You continue up the mountain in high hopes, cast away fears gone but not forgotten, you keep the memory with you so that you can conquer it again when it resurfaces. You make a stop in a clearing, a false summit of sorts where you can look down at your progress. So you stand and look down the mountain, and you see that you are halfway up, but you notice that while the climb has gotten steeper, it has also gotten easier. Your climbing for days on end has made you much stronger, and you have become more aware as well. You didn’t realize it until this moment, but you’ve noticed that avoiding wild animals (spiritual attack) on this journey has become easier, but still you see them occasionally at the edge of your vision, letting you know that they are still around. Eventually, you reach the top of the mountain, exhausted, you see the majesty, the beauty, the thing you’ve sought for days and years on end is finally in front of you: a giant crystal lake, glistening in the sunlight. So you dive right in and feel the refreshing water encompass you, all of the soreness in your muscles disappear as you float in the lake, the delectable taste has spread to all of your other senses somehow, invigorating you to the very core of your being. And you know that the entire journey was worth the strenuous climb, all the hours of hard work is now paying off, because here at the summit, is heaven.

I’m glad that you all humoured me in this little reflection, and I hope that you were able to see the value in never ceasing the search for meaning. To finish off this post I am going to place a poem I wrote, one that talks about fear and what it feels like in the moment, and what it feels like to overcome it, and it is related to the concept of journey, because overcoming fear is a part of the journey of life.

Wisps of Fear

The shiver down your spine

Choking

Halting

Stops your very breath

That life-giving gas

Instead you breath

Those painful wisps of fear

That lingering miasma of doubt

The conclusion reached:

“You can’t do this”

Or so you tell yourself

Until you realize

That fog of shame of hesitation

Which could lead to a capitulation

Of dreams, of hopes and desires

Is only an illusion

A threat perceived, but founded on sand

On may-be’s or possibilities

So you close your eyes

And step out of the mist

And breathe the fresh air at last

As you boldly journey on

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