Friday, April 20, 2012

Caryll Houselander on the Risen Christ

It is good to see a new interest in the writings of Caryll Houselander. They are are orthodox and imaginative . . . always giving glory to God, yet at the same time allowing something of the author's eccentricities and humour to reach the reader. Monsignor Ronald Knox said of her, "She seemed to see everything for the first time, and the driest of doctrinal considerations shone out like a restored picture when she had finished with it. 

Born in 1901, Caryll Houselander was one of the twentieth century’s most intriguing spiritual guides. Always eccentric, she was an artist who experienced the “ordinariness” and “transcendence” of Gospel truths simultaneously. A Franciscan tertiary, she overcame an extremely troubled childhood and a bohemian youth in order to embrace a ministry of spiritual motherhood and consecrated life in the world. By today's standards her life was short and personally unfulfilling. She died a tragically unnecessary death in 1954 of breast cancer. 

Here, then, are some great Easter quotes from Caryll Houselander: 

"The news that he was raised from the tomb was entrusted to people who still had tears on their faces. They were to tell it, and the first messenger, known to be an emotional woman who would hardly be credited, was sent to convince the first Pope that Christ had risen. 

[The risen Christ] . . . "walked and talked and ate with men, built a little fire and cooked for them, confronted them and renewed their faith by approaching each one individually. He used the same means as before, words, kindness, going on a journey, setting his pace to the pace of the others . . ." 

"Christ’s risen life shown during the forty days between the resurrection and the ascension is the pattern for our life in him. It is in the risen life that we live: we can accept his passion in our own lives own because he who lives our life in us has ‘overcome the world.’ He has suffered all that we shall ever suffer, he has even died each of our deaths, and he has overcome death. 

“At first sight the most astonishing thing about the risen life is its ordinariness. But that is wholly consistent with Christ’s way. His revelation of himself was always gradual, always told like a secret. Before knowing him as God, he wanted men to know him as themselves, so that they would not be afraid to come close to him. Now he is determined that his incredible experience of having died and come back shall not make a barrier. There must be no sense of the uncanny to awe his apostles. 

“He will not even startle them by letting them realize suddenly, unwarned, that he is there. They must first realize that they are with someone ordinary, and afterwards learn who it is. His greeting is always a reassurance. He is concerned by so human a thing as whether they have something savory to make their dry bread palatable. He lights a fire and cooks a little breakfast for them himself. His way of making his identity known shows how well he knew ‘what was in the heart of man.’ He knew what each individual needed to make their share in the joy of his resurrection possible.” 

“Our bodies play an enormously important role in our life in the Risen Christ. The Incarnation has given a sacramental quality to our flesh and blood, so that we can offer an unceasing prayer of the body that can begin here and never end. This prayer sanctifies not only the suffering of the body but its joys as well. The prayer of the body is preparation for the eternity when our bodies will be glorified as the risen body of Christ is glorified now.” 

in The Risen Christ
 (quoted from Gail Ramshaw in Treasures Old and New: Images in the Lectionary)

“Our life is sacramental. We do not live that peculiar thing one hears so much of, a ‘spiritual life.’ We live a natural and a supernatural life, we live it through the medium of the simplest substances of things. Our Lord gave himself to us through our flesh and blood, we give ourselves back to him through it. The symbols of the gift of his own life are bread, wine, water, and oil. We give our life back to him through the dust he made us out of, through everything we see and touch and taste and hear, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the words we speak, the sleep we sleep. Such are the sacramentals of our love, things ordinary with the ordinariness of the risen Christ. 

“Our apostolic life, and not to be apostolic is not to be Christian, is just as ordinary. Our communion with one another, which is our Christ-giving to one another, is in eating, working, sharing the common sorrows and responsibilities, comforting one another in soul and body, talking to one another.”


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