Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Christ Makes All Things New

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. “ 2 Corinthians 5: 17 (NASB)

I admit I do not fully understand this statement from Holy Scripture. However, when the Lord revealed to me that He was indeed physically present at Mass, that understanding so unsettled me that all my preconceived notions about God dissolved. Intellectually, I knew acquaintance with the Creator of the Universe exposes us to powerful effects. What I did not expect to discover was His loving kindness in such glorious generosity.

Never had I encountered such love.

I am not sure if my outward appearance or demeanor changed. But I was so internally energized by what I knew to be true I could no longer live as I had in the past. Much like my first encounter with Jesus many years earlier when I accepted His redemptive work for me on the cross, and I acknowledged Him as lord of my life – all my previous understanding of God passed away.

I’d thought I knew Jesus. I’d thought I knew my place in Him. But I’d thought wrong. What I wanted became as dross – not all at once, but with each day I changed more and more until I discovered my interests had changed. Christ was supreme and what He wanted was now what I wanted, and I wanted nothing else besides Him.

For years I had pursued the art world as a means of self gratification. I used my artistic skill to promote the personal goals of my vision, my insights, and my personal longing for recognition. But Christ’s love changed me in such a way that I only wanted to draw or paint about Jesus.

Previously, I failed to execute art work about Jesus because I could not communicate myself visually about this subject. Now I could not staunch the flow of ideas that expressed themselves in images about Messiah’s sacrificial love. I went from drawing pretty trees and misty landscapes to the bloody sacrificial wounds on his hands, feet, and side.

I have posted two art works below. The first one, completed in 2003, is an example of images I explored for many years. The second, completed in June 2006, demonstrates the new images that were an outflow of His Grace.

Forest Fantasy

Sacred Heart

The Holy Spirit has given me images that come as fresh innovations, and helped me create something I’d not, to this point in my life, been able to express – that being His wonderful love for humanity.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

He is Lord of All

C.S. Lewis writes in his book, Surprised by Joy, how, as a boy, he discovered joy one morning while walking in the countryside. That moment of beauty and insight so indelibly pressed itself into his heart and psyche that Lewis longed to recapture it ever-after. He later recognized the moment for what it truly was – an encounter with the eternal presence of God.

In a similar fashion, a moment (several moments, really) of joy pressed itself into my heart as the wondrous presence of Christ became exquisitely real to me at Mass.

It’s not that I hadn’t experienced from time to time the joy Lewis talks about. I’d known wonderful times of “refreshing” (a Pentecostal term for the work of the presence of the Holy Spirit) during Protestant church services, or at prayer. I’d experienced flashes of insight into the Holy Spirit’s presence when a passage of Scripture seemed to jump off the page and grab my attention. However, none of my earlier experiences with God can compare with the brief flashes of insight He gave me during the fall of 2005 and winter of 2006.

Until that time I had unknowingly dragged behind me a long and ponderous chain of doubts and half-truths as I attended Mass. Like Charles Dickens’ Marley of the Christmas Carole, I forged my chain with prejudicial ideas that rejected Catholic traditions and beliefs about the Mass as silliness, at best, and absolute superstition at its worse. My preconceived religious fervor determined for me what God could and could not do, and what He would and would not do. Like Marley, those chains held me prisoner in the twilight, unable to experience the day.

The Holy Spirit began to release me from those chains first with insight about the Eucharist. When He revealed His truth, I suddenly understood that Jesus is indeed physically present at the Mass. So complete was the impact on me that all my former chains of ignorance about the Mass dropped to the floor with a clanging thud.

In subsequent bursts of comprehension, the shackles of my Protestant points of view were shattered as I discovered anew our Father truly is and was and will be – all at the same time. Our mighty Lord really is the Lord of eternity; He is not bound by time or space. He is present at the Mass from the breaking of the Matzo and sharing of the Cup, to His crucifixion upon Golgotha, and His resurrection on the first Easter morning.

When those truths settled over me, I wept because it was too beautiful and too wonderful to know, and I realized how profound and magnificent is the gift of the Mass.

As I continued to attend Mass, talk with Rich, and listen to Catholic radio, the Holy Spirit confirmed over and over the insights He had shown me. And with each confirmation, I was amazed that what the Holy Spirit taught me is exactly what the Catholic Church teaches.

No longer believing the Mass superstitious or an absurdity, I am certain the Mass is a moment in time when the past and the present come together. Oh! How like our loving Lord – our Emmanuel – to be physically present to meet with me and with anyone else who seeks Him.