It often pains me to write posts like the last. It pains me because there are many Evangelicals whom I love – who have cared for me – and to whom I owe my faith – indeed, to whom I owe my present Catholicism. My favourite kinds of Cathollics are generally converts from Evangelicalism or Catholics deeply marked by the movement and who can taste the beauty of the Catholic faith with Evangelical sensibilities. I love my Evangelical brothers and sisters no less than I did when I was looking at Rome from their side – perhaps arguably more – and it is maybe this love which leads me to be so intimately fierce. It is to Evangelicals I owe my life – my faith – my personal relationship with Christ, my first love, and it is the best proof of this debt that my periodic visitations of this site of our first love – this site of a honeymoon so very vexed and unlike a stereotypical honeymoon – is complicated with all the simultaneous venom and beauty and redemption of love. I long for and perhaps even lust too perilously after the time when we will all be one as Christians, a time which, given the way the cultural winds are blowing, we are beginning to encounter all too soon through the ecumenism of martyrly blood. It is a pity it often takes evil – Sauron – to bring to full coordination the dwarves and the elves and the ents and the hobbits, and there may indeed not be full and complete coordination till the very end. But all true unity in faith is as fully Christian and fully Catholic as all lying peace is of the devil and antichrist, and it is for that former we pray, even with tears.
I write this way because it has struck me that, though I need to write posts like that last for the sake of my own personal sanity, and though there is no hope of me being a cogent person or having a cogent faith otherwise, I do realize that such posts can only ever be half my calling as a Christian; as Ecclesiastes so perfectly summarizes the gospel, there is a time to tear down, and a time to build. In what seems a prior life – before the darkness was so fierce – I have done much building, or at least tried to build, though the results from this side look doubtful. The darkness has involved much tearing down to the point that I am left a naked and shivering spirit quaking in the dark and uncertain of my own name. But this, I hope and pray, is not the end. However imperfect, Niggle does not remain in the darkness of hard labour forever. There may yet be hope. And the hope is that, with God’s help, I can live toward being something beautiful. The hope is that, with God’s help, my prayers and the prayers of those I love can bring down fire from heaven to light this sacrifice of my soul, doused with tears beyond hope of burning through any other fire, whether natural or strange.
I phrase it this way because, in thinking about a time of building, I have long since given up any hope of personally “bringing light to others” or “helping others in their darkness.” I used to hope I had OCD and depression so that I could be a help to others, particularly other Christians, suffering from these things. That heroism has died hard. In its place there is a mystery. It is the mystery of why I keep living from day to day, why I keep hoping, why I keep longing, why I keep writing and speaking. It is the mystery of having a heart so broken by every broken person I meet that I no doubt appear to them worse than uncaring because aloofness – the damnable failure to look into the dark pools of their eyes – is the only way I know to keep from drowning. It is the mystery that can only find fulfillment and explanation in what St. Paul calls the mystery of Christ. It is a mystery, inexplicable – but mystery is merely Greek for sacrament. And sacrament means intimate vulnerability in the dark with our God – oh, happy chance! And it is this chance I hope for – long for – as I seek to build.
And what is it I am seeking to build? I have been thinking a lot about it, and what I would like to love myself and be loved into is what I call a disciplined mysticism. The phrase is chosen very carefully so as to be comprised of two things I am very bad at. I am bad at discipline and worse at mysticism. But it seems to me that these are the two things I most need in order to follow Christ. Discipline without mysticism – that complicated affective heart of our knowledge of God – is but a resounding gong and a clanging symbol. Similarly, mysticism without discipline – in truth, love, and obedience – waffles into narcissism and self-delusion – it becomes the subject of the famous aphorism suggesting that it starts with mist and ends with schism. But as I say, I am bad at both, and in need of prayer. It takes a Church to make a sacrament – and so I need you all. Hopkins’ words – “birds build, but not I build” – has in the past seemed my motto. But I suspect – hope – that that can be changed, even if the darkness remains. Pray for me – my heart hungers after lilies.