Tag Archives: Passion of Christ

Lenten Promise

So I gave up wine for Lent, and I’m real cranky about it. Now, seems as good a time as any to review my progress. I do not enjoy this business of imitating Christ’s suffering. If he wanted to fast in the desert for forty days and grapple with Satan, that’s his decision. What does it have to do with me? Still not sure what benefit I am supposed to derive from this practice, except that I get to observe how angry I am when I can’t have a glass of wine with my dinner. Sure, observing one’s own anger is always useful. Yep, there goes my anger again. I’d recognize that anger anywhere. No mistaking it, that’s my anger, all right. Hey, know what would help my anger? A glass of wine. Thank goodness for the loophole. Ya’ll know about the Great Catholic Loophole, right? You can break your fast on Sundays during Lent because it’s a sin to fast on the Prince’s Feast Day. Sometimes my Sunday comes on a Thursday, but I figure if I make it up later, then I’m in the clear. It all comes out in the wash. For the love of Christ, Easter can’t come soon enough this year.

(Being Catholic isn’t a struggle. Being polite is a struggle. Catholic is easy. It gives me something to write about for all my life.)

Speaking of art forms that spring from repression . . . I went to hear Zachary Richard, the Acadian activist rebel poet, play last night. He told us a story about his earliest memory of music. He sang in an all-boys church choir in Lafayette. The bishop had envisioned something like the Vienna Boys Choir in Southeast Louisiana. Richard was first soprano. Later when he got to be a teenager, he decided he preferred the Devil’s music and started a garage band because he thought that would help him meet girls. The history of rock and roll could be written with that one sentence.

Entirely by chance, I received this comforting note from Emily this morning.

#1101, c. 1866

Between the form of Life and Life
The difference is as big —
As Liquor at the Lip between
And Liquor in the Jug
The latter — excellent to keep —
But for ecstatic need
The corkless is superior —
I know for I have tried

When she writes the difference between “Life and Life”, she means the difference between potential and expression. The inner life and the outer life. Both are alive in that they have force and movement. Both are informed by spirit. Without clubbing us with her joke, she puns on spirit(s) so both resonate at once—the alcohol and the eternal aspect of ourselves, the ghost in the machine. Further to be “inspired” is to be intoxicated with spirit, or out of your everyday head space where mundane tasks are accomplished.

Get drunk on joy, she advises. Allow yourself to be overtaken by this expansive wave of power and creation. It carries you (against your better judgement) out of the usual sober sense of duty into a realm without boundaries. Here is a place of perfect indulgence, where you can’t put a foot wrong. You move perfectly in time to the music. Everyone likes you, and your jokes are always funny.

Emily has been there, she says. She also says that we need this indulgence, this departure from sobriety into unalloyed happiness. That it fails to resemble a workable everyday life is not the point. The point is to be released from restrictions to make real what had existed as potential. Emily says, you must drink deeply of yourself and become intoxicated in order to write that poem. Or converge toward whatever center your life demands.

She calls this an “ecstatic need”. Imagine if we treated transcendent joy, the pure pleasure of being alive, as something we needed, like vitamins? Emily says we are nourished when we release the contained self outward into expression. Probably a lot of us keep that potential creative expression stoppered-up in a sober safe container because if we do drink deeply of ourselves and go on that antic joyous spree . . . we’ll be out of control and probably look silly. Then what? We’ll have some explaining to do. Some mopping up, maybe. Big deal. Fortunately, no one has ever really died of embarrassment.

Emily says, it’s a waste of fine spirit(s) to hold your creative gifts in a state of contained potential. Lose yourself, once in a while, to find yourself.

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Proof of Love

What a day for Emily. I thought we were going to have a regular biscuits-and-eggs, “Hope is the Thing with Feathers”- morning. Nope. Today’s topics are love and crucifixion.

#549, c. 1862

That I did always love
I bring thee Proof
That till I loved
I never lived — Enough —

That I shall love alway —
I argue thee
That love is life —
And life hath Immortality —

This — dost thou doubt — Sweet —
Then have I
Nothing to show
But Calvary —

Emily is having an argument, either with someone else or with herself. She brings proof and arguments as if to a court of law. The integrity of her love stands in the docket. Someone doubts her heart. Emily advances an argument to this doubter with the statement that her capacity to love is a function of her ability to live, both in body and in spirit. As in earlier poems, she offers that her love (as a verb) is not something she directs or controls. It emanates out of her with the same spontaneous force as her spirit. Love exists with the same involuntary movement as Emily’s lungs drawing breath.

Let’s assume for the moment that this is a discussion between Emily and another person. We can construct the detractor’s claim. That person is asking to know how can he or she be the sole and extraordinary object of Emily’s love. The doubter has questioned whether Emily’s love is the eternal, specific and steadfast truth that she claims.

Emily’s fidelity is on trial here.

Someone has accused her of trifling with her affections. (There could only be another woman on the opposing side of this argument. They need so much reassurance, all the time.) Emily’s defense is to say: “My love is bigger than time or circumstance.” This is the classic guy-style argument that Shakespeare advances in some of his sonnets. The summary message being: “Get over it!” Emily takes it one step farther. She closes with a dramatic flourish, equating her own suffering at the feet of this doubting lover with the pain of the crucified Christ. (Shakespeare would never nail himself to the cross, I’m pretty sure.) Just to illustrate how really, truly vast and immortal is her love, she equates her love, the loss, the transcendence that comes after the excruciating passage through the abyss . . . to the Passion of Christ. No other analogy will do.

Her point in selecting this image is to underscore that either they both believe in this love or she will suffer the agonies of slow death. Not just any death, but the ultimate sacrifice, which is the voluntary death so that others may live. That’s how much she loves. For the sake of love, she is willing to die to grant life to others. That’s what she’ll do to shape her own life around the acceptance and belief in this love. There must be absolute acceptance. Nothing less than the fate of the world depends on it.

Emily can be very convincing when she wants to be.

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