Friday, August 19, 2005

Veritatis Visio... Part III

Vision of Self

The reason that I decided to blog on this strain was the inspiration that came to me through this past Sunday's Gospel, about the Canaanite woman. The powerful scene has always struck me as unique in the Gospel because of Jesus' apparent coldness. Of course, we know that there was a reason for Christ's gruff dealing with the woman, and I believe that the humility that is drawn out of her in their conversation is that very purpose. The woman's "confession" of being merely one of the "dogs [who] eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters" is a beautiful recognition of man's unworthiness of the grace that comes to him through Christ. It is a vision of truth about self, and for this Canaanite woman, the beginning of redemption. Jesus commends the woman for her great faith and has mercy on her, but her confession about Him is bound up with an understanding of who she is in relation to Him. The dog/master metaphor is revealing of the fact that her understanding comes perhaps not from His preaching or a knowledge of who He is as the son of God so much as from a profound understanding of her own human condition and need to have it repaired.

Great deeds always begin with humility, a true vision of self, which leads to a reliance on the Lord for strength and the gifts of the Spirit. The lives of the late Pope John Paul the Great and Blessed Mother Theresa reveal this truth in a magnificent way. They exemplified the reality that an individual needs to diminish in order that Christ may increase.

As I prayed about what I would write regarding this last type of vision, and reflected on how I seek to purify my own self-vision, I was brought immediately to my own heart and to one of the things that lies in special keeping there: my love for literature. I can hardly think of any better reflections upon the reality of man and the brokennes of human nature than in the work of William Shakespeare. The "tragic flaws" that drive his tragic characters to their ill fates is almost always related to the primal lie, the sin of pride with which every man must reckon in his own life on a regular basis. I believe that Shakespeare's goal in writing his plays and packing them with so much depth and meaning was quite "Catholic" in a fundamental way. Shakespeare knew that in order to come to God, man must have a true view of self. Likely a Catholic living in the Renaissance of England, the concept of man being dust and thereunto returning would have been reminded to him on a frequent enough basis. I pray that my readers and I might gain a clearer vision of who we are, and in that vision recognize our constant need for the grace of God.

I close with one of my favorite quotes, from the play Hamlet. I have it written in my spiritual journal, and it does me well to reflect upon it when I need to remove some of the obscurity from my own vision of the truth.

What a piece of work is man!
How noble in reason; how infinite in faculties;
In form and moving, how express and admirable!
In action, how like an angel; in apprenhension, how like a god;
The beauty of the world the paragon of animals!
And yet to me what is this quintessence of dust?


Blogger Tim said...

One of my favorite Shakespeare quotes is from Measure For Measure which is one of his plays I have yet to see performed. It helps me to keep my pride and hubris in check.

It goes like this:

But man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep.

Anyway, I found your blog through fellow Philadelphian Rocco Palmo's site and plan to visit often. Keep up the good work.

9/7/05, 10:43 AM  

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