Monday, September 09, 2002

The Price of the Pearl

I'm rather old-fashioned in my computing habits; I still participate in listserv groups. On the FreeCatholic listserv, we got to talking about blogging, and my listserv acquaintance Abigail was writing about her pleasure in reading blogs, especially the blog of a certain major Catholic newsblogger. I gave her an invitation:

When you get tired of all the bad news all the time at [newsblogger], come visit my blog sometime.

and she answered back in a way that shook me:

Your blog is very focused on God --- that makes it a bit scary.....

My blog --- scary? The Suscipe is scary, the scariest hymn in the hymnal. St. Rose of Lima, Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha, _they're_ scary. But my little blog? I can't even manage to keep a fly scared away!

....because everything in it's a call, and I have to ask myself why I find it more pleasant to read arguments and bad news than to hear the good news proclaimed. I guess the answer is in the parable of the pearl of great price. I don't want to ask myself if I'm willing to pay it.

and then a little further on, about one of the passages on contrition I posted on Tuesday 3rd September:

I hadn't read the Dear Paul letter until I saw it on your blog --- that is, I read up to the part where he muses that he probably shouldn't be writing these things and taking the risk of their becoming public someday, and then I took the high road and stopped reading. But I've read it now (I can never keep my balance on the high road for very long) and it's scary for the same reason: it's about the price of the pearl.

I'd never that I could remember sat myself down to think just about the pearl of great price; but dear Abigail's nudged me into it.

The pearl we want so desperately is our Lord, Himself.
The price of the pearl is absolutely every thing.
But, the pearl itself _is_ absolutely Everything, All in All.

As St. Teresa de Jesus said (in Nada te turbe):
The one who possesses God finds nothing is wanting.
God alone suffices.


The price is not just every thing one time,
but it's everything over and over again.
Just now we have a promise of the pearl,
we have a covenant about the pearl,
we get glimpses of the pearl.
If we are extraordinarily fortunate,
we have visitation with the pearl.

But the time will come when we take full possession of the pearl
(or it of us! )
and when that time comes,
we must arrive empty.
Having given everything over and over again ---
making installment payments on the pearl ---
we have to arrive empty of self-will, empty of self-pity,
empty of pride, empty of sin,
empty of our works and merits and deserving,
empty of all the trivia and stuff we collect and cling to.

The pearl is Everything.
There's no room in our selves for it
and for any thing else at all.

The other St. Therese, the Little Flower, said to God:
In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands,
for I do not ask You, Lord, to count my works....
I wish, then, to be clothed in Your own Justice
and to receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself.


And the author of the Dear Paul Letter, decades later, had this to say to the Church he renounced the friendship of Paul to love and to serve single-heartedly:
She [St. Therese of Lisieux] once wrote that she wanted to go to God empty-handed. I think I know now personally what she meant by that phrase. I have learned how frail my own human nature is, how in need of God's loving embrace I am. Empty-handed for me now means a willingness to accept my humanity totally, just as Christ accepted that same human nature out of love. But for me it also means to be fully receptive to whatever God wants to place in those hands, to be ready with empty hands to receive new life.
But I am also aware much self-pity and pride remain. I must leave that pride behind. Each day I will try to leave room for God to enter into my life more and more. Ultimately I understand that the humanity God so loved and sought to redeem, including my own humanity, will be transformed by His loving embrace and grace.


The price of the pearl is everything, over and over again;
it also requires all of the space in our hearts.
Yet the pearl is Everything: once we take full possession, there will be no voids and no thing lacking.

Our Lady, Mother of the Church,
as she's imaged in our wonderful Cathedral,
strides forward faithfully, determinedly, right off her pedestal,
to follow her Son, her Lord, her Beloved.

Lord, to whom can we go? There is no other way.
We have to dare to follow her example.

postscript:
I emailed Abigail to get her permission to quote her (since she's a listserv person, not a blogger, I thought just using Welborn Protocol was unfair) and she sent to me a few more words of Abigail-wisdom. Giving up one's self-will to the service and will of infants is excellent discipline I'll never have, and Abigail does.

...something is tugging at my mind about The Price of the Pearl (wouldn't that be a great name for a blog?). But I can't think what it could possibly be, because the whole point of the parable is that once you acquire the pearl, its price is precisely what's not important: just like labor pains after the baby's born. Maybe it's that in this life, we're still in the process of paying the price. The pearl's only promised, we've only seen the baby by ultrasound (through a mirror darkly). So we can't _really_ forget it yet. Or something like that.

And, of course, she's right. God alone suffices.
.

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