July 10, 2015

To Imagine Eternity

I love to read.  As a child, I spent many golden hours lost in the stacks of our neighborhood library.  The endless rows of books gave me the dizzying sense that the possibilities of this life were infinite.

While I was in high school, I would often sacrifice a night's sleep to read just one more page of the most thrilling story ever.  I vividly remember being spellbound by Betty Smith's, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - so much so that I couldn't bear to put it down even when I could barely make out the words through my tears.

In his book, The Message in the Bottle, Walker Percy reflects that man's search for meaning is bound up with mystery.  In other words, man's desire is to discover the deepest things this life has to offer.  This life bears the promise of a life that does not end.

The mission of a good book is to give flesh and blood to this promise through a story that inflames the imagination with beauty.  A good book does not moralize.  It points to something beyond itself - it has a sacramental function, introducing the reader to the mystery of eternity in and through the things of this world.

At this point, I would like to mention a few of my favorite books in no particular order.  Instead of describing the plot or critiquing the composition, I simply express here what they have taught me:

Our Town (Thornton Wilder) - The apparently mundane events of daily life are charged with glory.  Cooking dinner, celebrating birthdays, walking home from school - there is nothing we do here in this life whose maning does not extend into eternity.  Every moment bears within itself an infinite depth, an infinite weight.

The Odyssey (Homer) - The journey home is the longest journey.  This is true not only in terms of actual distance, but because of how the encounter with danger and novelty changes us.  To return home means to remember the truth about ourselves, in other words, that we are expected by someone who loves us.

The Portal of the Mystery of Hope (Charles Peguy) - Trust.  The sorrows of today are not the final word.  Our own expectations lead to disappointment, but hope in God leads to glory.

Happy summer and happy reading!

- Mother M. Maximilia, FSGM

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