Monday, July 28, 2008

When I have a terrible need of - shall I say the word - religion.
Then I go out and paint the stars.

-Vincent Van Gogh, who died on this day, 1890, age 37

You know, I have the classic love-hate relationship with the Church. I absolutely love the vision of the Church - the fellowship of graced believers, the upholder of Justice and Truth and Peace, the practitioner of Unconditional Love, the lover of humility and honesty and simplicity. And I absolutely “hate” it for its hypocrisy and weakness and venality and greed and power-madness and downright evil and wickedness at times in its history. Sigh.

I try to remember that the “Church” is a symbol. A symbol of the love of God and the beauty of the Creation. And sometimes I see the poignancy of the Church trying to represent the Love of God, compromised by us fickle, maddening, weak, grasping human beings. And I try to remember that God, in spite of our reality, unconditionally loves us.

St. Paul was right. God is magnificently seen in the beauty of Creation. The Psalms are right. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the Firmament declares God’s handiwork. When I really get fed up with the Church, and with myself, I go and gaze at the stars, at the wonder of the Creation. Oh the nights when I would lie on the grass at my grandmother’s cottage as a child; on the banks of the Hudson River in the summer darkness; on the beach in Nicaragua; on the little tower of the Villa Merlo Bianco in Florence; at midnight in my hot tub in Millerton NY. My soul would be soothed, and my mind would become a little calmer.

The Universe, the blazing, playful stars - they do put things back in perspective. When religion, Life, exasperation, discouragement press on us, then lie under the stars and let them paint their calm wonder on the heart.

The stars are a balm in Gilead. Tomorrow comes easier.


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