Caryll Houselander (“The Reed of God,” 34-38): Vocation to give all and therefore secular:  Ordinary life = totality of giving self-gift


“The one thing that He did ask of her was the gift of her humanity. She was to give Him her body and soul unconditionally, and – what in this new light would have seemed absurdly trivial to anyone but the Child Bride of Wisdom – she was to give Him here daily life.

She outwardly it would not differ from the life she would have led if she had not been chosen to be the Bride of the Spirit and the Mother of God at all!

She was not even asked to live it alone with this God who was her own Being and whose Being was to be hers.

No, He asked for her ordinary life shared with Joseph. She was not to neglect her simple human tenderness, her love for and earthly man, because God was her unborn child.

On the contrary, the hands and feet, the heart, the waking, sleeping, and eating that were forming Christ were to form Him in service to Joseph.

Yes, it certainly seemed that God wanted to give the world the impression that it is ordinary for Him to be born of a human creature.

Well, that is a fact. God did mean it to be the ordinary thing, for it is His will that Christ shall be born in every human being’s life and not, as a rule, through extraordinary things, but through the ordinary daily life and the human live that people give to one another.

Our Lady said yes.

She said yes for us all.

The wind of the Spirit had beaten on the door, rattled the windows, tapped on the dark glass with the tiny hands of flowers, flung golden seed against it, even, in hours of storm, lashed it with the boughs of a great tree – the prophecy of the Cross – and yet the Spirit was outside. But one day a girl opened the door, and the little house was swept pure and sweet by the wind. Seas of light swept through it, and the light remained in it; and in that little house a Child was born and the Child was God.

Our Lady said yes for the human race. Each one of us must echo that yes for our own lives.

We are all asked if we will surrender what we are, out humanity, our flesh and blood, to the Holy Spirit and allow Christ to fill the emptiness formed by the particular shape of our life.

The surrender that is asked of us includes complete and absolute trust; it must be lie Our Lady’s surrender, without condition and without reservation.

We shall not be asked to do more that the Mother of God; we shall not be asked to become extraordinary or set apart or to make a hard and fast rule of life or to compile a manual of mortifications of heroic resolutions; we shall not be asked to cultivate our souls like rare hothouse flowers

What we shall be asked to give is our flesh and blood, our daily life  – our thoughts, our service to none another, our affections and loves, our words, our intellect, our waking, working, and sleeping, our ordinary human joys and sorrows – to God.

To surrender all that we are as we are, to the Spirit of Love in order that our lives may bear Christ into the world – that is what we shall be asked.

Our Lady has made this possible. Her fiat was for herself and for us, but if we want God’s will to be completed in us as it is in her, we must echo her fiat.

This is not quite such an easy thing to do as it seems.

Most people, unless the invitation comes to them in early childhood, have already thrust down fierce roots into the heavy clay of the world. Their hands are already gripping hard onto self-interest [Exam]. They are already partly paralyzed by fear.

To put aside suddenly every motive except this single one, the forming of Christ in our life, is not so easy for ordinary people who are to remain ordinary.

The first of these hard things is that through being wed to the Spirit, we shall receive the gift of understanding.

In the world in which we live today, the great understanding given by the Spirit of Wisdom must involve us in a lot o suffering. We shall be obliged to see the wound that sin has inflicted on the people of the world. We shall have X-ray minds; we shall see through the bandages people have laid over trhe wounds that sin has dealt them; we shall see the Christ in others, and that vision will impose an obligation on us for as long as we live, the obligation of love; when we fail in it, we shall not be able to escape in excuses and distractions as we have done in the past; the failure will afflict us bitterly and always.

We shall have, by virtue of this same gift of understanding, far truer values; and we shall be haunted by a nostalgia for divine things, by a homesickness for God which is not eased in this world even by the presence of God.

And in proportion to our understanding we are likely to be misunderstood; the world does not accept Christ’s values. The Beatitudes are madness to the world. ‘Blessed are the poor, the mourners, the reviled, the persecuted, the calumniated; blessed are those who hunger and thirst after justsive.

People who will not compromise with Christ’s values are uncomfortable neighbors for mediocrity; they are like;y to be misunderstood; they are often hated. They run something like this: ‘Blessed are the comfortably well off, the cheerful, the highly respected. Blessed are the flattered. Blessed are those who are bored for a good salary on six days in the week and can overeat on the seventh. Blessed are those who are satisfied by the Beverage plan and are always willing to compromise; blessed are they when all men respect their rights as citizens and forget that they are men for their reward will not be very great but they will never be unduly disturbed and they will never disturb he complacency of others.’




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