I have a bandsaw. It’s a good one, not a plastic, big-box, disposable one, but a bring-by-pup-truck one that takes two people to construct and some training to use well. It has many moving parts, each with its own set of parameters and eccentricities. Once it is set up, it still requires care, because it has a sharp moving blade and a very powerful motor. It is not a kid’s toy. I would not let one near it, not until they’re twelve, anyway.
One you turn it on you can become captivated by the draw of it all. The sound of the current playing with the magnets, the whooshing of the wheels coming to speed; the metallic hum of the now nearly invisible blade as it sings its siren song to any soft object that it would happily – and dutifully – rend asunder. And that sound of rending too is unique and draws near to melodic, a musical tearing of one into two, straight, curved, or some more complicated mixture of the two.
It is easy to see why it is so powerfully desirable: it is powerful yet elegant, destructive yet creative, divisive yet musical.
And once you have one, every task looks like a job for the band saw. Every board should make the blade sing, no matter how thin or thick, no matter how hard or soft. To the bandsaw, every plank is just waiting for its “real” shape to be sheared out of it.
While this song is true at the onset, it soon becomes clear that the siren song is not a welcoming call at all, but an invitation to ruin. Many a board was sacrificed, too many lost without any opportunity to explore their own ring-demarked legacy. Too many boards faced a battle of the blade where either board was sundered or blade was broken. Either way the music was less than pleasant, a requiem rather than a celebration.
Such is the way, this dance between man and machine, where machine dictates the terms and man must say yes or suffer. Machines do simplify, but at a cost: all to often they render false choices, leaving destruction in their wake.
Better to take a step back, unplug the machine, get to know the wood, and skillfully discover its form-yet-to-be-revealed. Machines shorten the decision-making process, and all too often lead to a collection of scrap as opposed to anything of lasting beauty.
Beauty, after all, is what it is all about. Taking time to discover the beauty of a thing (or a person) is crucial to the meaning of existence in this world. To settle for mechanical short-cuts diminishes the act of discovery, and renders subject to object, shoves life towards death, and pushes beauty towards desolation.
We must have the determination to overcome temptations comparable to the sorrows of the first Christians. All the witnesses of Christ’s Resurrection were martyred. We should be ready to endure any hardship.
Theology is the content of our prayers.
Dear Father Tom,
It has been two years since you have gone. So much has changed. There is so much I wish that I could talk to you about. Oh, I suspect I know what you would say about just about everything. Perhaps it is best that I can only hear you in my thoughts. The world is not the same. I am not the same.
I miss you. I can still hear the slight laugh in that soft, raspy voice of yours, I still see the twinkle in your eyes, the smile on your face. Man, I used to enjoy our conversations so dearly. You would wait for me, after I (or we) served liturgy at the monastery. We would talk for a few hours at a time about anything. You were engaging, kind and pastoral. It was such a joy for me. I was glad and honored to be in your company.
I miss you. I miss your insights, your keen sense of things. I so admire the fact that you were not afraid to engage tough issues, challenging topics. You did not put walls up, nor did you hide behind false bravados, facades or some weak triumphalism. You knew your foundation, your faith, your Lord; your faith was firm, and you did not need to justify it to anyone. Yet you were willing to be with people who were not like you, who did not share your views, who had opposing viewpoints, who were sinners, who were alien. Like Christ eating with tax collectors and sinners, you treated everyone the same, from the poorest to the most powerful, as all bearing the image of God, all worthy of God’s love.
I miss you. Today we need people of your caliber, of your voice, of your daring, of your willingness to talk to and be with people who are different than ourselves. We need your voice to proclaim liberation to the captive, to exalt the humble and to humble the exalted. We need your reminder that the before the joy of resurrection the cross looms; that beyond the suffering of the cross the resurrection awaits.
Oh, I miss you. For these things and more. For the times we spent, for the meals we shared, for the times I helped you with your computer, and for the times you helped me in innumerable ways. For our friendship.
That, my deeply respected, dear brother and concelebrant, is ultimately at the center of it all. So I shall say to you the very last words that you said to me before you passed from this life: Thank you, Fr. Tom, for being my friend.
The good man thinks to himself in this wise: Every one who has strayed from the truth brings destruction on himself and is therefore to be pitied. But of course the man who has not learned the love of the Holy Spirit will not pray for his enemies. The man who has learned love from the Holy Spirit sorrows all his life over those who are not saved, and sheds abundant tears for the people, and the grace of God gives him strength to love his enemies.
What shall I render unto Thee, O Lord,
for that Thou hast poured such great mercy on my soul?
Grant, I beg Thee, that I may see my iniquities,
and ever weep before Thee,
for Thou art filled with love for humble souls,
and dost give them the grace of the Holy Spirit.
O merciful God, forgive me.
Thou seest how my soul is drawn to Thee, her Creator.
Thou hast wounded my soul with Thy love,
and she thirsts for Thee, and wearies without end,
and day and night, insatiable, reaches toward Thee,
and has no wish to look upon this world, though I do love it,
but above all I love Thee, my Creator,
and my soul longs after Thee.
The Lord greatly loves the repenting sinner and mercifully presses him to His bosom: “Where were you, My child? I was waiting a long time for you.” The Lord calls all to Himself with the voice of the Gospel, and his voice is heard in all the world: “Come to me, my sheep. I created you, and I love you. My love for you brought Me to earth, and I suffered all things for the sake of your salvation, and I want you all to know my love, and to say, like the apostles on Tabor: Lord, it is good for us to be with You.”
We suffer because we have no humility and we do not love our brother. From love of our brother comes the love of God. People do not learn humility, and because of their pride cannot receive the grace of the Holy Spirit, and therefore the whole world suffers.
Understand two thoughts, and fear them. One says, “You are a saint,” the other, “You won’t be saved.” Both of these thoughts are from the enemy, and there is no truth in them. But think this way: I am a great sinner, but the Lord is merciful. He loves people very much, and He will forgive my sins.
Enlightened by baptism, people believe in God. But there are some who even know Him. To believe in God is good but it is more blessed to know God. Nevertheless, those who believe are bless, too, as the Lord said to Thomas, one of the twelve: ‘Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.’
If we were humble the Lord in His love would show us all things, would reveal to us all mysteries, but our trouble is that we are not humble. We puff ourselves up and boast over trifles, and so make both ourselves and others unhappy.
The Lord, though He is merciful, oppresses the soul with hunger on account of her pride, and withholds grace from her until she has learned humility. I was perishing from my sins, and would long ago have been in hell, had not the Lord and His most holy and blessed Mother taken pity on me. O, her quiet, gentle voice! A voice from heaven the like of which we shall never hear on earth! And so now in tears I write of the Lord of Mercy, as He were my own Father. It is sweet for the soul to be with the Lord: Adam tasted the sweetness of this bliss in paradise when he saw the Lord with open eyes, and we feel in our souls that He is with us according to His promise: ‘Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.’
The Lord is with us. What more cou8ld we desire? The Lord created man that we might live and bask in Him for ever – that we might be with Him and in Him. And the Lord desires to be with us Himself, and in us. The Lord is our joy and gladness, and when pride causes us to withdraw from Him, it means that of our own accord we deliver ourselves up to suffering. Anguish of heart, dejection and evil thoughts lacerate us….
The proud man fears obloquy, while the humble man cares nothing. He who has acquired Christ-like humility will ever upbraid himself, and it rejoices him to be abused, and grieves him to be acclaimed. but this humility is still only elementary – when the soul comes to know the Lord in the Holy Spirit, how humble and meek He is, she sees herself as the worst of all sinners, and is happy to sit in shabby raiment in the ashes like Job, while she beholds other men in the Holy Spirit shining in the likeness of Christ.
May the Merciful Lord give all men to savor Christ’s humility which passes description. The soul will then know no further desire but will live for ever in humility, love and lowliness.