Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Eternal "Thank You"

In a biography of G.K. Chesterton published in 1943, Maisie Ward tells of this remarkable trait of the great convert and Catholic apologist:

"(He) liked everybody very much, and everything very much. He liked even the things most of us dislike. He liked to get wet. He liked to be tired. After...[a particular period of] struggle he liked to call himself 'always perfectly happy'. And therefore he wanted to say "Thank You".

To God. Chesterton loved life. He loved even the harsh struggles of life. It is no wonder he wrote wonderful biographies of both St. Francis and St. Thomas Aquinas; for, in a way, Chesterton was a combination of both. He relished the exquisite wonder and simplicity of being, so dear to Francis; and, understanding how messy and complicated the other side of life's embroidery was, he loved the necessary and earnest intellectual joust, knowing perfectly well the dire matters which were at stake.

And loving life, the redoubtable Chesterton wanted to say "Thank You" to the Father; to the Heart of the universe. It was this desire to say the eternal "Thank You" which led Chesterton out of the bog and miasma of agnosticism. In a striking little poem which he early penned in his notebook, Chesterton wrote:

"You say grace before meals
All right.
But I say grace before the play and the opera
And grace before the pantomine,
And grace before I open a book,
And grace before sketching, painting,
Swimming, fencing, boxing, playing, dancing;
And grace before I dip the pen in the ink"

And so much did this big man with the big heart love life, that at the end of a day he could write:

"Here lies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And tommorow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?"

Clearly, these could only be grace-dilated eyes which were so opened to the wonder of being and which could dwell within the same mortal house as the artful combatant in abstruse matters of eternal importance. For Chesterton, though, there could be no question of conferring divinity on matter or worshipping his own subjectivity. He knew that to leap from the joy of existence to the worship of created reality, like so many do today, is to ensure the triumph of nothing but the nihil, of nothingness, and much worse.

His was a joy grounded in God, who is the Good, the True and the Beautiful. His joy resounded and rebounded back to the Origns of being, to the personal God, the Maker of the heavens and the earth; it was not rooted in the almighty self. For this joy can only repose in love. Such joy, received from our Maker, is not the opposite of suffering; it is what redeems and transfigures suffering! It is what enables a man not only to sing, but even to fight, when necessary

--->The Exquisite Intuition of Being

"Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind" ---Saint Catherine of Siena