Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thursday's Dr. Thursday Post

...children are innocent and love justice; while most of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy. [GKC, The Coloured Lands 195]
Far too thrilled with the Paschal excitement, I leaped into last week's posting without a grander plan to the work of the Week-of-Weeks. But sometimes fools rush in (into print, that is) where angels fear to post. And as it turns out, there already seems to be a thread which unites, this time a wild Chestertonian application of technology to the various tokens of Easter. Last week we considered how the Church "stops" her liturgical time in order to give us a taste of Eternity. Today, since we are in the Octave of Mercy, let us look at Mercy - that is, at the famous picture of our Jesus of Mercy, for there are one or two items we might learn from it.
Read more.In particular, we note the two streams, red and white, flowing from the Heart of Jesus - that heart to which we call in the 33 splendid invocations of the Litany of the Sacred Heart. It was just after the Roman death-certificate was issued, as St. John reports:
But one of the soldiers with a spear opened His side: and immediately there came out blood and water. And he that saw it hath given testimony: and his testimony is true. And he knoweth that he saith true: that you also may believe. [Jn 19:34-35]
You can find discussions of the cardiac pathology if you wish; there is one touching, half-poetic suggestion that Jesus died of a "broken heart".

But there are other things suggested by the red-and-white streams. The blood is itself a clear fluid, except for the erythrocytes it carries - the "red vessels" which transport oxygen. It comes as a grave shock to some to learn that these living creatures are celibate, since they have no nucleus and no DNA, and thus do not produce offspring. Formed in a "poetic" and specially guarded place - the hemopoetic tissues of marrow deep within the bones - they "sacrifice" their lives of some 30 days in bringing the "outside air" to even the most distant cells of the body.

Yet, there are also the leukocytes, whose name recalls "Doctor White", St. Paul's "most dear physician" [Col 4:14]. Where the red cells have no nuclei, the white cells have multiple nuclei, and are specially built to fight against any invasion of the body.

But perhaps this Mystical Histology (cf. 1 Cor 12) is a bit too technical for today. Let us find, as Chesterton did, something common, something ordinary, which we can look at differently, and so learn something new:
When we read about cabbages or cauliflowers in the papers, and especially the comic papers, we learn to think of them as commonplace. But if a man of any imagination will merely consent to walk round the kitchen-garden for himself, and really looks at the cabbages and cauliflowers, he will feel at once that they are vast and elemental things like the mountain in the clouds. He will feel something almost monstrous about the size and solidity of the things swelling out of that small and tidy patch of ground. There are moods in which that everyday English kitchen plot will affect him as men are affected by the reeking wealth and toppling rapidity of tropic vegetation; the green bubbles and crawling branches of a nightmare.

But whatever his mood, he will see that things so large and work so laborious cannot possibly be merely trivial. His reason no less than his imagination will tell him that the fight here waged between the family and the field is of all things the most primitive and fundamental. If that is not poetical, nothing is poetical, and certainly not the dingy Bohemianism of the artists in the towns. But the point for the moment is that even by the purely artistic test the same truth is apparent. An artist looking at these things with a free and a fresh vision will at once appreciate what I mean by calling them wild rather than tame. It is true of fire, of water, of vegetation, of half a hundred other things. If a man reads about a pig, he will think of something comic and commonplace, chiefly because the word "pig" sounds comic and commonplace. If he looks at a real pig in a real pigsty, he will have the sense of something too large to be alive, like a hippopotamus at the Zoo.
[GKC, The Coloured Lands 197-8]
And so, the next time it is dark, and you have to go somewhere in your car, and you drive on a highway of any reasonable size and busy-ness, take a glance at what you see. And look at it as Chesterton would...

Do you see the streams of white and red? Do you not have the sense that you are travelling toward His heart?

Indeed, it is something "too large to be alive" - except that it is alive, for it is the Mystical Body: "I am the Way." [Jn 14:6] An amazing and merciful way: "It was that abyss that nothing but an incarnation could cover; a divine embodiment of our dreams; and he stands above that chasm whose name is more than priest and older even than Christendom; Pontifex Maximus, the mightiest maker of a bridge." [GKC, The Everlasting Man CW2:380]

Heart of Jesus, abyss of all virtues, have mercy on us.
"For Four Guilds: II. The Bridge-Builders"

In the world's whitest morning
As hoary with hope,
The Builder of Bridges
Was priest and was pope:
And the mitre of mystery
And the canopy his,
Who darkened the chasms
And doomed the abyss.

To eastward and westward
Spread wings at his word
The arch with the key-stone
That stoops like a bird;
That rides the wild air
And the daylight cast under;
The highway of danger,
The gateway of wonder.

Of his throne were the thunders
That rivet and fix
Wild weddings of strangers,
That meet and not mix;
The town and the cornland;
The bride and the groom;
In the breaking of bridges
Is treason and doom.

But he bade us, who fashion
The road that can fly,
That we build not too heavy
And build not too high:
Seeing alway that under
The dark arch's bend
Shine death and white daylight
Unchanged to the end.

Who walk on his mercy
Walk light, as he saith,
Seeing that our life
Is a bridge above death;
And the world and its gardens
And hills, as ye heard,
Are born above space
On the wings of a bird.

Not high and not heavy
Is building of his:
When ye seal up the flood
And forget the abyss,
When your towers are uplifted,
Your banners unfurled,
In the breaking of bridges
Is the end of the world.
[GKC, Collected Poems 86-7]

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