THE LOST ART OF REVERENCE (Matthew 28:16-20): 07 June 2009 (Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity)
Dear God–Father, Son, Holy Spirit:
Nothing reminds me more of Your divinity than the mystery of the Trinity that we celebrate today: You as the One True God, but revealed by the Lord Jesus as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Given such a truth, I can’t help but feel what the mystics have always known about You: Your transcendence and Your ineffability. As early as the 12th century, the Second Lateran Council has taught that any image or knowledge of God that we have is more unlike You than like You.
Meditating on this today, I sense a sudden and strange surge of reverence. Unfortunately, reverence can be a rare, unfamiliar feeling in this present age, when we run around all over the place believing we have the capacity to know everything and the permission to use everything for our ends.
I think You were trying to tell me something a few weeks ago when I watched the Japanese film called “Departures” (“Okurubito”), which had just won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film this year. The story revolves around Daigo, a young cellist who loses his job and thanks to circumstances as well as his own growing financial needs, ends up in the unlikely job of “encoffinments”–the ancient Japanese art of preparing corpses for cremation before the bereaved. Although initially squeamish about the prospect of bathing and grooming the dead, Daigo begins to appreciate the meaning of his work as he realizes how the ceremony enables him to care not only for the dead, but for the grieving as well.
More than anything else, what struck me about the film was its sense of reverence–as shown by Daigo in particular, but as found in the Japanese culture in general. Reverence is to know that something is greater than the self: The person is more than the corpse, but it is far from just an empty shell. The world is not just a place we live in; it is pulsing with mystery and if we watch closely, always inspires wonder. Other people don’t just happen to be around and aren’t just to be defined in terms of their relationship to us and our lives; each person is a profound mystery with an inner universe as vast as our external universe. And certainly You are far greater than any concept or metaphor that our limited reason can concoct, and all our concepts and metaphors put together only limp and fall short of the profound mystery of Who You are.
Dearest Lord, today teach me reverence for all the things that I did not create: for the tree, for the sky, for the all the persons who people my world. Most of all, teach me reverence for You, the Most Holy Triune God: You Who lie far beyond our concepts and metaphors, but mysteriously fall always within our reach. Amen.
How about posting a Quick Prayer here to share with others?
Note: You may want to watch this beautiful excerpt from “Departures,” where on Christmas eve, Daigo takes out his childhood cello and plays “Ave Maria” for his boss and colleague. The clip shows how he gradually grows into his new job.