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May 17, 2022
Introduction, The Reed of God, fiat, advent, idol, the lost child, emptiness, et homo factus est, the fugue, et verum caro factum est,

The Reed of God

Fiat. How it is that we like the story of an underdog coming out on top. Life does not always have many such stories, but when we become aware of one, it helps us to believe in something wonderfully good. Things seem more right with the world. And we are filled with hope that we can enter the same story where despite our weaknesses and failures, those ways in which we are small ourselves, there can be the hope that God can make something wonderful of us.
This is a commentary series on The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander.

Commentary on The Reed of God, Part One: Fiat

Fiat. How it is that we like the story of an underdog coming out on top. Life does not always have many such stories, but when we become aware of one, it helps us to believe in something wonderfully good. Things seem more right with the world. And we are filled with hope that we can enter the same story where despite our weaknesses and failures, those ways in which we are small ourselves, there can be the hope that God can make something wonderful of us.

This is the observation Houselander makes in the next section of The Reed of God. But more important than the hope we feel is why we are able to feel it. Namely, that in Our Lady’s fiat to God, the yes we celebrated yesterday on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception that all of this is even possible. “When she surrendered herself to God, there was indeed a miraculous New Heaven and New Earth.” Fiat.

Jesus tells us the Kingdom of God belongs to children. And in Mary’s yes a child, the child-God, enters the world. Mary’s powerful word, “yes”, fiat, enables the Word to become flesh. Mary’s yes makes it possible for us to say yes too.

If we are to become and be saints, we too must say yes to God. It can be thought that if we are called by God to do what we would rather not, the fact it does not appeal to us means God could not call us to do that thing. After all, doesn’t God want us to be happy?

But when God calls us to do something, because God loves us unconditionally, God knows that by answering the call we become more who we were created to be. And that makes us truly happy and fulfilled.

Houselander admits the difficulty with this. “The world has set up a new set of beatitudes. 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 the complacency of others.””

The truth? Sometimes seeking the truth, or rather the Truth who is Jesus, will cause us not only to make others sometimes uncomfortable, but might do the same for us. And even harder, sometimes we will be made most uncomfortable by those we love and care about the most.

And we live this call out in the Church. The Church that was founded by Jesus. But the Church is filled with imperfect humans who sometimes do evil things.

“We know perfectly well that there are often scandals in the church, that despite her pure heart, her children sometimes grow worldly and base and dress her up with tawdry  golden garments which they have woven with black and cunning fingers; sometimes we see nothing but ugliness in her. Yet, even so, she is the refuge and hope of all sinners, the joy and hope of all saints, the life and hope of every living creature; And this is because under this aspect the church is still Christ, Christ in His passion, Christ crowned with thorns, His face covered in blood and dirt and the dust of the road on which we flung him down. He still remains the one ultimately irresistible person.”

The Church is the mix of the divine and the human. Perfect in its divinity but filled with sinful humans. The Church is the vehicle God chooses for the sacraments but is also at the same time filled with people who are capable of committing great sins and doing great harm.

Yet the same was true in the time of Mary. She said yes in the same religious ambiguity. There were those who took God’s loving Law, revealed to the Jewish people, and twisted it for their own gain and greed. And still she said yes. She said yes to God and yes for us.

Yet Houselander points out the enigma: rather than trust the all-loving infinite God who always knows and helps us to get what is best, we would rather trust the finite humans who do not always say yes to God and often harm each other. And in trusting human beings, who are weak and fragile, just like us, our best does not always show forth.

“There is the daily, petty fear; fear of losing a hated job – a job that cramps and constricts the heart but which means the four walls of home, the food and warmth for the little family – fear that moves in a vicious circle, making us hate because we cringe and cringe because we hate.” How much does this describe the current state of our world, just as it described the world in 1944. Wow. Still today we are afraid of a future we cannot control, a future filled with threats and difficulties we fear, filled with changes we do not like.

But do we trust God in the midst of this? In the midst of all of this can we still say “yes” to God and imitate the fiat of Mary? Can we admit our fear and brokenness and offer it to the one Person who can heal it and help us to replace fear with trust?

Saying yes to God does not mean that we do not suffer. The same Mary who received her infant Son also held her dead crucified Son. The same Joseph who trusted the angel in a dream was the Joseph who had to lead Mary and Jesus into Egypt. Trusting in God does not mean we are completely free from all suffering. Rather, it reminds us that in our suffering we are never alone.

Other Commentaries on The Reed of God

Commentary on The Reed of God – Part One: Emptiness

Commentary on The Reed of God – Introduction

It can be helpful to have the book to read. To purchase books I recommend the Pauline sisters.

2 thoughts on “Fiat: Commentary on The Reed of God – Part 1

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