God mystery

Stars and Stillness

6:00:00 AMCatherine F. O'Camb

Growing up in rural country during my teens, I encountered beauty in a way I had never thought possible.
One evening, traveling back home from work, I found myself in deep thought. The evenings of summer in the outskirts of Colorado are framed by its landscape. On this particular night, I was grasped by its subtle stillness. It was as if the night had always been calling me to listen, but I was never ready to respond. This time, I was alone with no distractions of the phone or radio. I finally allowed myself to listen as the night drew me in.
Everything about these evenings was utterly still. Meditating on this evening, I thought of various reasons why the stillness drew me in. As I looked outside the window in front of me, the headlights illuminated the dusty, dirt road where all the loose pebbles rolled slowly beneath the car. The terrain was defined by steep dips, shaping the road. Gradually opening my eyes wider, I attentively watched for portentous, beady eyes. In a brief moment, I passed on the road a family of raccoons hurdled together. Directing my vision towards the open road, I gazed upon the dark silhouette of the animated trees. The figures pressed against the sky, giving the sky character. All the space around the trees was desolate and empty. All these things came together completing the stillness of the country and all pointed in the direction of the night sky.
The most attractive aspect of the evening was the night sky. The stars that blanketed the sky’s expanse were like tiny diamonds that were delicately placed throughout the braid of a young bride’s hair. The stars stood breathless, watching over the desert below. In this moment, I was overwhelmed by their beauty. I desired to gaze upon them, be wrapped in them, but most of all I was moved to show them reverence.
Not many experience this peace. When I lived in the city at an earlier age, there was always a constant feeling of busyness. The city was always moving. Beams of light, helicopters and sirens filled the night. Being given the chance to see the contrast between the evening in the country to that in the city, I was able to grow in appreciation of beauty. I thought it to be incredible that something so simple, yet majestic could move me to take a step back and respectively adore its presence.
Dietrich von Hildebrand discusses in his work In Defense of Purity, about purity as a positive virtue. [1] He believes that certain mysteries in our life demand reverence in order to be properly understood. The mystery of sexuality is no exception. The pure man encounters sex with a spirit of reverence. This means reverence is first directed to the human person who is sexually embodied. Then, with a look towards God, the full significance of sexuality is realized. He discovers that modestly responding to the value of sex,  he is able to remain at a respectful distance. This mystery is unique compared to the appetite for food or drink because it requires the donation of self and the return of this gift by another. When one responds with reverence to the sphere of sexuality, one gives it over to the domain of God.  When one does not wait for God’s permission and instead responds to sex for pleasure as its end, then sex will become a “deadly poison, defiling the soul and separating it from God.” [2]
One should cultivate the virtue of purity so as to respond to the mystery of sex. Purity in its fullness lets one respond to the mystery when God is ready to “lift the veil,” without fear of the vital spheres taking control and defeating the mystery. Furthermore, the virtue of purity allows the lover in matrimony to “surrender without reserve to the beloved” without surrendering merely to the pleasures of sex. [3] Like the stars in the sky or the stillness of the night in Colorado, the mystery of sex demands a sense of reverence if its true beauty and worth is to be understood. In the busyness of the city, we overlook the beautiful mystery of the night. At the same time, if we do not cultivate purity, we may lose sight of the true meaning of sexuality as given to us by God.
Image 1: ESO/R Schoedel http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5f/Center_Milky_Way.jpg, European Southern Observatory. 22 November 2010
[1] Dietrich von Hildebrand, In the Defense of Purity. 40
[2] Ibid., 40
[3] Ibid., 41

 

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