philosophy

The Playground, a Slice of Pizza, and a Plate of Cookies

by Howard Hain


Yesterday my address may as well have been Sesame Street.

Returning to our one-bedroom apartment in Union City, New Jersey, after three nights at my mother’s house for the Thanksgiving weekend, my daughter had one thing in mind: “Park.”

A two-year old can get quite repetitive. Off we went.

We chose the playground on the other end of town in order to lengthen the walk. Francesca rode in the carriage, looking back over her shoulder at us and saying “park” at the sight of every tree, child, or basketball.

She sat in every swing, slid down every slide, and climbed every rung. She played so hard she hardly even fought us when we said it was time to go.

The pizza guy cut her slice into tiny pieces. Francesca ate all but the crust, bobbing her head up and down with every bite.

Next stop, the bakery.

She pointed at every cookie in the glass case, focusing most on anything containing a chip or a sprinkle. I ordered three or four different types.

We sat at a plastic table, Laurie and I drinking the best Cuban coffee you can get for a buck, while Francesca filled her cheeks.

Before I became a father I never thought watching a child eat could be so satisfying.

I don’t think I could have been more content.

I love my wife. I love her more each day. To see her mother deepens my love.

I love my child. I love her more each day. To see her grow deepens my love.

I would have emptied our bank account to purchase a few hours at the playground, a slice of pizza, and a plate of cookies.

But of course I didn’t need to, the few dollars I laid out was well within our budget.

The real expense was paid long ago.

Thank you God for making me conscious.

Thank you for allowing your Son to purchase our “walk in the park.”


 

(Nov/29/2011)

 

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philosophy

Such Small Spaces

by Howard Hain

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Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, “Virgin Adoring the Host”, ca. 1850s


Lord God, how is it You fit in such small spaces?

The Creator of all, the Maker of all things, He who knows every hair on every head—how is it Lord You fit in such small spaces?

The Light of Light, the King of Kings—the Heaven, the Earth, and all their Glory—how is it Lord You fit in such small spaces?

How is it Father that You fit in a cradle?

How is it Lamb of God that You fit in a host?

How is it Author of Life that You fit in a word?

How is it my Lord and my God You fit in such small spaces?


 

(Feb/12/2012)

 

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philosophy

Just Up At Dawn

by Howard Hain

utagawa-hiroshige-titmouse-and-camellias-right-sparrow-and-wild-roses-center-and-black-naped-oriole-and-cherry-blossoms-left-ca-1833

Utagawa Hiroshige, “Titmouse and Camellias (right), Sparrow and Wild Roses (center), and Black-naped Oriole and Cherry Blossoms (left)”, ca. 1833. The Met.


Lord, You are good.

Truly Good.

You are a great promise.

You are as good as Your Word.

You set free and You restore.

You truly make all things new.

I have seen great deeds.

Only Your hand can accomplish.

Within spaces.

So big and so small.

I have seen you in the sky and in the bird.

I have heard You cry and felt You shake.

I feel Your smile.

This very moment.

Good morning, Father.

You are so very good.

You are God.

And You alone.

Thank You for teaching me.

For showing me how to be free.

By asking only one thing.

Each and every moment.

What is Your will?

I need know nothing more.

I need not see, nor hear, nor feel, nor sense anything else.

I need not understand, nor remember, nor plan.

I need not desire nor will more than Your will itself.

I am.

Here.

To know.

To love.

To serve.

You.

And You alone.

That is Your will.

Your will is You.

One and the same.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

Holy Mother Church.

Holy Angels.

Holy Saints.

Cloud of Witnesses.

Help me, Lord God.

Maker of Heaven and Earth.

To love You more and more each day.

In all Your creation.

Every bit of Your handiwork.

All for Your sake.

Simple. Clear. Honest. Pure.

A sparrow just up at dawn.

Tweet…tweet…tweet…

I hear Your will knocking at my door.


 

Web Link: Utagawa Hiroshige, “Titmouse and Camellias (right), Sparrow and Wild Roses (center), and Black-naped Oriole and Cherry Blossoms (left)”, ca. 1833. The Met.

 

(Dec/9/2016)

 

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philosophy

Portrait of the Catholic as a Middle-Aged Man

by Howard Hain

george-seurat-aman-jean-portrait-of-edmond-francois-amna-jean-1882-83

Georges Seurat, “Aman-Jean (Portrait of Edmond Francois Aman-Jean)”, 1882-83, The Met


So much is not seen.

What is heard hardly tells the story.

The hairline leaves little to gaze upon.

A good sergeant, he worries little about appearances.

He often feels what he believes is slipping away beneath his feet.

The commands barked from above seem detached from the situation on the ground.

He follows orders anyway.

To many he is somewhat of a joke.

A puppet. A man who can’t think for himself.

Some may even use the word ‘coward’.

But none of this is accurate of course.

No, he is a man of honor.

A noble-man.

He takes his vows and commitments seriously.

He will protect his wife. He will raise his children.

He will stand when others hide.

He will walk forward when others turn away.

Firm and steadfast.

He lives out daily the faith of his fathers.

Quietly and efficiently as possible.

No, he’s certainly not perfect.

And of this he is very conscious.

So much so he wonders often if God has chosen the wrong man.

And this is saving grace.

Humility is purgatorial.

It burns away the dross.

It polishes the trophy.

It propels him to love to heroic measures.

It keeps him around, in the game, engaged, alive, an active participant.

As much as it hurts, he knows it’s true, and he carries on, toward the goal.

Toward what he cannot see, toward what he certainly does not understand.

This man is a hero of faith.

And at the same time he is just another Joe.

Another Tom, Dick or Harry.

But in heaven, when all is said and done, he shall receive a crown.

His cross finally laid down, he shall finally see it as a walking stick.

A beautifully-crafted staff in the hand of a just and upright man.

A righteous upholder of God’s eternal law.

Then he shall take his place, very close to the King and Queen, right beside that other unknown man named Joe.

That common nobody led by angels and mocked by men.

The one chosen by God to raise the Messiah.

For where you find the anonymous man of whom I speak, you too shall discover the Holy Family.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.

On earth as it is in heaven.

A little humble home in the middle of nowhere.

An eternal kingdom emanating all that is good.


 

Web Link: The Met. Georges Seurat, “Aman-Jean (Portrait of Edmond Francois Aman-Jean)”, 1882-83

 

(Dec/30/2016)

 

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philosophy

Pure Extra Virgin

by Howard Hain

william-dyce-the-garden-of-gethsemane-1860

William Dyce, “The Garden of Gethsemane”, 1860*


 

To your eyes a thousand years are like yesterday, come and gone, no more than a watch in the night.

—Psalm 90:4


 

One good olive.

There are so many factors.

The altitude. The light. The soil. The temperature. The rainfall. The wind. The dew point and humidity. The age of the tree.

Then there are those factors that we can control: pruning, watering, fertilizing, fanning, netting, and wrapping chilly trees with burlap or fleece.

And of course there are those other factors, those that fall somewhere in-between, between our control and our complete lack thereof: most of these relate to the sneaky work of numerous little thieves—animals, birds, insects, and perhaps even fellow farmers or other hungry travelers who just happen to pass by.

But when all is said and done—when all the factors are poured into the olive equation, mixed-up well, and left to unify or settle out—the fruit that’s produced by the world’s most nostalgic, symbolic, and romantic of trees means very little (at least in digestive terms) if it’s simply left to shrivel up and fall to the ground.

———

Picking an olive is perhaps the highest part of the art.

———

When to do so? And toward what end?

If too early, great potential is squandered.

If too late, great taste is lost.

If indecisive, we might as well let nature enjoy it for the time being—for one way or another—God’s process will eventually return it to the earth.

———

And yet, we’re still not done, for even if the olive is picked at just the right time, from just the right tree—the one that has grown in all the right circumstances—when it comes to the culmination of olive production, all is moot if the precious fruit of the womb is never squeezed.

For no matter how good the olive, without applied pressure, there’s nothing left to be labeled “pure extra virgin”.


 

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a women…

—Galatians 4:4


 

* Gethsemane is the name of a garden on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. It appears in the Greek of the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark as Γεθσημανή (Gethsēmanē). The name is derived from the Aramaic ܓܕܣܡܢ (Gaḏ-Šmānê), meaning “oil press”.

 

(Dec/23/2016)

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philosophy

The Light of Your Face

by Howard Hain

gerard-david-virgin-and-child-1510

Workshop of Gerard David, “Virgin and Child”, (ca. 1510)

 

“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

—Galatians 2:20

———

It is utterly amazing what happens when we pray, when we ask God the Father for something in Jesus’ name—that is, when we sincerely ask for something that Jesus Himself would ask to be given.

God answers such prayers, always. For it is then that we pray in union with the Sacred and Most Pure Heart of Jesus.

I dare to say that such a prayer may look and sound something like this:

“Father, may I enter into the light of Your face?”

I say “dare”, for how can we? How can we who are so unworthy enter such a light?

It’s a good question. For we, by ourselves, can’t enter such a light.

But Jesus can…and He did and He does and He always will.

And Jesus lives in us, in our hearts—if we invite Him in, if we open our hearts and allow Him to enter—if we call out with David: “Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.”  (Psalm 24:7)

Jesus purifies our hearts with His presence…

…if we allow Him to overturn the money-changing tables within us…

…if we allow Him to “destroy” the “temple” within each of us, those temples built “with human hands” in order to glorify ourselves…

…if we allow Him to leave not “one stone upon another” in raising up a new temple, one “not made with hands” but “in His own image”

…if we allow His “zeal” for His Father’s house” to  “consume” us, to consume us with the fire of His love—with the fire of the Holy Spirit—that divine, unifying love, shared between Eternal Father and Only-Begotten Son.

Then shall we be God’s holy dwelling place—His Tabernacle—purified and cleansed, “holy and righteous in His sight all the days of our life”.

And we shall be free, “free to worship Him without fear”.

For it will “no longer” be us “who live”, but “Christ Who lives in” us.

And Christ Jesus freely enters the light of the Father’s face.

———

Let us then, each one of us, pray prayers that Jesus would agree with, and let us do so with great hope and confidence in God’s mercy and love:

Lord Jesus, enter my heart.

Lord Jesus, purify me, cleanse my heart.

Lord Jesus, overturn the money-changing tables within me, those that serve my self and not God our Father.

Lord Jesus, destroy the temple built by myself, to myself—destroy the temple of self-love—leave not one stone upon another and then rebuild it in Your own image.

Lord Jesus, let your zeal for Your Father’s house completely consume me with the fire of Your love—the fire of the Holy Spirit—that divine, unifying love, shared between Eternal Father and Only-Begotten Son.

Lord Jesus, enter the light of our Father’s face on my behalf. For I am not worthy to enter that light, but if You only say the word, my soul shall be healed.

Lord Jesus, heal me of my scrupulous fear of myself, of my secret self-worship that places my weakness above Your forgiveness, my sin above the redeeming power of Your Most Precious Blood.

Lord Jesus, Your mercy, Your Love, is infinitely greater than my unworthiness. You are The Word made flesh, and You are always present. You are The Word always being spoken. You are healing always being offered.

I say “Yes”.

I accept. I receive Your healing. You speak and I live.

I thank You, Lord Jesus, for Your Cross and for Your Resurrection. I praise You for Your glory.

I so then bow down all the powers of my soul and humbly ask our Heavenly Father in Your Most Sacred Name:

“Father, may I enter into the light of Your face? For it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

Amen.

———

“Blessed are the pure of heart, they will see God.”

—Matthew 5:8

 

(Dec/18/2015)

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philosophy

Heaven Touching Earth

 

louis-cretey-the-vision-of-saint-bruno-late-17th-century


The sound of heaven touching earth is silence.

For silence is the absence of interruption.

And in heaven there is continual praise. A constant, perpetual, ceaseless, indescribable continuation of everything good. There is no interruption of absolute goodness. No interruption of peace or prayer, no interruption of joy or love.

In heaven, then, the eternal roar may perhaps be so inadequately described as an incomprehensible silence—a silence that blissfully deafens.

Deafens us to any pain or fear.

Deafens us to even the thought, the idea, or the conception that there could be any pain or fear.

So then when heaven touches earth, does not that same awesome eternal silence also reign here too, as it does in heaven?

Silence reigns.


 

—Howard Hain

 

(Dec/2/2016)

 

(image: Louis Cretey, “The Vision of Saint Bruno”, late 17th century)

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