Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Few Ruminationish Thoughts

Today, as any Catholic will tell you, is the Feast of Christ the King. This has always struck me as an undervalued commemoration. We go to Mass, go home, and forget about the matter. Hey, if it falls on a Sunday, how important could it possibly be?

I’m of a much different opinion.

What is grace? When we speak of it, what do we have in mind? We’re supposed to seek it and value it, but defining it is a considerable challenge.

Just this morning I asked my pastor, Father Charles Papa – no, we don’t call him “Father Papa” – if he could define grace. The question flummoxed him. As we parted, he muttered (albeit not resentfully) about having to “go back to the books.”

He had an easier time with my inquiry about the parish’s renovation fund.

No other aspect of my life bends my thoughts as strongly toward faith and the eternal things as the writing of fiction. My faith is the backdrop to just about everything I write...and sometimes, it’s a good deal more.

The matter is strongly with me today because I’ve chosen to release Priestesses, my novel of “erotica for good people,” in a paperback edition. A reviewer wrote of it as follows:

Porretto has performed a magic trick, a bit of literary legerdemain that looks simple at first but requires a quick eye to see how he has made a deep spiritual message appear in a most surprising context.

To understand the subtlety of Porretto's slight of hand, consider the alternative. The last "Christian" novel that I read was simply a regular science fiction novel with a few religious adornments tacked onto it. A comment here about the sanctity of marriage, a group prayer before a fight there, a visit from a minister somewhere else.

Porretto would have none of that. Instead, he has taken the archetypical non-religious literary form - erotica - and made his spiritual theme integral to his writing. There's no prayers dragged kicking and screaming into the middle of a plot. Instead, his spirituality is a natural, even necessary, element of his stories - even when he deals with assorted kinks and sexual dysfunctions.

And it works. Isn't sensual love the ultimate expression of human spirituality? Porretto makes one wonder if all erotica shouldn't be ultimately spiritual.

I’ve received few compliments that pleased me as much as that one did. But more to the point, I cherish the insight that spirituality, in the sense of appreciation for the gifts of God to Man, is and ought to be an element in our understanding of sex! After all, our loved ones are not in our lives “by right.” They, too, are a gift from God, as is our capacity to love them...and the special person with whom one frequently (I hope) unites oneself physically is the highest of such gifts: “a foretaste of the limitless love of the Father,” with whom Christians hope to be united in the life to come.

Food for thought, especially for persons who regard sex as somehow unworthy and degrading even when enfolded by matrimony.

And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, “If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.” But the other answering rebuked him, saying, “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.” And he said unto Jesus, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” And Jesus said unto him, “Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” [The Gospel According To Luke, 23:38-43]

Non-canonical sources report the names of the “malefactors” as Hestas and Dismas. For a while, the chapels in American prisons were often named the Chapel of Dismas (the Good Thief). The significance of the episode related by Luke is often missed.

Jesus, Hestas, and Dismas were condemned to die by a secular authority: Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. Again according to non-canonical sources, Hestas and Dismas were thieves. But Jesus had been accused of blasphemy: having claimed to be the Son of God. The Sanhedrin, fearing to act against Him on its own, sent Him to Pilate on a charge of encouraging resistance to the Roman state. Pilate was moved to spare him, seeing no fault in him by Roman law and Pilate’s own standards. He acceded to Jesus’s execution to placate the mob the Sanhedrin had stirred up against Him.

That’s not the behavior of a king. A king is expected to uphold a standard of justice. Compare Pilate’s cowardice to Jesus’s pardon of the repentant Dismas. Though Dismas was still condemned to death by Earthly standards, Christ recognized his repentance as sincere and admitted him to heaven.

That’s what we expect from a King of Kings.

May God bless and keep you all.

1 comment:

Differ said...

Jesus forgiveness of the repentant thief tou hed me deeply at mass today...thouh I've heard that passage many times before.