Photography, Light & Divinization

Photography, Light & Divinization September 26, 2012
an ethereal clump of moss
Photography is all about light.
I know very little about photography but one of my friends said this to me recently and it has changed the way that I take pictures. Now, I look for the right light, and take pictures over and over, contorting myself into strange positions until the object I am photographing is illuminated just right. 
One day recently, as I did my strange little photographic light dance around a small clump of moss, I thought about the application of this lesson to my spiritual life.
I entered religious life intent on living a radical life like Jesus: poor, chaste and obedient. I want to live religious life faithfully so that Christ is formed in me, as St. Paul tells us is possible in his letter to the Galatians (4:19).

This is a lofty goal, but I want to preach Jesus to the world – what better way than through my life? But I have quickly found this to be much more easily said than done. Community life quickly dispels any illusions one might have that they are good at loving other people. 

I have found that I am particularly bad at imitating Jesus’ love for others. I am bad at pretending in general. If I feel something, chances are you will see it written on my face. I have tried my best to act like I think Jesus would but I have come to accept that I am just like a poor photograph: dull, bad light, someone’s thumb in the corner. Yup, that is pretty much me. Because I know myself, I try my best to catch the light just right so that I can be lit up by God’s light and act like Jesus. I dance around on one foot, turn upside down, and do all kinds of crazy things, trying to imitate or capture God’s light in my life, if only for a fleeting moment.
But here is the thing that God helped me to understand: I have already captured the light, (or it has captured me).
a community of mushrooms

The light, the entire blessed Trinity, God himself, DIVINITY itself is inside of me. This is not some hokey, New Age nonsense. This is possible because Jesus’ incarnation brought our humanity as close as possible to the Godhead. The second person of the Trinity has a human body! Jesus’ humanity is like an extension cord, plugging us into the power of the God. 

Through our baptism, God has made a dwelling place inside of us. Not because we are the bee’s knees, but because He loves us and wants to act through our lives. Christian theology is the only theology that accepts our humble creaturehood, our very limited, finite nature, but at the same time, precisely through accepting this reality, it acknowledges that we are able to become like God.
This is key to living out the power of our baptism.
When we cannot love, when we cannot forgive, when we cannot follow Jesus’ commandments to love our neighbor as ourselves, we have direct access to God living right within us. God can love through us. God can forgive through us. God can turn the other cheek through us.
This deeper realization of the gift of my baptism has changed my approach to love. Instead of gritting my teeth and trying to fake it, I just ask God to love for me. In a way, I feel a huge burden has been lifted from my shoulders. I had been trying my best to love like Jesus, but it was truly impossible. Only Jesus can love like Jesus. So now, when I am feeling like I cannot love someone else, I ask Jesus to do it for me because I know he is much better at loving than I am.

I still sin, I still fail. This is not the silver bullet to sainthood. But I am more confident knowing that the responsibility is not mine. God, who is right inside of me, can others love for me.

These are all things that we may have known intellectually but in order to really live the power of the indwelling of the Trinity within us, it must become something we know on a deeper level.
 Here are some things that I am going to do to grow in my understanding of this mystery:

1. Meditate on the gift of baptism using paragraphs 1213-84 in the Catechism.

2. Take some time to pray with the presence of the Trinity inside of you using the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John (14:23).

3. Pray with the words of the Saints:
  • St Elizabeth of the Trinity’s  prayer asking the Trinity to act in her
  • Blessed James Alberione’s prayer invoking the Trinity dwelling within us
  • St. Augustine’s prayer for the indwelling of the Spirit

4. Go to confession. When we commit mortal sin, we have asked the indwelling of the Trinity to leave our souls. In confession, we show sorrow for our sins and invite the Trinity to once again dwell in our soul. Even if we are not in a state of mortal sin, confession helps unify us ever more to the Trinity.

5. Receive the Eucharist with greater frequency. Through sanctifying grace, we can attain greater union with the Trinity when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, (for more information on the theology behind this check out this webpage) 

Feel free to try it out with me! 

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