Less than an hour after I wrote yesterday’s post on patience, I was at Daily Mass, and, during the prayers of the people (a moment in the liturgy when the whole church prays for specific, spoken intentions, and people meditate on their own, private petitions), I had a particularly uncharitable kind of prayer come into my mind.
It was, in fact, an unpleasant enough thought, that I almost expected Anya (the wish granting demon from Buffy the Vampire Slayer pictured above) to appear and say “Done.” It’s a trope that, in worlds with magic, power is often perverse, waiting for the perfect opening to grant your worst wish. Wizards end up sounding like lawyers, being careful to caveat their every incantation, to avoid leaving an opening for exploitation.
There are certainly variants of Christianity that seem to have the same expectations about the world. Don’t slip up, not even once, or your venial wishes will be granted, and boy will you be sorry then. There are traps everywhere, and any deviation means you’re lost and the what the hell bias is in effect. But, if I reflect on the premises and promises of Catholicism, it seems to have the whole scenario flipped.In Catholicism, the ever-present spirit is waiting to pounce on the smallest opening for contrition and charity. Instead of Anya’s smug “Done,” there’s a joyful “Amen” to even small acts of repentance (like my “Oh geez, that was a terrible thing to pray for”). Even before I tried to actively make amends, I had a sense of being restored to communion simply by turning away from a logismos.
Think of it as a redeemed reading of Hamlet’s cry of “How all occasions do inform against me.” In our world, we’re all poised perilously against salvation, with all the beauty, truth, and goodness of the world laid out to catch us and draw us on. It’s possible to carefully pick our way around these benevolent traps — they won’t spring without our action — but it’s clear what the world itself wants for us.