I’ve been in a bit of a slump recently. Sometimes I just get down when I think of the state of the world. Sometimes I just get down when I think of the state of my own broken humanity and the interior battles I must continue to fight. “How long, O Lord!?” is a refrain from the psalms that I find welling up in me quite often.
There is so much suffering in the world … How long until you deliver us, O Lord!? There is so much confusion and deception in the world … How long until your truth is revealed, O Lord!? There are so many lonely, pained people who don’t know who they are … How long until your love fills every heart, O Lord!? I’ve encountered this love, tasted it, but I falter, I turn to my own way, I forget …How long, O Lord, until I see you face to face and know you in the eternal embrace for which I so ardently long!?
Beauty can sneak past our heads and dwell in our hearts. It is felt before comprehended. Like a glass that fills itself from within, beauty can fill our hearts with streams of warmth, affirmation and familiarity, while our head happily and willingly drifts in wonder. The Theology of The Body was the first time I heard about a universal echo in our hearts. When I heard about it I knew it to be true because … well, its there! But I never had a name for it. This echo resonates when it encounters what it craves, and what it craves is love. Love is both true and beautiful. Jesus is the most true and beautiful love. Therefore our hearts crave Jesus whether we know it or not.
Simply to tell people they crave Jesus with words alone attempts to dwell in the intimate warm echo chambers of their heart by entering through the dense, cold, spray-painted walls of their heads. Like a one-sided love affair, the truth battles to enter but is met with force and thickness comprised of history, hurt and fear… with a side of bad formation. It is a thick wall that’s reinforced by time, habit, relationships and culture, and it seems impenetrable. But Beauty knows no boundaries. Beauty, like a spring, pops the callused cork and floods the heart from within, flowing down the mountain of self awareness, through the crevasse of experience, into the drying reservoir of the echo. That reservoir fills and rises in temperature and begins to bubble to a boil. If given time, tenderness and community, that boil begins to condensate, rise and collect at the threshold of the mind, where it begins to soften and saturate that mind. It is at these moments that the head follows the lead of the heart and the two begin to open together in unison in search of the source. The cold wall begins to come down, the head and heart join hands and enter a vulnerable state of pliability. These are the moments that the truth can be found, seen and accepted through the freedom of the individual.
This is why we say: lead with Beauty. It has the power to awaken and be a guide on the journey. My goal with music has always been to bring Jesus to the people right where they are standing. My method is to try and create something beautiful. Sometimes I do this well and sometimes … not so much, but the effort needs to be made. So when asked to play a Christmas song for the NBC affiliate TMJ4 in Milwaukee, I happily accepted and was excited by the opportunity. I decided to do one of my favorite Christmas songs, “O Holy Night” because the lyrics and melody are some of the most beautifully written. I decided to arrange it stripped back and bare, just voices and one guitar, because the melody and lyrics don’t need much help. And my hope was that for three minutes, the audience and I could quietly come together, get ourselves out of the way and make room for the most true and Beautiful love. May God bless you on your journey.
[Order Mike Mangione & the Kin’s new album “But I’ve Seen the Stars” and learn more about Mike’s music here.]
Icon of the Theotokos (Mother of God).
God so humbled
Enclosed in the womb of a poor young girl
Crying out, God, God, you are crazy!
And with enflamed desire
I go searching for who this young woman is
Who joined the Lover to the beloved
Looking at her from her head down to her feet
So the more I look at her the more she gives me delight
Pregnant in appearance
She shows me…
(adapted from a poem of Saint Catherine of Sienna)
Who Is This Woman?
The modern mystic Caryll Houselander expresses the sentiments of Many church-going folk with regard to Mary:
“When I was a little girl, I was told …, ‘Never do anything you cannot imagine our Lady doing … If you do, she will blush.’” From then on, preventing our Lady from blushing “became an obsession … since I could only imagine our Lady leaning on a cloud-bank or being a plaster statue.” Eventually, I “broke down and sobbed with boredom and despair … Such was the conception of our Lady imposed on me by a pious upbringing.” Sadly, it’s “a very common one – to many Catholics she is unreal, and even worse, unattractive …No wonder, for nearly all we are taught of her is … the pious guess-work of [the overly sentimental]” (Mother of Christ, p. 31).
Later in life, she heard a “remarkable nun” correcting a girl who believed Mary wouldn’t even have known about sex because of her “innocence” and “purity.” The nun exclaimed, “Stuff and nonsense! When our Lady was 15 she knew the facts of life from A to Z, the gospel proves it.” That began Caryll’s search “for the real Mother of God.” What she found was a woman “consumed by the fire of love,” a woman who “is not only human; she is humanity.” She is what it means to be human …