The Pride of Despair and Humility of Hope in Claymore

My last article comparing Attack on Titan and Claymore spurred me to re-watch the latter–the lackluster quality of much of recent anime helped me along too.  At this point, I have reached the siege of Pieta, where some of the most desperate fighting in the series occurs.  The anime brings us one poignant moment when Miria, the Claymore ranked #6 in the organization and leader of the desperate band of Claymores, utters a prayer that all the fighters might survive.  Then, she undercuts this prayer by chiding herself for thinking that there is a God.

Miria

Interestingly, this points to a possible rift between the conscious mind and the spirit.  Hopeless conditions and misfortunes may overwhelm the mind such that it can barely or not at all cling to the the belief that God exists, but there exists something in the spirit which refuses to accept a Godless universe.  Or, the thought might even come that God does not listen to us, that we have been rejected by God.  Brother Lawrence, the famed subject of The Practice of the Presence of God, thought for two years of his life that he would be damned.  Can there be a worse feeling than this for a believer?   Yet, he entrusted his cause to God and the feeling dissipated.   In such darkness, we do not even want to pray anymore, but the cries still come, “God have mercy on us!” or “Lord, you are in the midst of us and we are called by your name.  Do not forsake us!” (Jeremiah 14:9)  We doubt the rationalism of such acts, but the deepest part of our soul nourishes the hope that these words mean something.

brother-lawrence

Hope is the operative word: for, if God is infinitely good, we need not fear whatever happens to us.  He is a loving Father with infinite care for all His children, as George MacDonald loved to repeat.  Speaking of George MacDonald, he penned this interesting phrase in Weighted and Wanting: “The pride of despair and the despair of pride.”  Despair can only come from pride and placing our hopes in our own strength rather than in God.  If we trust in God despite our misfortunes, then we possess the humility of hope.  And, as Jesus Christ emphasized to that great apostle of Divine Mercy, St. Faustina, humility is truth.  So, we keep slogging on despite the darkness.

george-macdonald-by-william-jeffrey-c1852e2809360

Perhaps, the connection between hope and humility is best exemplified in the duel of Clare and the Awakened Being Rigaldo.  Rigaldo had just killed four of the five captains in Pieta, leaving Miria as the sole survivor.  Those familiar with Claymore know that Clare is ranked as the lowest Claymore, despite having some great abilities.  Rather than give up, she keeps striving to use her power with greater precision and refuses to accept defeat, despite being beaten down several times and being obviously outclassed.  A proud soul would have just accepted this disparity and surrendered.  But, humility forces her to keep trying, telling her that not every last resource has been exhausted–that her heart yet beats and that is sufficient reason to persevere.  The truly humble man can never despair.

502727-213386

Advertisements

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia and the Problem of Pride

One of the things which I admire about anime is that when one feels like one has seen the same plot a million times over, the same characters ten million times, and the same school classrooms a hundred million times over, a show will surface to blow one’s expectations and remind one why anime was so appealing in the first place.  This little one season show, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, stands head and shoulders above most anime for the profundity of its message.  I feel an eternal debt of gratitude toward Marlin-sama of Ashita no Anime for intriguing me enough to pick it up.  Among its themes, the refusal of its heroine to acknowledge her dark past and believing that she should be loved less if the hero discovered it reminds me of the folly of pride which believers can enmesh themselves in relation to God.

DuskMaidenAmnesia_impressions2_150412_142446.png

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia has an interesting portrayal of pride in the mind of Yuuko, the ghost for whom Niiya, the protagonist, falls in love.  She has a light side which has expunged all the memories of suffering, bitterness, and hatred which she suffered in her past, and a dark side which remembers only these painful moments and can only feel these negative emotions.  This split is so complete that they appear as different persons.  We, dear readers, similarly have darkness and light within us; but most of us, however much we may minimize this darkness, never fall into that greatest temptation of pride: to cast off this dark side from our consciousness and to distort reality to the extent that we consider ourselves angels.

ScreenShot2012-04-25at30726PM

But, Yuuko does have more of an excuse than most of us.  After all, she was sacrificed by superstitious pagans so that an epidemic might cease. (Perhaps superstitious is an unneeded modifier.  Can one truly be a pagan without being superstitious?  Oh, well.  That’s a question for another blogger.)  Nor was this a quick death: she was left to die alone of suffocation or of starvation in pitch blackness while suffering the agony of a broken leg at around 15 or 16 years of age.  All of this while thoughts of envy toward her best friend and hatred toward those who abandoned her there swirled in her mind.  That’s a memory I’m sure most of us would desire effaced!

Amnesia-620x

Yet, we are not walking according to the truth if we disown our suffering, evil thoughts, and dark deeds.  And do we not own our dark side more truly than than our good side?  After all, we cannot maintain the least virtue, perform a single good deed, or have one good thought apart from God, who aids us by His own divine life.  On the other hand, we can do all sorts of sins on our own and would even plummet into utter vileness if not prevented by His grace.  St. Philip Neri once remarked as he saw a condemned man passing him on the road: “There goes Philip Neri but for the grace of God.”  Nor is this arrangement unfair: how many sins have I myself committed despite receiving the grace to will otherwise?  How many times have I consented to sin without lifting up a single prayer so that I might will good instead of evil?  Or did pray, but never wanted to form the wholehearted will to shun what might be more delightful to the senses or sweeter to my ego?

539746-tasogare_otome_x_amnesia___03___large_35

At any rate, Yuuko further compounds her darkness by believing that Niiya won’t love her if she has any darkness or suffering in her.  This is not true: we are all loved by the people in our lives in spite of our defects.  How much more ought we trust that God loves us in spite of our wickedness?  As believers love to repeat, God’s love is unconditional.  Even in the midst of mortal sin by which we deserve to be sent straight to hell, God does not cease loving us and strives to turn us to repentance.  Yet, I believe people growing in goodness are more susceptible to this form of pride than outright sinners.  Somehow, the delusion intrudes that God loves us because of our good deeds rather than simply because He made us and thought it delightful that we should be with Him in paradise forever.  Then, we start forgetting our wicked deeds or minimizing them under the delusion that God somehow loves us more infinitely for being good!

Yuuko_cling_teiichi

Yuuko’s desire to forget her painful past becomes so extreme that she further effaces her memories of Niiya.  You see, Niiya had absorbed the dark side’s, Shadow Yuuko’s, terrible memories and Yuuko cannot help reliving them when she touches Niiya.  Therefore, she blocks Niiya’s presence from her vision.  Even though she strongly desires to see him again and stays in the same vicinity as him, she cannot see him.  At last, the only way that they can communicate is by writing notes to each other in a notebook.

shot0170

Is this not rather like a Christian who in his mad drive to forget the memory of his sins even avoids the sight of a crucifix?  I think it no accident that in one episode we see two images of a cross: one made by Niiya and Kanoe’s shadows crossing and the other one of light.  For, the cross is painful because we see our sins in the wounds of Christ, but these very wounds bring us in the light of Christ’s presence.  And Niiya and Yuuko exchanging notes is rather like how a Christian soul, when frustrated at not feeling God’s presence, will turn to the Scriptures–all the while yearning for the embrace of the One who loves her.

14cqt5t

Then, that beautiful scene occurs in their club’s room, the Paranormal Investigation Club.  Niiya takes a bat and begins shattering everything in the room in order to get Yuuko’s attention.  Furthermore, his actions bring Shadow Yuuko into focus for Yuuko at the same time.  This is reminiscent of St. Augustine’s Confessions:

You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.

b228249

In this scene, we find that Niiya wishes especially to speak to Shadow Yuuko and embraces her, saying that he loves Shadow Yuuko too, because Yuuko and Shadow Yuuko are the same person.  In the same way, though Jesus hates the least speck of sin in our souls, He loves us entire.  He wishes to love us in pain as well as in joy, which is so plainly figured in the cross as Jesus endures all the pain caused by pain and suffering in our lives out of pure love for us.  The confession of love by Niiya allows for both halves of Yuuko to come together, forming Yuuko into a complete person.

Amnesia3-620x

Since God loves us as a complete person, there is no need to attempt hiding our sinful selves from Him.  Rather, let us contemplate the Crucifix in which we clearly see our sins in the holes in Christ’s hands and feet, the pierced side, the crowning of thorns, and the anguished expression on His countenance, knowing that it is through means of these wounds that we are bound to Him forever.

450px-Cathédrale_Marie_Reine_du_Monde_Crucifix

Speaking of forever (Big spoiler coming!  If you’re the kind of person who absolutely cant’s endure them, don’t read on!), I expected Yuuko to disappear in the last episode–the natural end for ghost stories like this.  And indeed, with her regrets being solved and the integrity of her person, she does disappear for a while, leaving Niiya in great sorrow.  Does this not remind us of how we desire heaven, where we shall be reunited with our loved ones and love shall endure in perfection forever?  It seems, however, that Niiya’s last kiss produced a new regret in Yuuko: she now desires many more kisses.  Truly, love is never exhausted!  Since this is a love story first and foremost, Catullus 5 powerfully comes to mind:

Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love,
and let us judge all the rumors of the old men
to be worth just one penny!
The suns are able to fall and rise:
When that brief light has fallen for us,
we must sleep a never ending night.
Give me a thousand kisses, then another hundred,
then another thousand, then a second hundred,
then yet another thousand more, then another hundred.
Then, when we have made many thousands,
we will mix them all up so that we don’t know,
and so that no one can be jealous of us when he finds out
how many kisses we have shared.

Amnesia6-620x

St. Leo the Great’s Sermons

A while ago, I took out a copy of St. Leo the Great’s sermons from the library, and found them a real treat to read.  Unfortunately, my studies prevented me from finishing my patron’s works, but I have read enough to gain a feel for his style.  St. Leo may be described as having a wonderful imagination and a virile and a confident Christianity.  Though employing a very traditional spirituality, St. Leo’s emphasis on mercy and gentleness make him very accessible to a modern reader.

2012125421leo_2_300

He especially focuses on the fundamental religious acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Of these, he emphasizes almsgiving the most with fasting taking second place.  This may partially be due to the terrible plight of the poor at Rome, but St. Leo makes the excellent point that fasting without charity may be a form of greed: one abstains from indulging in food so that he may indulge himself elsewhere with the money he might have spent on these meals.  Fasting cleanses our soul by enervating the power vices have over us, particularly gluttony and lust; yet, it ought to be further cleansed of greed, envy, and pride by almsgiving.  (This is how I see these two actions destroying the vices.  If anyone can tell me how fasting and almsgiving also destroy anger and sloth, I should be happy to hear it.  But, overcoming these seem to require prayer and hard work–ora et labora.)

St-Leo-the-Great-1

St. Leo often reminds us that we are constantly at war with our foes, the devil, the flesh, and the world.  Our battle with the evil one is portrayed with wonderful drama, especially in one of his Christmas sermons.  Toward the end of this particular sermon, the beauty of God taking human flesh and defeating the devil in the very nature which the devil had defeated in the Garden is more vividly and thrillingly portrayed than anywhere else I have seen.  C. S. Lewis once commented that Christianity makes for a poor story compared to the pagan myths, but, in St. Leo’s hands, Jesus Christ stands head and shoulders above all the pagan heroes, and his glory and valor render paltry even the most interesting tales of the pagan mythology.

Resurrection-of-Jesus

So, I highly recommend St. Leo to you all if you want some solid advice on the spiritual life or a truly exciting vision of Christianity.

Kiba and Cheza’s Love as Symbolic of Jesus and Mary’s

While watching Wolf’s Rain this time, the utter delight Kiba and Cheza had in each other’s company struck me.  Those of my dear readers familiar with Wolf’s Rain know that this show is essentially a Christian allegory.  Though, I must confess to being so obtuse that I actually missed on this obvious connection the first time; but, this only proves how well it works as an allegory: the symbolism works such that it falls short of being blatant, which marks a perfect allegory.

Of course, one of this pair of characters might be conceived of as the Church rather than Mary, as the love of Our Lord for the Church is unfathomable; but, traditionally, many places in Scripture which some say refers to the Church, others say refer to Mary–the Song of Songs being a perfect example.  This is due to Mary being the most perfect disciple of Our Lord.  (Feminists please note that this honor was not given to a man, nor the honor of being the most powerful intercessor among the saints, nor did any other saint have as important a role in the history of salvation, nor is anyone else’s heart so like the Sacred Heart.)

I wrote “one of this pair” above because I hesitate to name either Kiba or Cheza as definitely Jesus or Mary.  If we were to assign them by gender, Kiba would symbolize Jesus and Cheza Mary; yet, Cheza has healing powers, is the one being sought by the pack, and is depicted as if crucified.  On the other hand, Kiba needs to save Cheza, is gravely wounded especially toward the end, and is the obvious leader of the pack–despite his unwillingness to be recognized in that role.  But this similarity brings out a fine point: the better a believer becomes, the closer he approximates Our Lord.  We have the examples of those people who seem so sweet and filled with goodness that we never wish to leave them.  Some people approach Christ-likeness so perfectly that they become an image of Him, as in the Orthodox idea that icons of Christ point to the Father as icons of the saints point to Christ.  Once when someone saw Padre Pio at prayer, he believed he saw Jesus Christ praying.

Also, I remember Louis de Montfort’s claim that it is easier to separate Our Lord from all created beings and things than to separate Him from Mary.  This is similar to Kiba and Cheza’s love.  When Cheza is present, Kiba is always at her side.  When she is absent, she’s all Kiba thinks about.  When Cheza thinks about the pack or feels that the wolves are near, Kiba is the first name that comes to her mind.  At the end of the series, when everyone else has perished, Kiba and Cheza hold each other in a firm embrace.

But that last scene reminds me of a symbol of how Christ is united to his Church, which I cannot pass without remarking: the blood pouring from Kiba and Cheza’s wounds changes into water as it flows out into the sea.  At Mass, a little water is mingled with the wine before consecration.  The water symbolizes the Church, and the mingling with the wine means that Christ is always united with His Church.  And this perpetual union I wish for you all.

Seeing this show again also makes me wonder whether it would have been better to have ended the show at episode 26 rather than creating another four episodes.  After all, the person symbolizing the devil has been destroyed and good victorious.  Even though one may say that the show doesn’t seem complete since the wolves haven’t found paradise, do we not experience the same thing in our lives?  Christ has conquered sin and death, but we still struggle with living virtuously, and, though we possess the Kingdom (“The Kingdom of God is within you” Luke 17:21), we do not yet enjoy the Beatific Vision.

So, what do you think?  Would it have been better to have ended Wolf’s Rain at episode 26 or does the addition of four more episodes make for a superior ending?

Sharing the Faith and the Sacred Heart

Well, dear readers, a certain level of ignorance has been lifted from my mind this day.  You see, my spiritual life has been not only stagnant but even painful for the past while.  In my incredible ignorance, I could not perceive how I strayed from the right path; but, God has mercifully waited upon my understanding, which may be likened to an abyss of ignorance, to be opened.  Perhaps the greatness of our ignorance and misery move God to show more mercy than the human mind can conceive.  Here’s a little story given by a deacon in a homily which adequately illustrates my fault.

God gave a certain mystic a vision of heaven and hell.  God led the mystic to two doors.  Upon opening the first, he saw a round table which held a pot of stew whose aroma caused the mystic’s mouth to water.  Seated around the table were a bunch of miserable individuals having very long spoons strapped to their forearms.  While these spoons were capable of reaching the pot, they could in no wise bring the stew to their lips.  And so, they sat around the table starved and miserable.  God informed the mystic that this was hell.  Then, God brought the mystic into a second room, in which there was the same table and pot of stew.  Only, everyone was happy and well-fed and yet they all bore spoons in the same way that those in the first.  The mystic began to wonder how these people were so well-fed.  Upon asking God, God informed him that all the souls in heaven fed each other, a concept beyond those in hell.

This allegory is particularly apt for the point I wish to make.  What may the stew be likened to except God?  The greatest torment of hell is eternal separation from God, who is Love itself.  The damned lost God because they were unable to love their fellow men.  Is not every good work a kind of sharing of God’s love?  This makes it abundantly clear to me that the Christian must share the knowledge and love of God with his fellow men.  God wishes the Kingdom of God to grow and encompass the whole world, like the mustard seed which “grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches” (Luke 13:19).

One must be careful that one does not attempt to shrink the Kingdom of God by either providing a bad example or not speaking of it.  By acting in this way, a Christian seems to reduce the Kingdom of God, which is supposed to be a mustard tree, to a sad, twisted bonsai tree, which cannot grow because every effort of its roots to expand is cut off.

And this was my error: not sharing the faith enough.  I did not realize this until during a drive with my younger sister.  I tried to describe how important living a Christian life focused on serving God is, clearing up certain misconceptions, speaking about the mystery of the Cross in our lives, and explaining certain sayings of Padre Pio.  After which I felt much better.  At which point, it hit me that I had not been doing enough to serve God.  That I had been keeping whatever I had learned about God, all my riches, to myself rather than offering these riches to others.  In other words, I acted as the servant who buried the talent, and various sufferings quite rightly fell to my lot.  One must try to remember that God is always giving, and one of the ways to fulfill the command to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) is by giving of oneself–whether it be talent, time, or treasure.

St. Martin of Tours seeing Our Lord clothed in the part of the cloak which St. Martin had given a beggar earlier that day.

And so, I would like to share with you some thoughts about Our Lord’s sufferings, especially as he suffered in his Sacred Heart.  First, consider the immense love of God–a being who has perfect happiness and is free from all suffering–in taking on a human body in which He could suffer, and that these pains were rendered even more acute by the tenderness of His love.  Even now that His Passion has ended, He still suffers in His Sacred Heart over the loss of poor sinners–as he revealed to St. Faustina, in whose heart He would try to find relief from the mortal anguish caused by the loss of souls.

Imagine what this most perfectly tender heart suffered during the time before the Crucifixion.  The crowds constantly misunderstood His message.  How painful this must have especially been after the feeding of the five thousand.  He reveals His flesh to be true food and His blood true drink, but people only want some bread loaves.  He expresses His desire to give His very self to them for their sake, to be their best and greatest Friend, and they only want to use Him for meals.

Not only did this suffering extend to being misunderstood by the crowds, but He was often misunderstood by His Apostles.  How truly alone He must have felt to not have one friend to whom He could relate.  Remember a time when you found yourself in a crowd of people with whom you had nothing in common, and you will have only scratched the surface of the alienation felt in this Heart which is more tender than a mother’s.

I’ll try to think of more ways to meditate on the Love of God in the future, but may this provide good material for contemplating the Sacred Heart for you.

Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus This Friday

Dear Readers, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus occurs this Friday. Even though it’s not a holy day of obligation, it would be good if you could find some way to attend Mass. If not, try to spend some time meditating on the great love this Heart has for us, particularly how He loved us so much that He endured terrible suffering and death for our sakes.

This is how the Sacred Heart is traditionally depicted. The Flames indicate the burning Love which this Heart has for all mankind, the thorns symbolize the insults, contempt, ingratitude, and sins with which so many men grieve the Sacred Heart, and the Cross reminds us to often meditate on His Passion, in which He showed us the depth of His Love. So, I encourage everyone to read an account of His Passion and meditate on it, particularly by praying through the Stations of the Cross.

The following day is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I already have a page dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows, so you may read that for ideas about how to honor her on this day–besides attending Mass, of course.

By the way, devoutly praying “Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us who have recourse to thee” carries an indulgence of three hundred days.  So, if any of you are worried about having too much time in purgatory, say it often!