Thoughts on Volume Seven of Spice and Wolf

The seventh volume of the Spice and Wolf novels offers a break from the main story.  This annoyed me because of how little happened in volume six: the worst volume thus far.  Volume seven features the usual bad religion, especially in the novella which forms the first part of the book.  (You can tell already what most of my comments shall be about.)  This novella and one of the short stories were as bland as the prior volume.  Only “The Red of the Apple, The Blue of the Sky” showed Isuna Hasekura at his best.  The second short story was interesting in how it took Holo’s perspective, revealing how terribly insecure and anxious Holo is behind her quick-witted and capable facade.

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The novella takes place before Holo settles down as the goddess of the harvest and concerns two children, Aryes and Klass, who are forced to flee their lord’s estate and find a new life for themselves in a far off town.  On the way, they run into Holo, who makes herself extremely useful and extremely annoying by turns.  (Holo appears unable to help teasing any man or boy in her company.)  The story ends with a thrilling chase, which would have been better without the twist.

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On the Will of God and Poverty of Spirit

Akatsuki no Yona, with all its talk of Tenmei–literally, “the Will of Heaven”–has got me thinking about the Will of God.  This is often difficult to determine in our lives, and I have heard one Catholic commentator state: “The Will of God is inscrutable.”  But, not everything which happens by God’s Will or permission outstretches our understanding; otherwise, we should simply not understand God in the slightest and not be able to have a relationship with Him.  In general, He commands all people to follow the moral law and exercise charity towards each other.  On a more particular level, the Will of God may be communicated to us through our talents and desires.  Do you have an extraordinary talent for the most abstract arithmetic imaginable?  Perhaps, God wishes for you to become a university professor.   Do you love someone of the opposite sex profoundly?  Do not be surprised if God wishes you to marry that person.

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Yet, desires can be a very tricky thing, and people are often mislead.  The particular Will of God for us is based in the individuality which God gave us.  It subsists in the core of our being.  Only by being true to ourselves can we be true to God and find happiness.  However, we are surrounded by many happy people in the world, and we might think that by having what they have we shall also be made happy.  Besides this, the world itself offers many things–especially money–which it claims will make us happy.  But, you cannot serve God and mammon!  The more you listen to the noise of the world the less you shall discern the whisper of God.  To one who has become too worldly, God can no longer whisper: He must shout!

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As C. S. Lewis tells us, pain is often the means by which God tells us something is wrong.  We suffer anxiety, depression, and vague feelings of unhappiness.  Should our response to these feelings be seeking worldly distractions, God may sever us forcibly from the pleasures of the world with the blade of poverty.  Impoverished, we lack the means of spoiling or distracting ourselves with external goods.  All we have left are those talents and desires which we ignored in our prosperity.  In running away from our talents, our individuality, and our specific manner of serving our brothers and sisters, we have become less human.  We struggle for a while in attempting to regain our status, but the Mercy of God prevents it while we yet ignore God’s voice and rely solely upon ourselves.  At last accepting our fate, the vanity of worldly pleasures (many perhaps good in themselves but evil when they stand in the place of God) becomes apparent and the memory of them bitter.

St. Francis of Assisi. with his father having demanded that he return everything he "stole" from him, doffed even the clothes he wore.

St. Francis of Assisi. with his father having demanded that he return everything he “stole” from him, doffed even the clothes he wore.

Despite these many pains, poverty or very frugal circumstances are not signs that God hates us.  Instead, God calls the poor blessed–both the materially poor and the spiritually poor.  The fact that religious orders often include a vow of poverty indicates the link between the two.  Why are the poor blessed?  Because they contend less with the noise of the world and focus more on the Will of God and the intrinsic goods God has given them to share with others.  The poor in spirit are capable of great things because their only concern is the Will of God.

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Though, I could use the example of many saints to show the sanctifying effects of poverty, I’d like to instead use the example of Ulysses S Grant.  Who can doubt that the man was born to be a soldier?  He was the only Union general with the competency to avoid losing ground to General Lee and the dogged tenacity to make a war of attrition successful.  The happiest times of his life coincided with his military service.  After resigning from his first period of service, he relied on the charity of his father-in-law until the outbreak of the Civil War.  After the Civil War, his name was smeared by the presiding over the most corrupt administration in history until modern times.  Afterwards, he did the unthinkable action of trying to break with Washington’s precedent in order to run for a third term!  A sore loser, Grant bore a grudge against James A. Garfield for winning the nomination–even though Garfield not only did not seek the nomination but even was horrified to gain it!

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Compared to the humble, frank, and unambitious man of prior times, Grant the politician seems a different man–a monster!  Here is a description of Grant just after the Civil war by General Richard Taylor from Destruction and Reconstruction:

The officers of the army on duty at Washington were very civil to me, especially General Grant, whom I had known prior to and during the Mexican war, as a modest, amiable, but by no means promising lieutenant in a marching regiment. He came frequently to see me, was full of kindness, and anxious to promote my wishes. His action in preventing violation of the terms of surrender, and a subsequent report that he made of the condition of the South – a report not at all pleasing to the radicals – endeared him to all Southern men…His bearing and conduct at this time were admirable, modest and generous; and I talked much with him of the noble and beneficent work before him. While his heart seemed to respond, he declared his ignorance of and distaste for politics and politicians, with which and whom he intended to have nothing to do, but confine himself to his duties of commander-in-chief of the army.

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That is exactly the man who commanded the Army of the Potomac and the one who wrote the most famous memoir of any participant in the Civil War–a memoir which a friend tells me affected modern American prose more than any other work!  (Grant’s memoirs do read like something our of the 20th century rather than the 19th.)  But, politics, power, and fame almost ruined Grant for good.  When Grant wrote his memoirs, he had been reduced to desperate poverty, which I have no doubt was God’s method of restoring Grant’s character.  The Hound of Heaven will resort to any means to prevent people baptized in His name from perishing everlastingly.

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So, people suffering from want or various forms of misery need not despair.  Pain is often the sign that one is still united to Christ Crucified and often purifies the soul to a salutary poverty.  “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”  The share of the Kingdom of God we have on earth is performing the Will of God, which, though it may be a gentle whisper, rings loud and clear to the poor in spirit.

On Expanding the Heart

I have decided to break off my hiatus early, my dear readers.  But, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus provides a great reason to get back to blogging about Christianity and Anime.  All sorts of ideas for anime articles bagan popping into my mind as soon as the hiatus began anyway–that figures!  The themes in Saber Marionette J, the latest anime to steal my heart, and the Feast of the Sacred Heart incline me to write about the heart.  (Only two more episodes to go before I tuck another anime under my belt.)

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N. B. Couldn’t find many good pictures from the anime online, so I cheated and used manga ones. But, I will warn you that the manga–like all old manga–is ridiculously fanservicey. I could not help but burst out laughing at the lengths to which it goes.

Saber Marionette J features some female androids who have something called a “maiden circuit” which allows them to empathize with others and have emotions.  Essentially, they were programmed with a heart.  The greatest joys and sorrows come from having a heart.  The greatest hearts feel most keely the highs and lows of life.  During these low periods, when love appears extinct and and pain everpresent, people often fall into the temptation of becoming bitter and seeking means of escape which only harden and diminish the heart.  Some may even fall so low as to wish that they had no heart.  Why have an organ capable of experiencing such beauty and love when all it finds surrounding it are ugliness and hate?  In Saber Marionette J, Lime gives in to the temptation of abandoning her maiden circuit in order to escape the pain of a traumatic event.

Not a spoiler.  You know this kind of things had to happen once, and it's unrelated to the traumatic event I mentioned.

Not a spoiler. You know this kind of things had to happen once, and it’s unrelated to the traumatic event I mentioned.

However, losing her heart does not increase Lime’s happiness.  She comes to realize that the joy of loving Otaru is worth all the pain she meets in life.  In a similar way, the Sacred Heart was tempted not to love us during the Agony in the Garden, especially in seeing how many souls would either not care about His Passions or prefer hell to the Source of Goodness and Love.  Despite the many thorns with which humanity has pierced the Sacred Heart of Jesus, He chose to accept all the pain of loving us, even the reprobate, for the joy of seeing us happy.  The hardships endured by Christ through His entire life which culminated in His Sacred Passion produced the most magnanimous Heart ever to beat in a man’s breast.  Christ is divine but also human, and His humanity required Him to grow through experience: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).  We must never forget that God Himself knows suffering and the misery of the human condition even more personally and perfectly than ourselves.

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This picture of the Agony in the Garden hangs in my room. One of my favorite paintings

Those who wish to follow Christ must endure similar struggles knowing that perseverance in love and righteousness enlarge the heart.  The grace of God is so infinite that God can use loving imperfectly or outright sinning–through repentance–to building up the heart as long as we keep our gaze on Him.  So, let us celebrate today the love with which this Sacred Heart burns for us, which came down from heaven to remove our stony hearts and to give us hearts of flesh.  One day, we’ll see that our hearts are no longer small and stony, but large and ardent–pointing to that Heart which fashioned all our hearts.

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On Joy and Suffering in This Life

The thought came to my mind that people use times of joy and suffering in the opposite way from which they were intended.  During good times, we think that God loves us very much (as He does regardless of circumstances) and we grow more attached to this life.  During the latter times, we become vexed with God and groan and complain for Him to improve our lot.  Perhaps the thought crosses our mind that God hates us–an impossibility.  Rather, prosperity is not a sure sign that we are pleasing to God.  It might even be a sign that our lot is not with God but in this life.  On the other hand, St. Pio avers: “Suffering is the sure sign that God is loving us.”

St. Pio carrying Christ's cross

I mentioned in my article on Arpeggio of Blue Steel that God wishes us to be His friends.  If we look at human friendships, we might rate them as follows from least to greatest: 1) friendships of utility, 2) fair weather friends, 3) friends of long duration, 4) friends who remain friends in difficult times, and 5) friends who suffer with us.  Though God loves all of us infinitely–even those who actively hate Him, who can doubt that those who most perfectly share the cross of Christ must be considered best friends?  He wishes to transform those of mercenary temperament to serve him out of love, is pained by seeing the unwillingness of second group to stay with Him in suffering, looks with great fondness on those who stay by His side though weakly, is consoled by those who remember His Passion often, and who can describe the joy and pleasure He takes in souls that share in His Passion through suffering?  And so, when we suffer, we ought to be more inclined to thank God for these very sufferings than complain of them.  As St. Peter writes: “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13).

Leonardo da Vinci's crucifixion of St. Peter

The whole purpose of prosperity is to prepare us to suffer.  We thank God for good things so that we might later be able to say with Job: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).  This time on earth is the most important time in our lives, but it pales in comparison to the eons we shall enjoy in the presence of God.  Such a long time is incomprehensible to us!  Everything good and beautiful here should lift our minds to the splendor and joys of paradise.  If the flowers and verdure of spring can give us such pleasure, how much more will paradise delight us with its beauties?

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Lest the thorny and rocky path to this delightful paradise disquiet us, let us remember that path smooth and strewn with flowers but leads to the gaping maw of hell.  Even if we allow the storms of life to choke our faith, God will never forget the least moment we shared His sufferings.  Who can doubt that He shall shine the warmest rays of His Mercy on such a soul even to the last moment of life so that it might still attain eternal life in heaven?

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.

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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.

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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!

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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?

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The End of Samurai Deeper Kyo: All About Heart

The extent to which the Samurai Deeeper Kyo manga has captivated me is well known to my dear readers from my last article on the subject.  I must say that no manga ending in recent memory has quite satisfied me as much for all the time and effort that went into reading it–I’ll likely take up this 308 chapter manga again!  Unlike so many series, one can see that the author had a clear ending in mind.  This prevented the series from wandering due to a lack of focus prevalent in so many manga.  (One Piece, Bleach, Naruto, I’m pointing at you!)  The ending in particular, for all its catering to the fans, possessed many interesting themes running through it: so much so, that I doubt having completely understood it.

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Anyway, let me begin my only slighly spoilerific discussion of the manga–with the exception of the last paragraph, anyway, which contains the biggest spoiler in the work.  One of the most interesting facets of the manga is the clever use of Christian imagery–the cross in particular.  The use of such symbols tends to make the Christian otaku/anime junkie (whichever you prefer) a little nervous considering  the Japanese inclination to scatter random Christian symbols throughout their works.  However, one perceives a purpose to the use of this symbol throughout SDK.  The fanservice and downright roguish characters rather obscure this, but one see how the themes of love, self-sacrifice, and suffering out of love run through this manga–more so as one approaches the end.  (This is not apparent in the anime and must be considered the reason for its lackluster performance.)  I almost wish to label Demon Eyes Kyo a Christ figure, but his lack of decency causes me to hesitate–someone else may make the connection if they like.  Interestingly, this manga is one of those which refuses to paint black black or white white: one must carefully consider the person or matter at hand before labeling anything.

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The ways Kyo approximates Christ lies in his strong loyalty toward his “servants.”  Kyo himself tends to take up the lion’s share of combat unless one of his friends absolutely insists or he finds himself too weak for fighting.  At which point, he refuses to lend his companion a helping hand–no matter how poorly the fight turns out for that guy.  In order to refer this quality to Christ, let us remind ourselves that, although we cannot do anything without God’s grace, He sometimes wishes us to triumph in situations where He appears absent and in agonies which require all our effort–though, it is not really we who conquer, but Christ in us.  This affords an opportunity for growth–if Christ pulled us out of all our difficulties by overwhelming force, we could neither develop the virtues of fortitude, faith, hope, and love, nor nor understand how weak we are in ourselves.

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Then, one is struck by how much mercy and compassion the protagonists show toward their fallen foes: by the end, only one enemy, who appears to lack any kind of empathy or compassion, is willfully killed–nevermind, one other person of a similar caste met the same fate.  Often, our heroes will mourn over the deaths of certain foes or convert their foes into allies in their quest to bring down the infamous Mibu clan–thus, showing the triumph of charity and a good-will.

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The main villain, the Aka no Ou or Crimson King, is deluded rather than truly evil.  He wishes to create a paradise free from suffering through the means of a violent conflict.  But suffering, at least in the current version of reality, is inseparable from love.  On the more humanist side, Schopenhauer claimed that compassion derives from us suffering and therefore being able to understand the sufferings of others.  And indeed, people who have kept themselves from suffering are often those least able to empathize with others.  Our Lord, the Man of Sorrows, revealed the fullness of his love during His Sacred Passion.  We even see an essential transformation in Kyo: as the manga progresses and Kyo suffers more with the other characters, his love increases toward them, and he risks himself more for them.

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But, the very end contains a striking symbol of love (the whopping spoiler to which I refer): the treasure which the Mibu had been closely guarding was the Crimson King’s heart, which he had removed from his body.  Kyo’s final victory over the Crimson King convinced the king to place his heart back in his chest.  Not only is his treasure a heart, but it has a cross engraved upon it.  This displays the truth that some things cannot be understood save through the heart, especially a heart that has suffered.  So, the Crimson King is persuaded to abandon his idea of a painless Utopia, since a Utopia as he envisions would be a loveless place–perhaps, even because people would not be able to suffer.  And the cross upon the Crimson King’s heart cannot but recall the Sorrowful and Sacred Heart of Jesus, which comprehends all things.

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So, do you know of any Christ figure in anime or any anime which uses Christian figures well, my dear readers?

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Suffering and Christmas

Well, this blog has been full of the Christmas spirit, hasn’t it?  To tell you the truth, I think that sweetpea616 succeeded more in immersing herself in the Christmas spirit than I did–and she’s pagan!  At any rate, I think that it will be worthwhile to write about how suffering relates to the holiday of Christmas.

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I can already hear someone asking: “How can suffering possibly relate to such a joyous holiday?  What a morbid, moribund, and melancholy person!”  (And I can tell that this speaker does not know me personally.)  But do not forget that the colors green and red symbolize the Christmas holiday.  Green obviously symbolizes rebirth and renewal–and how did Christ accomplish our rebirth?  By pouring out His red blood on the Cross.  Verily, He was born in order to die.  We Christians celebrate the Invincible Love of God in sending His only Son so that Jesus Christ would redeem us through a painful death upon a cross and give us new life by His Resurrection.  In the same way, Christians are baptized into the Passion of Christ and reborn into His Resurrection.  Since “the disciple is not above his master” (Lk 6:40), we must suffer many things and courageously bear the cross God gives us so that we may be steadily transformed into the image of Christ until we reach that perfection which God has destined for us in Paradise.

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The Church calendar seems to reinforce the idea of suffering even in the midst of this joyful time of year: the day after Christmas we celebrate the martyrdom of St. Stephan, the feast of the Holy Innocents today, and tomorrow recalls the murder of St. Thomas à Becket.  Only St. John the Evangelist seems not to fit in until we remind ourselves that he suffered a white martyrdom.  How could it be otherwise?  In support of this idea, we have all the suffering John endured in spreading the Gospel and his gospel itself, which enters more fully into the divinity of Christ than any other gospel.  John’s gospel evidences his suffering because no one can understand God so fully without meditating on and participating in Christ’s sufferings daily.  How much grief must have filled St. John’s soul in recalling those three interminable hours at the foot of the Savior’s cruel cross?  To always have before his eyes the visible memory of Christ’s wounds and the sorrowful last words of Christ ringing in his ears?  And on the thirtieth, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family: after Christ’s whose sorrows are meditated on more frequently or were more severe than St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s?  These two saints have more glory in heaven than all the rest because they both played a larger role in Salvation History and suffered more greatly than all the other saints combined.

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So, suffering, doubts, anxiety, grief, and pain do not seem out of place this time of year.  In my case, I lack a certain talent to suffer–if I may call it so.  Suffering has the propensity to make us focus inward, to disregard the people around us, and overly seek consolations for oneself–anything to cause us to forget or diminish our pain or angst.  But, the talent or skill which one should strive to attain is to ignore our miserable condition and manifest joy to the world–especially around Christmas.

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The most memorable scene from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, the meeting of Jesus and His Mother on the Way of the Cross, demonstrates this attitude perfectly.  What does Our Lord say to His Mother?  After being insulted and beaten constantly, being mocked, unjustly condemned, scourged, crowned with thorns, and even to this point being shown every form of contempt and disdain?  “Behold, I make all things new.”  This carries the idea that Christ’s attention was focused mainly or even purely on the good his sacrifice would do humanity rather than all the evils humanity was pouring on him–even though these sins pierced His Heart like the crown of thorns did His Brow.  Rather than indicate any pain, He joyfully boasts of the salvation He brings to the human race.  For, not even an ocean of sin can extinguish the Love of God.

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Remember what the red and green symbolize when you look next time at a Christmas wreath.  There is joy because Our Savior has come to restore the human race; on the other hand, He restores it through His Sorrowful Passion.  Neither pain or sorrow is out of place in this holiday nor ought one to forget the Passion of Our Lord in this or any season.  So, one must rejoice in spite of suffering, since Christ has come to save poor sinners–us–and these very sufferings, especially when we strive to suffer with love, bring us closer to Christ.  This quote from G. K. Chesterton seems appropriate here: “He is a sane man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head.”

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