The Victorious Angel
With two years of French under my belt, a 17-year-old me finds myself away from the group as we were touring around the Louvre in Paris, France. A country boy from rural Michigan surrounded by artistic works that have shaped the human conscience for hundreds and hundreds of years. To say that I had no frame of reference to help me deal with the art I was beholding, would have been an understatement. Through my meandering, I found myself before Saint Michael Vanquishing Satan an artistic masterpiece done by Raphael. The size, scope, and depth of this work grabbed my eyes with such a force that it was impossible for me to break my gaze from it. The flow of the oils over the canvas enticed me in such a way that I felt that I was within the painting, cheering on this angelic conqueror. I knew not the names of these angelic and demonic combatants, but I knew through the moving colors, that the good was victorious over the evil.
Taste of the Transcendent
Time is an interesting concept, when a person is in a moment of rapture, like I was before that painting time suddenly has a different sense to it. My body and mind felt like I was merely observing the work for a meager 20 seconds. However, as my eyes broke free from the painting I looked at my watch and was astounded that those 20 seconds were in fact 20 minutes. I lost time. Being captivated by that painted and losing my sense of time were both new experiences for me. My mind had neither the categories nor language to grasp what had just happened to me. How does a person just simply lose 20 minutes of her or his life like that? I was in awe about the whole thing, but unfortunately, I could not remain with the experience, because I knew the group would be looking for me by that time. Fortunately, that memory of that transcendent moment before St. Michael for 20 minutes stayed with me. The will of God, unbeknownst to me was at play in my life through that painting.
As quickly as the seasons pass, that 17-year-old me became a 21-year-old man. The farm boy committed to others turned into a self-absorbed person that used others in his life for his own selfish gain. Yet, the Lord was not done with me. In October of 2004 the Holy Spirit placed a question in my head, “why don’t you go to Church?” That whole month was spent wrestling with that question as my external eye, began to focus on my internal heart (this month is a story for another time). Finally, I yielded to the question, and went to the local Catholic Church. As I walked into that church for the 7pm Sunday evening Mass for the college students, I was greeted by a statue. It was a statue of an angel slaying a demon. Yes, the name of that parish is St. Michael the Archangel parish. Upon seeing that statue memories began to fire off, taking me back to that 17-year-old me before the painting in Paris. That taste of awe during that transcendent moment returned to me again before that statue, and I did not know why, but I did know that I was where I had to be at that exact moment of my life. I still do not know why the Lord called me at that moment in my life. All I know is what the Prophet Isaiah wrote “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.” Yet, through that gift of lost time, brought forth by a moment of transcendent awe, my heart was cracked open and was able to receive God’s grace on that October day, when I returned home to the Catholic Church. Moreover, from that day on I knew the Lord had claim over my life, and I began to experience the truth, put forward by the Psalmist “O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.”