Barbara's Random Thoughts

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Stay Against Confusion, Ron Hansen

I read Hansen's Mariette in Ecstasy for English Seminar one semester at Biola, and was fascinated with the way it explored an extreme form/manifestation of religious devotion (stigmata) and the reactions that such phenomena can spark. I later picked up this collection of Hansen's essays, intrigued by the title alone (specifically the subtitle: "Essays on Faith and Fiction"), but also because I was interested in what this particular author had to say on the interplay between faith and fiction.

I was a little disappointed that the essays in the volume didn't spend more time examining that faith/fiction relationship. There were a few along that line, but on the whole, the essays were self-contained--some falling under the faith category and some under the fiction category. That said, I very much enjoyed the book once I got the self-contained thing through my head. I found Hansen's essays quietly thoughtful and reflective. Even though they didn't all fit into the topic I was interested in exploring, I really liked his voice and hope to explore more of his writing.

The essays vary fairly widely in topic, and I found myself compiling a list of books, movies, and other stuff I wanted to explore further as I made my way through the collection. That's always a good sign. Hansen discusses Tolstoy's "Master and Man," the movie Babette's Feast, the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Biblical story of Cain (from the perspective of a twin), and offers a meditation on the "Anima Christi" prayer--which I was interested to discover is one that appears at the beginning of the Ignatian Exercises.

Mid-year last year, someone recommended the Ignatian exercises to me, and over the past few months, I've come across more and more references to St. Ignatius/Ignatian spirituality/the Ignatian exercises. This book fit right in with this thread--there's an essay on the life of St. Ignatius and the beginning of the Jesuit order, as well as other references to Ignatius scattered throughout the book. Hansen teaches at a Jesuit college, go figure. =) I'm thinking I need to do some more reading on the topic--intentional, rather than the fortuitous convergence of late.

I'm gonna close with a passage I loved, where Hansen describes the moments following his receiving first communion. It's an amazing picture to me of what communion is about--the grace we are given to partake in something both symbolic and thoroughly real, the work Christ has done and is still doing within us, something accomplished and yet still being accomplished...yes, there is sin. But there is also grace.
Then I knelt heedfully upright and mentally prayed as we'd been instructed to do, some scared and scientific part of me assaying myself for chemical reactions or a sudden infusion of wisdom while fancying Christ now sitting dismally in my scoundrel soul, my oh so many sins pooling like sewer water at his sandaled feet. But soon I saw that I was still me; there would be no howls of objection, no immediate correction or condemnation, no hint that I was under new management, just the calming sense that whoever I was was fine with Jesus.

It was a grace I hadn't imagined.

--Ron Hansen, "Eucharist" (p. 234)

Labels: , ,

| posted by Barbara | 3:22 AM