My First Prayer

A quiet light, the harvesting by imfreelykeely

Note: This is my first reflection paper entitled “My First Prayer” that we were asked to submit in Theology class which Father Sormani decided not to grade but simply to let us write freely an how we see God from our own perspectives.
Albeit spending a lot of time working on this paper, I felt that these are such shallow, naîve thoughts, and exposes the clueless, confused person behind these words. As I reread my own work, it humbles me to realize that I know so little about myself and the world around me. Nonetheless, here is what I have written, summing up in prose my very vague idea of faith, of God, of how we ought to spend our brief moments of existence.

“To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.”
G.K. Chesterton, English born Gabonese Critic, Essayist, Novelist and Poet, 1874-1936

THE most haunting, vivid, unforgettable memories from the past are events when these have brought about intense, vehement emotions in people. That must be why I can still remember ever so clearly when I was still little, about six or seven, I lay awake in bed at night, daydreaming about the vastness of the universe. These thoughts came about maybe because I have recently read a colorful book on astronomy. That was the first time that I have learned that one day, the Sun will use up all its energy, explode, and shrink into a white dwarf just like all the other stars in the universe. The Sun will expand into a red giant, millions of times larger than its size, and endanger all its surrounding planets, including Earth, our only home in the infinite darkness of outer space.

This catastrophic event is millions of years away, a time in which none of us can predict what humanity’s fate will be then. But a curious child as I was, I began to imagine the fate of the universe, millions of years from now. Suddenly, fear crept over me—my heart was beating more quickly, my sleepiness has vanished. The frightening thoughts slowly come, one by one. One day, there would be no more life in the universe, after all the stars have consumes all their energies. One day, there would be no more human beings, living and breathing on earth. One day, there will be total darkness. Forever. I became so frightened that I was almost unbearable, but I did not cry nor make a sound. I just lay sideways on my bed, worried and troubled, not knowing what to do next.

Then I remembered something. I remembered there is a place where everyone goes when they die. Making the sign of the cross, I began to pray. I can recall vaguely that I begged Him to save my family, my friends, and everyone else from the end of the world, as absurd as it sounds. I prayed that when we die, our souls would end up someplace safe. Safe from darkness and exploding stars. I prayed for the same thing for a few consecutive nights, feeling my fear slowly diminish, although not completely.

That night was when I did my first real, serious prayer. How do I prove it is seriously real? Simply put, it is because I have never gone to church with my family. My first encounter of God was, I believe, through a children’s bible I have read from cover to cover, and by watching television. My parents tell me we’re Roman Catholic, but I don’t remember them teaching me anything about God or religion. I have studied in a non-sectarian school all my life. The act of putting my hands together to talk to a divine being about my fear of the sun’s imminent explosion simply seemed the only natural thing to do at that moment. So I guess I have learned to pray by myself that night, attempting to talk to Him with all my heart. I continue to pray more in the days succeeding that fateful night, before I go to sleep.

Fast-forward to the present, my relationship with God may have strengthened, although not that much. I experienced my first real mass during my first day in the Ateneo, aside from weddings and funerals. Right after that, I began to attend mass in the chapel when I have time after my class—something I have never done before.

Now, as I think about it, I am still quite uncertain how deeply my relationship with God and my spirituality is. I think I am still searching for Him, yearning to know what it really feels to have true faith. I still do not know who or what God is that well. I admittedly do not think about God much every day, as I make choices, face personal challenges, and simply finding my way in this wondrous planet.

I always find myself searching for that deeper meaning to life and asking, am I doing things right? I may not be directly talking to God through prayer, but through my actions, maybe I am living out God’s plan. Then again, I do not know for sure.
On some days I believe God is a form of light energy. On some days I believe God is love. On some days I do not think about God at all. Nonetheless, I believe God is real most of the time, because I think the thought, or the “idea” that there is a supreme being governing us all, that he sent his one and only son to save us, is so profound and beautiful, that I want to believe it. This is the kind of faith I hold on to right now, but I am quite certain that I will learn even more in time, and I know my faith would either falter or strengthen, as I strive to weigh, consider, reflect, wonder, and stay enthralled with experiences that slowly unfold.

I am still searching for God. I want to know better how God fits into the confounding riddle of existence. I want to understand the Bible, to study theology, to find really meaning in my life and of the others around me whom I have learned to love.

For now, I believe in God because having faith in a higher being who is said to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life simply is a beautiful thing. Having faith helps me give a sense of direction of why I do the things I do right now, as I aim to only do things I believe are meaningful, beautiful, and truthful. It sort of makes sense that way, as some (or most?) of my values sort of match what the Bible says, and vice versa.

Besides, it doesn’t make sense that after witnessing how wondrous and majestic life on earth can be, that the universe will just plunge into total darkness forever, like turning the lights off, pulling backs the curtains in a theater, after a spectacular show has ended. Eternal life must somehow exist.

“Nice. You’re on a wonderful journey!”
– Father Sormani’s comment on my paper

A late Christmas post

Kisses are sparks of love, wonderfully magical. A kiss in Christmas, then, is a shower of magic sparks, radiating the world.

image by the half-blood prince

December is not only the most eventful month of the whole year, but the perfect month during which people can deeply reflect about their spirituality, about life, about the year that has passed, especially since there are so many non-working holidays and it’s Christmas break for us students.

In Theology class, Father reminded us that Christmas is supposed to be celebrating the miraculous birth of a baby boy 2009 years ago who was destined to save humanity. If people are merely celebrating Christmas for love, joy, and peace, Father said they must make another holiday, celebrating love and joy and peace. I giggled at his way of putting it.

He also said some interesting things about Christmas traditions we all have grown accustomed to. Candy canes symbolize Joseph’s cane, where the white is for purity and red is for blood. Wreaths signify eternity. Christmas trees are originally fir trees with green leaves all year that mark God’s everlasting love. Although nowadays, we see white, red Christmas trees, and brightly multi-colored candy canes. We worry about what gifts to give, and stress over gaining weight during the endless parties, amidst holiday ham, sweets, and fruitcake.

Father’s remarks made me wonder how one should really celebrate Christmas. I feel that it’s ironic that we celebrate Christmas but never even once do I hear my family and relatives during Christmas Eve talk about Jesus Christ, wishing him a happy birthday, wherever in heaven He is now.

All these beautiful hidden meanings make me feel guilty that I have been seeing Christmas only on a superficial level. What more are we missing? Christmas is already magical when one looks at the Christmas lights, the night masses that’s special in the Philippines, the shine on one’s eyes as she receives a parcel wrapped in red and green. What more when we think about the miracle of Jesus’s birth, about the hidden metaphors in the Bible story, about why there are twelve days of Christmas, why we celebrate Christmas on December 25, why couples kiss under the mistletoe, why do we deck the halls with boughs of holly (As much as I want to explain the rest here, it would be fun to do your own research)?

Instead, we talked about how the baked salmon and the chicken pot pie were utterly delicious over bottles of red wine. We laughed and about the littlest, craziest matters. Most of the attention fell on my aunt’s own little baby boy Carr, who turned a year old this month. This Christmas Eve became a little more lively with a new member of the family, watching him struggle to balance on his feet, slowly learning to walk by himself. He, like baby Jesus, is so young and innocent, full of infinite possibilities.

Having said all this, I may want to disagree with Father, even just a bit. Maybe Christmas is not just about Jesus Christ. It could also be a time to celebrate life that God (whoever one believes) has given us, and the love that He wants human beings to share and feel. Christmas is also about giving and sharing what we have, to those who need it more. Who says there is only one way of celebrating Christmas?

Christmas will forever be my favorite season. Even though I wish we have winter in Manila, that one day I would wake up seeing snowflakes falling from our window wearing woolen gloves and socks (sewn by Mrs. Weasley??), while I sip on a warm cup of coffee, a Starbucks limited edition Christmas blend. Get it while it lasts, it’s worth the sweet treat. It’s Christmas in a cup. Don’t forget to share! ;)

Merry Christmas everyone! May God bless each and every one of us.

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”

– Norman Vincent Peale