Happy Faults

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable.  “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place.  But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 14:7-11

I have a friend who almost drank her life away. And the thing is, I’m so grateful for it.  I benefit from her daily wonder at life and love and possibilities. I don’t believe she would have these transformative traits or share them, if she hadn’t had such a long purgatory in booze-land.  If she ever regrets time wasted by drinking she doesn’t say so. She may realize that time itself may have been a grace because of the present grace abounding all the more.

Sometimes I make myself sick over the bad things I have done. I never set out on purpose to be bad, but as my actions unfold… well, you know how it is. At least I hope you know how it is. Because if you’ve never been caught up in sin yourself, how can you ever judge me other than too harshly to bear? But go ahead and cast the first stone, because I suspect you, too, are caught up in sin. If you are reading this on a computer, you’re  irretrievably mired in this culture of greed, waste, pollution, exploitation. And if you say you have no personal sin your are probably sinning all over everybody but don’t notice. But I digress.

Anyway, I’m talking about personal sins. Messy, relational, eruptions out of the underground shadows kind of sin. Why ever did I say that kind of sin. How the hell could I have done that because I know better kind of sin.

When I’m making myself sick over my faux pas life, I look to my friend’s cheeriness. Her living in the moment. Her prompt making amends over hurtful things she’s said. And while she doesn’t seem to bite her tongue very often, when she does say something hurtful, you know a good word and genuine remorse will come afterward, the example of which, for me, is more powerful and useful morally than ever the sweet nursing of the hurt could satisfy.

I don’t believe in original sin, but I do notice the concept of felix culpa – o happy fault – applies in myriad situations. O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem (O happy fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer) we sing at the Exultet. Referring to the sin of Adam and Eve Paul says where sin increased, grace abounded. I can see that formula at work in the world when I see healing and kindness springing from tragedy and sometimes real evil.

If I’m a Christian, it may be for no other reason than these images of reversals to which I cling: the shepherd forsaking 99 to seek after a single lost sheep, the good pay of the late-in-the-day laborers, the calling of “not the righteous but sinners” to repentance, the hope of my continual redeeming in the moment, and grace abounding even as I fall again and again.

There’s no point in taking the best seat in the house. The last shall be first.

Here’s a fifteenth century song you might like.

Adam lay ybounded,
Bounded in a bond;
Four thousand winter,
Thought he not too long.

And all was for an apple,
An apple that he took.
As clerkes finden,
Written in their book.

Ne had the apple taken been,
the apple taken been,
Ne had never our ladie,
Abeen beav’ne queen.

Blessed be the time
That apple taken was,
Therefor we moun singen.
Deo gracias!

2 Responses to “Happy Faults”

  1. Ede-Jo Says:

    Brought me right back to high school where we sang Britten’s Christmas Carol. Thank you for thid particular message. It reminds me that my years of sober life continue to have a positive impact — even when the present days aren’t so rosey! I have accomplished that.

  2. claire Says:

    What an absolutely delightful post 🙂 And yes, sin, felix culpa. O to remind this verse! Thank you!

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