Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Far-off Place

I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee to a far‑off place and make my lodging in the wilderness” (Psalm 55:7-8). Every time I read this verse in the psalms in my daily devotions it tugs at me a little bit. From my earliest memories, far-off places have appealed to me. At first I think it was a wish to escape pain and avoid risk, but it was also, and mostly, a desire to come to the edge of the abyss that was the mighty, immeasurable ocean of the love of God. I pictured myself as a small boy going alone somewhere far off as far away as I could, and then standing on tiptoe reaching up as high as I could toward roiling clouds.

As years passed, I gradually came to realize that the “far-off” place could be found very close to me. It was in parks. It was in gardens. It was in the Blessed Sacrament that I could take in my hand and could give to others. It was in my memories. It was in my relationships. It was in the people closest to me, whom I love. Finally I realized the obvious—that it was everywhere.

Just a few days ago I came across a love song called “Al di là”, from the 1962 Italian movie, “Rome Adventure”. I find it movingly beautiful. I found a clip from the movie on youtube where the song is sung. In the clip we learn that “al di là” means… well, one scene in the clip explains it:

“What does ‘al di là’ mean?”

“It means… it’s kind of hard to explain. ‘Far, far away.’ ‘Beyond the beyond.’ ‘Beyond this world.’ That’s how much he loves her in the song.”

I guess that’s a good explanation for finding the love of God. It is “al di là”. Like God himself, it is something that is both so far off that it is “beyond the beyond; beyond this world” while at the same time it is as close as every moment of one’s life. In theological terms we say that it is simultaneously “transcendent and imminent”. It means that we can hold the universe in our hands—that we are forever in the measureless love of God.