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  • Sarah Raad

Juxtaposition

“So you have failed? You cannot fail. You have not failed; you have gained experience. Forward!” (Saint Josemaria).

Holy Family (Albrecht Durer)

The other day I was teaching a student how to complete a comprehension passage. Part of what they were required to do was to identify certain literary techniques that the writer had used to communicate their message in the text.


In the particular poem we were analysing, the main literary technique we identified was “juxtaposition”.


Now, juxtaposition is an interesting literary device. It is relatively easy to spot and very effective in showing variance or difference because juxtaposition is where a writer puts two different things together. For example, a writer might say, “The whiteness of her teeth resonated against the bright fire-engine red lipstick that she was wearing.” Here, the white teeth appear whiter because of the bright red lipstick on the lips and we can formulate a clearer picture of the scene in our mind after reading the words with this juxtaposition.


I have reflecting on this juxtaposition, because I can see God even in this literary technique too – as I see Him in all things – because as the Christian writer, C.S. Lewis said, “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.”


When Our Blessed Mother surrendered to the Father’s will, it did not look like God was directing her travels. She was a heavily pregnant young woman who was forced – by the UNJUST Roman Government – to travel at great inconvenience and risk to herself to complete a Roman census. For Our Blessed Mother, that census was a bureaucratic waste of time designed to make it easier for that Roman government to continue to unfairly tax her and her family. And yet, even in the face of such unfairness – even in the face of a government that was corrupt and torturous – Our Blessed Mother focused not on the government, but on God instead.


And how She suffered! You see that travel during Her pregnancy was only one small step along Her road to Calvary. Only one of the steps that She took and she took so many as She walked the entire way, right behind Her Son.


In fact, Our Blessed Mother carried God within Her pregnant belly before Her and walked behind Him. Then, after He was born, She carried Him before her in Her arms. Then, She walked behind Him as He toddled forwards, dragging against her arm. Later, She walked behind Him as He travelled on His public ministry, always a few steps behind.


And later, as He was scourged, crowned and nailed to the Cross, She stood there too. And while She stood there, She did as her Son did… She prayed silently in her broken heart and surely repeated the words He had said in the Garden the night before, “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39).


And how poor she must have seemed carrying the body of her DEAD Son, brought down from the Cross. How mournful was that scene to behold…

And I compare this grief to Our Blessed Mother now in Heaven – for there is a juxtaposition there… For though on Earth she was the poorest of the poor – NOW She is Queen of Heaven. That poor woman who carried her dead Son after watching Him beaten, tortured and abused, is QUEEN of the Most High!

And when the angel appeared to Saint Joseph in his dreams, it did not look like God was directing his travels – perhaps it looked instead like a feeling that something was not right upon which he chose to act. Saint Joseph was father to a young family and his infant foster Son was being hunted to death by the tyrant, Herod. The world that this Blessed Child had been born into must surely have appeared to be pure evil – not God’s world. And yet, Saint Joseph focused not on the tyrant, but on God instead. And as he followed the directions of the angels, he proved to us the prayer that his foster Son would later pray, “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39).


And how people must have gossiped about the man who moved around so much with no apparent purpose. How the neighbouring villagers must have thought – that man is a bad provider for his family. He could make so much more money if he settled into one spot.


And I compare this to Saint Joseph now in Heaven – for there is a juxtaposition there too… For he is Father of the Church. That poor man who moved about from place to place without a permanent home, now sits eternally close beside Our Blessed Lord – for he raised God inside His Home!


And as I meditate upon their GLORY in Heaven, I cannot fail to focus on the juxtaposition between the Earthly lives of the Holy Family and their ETERNAL ones… For they proved the words of Saint Francis de Sales on Earth and they have received the rewards for their humility in Heaven… “The most profound degree of humility is to receive humiliations and abjections with the same complacency that vain persons do the greatest honours.”


And I wonder and I marvel! For I juxtapose these Saints with me… For the same ability exists in me if only I chose to apply myself with the Grace that I have received.


Saint Augustine said, “Men go abroad and wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.”


But I wonder now. For it is a marvel that God made one such as me from the same clay that He used to make them… For unlike them, I fail repeatedly and continuously, but as Saint Josemaria said, “So you have failed? You cannot fail. You have not failed; you have gained experience. Forward!”


And so I continue, ever onwards, conscious of the eternal juxtaposition between me and Them – using it to look upwards, ever upwards – to the place I am trying to go…


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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