Author note: This is a guest post written by my friend Kristin from Austin and edited by me. Kristin will be received into the Catholic Church on Holy Saturday. Please pray for her and all others who will be coming Home.
At the time I encountered Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I was fresh out of college, having laid aside my checkered Protestant past for a relativistic agnosticism layered in a pleasant self-deception. I figured, if any action helped me out within the simple constraint of “not committing murder”, it was certainly without reproach, and I could still consider myself a “good person”. Then, a pivotal episode in Buffy Season 7’s “Beneath You” tilted my worldview enough to make me uncomfortable—uncomfortable enough to eventually become a Catholic.
In the closing scene of the episode, Spike and Buffy are in an empty, lovely, moonlit church together, and Buffy is concerned that Spike has lost his sanity. Up until this point, the rakish ne’er-do-well vampire was forced by an implanted chip in his brain to do no harm to Buffy Summers, leading him to try and do good out of his love for the Slayer. Unfortunately, his attempts at being good were also mixed in with his complicated, tumultuous affair with Buffy throughout the latter half of Season 6, culminating in him attempting to rape Buffy in “Seeing Red.” His shock at what he was about to do led to him going on a quest to receive his soul so that he can be the man he thinks Buffy deserves. Now ensouled, Spike is uncomfortably, completely conscious and guilt-ridden over his innumerable sins. I realized that there was something true there being spoken about sin and the need for redemption.
It would take me several more years to make my way to the Catholic Church and the lesson I gained from watching “Beneath You” was a crucial reason to why I was becoming Catholic. However, I didn’t fully understand the importance of this scene until I went to my first Confession to prepare for receiving the rest of the Sacraments at Easter. For some inexplicable reason, I found myself terrified of this sacrament.
We are born vampires due to original sin. Like vampires, we are driven into the black night of our sins and transgressions, subconsciously terrified of being burned alive by the pure light of Christ. Like vampires, we’re driven away from pain and toward hedonistic pleasure, largely propelled by the forces of fear, anger, hate, lust, and greed. We live entirely for ourselves and see others only as a source of food for us—emotional affirmation, physical pleasure, and social recognition—and we’d best eat them before we’re consumed ourselves. We drive our greedy jaws into others without a thought, a care, or a twinge of remorse, and suck them dry, all in a desire to quench our endless thirst, our neverending desire to fill the emptiness within ourselves with something.
In the midst of all this, the deep terribleness of the human heart, Christ the Slayer wants to kill our vampiric selves and ensoul us, which He does so well through the Sacraments. He calls us out of the darkness, and He watches us as we pathetically stagger out from the shadows, crouching, cringing away from the Light.
I spent my first Confession, sitting in very comfortable chair in a cheery, bright, well-lit office, feeling with every fiber of my being that I was about to go up in smoke as I rattled off my list of sins before the priest. And go up in smoke, my ego did. Like the newly ensouled Spike, I stumbled around, slowly realizing for the first time the depths of what I’ve done to Christ and Christ in others. My scarred heart, rife with manipulation, greed, carelessness, and selfishness, was laid bare before me in the harsh Light, no longer fancied up by the clever illumination of the night.
The priest gave me my penance, a single Our Father, and instructed me to meditate on the mercy of God. Not only did I meditate, I was sucker-punched by this overwhelming Divine Mercy toward me. The emptiness inside of me was filled with the infinite waters that gushed from His Sacred Heart. It’ll be a lifelong process of torching my ego, repairing my heart, and fighting for my soul. I know that even after I am received into the Church, I’ll be in Confession again and again. But like Spike at the end of “Beneath You,” I embrace the Cross which burns away my sins, and ask “Can we rest?”
Though the episode doesn’t answer the question, Saint Augustine does: “For You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.”
We can rest, brothers and sisters, in the arms of our Lord. As we celebrate Good Friday, let us hide ourselves in His wounds and fill ourselves with the endless fountain of His love and mercy.
Author’s note: If you want to know more about how the theme of forgiveness is seen in the Buffyverse, check out my post from last year.