A poem by Marjorie Meeker
I said, ‘It is your voice I hear,”
But it was the clear
Curving Of bells at twilight.
I said, “It is you who breathe, who stir,”
But it was the whir
Of beating wings,
It was the stir
Of dazzled shadowy things
That come before night.
Sweet as the thinned
Light silver of flutes,
Swift as the edge of wind,
You come who sheathe
Yourself in brightness,
Your sharp whiteness
In curving lines of gold.
The stunned light
Recedes to let you pass:
Clear day is marred,
Like a Cracked glass.
Let it be you
After the gold ebbing of hours
And the hot noon sweetness;
After the languor
And the bright dropped flowers.
“There are people who think there is no holiness without miracles. We, on the contrary, do not think highly of miracles, for both the elect and the reprobate work them. We find no or few miracles in the great Patriarchs and many other Saints who were very pleasing to God.”
“Let each one think what he wants, but this is our opinion, and according to us, clever people, especially those who know the science of nature, do not think otherwise; in the midst of such long and violent headaches, not to lose the awareness of God, the habit of invoking Him and a religious piety, is not a less exceptional or less important fact than not having denied one’s faith, showing an insurmountable constancy in torture…”
“What one finds in the Charterhouse, then, is not a collection of great mystics and men of dazzling spiritual gifts, but simple and rugged souls whose mysticism is all swallowed up in a faith too big and too simple for visions.” –Guigo ‘The Life of Saint Hugh, Bishop of Grenoble
Carducho, Vicente; The Dream of Saint Hugh, Bishop of Grenoble; National Galleries of Scotland;
In the end, our intellectual poverty is to renounce all rational ‘possession’ of God (in other words to renounce all the idols which we have made in our image and to our own measure) in order to be pure receptivity to the Mystery that He will forever remain, even while giving Himself completely to us as He is. Communion with this Mystery really does exist.
The darkness nurtures a hidden fire which, otherwise, would swallow it up. Loving faith rediscovers signs, but in a different manner; its purified gaze makes signs transparent to God, to the world of revealed truth, to the humanity of Christ: while remaining exactly what they are, they nonetheless become like clear crystal through which the divine light passes unobstructed. A tree is a tree, bread is bread, wind is wind, but in another dimension, on another level of consciousness, all is light, all is God. For God is not an object among other objects. It is for this reason that our understanding, made to know material things, only knows Him as darkness.
In order to know God, we must become as He is and be introduced to a way of knowing, God’s way, which is no different from His very being. This knowledge is transformation, love, Spirit.
‘You must give up our old way of life; you must put aside your old self, which gets corrupted by following illusory desires. Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and the holiness of the truth.’ (Ephesians 4:22-24) –‘The Wound of Love’ A. Carthusian
In view of this attitude of real concern that we must have for our contemporaries struggling with the countless difficulties of daily life, many Christians could be scandalized by another form of prayer: at times, it may be that the best way of praying for others is to forget them. When we accept the deep poverty of this latter form of intercession, are we really betraying the expectations of our fellow men, or are we not, rather, responding in an eminent way?
Let us read again the words of Paul VI to the Prior of the Grande Chartreuse in his letter ‘Optimam Partem’:
It is the interest of the Church that the order of Carthusians should remain very much alive; that its members, wanting to give God the honor which is due to Him, continually devote their whole strength to adoring Him. Through this pure and single-hearted worship, the Order is not only giving a sure and most valuable support to Christian people, but it is giving great help to others too, who are seeking the road to life and are in need of divine grace. For contemplation and continual prayer must be considered as tasks of primordial importance, carried out for the good of the whole universe.
The pope’s teaching is clear; our (Carthusian) task is to adore God, to contemplate Him; if we are doing this in all truth, then we are fulfilling integrally our role of intercession. Is this not what Jesus had taught? ‘When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him’ (Matthew 6:7-8)
…’By devoting ourselves (Carthusians) exclusively to God we exercise a special function in the Church’….Our (Carthusian) prayer is the accomplishment of a public role that has been officially entrusted to us. This does not mean that we are civil servants comfortably carrying out our job; it means that we are the Church at prayer: our prayer is the prayer of the Church recollecting herself in silence and coming together in the presence of God. We bear within us the burdens of the world. Our own weakness is the sign, only too visible, alas, of the weakness of all of humanity; our own sins make it easy for us to be in solidarity with the sins of the whole world; our confidence in God’s love cannot be limited to what concerns us personally, for our faith teaches us that in Christ we are all one in our journey to the Father. This realization should exercise every temptation to esteem ourselves superior to anyone else; our cry to God, and the grace we receive from Him, have the dimensions of the Body of Christ in which all humanity is gathered into one, from Adam to the last of the redeemed. –‘The Wound of Love’ A. Carhtusian
One goes inward, following into prayer,
Another goes wandering, tendering, discovering,
Falling down a rabbit hole, into a real land,
Alone amongst the many, tiny minds loving the gain,
The body grows in remembering, the Holy Spirit a living plan,
The creek we once drank from, became a nurturing span,
The sea colliding with the sky, an uproar silent in demand,
All above, all below, blind and dumbfounded,
Leave it be,
Peace be quiet,
Peace be still,
Peace lay us down unkowing within God’s hand,
Spontaneously, each of us gets used to living isolated in his cell with no obstacles to his desires, no one else’s thoughts to contend with, no need to adapt opinions differing from one’s own. This results in a tendency for each individual to be enclosed in himself. At every level, we remain confined to the limits of our own little world. We are absorbed in our own ideas; everything is arraigned according to our personal tastes; we have our own system for absolutely everything: it is a sort of systematic organization of egoism in which we risk being engulfed.
This results almost automatically in our putting on a sort of mask when we are with others, so as to protect our little treasures. We become incapable of ever meeting anyone else. Our deepest self is carefully sheltered; it has not the slightest concern, nor the slightest desire, to come into the presence of the deepest self of our brother. What complications that would lead to! So there is a risk of relations remaining permanently on a very superficial level, with mutual agreement carefully to avoid annoying one another. I dare say the bond of charity is not actually violated, but how weak and superficial it can become, impaired by so many omissions and negligence.
This is a fact of experience, and obvious to all of us if we are lucid enough to look at what is happening within ourselves and around us. It is easy to draw the conclusions for our interior life. What meaning can our prayer have in such a setting? What real encounter can there be between the Word of God, the eternal Word, and someone who habitually lives shut away like this in such a well-camouflaged house?
Don’t think that I am deliberately exaggerating the severity of the temptations that will assail you in your cell: it is of utmost importance for us to realize that we have to go beyond the human satisfaction that solitude gives us in order to open ourselves up completely to the light and truth which are not to be found in ourselves, but in forgetting and abandoning the self. It is only then that we can start speaking of solitude for God. ‘The Wound of Love’ A. Carthusian
(1985) A Carthusian choir monk sits alone, reading in his cell, at St. Hugh’s Charterhouse monastery in Sussex, England. Religion News Service file photo by Colin Horsman