Perfect love is the source of perfect abandonment…The union produced by love is especially a union of will. Loves causes the lovers to have the same likes and dislikes…Hatred fills the heart with sentiments and affections…Hence we must conclude that love is the measure of union and conformity of wills, so that imperfect love means imperfect conformity; increased love, increased conformity, perfect love, perfect conformity…the purpose of love is heavenly union…St John: “He who abides in love abides in God, and God in him”. …divine love is to give the creature to God and God to the creature, to unite them intimately, the one with the other. Whenever this tendency to union is absent, there the love of friendship must be absent, too. –Abbot Vital Lehody “The Way that Leads to God”.
In my occupation as an industrial maintenance technician, I often have days of nothing to do. Today is one. I will utilize the time to expand upon my thoughts on love as opposed to indifference. First, I would like to stress how I view myself. I am not a theologian, nor a scholar. I base my blogging efforts upon a friend requesting I undertake the task. I do view myself as a writer, although this is in regards to my extensive reading background, mostly fiction, storytelling—film cherished. I feel I possess a unique insight, sentimentality and empathy, into my characters. That insight is based absolutely upon love. I love my characters, desiring to bring them to life and expression. The reason I feel qualified to write about the contemplative life, I am not as confident about. I am not an academic expert, or even the best read on the doctors of the Church. I even thought of changing the blog title or ceasing my effort. Once I did determine to focus the title of my page on Faith, Hope, and Charity, the contemplative life as a layperson, I came across the blog ‘Contemplative in the Mud’. The young man putting the blog together, I sensed is much better read and more intelligent than myself. I feel God guided me to the blog, a proper humbling. Yet I was not discouraged. I prayed over matters, feeling confident to precede, authentic in motivation. I will note that the fore mentioned blog, I read daily. It has become, and will be, a part of my daily religious practice. My friary days, my short lived postulancy as a Franciscan friar, established my confidence in God blessing me with an exceptional prayer life. All glory goes to God. I am most secure, joyous, and confident during mass, and then during pray before the Eucharist. The Rosary and Meditation are sheer delights. Our daily life in the friary intensely combined an introverted and extroverted spirituality.
I will take a side note and comment on an injustice I perceive. Jungian thought on introversion and extroversion is immaturely perverted by the majority of people using the terms. It is not an either or situation. I am not either an introvert, or an extrovert. Both the active and contemplative approach to life are a part of every person’s personality. It was presented to me that a good example of proper balancing of both approaches to life is John Paull II. John Paul, an introvert, accomplished phenomenal things as an extrovert. To even go above and beyond John Paul, Our Lord and Savior demonstrates the ultimate embracing of introversion and extroversion. Within a crowd, Our Lord was open and present for every individual. Supernaturally aware and tuned to hearts, He healed, taught, cajoled, and shared with the entirety of His being. Yet Our Lord mastered introversion on a level none can ever comprehend. Receiving the Holy Spirit through John the Baptist, Our Lord immediately went off to the desert for forty days of intense fasting, prayer, and meditation. Throughout his ministry, Our Lord found it necessary to recede from the crowd in order to communicate with His Father. Preparing for his ultimate test in the Garden of Gethsemane, His prayer efforts were so intense He sweat blood, providing for all the mightiest of wisdom: ‘Thy will be done’.
Back to friary days. As friars, we evangelized to the extreme, knocking on neighborhood doors, visiting elementary, high schools and colleges speaking, holding court with the Knight of Columbus and other groups, mingling at dinner parties, watching the Super Bowl with benefactors in their home. There were prayer excursions to abortion clinics, homeless missions—all in all, a total effort of socializing. It was why I left. I could not take it. Recovering from alcoholism, I was not that psychologically sound in crowds, fear still dominating amongst others. In regards to the contemplative life, I prospered, flourishing during the two holy hours conducted daily and the communal Rosary before night prayers: Compline. The Holy Hours were conducted in the morning before mass, and one before evening prayers: Vespers. It was interesting to take note of the friars during the Holy Hours. The ones who grew excited during the evangelizing, playing in the musical band, well versed with people, skilled and loving with men, women, and children, struggled mightily during the Holy Hour, or read and/or wrote throughout the sacred time. The worst was a jovial chubby Philippine young man who played guitar, sang with delight, and was adored by all. There was no one who could say a bad thing about the brother. He was a blessed soul. Yet I would chuckle when I watched him walking apprehensively into the Holy Hour. He did not like them. He had such a difficult time sitting still, squirming all the time, just having a terrible time sitting still for such a long period of time. I say all that lovingly. That coincides with my idea that within the vastness of the Church we find our individual way—St Paul’s elaborations on the body of the Church. Back to the Holy Hour, I realized that was my time of strength. There was another brother who also shared my prayer tendency. The academic type read voraciously during the Holy Hour, others prayed the Rosary. There were only two of us who went into meditation. I would do nothing, concentrating upon my breath, mentally focusing upon the Eucharist. The priest in charge disdained the writing of Basil Pennington, Thomas Merton, and Thomas Keating, while loving John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. To him, the idea of emptying ourselves was absurd. We filled with the Eucharist during the Holy Hour. Through practice, I was able to go deep during the hours. It is difficult to explain. We would end the sessions with the ringing of a bell. Often when the bell rang, I felt as if I was being ripped back to a false life. During my best sessions, it was a struggle to cease the meditation. I did not want to return. I felt exhausted opening my eyes. That leads perfectly into the idea of indifference. That is the proper indifference. Being absorbed into the Eucharist through stillness and a holy environment the presence of God became an enveloping reality. It usurped all else, forcing indifference and abandonment into consciousness. However the key is that the Theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity expanded through the effort. I relate it to my love for my family. During these intense times of prayer, a profound love for my family developed. They were centered in my heart, their salvation and worldly concerns vital to my life. I tried to explain this amidst my family only to have my sister-in-law comment that absence makes the heart grow fonder. In my normal manner of clamming up when a know-it-all who does not know-it-all takes command of a conversation, I thought strongly ‘NO that is not it. It is not about them being distant. They were in truth closer to me the deeper my prayer advanced’. Back to proper indifference, I state that if infused virtues are not made greater through my religious efforts, than the indifference to worldly things is false, an error in effort, most likely, for whatever reason, an inability to love. I want to go back to a quote from the other day, where oddly enough, I touched upon the idea of indifference. The soul therefore, requires at least indifference of judgment and of will. Then, penetrated with the conviction that God is all and the creature nothing, one will desire to see and embrace in all things only the God whom one loves and yearns for and his holy will which alone can conduct one to one’s end. Happy the person, if one has also acquired what may be called indifference of taste, so that the world and its pleasures, the goods and honors of earth, everything, in short, that might estrange one from God, now inspires one with disgust, and on the contrary, whatsoever brings one closer to him, even suffering, delights one. So has it been with the saints who hungered and thirsted after God. Oh, how such indifference facilitates the practice of holy abandonment! Within the paragraph indifference is stressed, yet it is toward the things that take us away from God. If the bold text is not grasped the indifference becomes useless, 1 Corinthians 13 the obvious reference. The things that bring us closer to God must not be met with indifference, in regards to creatures they must be met with love, a sign of serous spiritual advancement would expand this to blissful love. We must love or we know nothing about God.
…And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well.” And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had been done to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” –Mark 5:24-34
And behold, a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment; for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I shall be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. –Matthew 9:20-22
As he went, the people pressed round him. And a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years and had spent all her living upon physicians[a] and could not be healed by any one, came up behind him, and touched the fringe of his garment; and immediately her flow of blood ceased. And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the multitudes surround you and press upon you!” But Jesus said, “Some one touched me; for I perceive that power has gone forth from me.” And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” –Luke 8:42-48
As if the Lord, to quote St. Bernard, willed to teach us thereby that neither zeal for good works, nor the sweetness of divine contemplation, nor the tears of penitence would have been acceptable to him apart from obedience. –Abbot Vital Lehodey, O.C.R. ‘The Way That Leads To God’.
Interpreted properly, the following quote from Umberto Eco’s ‘Baudolino’ is a funny exhortation on John of the Cross’ warnings regarding the supernatural. The extraordinary experienced must be dismissed, especially by those inclined toward the supernatural.
…when I told my father Galiaudo that I saw Saint Baudolino he hit me on the back thirty times with a stick saying O Lord this had to happen to me, a son who sees things and cant even milk a cow either I bust his head with my stick or I give him to one of those men who visit the fairs making a monky dance. My sainted mother shouted good-for-nothing your the worst, a son who sees saints and my father said its not true he sees saints he’s a worse liar than Judas. He makes things up to get out of working…
Timidly a young girl made her way through the crowd. Strange was her appearance, in the midst of death and despair. She was in rags, gutter finery. Sonia stopped in the doorway. She forgot her gaudy silk dress, her immense crinoline, her bright shoes, the parasol, and the absurd straw hat with its flaring feather. Under the hat was a pale, frightened little face with lips parted and eyes staring in terror. Sonia was a small thin girl of eighteen, fair hair, rather pretty, wonderful blue eyes.
I perceived something mystical in Dostoevsky’s description of Sonia, the young prostitute Raskolnikov, a disastrous example of self-will run riot, falls in love with. Amidst the stark reality of life, a poor creature of pitiful upraising, abandoned to the extremes of sin in regards to survival, she dresses herself fancifully and beautifully. She possesses hope of greater things. Her innocence will not give into despair. However, confronted with a greater reality, her costume, her mask, proves lacking. Fear dominates, yet still an openness, a malleability, the ability to surrender self-will shines through. Ridiculously, naively, Sonia is beautiful. She yearns for love, while experiencing fear.
God, I imagine, observes Sonia in her finery lovingly, adoring her faith in hope. Seeing the heart, knowing the willingness to love, He sees her desire for goodness. All-knowing, benevolent, God sees the child within. Broken experiences, pain, suffering, all the things that drove this sweet child He created in His image and likeness to a desperate life of selling her temple, her body, for the sensual pleasure of men are acknowledged. Absolute love, God is wise beyond measure.
Emotional in nature, Sonia is a precious symbol. Yet intention and a pure heart are not enough. The sensual life must be addressed, brought to healing, in order to provide God with a vessel capable of receiving His truth. The youthful hope of Sonia will be crushed, hardening her heart, if the promptings of God are not followed toward a greater understanding of God. Sonia is beautiful, inside and out adorned in a fine outfit and expressing fear, vulnerability, however there is an adversary roaming about, roaring like a lion, seeking to feast upon the hope of the weak. The malicious liar who dines with passion upon the faith, hope, and charity of earth bound misfits exists for more than sensual pleasure with Sonia. He corrupts upon the dramatics of eternity.
The choice is fear or love. Principalities and forces of darkness promote the fear. God oversees all, tendering mercy through the dispenser of grace Mary, salvation through his only begotten son Jesus Christ, accessible divinity through the Holy Spirit, wisdom and examples through the saints, an army in the Church Militant, cleansing and nutrition through the sacraments, a purging through the church of Purgatory, and glory through life everlasting in the company of all that is pure and holy within the ultimate church of heaven.