Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mystagogia Delta

Yesterday, an anonymous reader left this excellent comment:

"In addition to having preconceived ideas about God, I think we also have preconceived ideas about what the spiritual life is like. The recent reaction to the revelations about the dark night of the soul that Mother Teresa experienced shows that some people don't realize that darkness is not a sign that someone is not holy or has lost their faith; but rather, it is a very normal part of the spiritual life. "

Indeed. In community life, as the brothers attest, I frequently quote St. Paul's exhortation that we 'not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind [Rom 12: 2]'. I interpret this to mean that we begin, in respect to the things of God and of the spirit, with the need for renewal. This is always going to be the case because we cannot exhaust God nor the spirit (the Holy Spirit or our own). We suffer still from the nineteenth-century Romanticizing and 'saccharinization' of the saints: there are many who are scandalized by the fact that St. Therese of Lisieux also went through a deep trial of faith as she was dying. This fact was cleansed from the first 'official' biography. Thus holiness is confused with conformity to a certain kind of genteel and cultured disposition. The idea that we might need to 'put on the armor of light' and take a few blows for God and the Kingdom is not popular. This is also why I so frequently recommend lectio divina: God's Word, carefully heard and acted upon, will help us to avoid these misperceptions which end up keeping us tepid in the faith. So I will conclude this bit of a digression with St. Paul's testimony about the journey of faith.

"We do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death;' but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead." [ 2 Cor 1: 8]

"We have this power in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us....[most quotations stop here; we continue:] We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh." [2 Cor 4: 7-11]

"They stoned Paul and dragged him out off the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city....they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." [Acts 14: 19b-20a; 21b-22]

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