“Perhaps you believe that if a certain enemy who persecutes you disappeared, you would find peace and finally be able to pray. But God uses just this person to deepen your peace, so it is no longer dependent on external circumstances, but finds its foundation in God.”
― Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen
When I was writing my dissertation on St. John of the Cross (in 2007), I stayed at a friend’s beach shack. Alone. I was awake all night one night reading John’s Dark Night. I finished it just before dawn, and there was a violent thunderstorm. It was transcendent. Before going to sleep, I wrote a brief meditation. Here’s an excerpt:
Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved! — St John of the Cross
The dark night wrests control out of our clenched fists, calling us to surrender to Him. I carry with me a thousand “security” tethers — from thick ropes to fragile threads — that keep me safely in control, at liberty to constrain God’s freedom within me. For John, contemplation is when we finally abandon control of our prayer and embrace whatever He wishes to do. I realize to abandon is consent, a fiat to Fire, a Yes to the God who takes no bribes.
He’s so interior to me. He knows the slightest movement of my heart, is more interior to me than the very act of existence, as He gives me existence at every nanosecond. It’s unnerving, especially in this vast ocean of silence [I had no TV, radio, Internet, iPhone]. In silence you feel your addictions screaming for a fix.
Within and without, I am beset by trials and hardships, irritations and inconveniences, cravings and compulsions, worries and fears, disappointments and distractions, dryness and blah blah blah. I am consumed with myself. This “buzzing, blooming noise” keeps me from attentiveness to the here, from mindfulness of the now, from worthy ingestion of the Sacrament of the present moment. There God tears the veil, runs wildly about, seeks out slaves to free. To consume that Sacrament is to ingest eternal love. Only here, only now, God is about the business of His jubilee, shattering chains, severing the threads and slashing the ropes, so I might be free…
…to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke.
To share my bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into my house;
when I see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide myself from my own kin. (cf Isaiah 58:6-7)
In other words, I want to be free to receive love so to be free to love. My spiritual director said to me the last time I spoke with him before his death: “I have a secret. I want to die poor. Go to God empty handed. I asked God for this in Assisi after I was ordained. Not because I’ll have nothing to offer Him, but because the only worthy return is spending what I was given.” Dispossessed by love. “And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and served him” (Matt. 8:14-15).
Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire. ― Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
In the dark night of surrender I am liberated to liberate, loved to love, forgiven to forgive, fed to feed, blessed to bless, filled to empty, enlightened to illumine, enriched to enrich, die to become life-giving.
Really to make that total surrender, we need the freedom of poverty, and we must experience the joy of poverty, that freedom, that having nothing in possessing. It is extraordinary how God uses us when we have nothing and how He penetrates the souls of people when He draws them to Himself when they have nothing. — Mother Teresa
Yet I am so far, O Lord. Caught up, bound up. Clinging, clenching. Sing in me a new song of Freedom. Amen.