Seeking my Love
I will head for the mountains and for watersides,
I will not gather flowers, nor fear wild beasts;
I will go beyond strong men and frontiers.
——Canticle of John of the Cross Stanza 3
At this point John determines that in spite of the darkness he feels, he will continue his search. Not a person among us has not felt a sense of spiritual abandonment from time to time. We all have those times when we lose our way and feel all alone – cut off from God. Quickly we discover that others – intercessors – are not enough to find Him. We must seek, seek restlessly and fervently, for that precious relationship that we have lost. We climb the mountain of virtue to get a closer look at His nature. Like John, we have no time to waste gathering the gratifications of life, and no fear of the evil one that can deter us from our task. In our quest for God we must go beyond our strength and vision and seek to see life though His eyes. Then, and only then, will we find that which we seek.
- From John of the Cross (supertradmum-etheldredasplace.blogspot.com)
Shepherds, you who go
up through the sheepfolds to the hill,
if by chance you see
him I love most,
tell him I am sick, I suffer, and I die.
—-Canticle of John of the Cross Stanza 2
In this second stanza of the Canticle, the soul cries out for intercessors who have not lost their way-people, angelic beings who can touch the garment of God. Is it so strange to feel this type of distance from God? Have you ever felt this way? When we are in our darkest times, we need others to speak to God for us; others who care for us, and seek the best for us. We need intercessors who are living in union with God and feel his presence John expresses his separation from God, and his utter inability to rediscover Him. Perhaps, with just a little help from others we can find God. We can learn from John to lean on others as we travel through our darkness. Perhaps it is with their light that we can find the God we have lost.
- What do you turn to in your times of darkness?
- Who are some guides for your life?
- Do you seek intercessors when in darkness?
- Food for Thought… (3in1gpnprayer.wordpress.com)
Drawing of the Crucifixion by St. John of the Cross
Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
you fled like the stag
after wounding me;
I went out calling you, but you were gone.
—-Canticle of John of the Cross Stanza 1
God has hidden His true self from us is the first cry of the soul. Indeed every seeker of God longs for the mystical presence because in such a presence we can touch the hand of God. John tells us in his canticle that such a presence is hidden from us. The long journey of the believer is to find that level of the spiritual which is concealed from us by asking God to manifest His divine essence to us. The search for the divine leaves us moaning. We are left in a state of grief because the quest is so elusive. Victory does not come to he who prays the most or the loudest.
The mere wisp of the touch of God flees from us us as quickly as the cautious deer when he sites a man. We get a little glimpse of God, and it wounds us because we want so much more of Him. We call after Him and we cannot find Him. All manner of prayer and sacred reading is this search for the essence of God in the here and now. In John’s canticle I feel a sense of urgency and determination that are vital elements to a true relationship with God.
It happened one day that one of the brethren in the monastery of Abba Elias was tempted. Cast out of the monastery, he went over the mountain to Abba Anthony. The brother lived near him for a while and then Anthony sent him back to the monastery from which he had been expelled. When the brothers saw him they cast him out yet again, and he went back to Abba Anthony saying, ‘My Father, they will not receive me.’ Then the old man sent them a message saying, ‘A boat was shipwrecked at sea and lost its cargo; with great difficulty it reached the shore; but you want to throw into the sea that which has found a safe harbor on the shore. ‘When the brothers understood that it was Abba Anthony who had sent them this monk, they received him at once.
—-Sayings of the Desert
This saying deals with a very difficult dilemma. I am going to assume that the brothers who expelled the monk had a legitimate reason to do so. When people live in community, or attend the same church, there are times that personalities clash, mistakes are made, and the boredom of sameness hits. In all these situations there is usually a more guilty party that pays the price of the conflict, but there should be a desire for reconciliation. Abba Anthony reminds us in this saying that we are all potential victims of a personal or spiritual shipwreck. Further he tells us we would never turn our backs on the victims of a true shipwreck that comes to our shores. The real key to the saying is this; when someone asks to be reconciled with the community, we must give them a chance at redemption. Permanent exile, or expulsion, is not the way of the Christian.
Gracious and Holy Father,Please give me:intellect to understand you,reason to discern you,diligence to seek you,wisdom to find you,a spirit to know you,a heart to meditate upon you,ears to hear you,eyes to to see you,a tongue to proclaim you,a way of life pleasing to you,patience to wait for you and perseverance to look for you.Grant me a perfect end,your holy presence,a blessed resurrection and life everlasting.
——Benedict of Nursia
Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.
——Saint Augustine of Hippo
Abba Isaac came to see Abba Poemen and found him washing his feet. As he enjoyed freedom of speech with him he said, “How is it that others practice austerity and treat their bodies hardly?” Abba Poemen said to him, “We have not been taught to kill our bodies, but to kill our passions.”
—–Abba Poeman of the Desert
Oftentimes we misread and mishandle the greatest commands of the scripture. The message of scripture is not to torture and abuse the very body that God created, but to care for our bodies in such a way that we may glorify God. To control passions and to discern negative passions from ones that build fervor for God is one of the greatest challenges of the Christian journey. As far back as the time of the Desert Fathers there was a defiling of the body, both by the church and immoral practices. It seems the church has always wanted us to deny our physical needs to avoid sin. The simple act of Abba Poeman washing his feet was considered a luxury that a Christian should avoid. Let us understand that our desires are not our enemies, but our lack of self control is very much our destroyer.
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this,
You will lead me by the right road.
Though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me.
And you will never leave me to face my struggles alone.
– Thomas Merton
The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.
Abba Mark said to Abba Arsenius, ‘Why do you avoid us?’ The old man said to him, ‘God knows that I love you, but I cannot live with God and with men. The thousands and ten thousands of the heavenly hosts have but one will, while men have many. So I cannot leave God to be with men.’
—–sayings of the desert
The heavenly hosts have but one will, but men have many directions. At first glance it seems Arsenius is advocating total isolation, with further thought, there is perhaps a deeper meaning. Men are so scattered and confused when attempting to follow after God. We search in many directions, and fail to find peace with God. Constant discussion and speculation dominate our lives, and no truth is found. For thousands of years men have discussed and debated the meaning of miracles, healings, suffering, and have found few answers. The Abba calls us to put God first, and with that decision, we can have the freedom to find His will. Putting God first can be as simple as beginning each day in prayer, or having a time of silence to keep our focus. The Abba warns that we must not abandon God to be in the world.