And my final excerpt from Fr. Marc Foley’s book, The Context of Holiness:
Acts of faith are expressed in two ways. The first is our willingness to jump into the darkness, that is, choosing to trust in God’s guidance as we venture into the unknown. The second is our willingness to sit in the darkness, which is continuing to do God’s will when our emotional resources are depleted and life seems hollow, meaningless and absurd. . . .
These are the worst times in our life of faith when viewed from a psychological and emotional perspective. But from a spiritual vantage point, they are potentially the best of times. For when we continue to do God’s will without emotional support, our love for God and neighbor grows and is purified.
Why does God seem to hide from us?
“‘. . . Then he also went, not publicly, but as it were in secret’ (Jn 7.10). This preference for hiddenness, for remaining unseen, seems to have been a definite impulse of Jesus, clearly depicted on a few occasions in the gospel. It appears he wanted to go unobserved during certain interludes, to pass shrouded through the crowds, inconspicuous and ordinary, even after he began his public life. Surely this desire to remain unrecognized cannot have been a capricious gesture. What is happening here, since in other places he is intent on revealing himself? Does it give hint of a divine attribute which we have not named properly, and yet of vital importance for knowing God’s relations with our soul? These occasions when he desired to remain concealed and unnoticed, are they showing us the shape and contour, as it were, of the only encounter with God at times available to us? Must we necessarily seek him in his hiddenness if we are to find him?” (Fr. Donald Haggerty, Contemplative Provocations)
- “Time spent faithfully every day in mental prayer that is poor arid, distracted, and relatively short is worth more, and will be infinitely more fruitful for our progress, than long, ardent spells of mental prayer from time to time, when circumstances make it easy.” (Fr. Jacques Philippe)
We’re always questioning the darkness in our lives. What good is it? Why does God allow it? Here are Ann Spangler’s thoughts:
Larry Crabb says that we find God only when we need him. Simple words, but true. It’s like looking for the light switch in a dark room. No one goes searching for it until the sunlight has gone. Similarly, darkness can impel our search for God.
Several years ago I met the last survivor pulled from the wreckage after the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001. During our time together, Genelle Guzman-McMillan told me a story about flirting with faith but choosing to live without it. Then, on September 11, her world fell apart and she found herself in complete darkness, buried alive under a mountain of rubble
You can read the rest here.
For those days when you don’t feel any emotion in prayer and/or resist serving Him, but do so anyway:
“A very high degree of love of God is quite compatible with an absence of any feeling of emotion, and even with a feeling of distaste for the service of God. We have only to remember our Lord’s prayer in the agony of Gethsemane to realize that. In fact, if one is going to achieve the heights of the spiritual life, it is necessary to pass through a stage where one’s apparent spiritual activity is reduced to a dry act of willingness to conform one’s self to God’s Will in the darkness of a sheer decision to believe in God without light of any sort.” (Fr. M. Eugene Boylan)
This is such a profound insight, one that is applicable to all of us in various ways:
” . . . the way Mother Teresa learned to deal with her trial of faith: by converting her feeling of abandonment by God into an act of abandonment to God.” (Carol Zaleski)
A beautiful excerpt from Michael O’Brien’s A Cry of Stone which illustrates well my last post.
In the drowsy sun of an autumn afternoon, she sat sketching the brightly colored trees in a little park not far from the house. The walkways were temporarily deserted and at the moment when she felt most grateful for this haven of peace, a noise of galloping hoofs thundered around a curve in the path. A rushing shape approached through piles of red leaves, scattering them left and right . . . .
Rose tore her eyes from her drawing to see two gasping little girls running hand in hand. They went past at a tremendous clip, leaving in their wake a whir of whipped air, spiraling leaves, and a stream of sound like a long, pure note, as if they were humming together.
One child was blind. Her eyes were gouged and scarred, her head nodding in a sightless headlong plunge, her face intent on nothing save the grip of her companion’s hand the unsuspected thickness of air, and the taste of utter exhilaration. On the face of her seeing friend were other ecstasies–large, open, race-horse eyes, the panting thoroughbred power of giving the impossible thing. The seeing girl had bestowed upon her blind friend a different form of sight, the feeling of wind on skin, of small unused muscles pumping at catastrophic speed, the awesome pitch through treacherous air that always contained within it the threat of collision, and the promise of soaring.
There is my soul, thought Rose. O, O, ay, ay, that I might trust what you are doing with me in this rushing darkness.
If you are that blind child, put your full trust in the One holding your hand.
I have been going through my fairly hefty journal filled with mostly quotes. I came across one that I blogged about nearly five years ago, so I thought I would share it again. I love his analogy.
I ran across this piece by Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange when I was going through a very dark time of prayer. What he has to say applies also, of course, to any times of darkness in our lives–times when we can’t see the ending, wondering if it will be good or bad. (Of course, God works everything for the good, but sometimes it’s hard to even see that, isn’t it?) Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange writes: “If we are saddened at the approach of twilight, God could well answer us by saying: How can I otherwise reveal to you all those thousands of stars which can only be seen at night?” Isn’t that the truth–we can only see stars if there is darkness–and a deep darkness at that. And we can only see certain spiritual things (of just as much beauty as the stars on a clear, clear night) if we walk through certain darknesses that God allows. “To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens!” (Ps 123.1) Lift up your eyes!