In His hiddenness

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)

“In that hidden corner of the soul”

I was really struck by this today from Contemplative Provocations by Fr. Donald Haggerty.  I’ve been reading and re-reading it . . .

The psychologists are sometimes quick to remind us that forcing any painful experience into a forgotten corner of the soul is likely to do eventual harm.  But if we have ignored this warning, it is good to remember that God entered that corner as well, and that he is still waiting there with an offer of his friendship if our soul wishes to meet  him.  Some people may only realize the extent to which God has been secretly giving himself when they perceive that his companionship has all along been present in that hidden corner of the soul.

In the shadows and the corners

I’m reading Fr. Donald Haggerty’s Contemplative Provocations and I keep getting stuck at each paragraph, like this one:

The inclination to hiddenness is a quiet mark of holiness.  It corresponds to the secrecy of relations between a soul and God.  For it seems to be God’s consistent habit with souls to conceal himself even when they are close to him.  We can surmise that the saints came to know well this divine preference for concealment.  It added intensity to their seeking after God in his many disguises.  Rather than frustrating them, the divine hiding provoked them with intense longings.  And it aroused in them a desire for their own concealment, not from God, but from the eyes of others, so that they might remain among the unknown and the recognized.  If we want to find holiness, the first place to search is in the shadows and corners.

“It is easy, nonetheless, to run for the shade.”

I thought I might entice you by a quote or two from Contemplative Provocations by Fr. Donald Haggerty.  (I’d really like to quote the whole book!)

Contemplative prayer is initiated undramatically–one might say in a concealed, subtle, confusing manner.  One symptom is a dry discomfort in prayer like the bodily ache of a fever that does not subside.  The aridity contrast with the prior experience of prayer, when a consoling sense of God’s presence was enjoyed.  Now there is little felt contact with God, nothing savored in emotion.  God seems to disappear more and more into hiding.  Other symptoms as well seem incongruous as signs of growth in prayer.  A focused attention on Our Lord becomes difficult. Noisy distractions disturb prayer.  Petty concerns interfere with prayer and replace quiet reflections about God.  The gospel pages no long offer vivid attraction.  Anxious thoughts and unwelcome memories intrude, and the mind is unable to settle down.  The struggle for an attentive silence and some serenity can burden an entire period of prayer.  The sense of being alone, somehow separated from God, unable to prayer, does not let up.

The return each day to silent prayer in this condition means to face the discomfort of silence.  There can be a strong temptation to give up prayer or to find some activity in silent prayer to counter frustration.  A more superficial prayer can be adopted which discards the effort of listening in silence to God.  One might opt, for instance, to spend time in prayer simply reading.  In that case the dryness and distraction may lift to a degree because they are less noticed.  This may seem to restore relations with God.  It would be a poor exchange, however, a step backward.  The soul would forfeit a grace it was beginning to taste of a deeper thirst for God.  The thirst of the soul for God is stronger in the desert.  It is easy, nonetheless, to run for the shade.