From Dom Gueranger’s The Liturgical Year:
What continues always and out of sight, the monastic tradition. This French video of the Abbey of Notre-Dame de la Trappe filmed in 1960. The quality of silence and prayer.
From St Teresa of Avila’s autobiography:
“At that time, the news reached me of harm being done to the Church, and that the works of her opponents were flourishing. This news distressed me greatly, and I wondered if I could do anything. I cried to the Lord and begged him that I might be his instrument to help remedy such evils…”
“As a result, I resolved that there was little that I could accomplish through my own limited power… So I discerned that I should follow the evangelical counsels as perfectly as I could, and invite others to do the same. It was was my desire that since the Lord has many enemies, and so few friends, that his few friends should be good ones…”
John’s understanding of God is never domesticated. God is not some object out there but an inexpressible mystery who is both near to us and beyond us and our imaginings and thought. However, John’s God is not some abstract divinity but rather a Trinitarian God: the One who from all eternity pours forth the Word both in eternity and in history. In one of his most striking sayings John says that the Father spoke one Word, which was his Son, and this Word he speaks always in eternal silence, and in silence must it be heard by the soul. There is an immense theology in that brief, almost aphoristic, observation. God’s silence is broken by the Word (in the inner life of the Trinity, in creation and in the incarnation), but we must live in such a way as to hear that silence. The contemporary British Carmelite Ruth Burrows put it nicely in her book Living in Mystery: God gave all God had to give in giving us Jesus. God kept nothing back from us, not even God’s only Son, and in this gift of Jesus is the gift of the divine Self.
That hearing of the silence that is the Word is, in the deepest sense, prayer. Iain Matthew, one of the most astute commentators on John of the Cross, has written that beyond praise, petition and begging for pardon, the impulse in prayer is toward presence. Echoing St. Thomas Aquinas, John insists that God sustains every soul and dwells in every soul substantially, even though it may be the greatest sinner in the world (Ascent11.5.3). When we become aware of that presence, it is not some generic God but the indwelling Trinity that we discover made present to us by Christ and the gift of Christ that is the Spirit. Behind that vision, of course, is the conviction of Augustine that God is nearer to us than we are to ourselves.
Fr Gerard Hughes, Scottish Jesuit writer on spirituality and social justice, has died at the age of 90. He was a great Ignatian whose book, God of Surprises, introduced many to a new understanding of God present in all things. He led many retreats in South Africa, looking at communities that needed healing after the inhumanities of apartheid and the role of discernment in activism.
“God is calling us to a radical conversion and to a depth of trust in him which will allow God’s power to be released in our weakness, God’s wisdom to be revealed in our bewilderment, God’s truth to break through our disillusion.”
Eternal rest, grant unto him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.
My favourite liturgical season draws near:
He will come like last leaf’s fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud’s folding.
He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.
He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.
He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.
Rowan Williams (The Poems of Rowan Williams, Perpetua Press 2002)
This, from Dom Gregory Dix:
“To those who know a little of Christian history probably the most moving of all the reflections it brings is not the thought of the great events and the well-remembered saints, but of those innumerable millions of entirely obscure faithful men and women, every one with his or her own individual hopes and fears and joys and sorrows and loves — and sins and temptations and prayers — once every whit as vivid and alive as mine are now. They have left no slightest trace in this world, not even a name, but have passed to God utterly forgotten by men. Yet each one of them once believed and prayed as I believe and pray, and found it hard and grew slack and sinned and repented and fell again. Each of them worshipped at the eucharist, and found their thoughts wandering and tried again, and felt heavy and unresponsive and yet knew — just as really and pathetically as I do these things. There is a little ill-spelled ill-carved rustic epitaph of the fourth century from Asia Minor: — ‘Here sleeps the blessed Chione, who has found Jerusalem for she prayed much’. Not another word is known of Chione, some peasant woman who lived in that vanished world of christian Anatolia. But how lovely if all that should survive after sixteen centuries were that one had prayed much, so that the neighbours who saw all one’s life were sure one must have found Jerusalem! What did the Sunday eucharist in her village church every week for a life-time mean to the blessed Chione — and to the millions like her then, and every year since then? The sheer stupendous quantity of the love of God which this ever-repeated action has drawn from the obscure Christian multitudes through the centuries is in itself an overwhelming thought,”
– Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy.