|St. Elizabeth Working for the Poor, Marianne Stokes|
That virginal quality which, for want of a better word, I call emptiness is the beginning of this contemplation.
It is not a formless emptiness, a void without meaning; on the contrary it has a shape, a form given to it by the purpose for which it is intended
Emptiness is a very common complaint in our days, not the purposeful emptiness of the virginal heart and mind but a void, meaningless, unhappy condition.
Strangely enough, those who complain the loudest of the emptiness of their lives are usually people whose lives are overcrowded, filled with trivial details, plans, desires, ambitions, unsatisfied cravings for passing pleasures, doubts, anxieties and fears; and these sometimes further overlaid with exhausting pleasures which are an attempt, and always a futile attempt, to forget how pointless such people's lives are.
The question most people will ask is: "Can someone whose life is cluttered up with trivial things get back to this virginal emptiness.
Of course he can; if a bird's nest has been filled with broken glass and rubbish, it can be emptied.
At the beginning it will be necessary for each individual to discard deliberately all the trifling unnecessary things in his life, all the hard blocks and congestion; not necessarily to discard all his interests for ever, but at least once to stop still, and having prayed for courage, to visualise (sic) himself without all the extras, escapes, and interests other than Love in his life: to see ourselves as if we had just come from God's hand and had gathered nothing to ourselves yet, to discover just what shape is the virginal emptiness of our own being, and of what material we are made.I think we are all pretty familiar at least in some way with practicing this emptying out process in Lent, but it's only been in the last several years that I've attempted it in Advent. It is so much harder in Advent because we are surrounded by people we love who have expectations in which we play a part. In fact, that is probably the biggest obstacle to reaching this virginal emptiness. I'm at a stage in my life where I have a fair amount of control over this, but I know that some of the people who have told me they were interested in this discussion still have young children, and that finding even a few minutes a day will be difficult, so I suggest we all pray for one another to be able find as much time as we can.
As a clear and untilled space thou madest the divine ear of corn to burst forth; hail, thou living table having space for the Bread of Life; hail, perennial Fountain of living water. The Akathist HymnThe picture above shows the flyleaf of my copy of The Reed of God which I bought at a used book sale years ago. I like it because the previous owner's name is so biblical. Maybe his middle name is Hadadrimmon. I like that name because it's in one of my favorite passages from the Old Testament, Zechariah 12:11, "On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo." I keep meaning to look for ways to use that phrase. I don't know if you can see the address on that label at the top of the page, but if you can, don't use it. I haven't lived there in fourteen years.
[From the descendants of Alexander’s officers] there sprang a sinful offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus, once a hostage at Rome. He became king in the year one hundred and thirty seven of the kingdom of the Greeks.
In those days there appeared in Israel men who were breakers of the law, and they seduced many people, saying: “Let us go and make an alliance with the Gentiles all around us; since we separated from them, many evils have come upon us.” The proposal was agreeable; some from among the people promptly went to the king, and he authorized them to introduce the way of living of the Gentiles. Thereupon they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem according to the Gentile custom. They covered over the mark of their circumcision and abandoned the holy covenant; they allied themselves with the Gentiles and sold themselves to wrongdoing.
Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, each abandoning his particular customs. All the Gentiles conformed to the command of the king, and many children of Israel were in favor of his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath. I Maccabees 1And now, as Advent rapidly approaches, everything in our environment seems to war against it. In the midst of a world which seems increasingly dangerous, we now find ourselves surrounded by the claptrap and cacophony of the secular Christmas season which seems increasingly inappropriate. Only the most determined effort will dispel our nagging fears, and ward off the pressure and distractions of the moment.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8I am going to try everyday to look at, or listen to, or read something beautiful. I've been thinking about what every mother knows and that is that when you are expecting, nothing matters except the baby. All your plans, all your efforts, all your decisions revolve around that little life that has been entrusted to you, and one thing your want for that child is that his life will be filled with beauty. And so, as I wait for the infant Jesus to be reborn in my heart this Christmas, I am going to try to make a beautiful little place to receive Him. I plan on posting some of this on the blog, I'm not going to commit do posting everyday, but as often as I can.
|Photo Credit: Nancy Derham|
When [Eleazar] was about to die under the blows, he groaned and said: “The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that, although I could have escaped death, I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging, but also suffering it with joy in my soul because of my devotion to him.”Suffering terrible pain with joy in our souls--this seems to be almost impossible. And yet, slowly, over many years, if you can learn to accept suffering as God's will for you that day, it begins to happen. It's very strange because the suffering is no less suffering, in fact it might be even harder than before, and yet, that joy begins to grown and it brings peace with it. Part of that peace, I think, is the realization that this is what you are called to do. It's not your part to fix whatever is causing the suffering, or try to manipulate people into doing something that would make your suffering stop. You just pray and offer it to God and endure--but it's a joyful endurance nonetheless.