Friday, December 2, 2011

Dark Night of the Soul

I have had a fascination with the mystical part of christianity for some time. Healing, tongues, prophecy, all that stuff did attract me, however, it didn't seem enough. People often use the word more to describe a desire for that extra something that the feel they are lacking in their life. The answer for some is power and enabling, the call of ministry, mission and leadership. For others it can mean service (not that service is distinct from ministry, mission or leadership but that there are some who as Jesus showed us to lead by serving others). For me I find none of these pursuits alluring and I often wondered where my vocation was within the body of Christ. Then in the desire for more knowledge, finding myself in a place to grow and learn I came across people that spoke of a more that was not what my parents found.
My parents taught me that more means service, putting yourself in a position to help others even if it means that these people will ultimately end up hating you. That is Jesus example to the fullest. As I gained more knowledge about the traditions of my own faith, the theology and the history of Christianity I found that there was something deeper drawing me on. I saw Barth and Aquinas and even Augustine as men who saw God, knew God, loved God but there was something missing in their words. Then I found Hans Urs von Balthassar a contemporary of Barth's a catholic preist with the pen of a lyricist. von Balthassar's vision of Christ dead in the place of the dead was overwhelming for me. Here was that more, yet, even now I struggle to read von Balthassar. There was much lacking in my learning and in myself.

Then came Thomas Merton, God bless the great monastic writer of the 20th century. Merton a trappist monk from America a man who had plunged headlong into the abyss that is God and returned refined and enabled to shine a light on the plight of his nation, his order, and the world. Through Merton I learned that intimacy with God was what I desired, that through meditation leading into contemplation I too will be refined by the dark fire of God's love.
This dark fire of God's love is mentioned many times by St. John of the Cross in his epic "The Dark Night of the Soul". This refining fire of love that burns the soul, purifying it so it can accept the love of God becoming more like God in a movement towards ultimate perfection. I have been slowly reading this epic and it has been no picnic. An old fear has over taken me once, I have not been able to receive the same meditation results as before, there is a dryness in my prayer life. Yet, my art is vibrant and colourful, I have put aside meditation for a contemplation that is less dramatic yet more precise. St. John talks of growing from a baby to a child, that once we received the milk and love of a mother. Now God is weening me of this milk of meditation and the glorious result of it. I am being taught to stand and walk in this contemplation of God which as Merton tells us is Life with God. You know the old song "You are always on my mind." Well despite the marijuana Willie Nelson has given us a wonderful example of contemplation. God always on my mind.
I am not sure where any of this is leading. What I am sure of is that it is worth it.

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