Sunday february 26, 2012

Joy and woe are woven fine ...

Let us imagine that this will he our last Lent. For one or other of us this could easily be the case. For all of us, it is at least a possibility. This space of forty days then will bring us into the presence of the Lord. Let us live this time in that spirit.

The Israelites were forty years in the desert of Sinai before entering the promised land. Moses stayed forty days on the mountain to receive the Law. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted for forty days. In our turn we will be tempted. The desert is no bland, idyllic place, 'idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean' (The Ancient Mariner). It is, on the contrary, vibrant with dense reality. A part of that reality are the divisions and conflicts within our hearts, the struggle between good and evil reflecting that which can be observed on the wider canvas of the contemporary world. The two are not separate. Our interior struggle derives in part from and has in return a hidden but profound effect on humanity's course. Let us never forget it. The eternal lot of someone may depend on your difficult fidelity.

Remember St Anthony. Going into a greater solitude, he was immediately confronted with all the demons he carried within him: lust, avarice, anger, vanity, rebellion, pride, despair. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Young monks will sometimes take this as an indication that they are in the wrong place, when in fact it merely manifests their truth and the purification that needs to be done, if they are to follow Christ with all their heart. Even those who have already advanced some way on the road will discover deeper areas of opacity in themselves, hidden resistance to the total opening of the heart to God. This is something that occurs in the intimate solitude of each one. It is in prayer and stillness that the essential work is done, often beyond our conscious awareness. It is favoured by a fasting from the superficial and distracting that reflects a hunger for the essential, a mind that is nourished by silence, an entering into, a being taken up into the deep pulse of all that is, the inflowing creative will of God. When we are totally identified with God's willing of all reality in the mystery of his love, we will become, in him, source of being to all created reality, animated by God's own life, giving back what we have received, even God to himself. This is the Easter we prepare for, the resurrection already at work in us in faith and hope.

Let me try to capture this hidden presence of life. There are two liturgical gestures that are highly significant: both occur during the Mass, and have the added interest of joining the solitary and the community aspects of our Carthusian life The first is the gesture of the priest at the altar when he extends his arms in the form of a cross. In doing so, obviously, he figures Christ, but what struck me recently, precisely from the position of the priest, is that the two choirs as it were prolong, almost seem to be, his outstretched arms. There is, in truth, but one priest, one offering. The second sign occurs at the communion when we make a circle around the altar, that is around Christ. It is so visible. We are many in our solitude and yet we are one Christ, the perfect circle. There is a solidarity beyond and above all the things that seem to separate and oppose, a durability beyond the passing presence and role of each individual. We are and will be for ever one body of Christ. May this mystery of unity, love and peace be realised in each one of you and in our community more and more this Lent so that Easter may be the unveiling of that life which is already ours in Christ.
8:28:07 AM