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"Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart." – Luke 2:19 (RSV)

Month

November 2015

Earthly affection

mary-jesus

He who learns to live the interior life and to take little account of outward things, does not seek special places or times to perform devout exercises. A spiritual man quickly recollects himself because he has never wasted his attention upon externals. No outside work, no business that cannot wait stands in his way. He adjusts himself to things as they happen. He whose disposition is well ordered cares nothing about the strange, perverse behavior of others, for a man is upset and distracted only in proportion as he engrosses himself in externals.

If all were well with you, therefore, and if you were purified from all sin, everything would tend to your good and be to your profit. But because you are as yet neither entirely dead to self nor free from all earthly affection, there is much that often displeases and disturbs you. Nothing so mars and defiles the heart of man as impure attachment to created things. But if you refuse external consolation, you will be able to contemplate heavenly things and often to experience interior joy.

Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Every day I learn how I am still attached to earthly affection because of what upsets and distracts me. It always, always, falls into 4 broad categories; wealth, pleasure, honor and power.

I am not surprised by this of course. Without God’s help I can’t free myself from earthly affections as much as I want to. So I ask the Lord to form my soul the way He wants.

I (try to) treat every moment of my life like a learning task that a loving Father gives to His little child who doesn’t even know how to speak. He stands by my side watching over me and offers all the materials, resources and help I need to complete the task. All I have to do is accept His help and to reach up to Him with confident arms for help if I don’t know how to do it.

I watched Bishop Robert Barron’s youtube commentary on violence in the Bible a few days back and what he said really stuck with me. Bishop Barron said that violence in the Bible is symbolic for the need to battle eg. earthly attachment all the way down. I haven’t been doing this and have seen how true it is that if I don’t completely detach myself from earthly things, my disordered desires for them will grow in strength again. It’s a reliable piece of what I think of as spiritual physics. It’s not going to change no matter how much I wish that it would. It’s an inconvenient truth in a way but such as important one.

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The Spiritual Canticle, Stanza 1 – Reflection

secret garden

Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
you fled like the stag
after wounding me;
I went out calling you, but you were gone.

St. John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle

St. John accompanies every stanza in his ‘Spiritual Canticle’ with beautiful commentary.

Commentary…

… the absence of the Beloved causes continual moaning in the lover. Since she loves nothing outside of him, she finds no rest or relief in anything. This is how we recognize persons who truly love God: if they are content with nothing less than God. But what am I saying, if they are content? Even if they possess everything they will not be content; in fact the more they have, the less satisfied they will be. Satisfaction of heart is not found in the possession of things, but in being stripped of them all and in poverty of spirit. Since perfection consists in this poverty of spirit, in which God is possessed by a very intimate and special grace, the soul, having attained it, lives in this life with some satisfaction, although not complete. For David, in spite of all his perfection, hoped to have this fullness in heaven, saying: When your glory appears, I shall be filled [Ps. 17:15].

As a result, the peace, tranquility, and satisfaction of heart attainable in this life is insufficient to prevent the soul from moaning within itself – although this moan may be tranquil and painless – hoping for what it lacks. Moaning is connected with hope, and the Apostle affirmed that he and others moaned even though they were perfect: We ourselves who have the first fruits of the spirit moan within ourselves, hoping for the adoption of the children of God [Rom. 8:23].

The soul, then, bears this moan within herself, in her enamored heart. For there where love wounds is the moan rising from the wound, and it ever cries out in the feeling of his absence; especially when the soul, after the taste of some sweet and delightful communication of the Bridegroom, suffers his absence and is left alone and dry.

St. John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle

In recent times, God has graciously drawn me closer to Himself not because of my own merit but because of His providence. In this time, I have felt more and more keenly that I am content with nothing less than God.

I still try to substitute God with the 4 categories of worldly things; wealth, pleasure, honor and power. I do this daily in fact. But each time I do, I find no rest or relief in anything but God. The Lord has made my heart for Himself, and so I am restless until I rest in Him.

It is so difficult to express what my soul is going through. All I can say are using the words that the Lord gives me. Even these don’t scratch the surface of how things really are; beyond even my understanding.

A concept/word that St. John brings up in his commentary of Stanza 1 however, resonates with me. My soul is moaning within itself because I find no rest and no relief in worldly things. Only my Lord can quench my thirst and sate my hunger.

Expectations

confession

Because You love me, You let me understand how no one will fully understand my soul except You. 

Today was a low mood day for me. I had seen my clinical psychologist the afternoon before and I crashed so badly after that.

I went to my husband with my low mood with the intention of sharing everything I possibly could about the sorrow my soul was going through. When I got the opportunity to share this with him, I realised that while I was doing my best to explain what I am going through, I didn’t have the words to fully express everything. Some things can’t be explained using words sometimes unless the Lord grants the speaker and the listener the means to understand each other.

When my husband couldn’t understand me fully and when I realised that I didn’t have the means to explain myself fully, I became sad. Afterwards, I realised that this was because I had expected my husband to be able to understand the workings of my soul completely. What a silly thought that was!

I had a perfectly valid desire for my soul to be completely understood, but I went looking for it to be fulfilled in the wrong place. No wonder I was disappointed and my desire unsatisfied when my husband couldn’t understand my soul in its entirety. He tried his best but he just wasn’t designed for that sort of thing.

Only my Lord Jesus can truly comprehend my soul in its entirety; He probably understands it better than I do. When I understood this, I went to the Lord (or at least tried to because I still tend to try to substitute God with pleasure and honor aka procrastinating). I went to the Lord and I didn’t have to say much. I didn’t have to explain myself as best I could. I just turned my gaze to God and offered myself up to Him in submission. He knows my inability to articulate many things about my soul, so I just let my soul do its baby talk and trust that my Lord Jesus will understand.

Once I turned to the right place to fill the thirst for my soul to be completely understood, my desire was truly quenched.

Because You love me, You teach me that my heart is restless until it rests in You. 

The freedom I seek; a freedom for excellence

love-freedom

St. Irenaeus, the great second-century theologian, could express the essence of Christianity with the pithy adage “the glory of God is a human being fully alive!”

Now I realize that much of this is counter-intuitive. For many, Catholic Christianity is anti-humanist, a system characterized by an array of laws controlling self-expression, especially in the area of sexuality. According to the standard modern telling of the story, human progress is tantamount to an increase of personal freedom, and the enemy of this progress (if the darker sub-text of the narrative is allowed to emerge) is fussy, moralizing Christianity. How did we get from St. Irenaeus’s exuberant Christian humanism to the modern suspicion of Christianity as the chief opponent of human progress? Much depends on how we construe freedom.

The view of liberty which has shaped our culture is what we might call the freedom of indifference. On this reading, freedom is the capacity to say “yes” or “no” simply on the basis of one’s own inclinations and according to one’s own decision. Here, personal choice is paramount. We can clearly see this privileging of choice in the contemporary economic, political, and cultural arenas.

But there is a more classical understanding of liberty, which might be characterized as the freedom for excellence. On this reading, freedom is the disciplining of desire so as to make the achievement of the good, first possible, then effortless. Thus, I become increasingly free in my use of the English language the more my mind and will are trained in the rules and tradition of English. If I am utterly shaped by the world of English, I become an utterly free user of the language, able to say whatever I want, whatever needs to be said. In a similar way, I become freer in playing basketball the more the moves of the game are placed, through exercise and discipline, into my body. If I were completely formed by the world of basketball, I could outplay Michael Jordan, for I would be able to do, effortlessly, whatever the game demanded of me.

For the freedom of indifference, objective rules, orders, and disciplines are problematic, for they are felt, necessarily, as limitations. But for the second type of freedom, such laws are liberating, for they make the achievement of some great good possible.

St. Paul said, “I am the slave of Christ Jesus” and “it is for freedom that Christ has set you free.” For the advocate of the freedom of indifference, the juxtaposition of those two claims makes not a bit of sense. To be a slave of anyone is, necessarily, not to be free to choose. But for the devotee of the freedom for excellence, Paul’s statements are completely coherent. The more I surrender to Christ Jesus, who is himself the greatest possible good, the very Incarnation of God, the freer I am to be who I am supposed to be. The more Christ becomes the master of my life, the more I internalize his moral demands, the freer I am to be a child of God, to respond promptly to the call of the Father.

– Bishop Robert Barron

I don’t think that I could explain the difference between the “freedom of indifference” and the “freedom for excellence” more clearly than Bishop Barron has.

I believe that to truly be free is to have a freedom for excellence. I want to be free to respond to and be consumed by the love of my Lord, who is Love itself. I want to be free to live under my husband as his submissive.

I want the Lord and my husband to collar my heart, to make me fully theirs. And so, I love the rules and tradition of the Catholic Church because they show me the quickest way to advance in the way of submitting to God completely. In a similar way, I love the rules that my husband gives me because they allow me to be free to be a good submissive to him.

Laws and rules are liberating because they make the achievement of absolute self-surrender to my God and to my husband first possible, then effortless. This is the freedom I seek, to be able to effortlessly submit myself totally to the Lord and to my husband.


Bishop Barron gives such a wonderful explanation of the “Freedom of Indifference” vs. “Freedom for Excellence” in his opening keynote talk for the World Meeting of Families 2015.

Spiritual physics

Submissive expectations in an established relationship cannot be used to define the dominance one receives.

Lil

Likewise, our expectations/wants in our relationship with God cannot define/redefine how God deems fit to nurture our souls.

my thoughts

The Lord has been showing me that my expectations of how I want Him to nurture me does not change how He will form my soul. The Lord best knows how to form my soul, so I will not ask Him to change His plans (because wouldn’t that be silly?). I only have to be concerned about how I live my role as His child; to submit fully to Him.

Because You love me…

father-daughter-love

every moment of the Mass is a proof of God’s love. What else could it be? … So throughout that Mass, I kept repeating this to myself: “Because You love me.”

“Amen.” Because You love me.”Because He loves me, He asks me to respond to His grace. He doesn’t just give Himself without my consent, doesn’t just save me without my cooperation. Because He loves me, He lets me participate. And so I say amen, receiving His body and blood and offering Him my body and blood. “This is my body, given up for You,” I tell him. Because this infinite God loves me enough to care about the pathetic gift I make of myself.

– Meg Hunter-Kilmer

Every moment of my life is proof of God’s Love, especially during the Mass.

God proves that He loves me today. How can He, being Love itself, do anything else?

Because You love me… You let me understand that I can do nothing without You. You show me that every good thing in my life is not there because of my merits but because of Your grace. You show me that without You, my life is without joy, without peace; there is only bitterness and darkness. And when I am in the mists of this darkness You show me that it is only by Your grace that I can emerge from it.

Because You love me… You let me understand that while I have no ability to stand on my own, I need not worry because You are always there pouring out Your love on me. All I have to do is to forget myself, look at You and receive Your help.

Because You love me… You show me that to love You is not to be attached to good feelings. You show me this my letting me endure unpleasant feelings longer than I want to.

Because You love me… You reveal to me how much I am still clinging onto things of this earth. You let me realise through experience that the path of love is forgetting myself entirely and to only be concerned about Your will.

Because You love me… I exist.

Absolute self-surrender

Father-Daughter

my little way is the way of spiritual childhood. The way of trust and absolute self-surrender

– St. Thérèse of Lisieux

I have been struggling with surrendering myself completely to my husband and to the Lord.

It is perhaps easier for me to speak about how I have not been submitting to my husband absolutely than it is to speak about how I haven’t fully surrendered myself to God. This is simply because my husband is physically present with me every day. I can literally see him. I can audibly hear his voice guiding me and correcting me.

The one of the reasons I haven’t fully surrendered is because I do not trust completely. When I don’t tell my husband of my thoughts regarding something it is because I don’t trust that he will respond in a way that is in my best interests. In a way, withholding my thoughts from my husband is me grasping for control, because now I decide what he’s ready to hear. This lack of trust results in fear, and therefore results in me trying to grasp at control (which of course explains my action). More importantly, where does the lack of trust come from? I believe that trust comes from believing that I am loved. And therefore the lack of absolute trust comes from not being convinced that I am loved completely.

Love is willing the good of the other, and then doing something concrete about it.  It’s not an emotion, it’s not an attitude. It’s a movement of the will.  To want the good of the other, and do something about it.  That’s love.

Bishop Robert Barron

Of course none of us can say that we love completely because we are only human. However, I think that I can still place absolute trust in my husband because he has proven his love to me over and over again. If he does fail in loving me occasionally, why should I be bothered? It is nothing surprising to me because only the Lord loves perfectly (which is of no surprise either because He is Love itself). No tragedy will befall me if my husband is not perfect in his love because the Lord will turn all moments into lessons for my soul, like a Father who uses every opportunity to instruct his child.

So I will choose and try daily and in every moment to trust my husband completely and therefore to submit absolutely.

If I shall strive for this form of self-surrender to my husband, how much more should I strive to submit completely to God? If I choose to trust my husband completely in spite of his imperfect love, how much more should I choose to trust my God who is Love itself?

My soul desires to give of itself in trust and self-surrender first to my God and then to my husband. At the same time, I know that everything is grace. God will instruct me in the way of spiritual childhood in His own time; using the mundane moments of my life as learning exercises. Perhaps my submission to my husband in our total power exchange dynamic is one of these exercises; a dress rehearsal for the performance.

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