32 IN THIS MOMENT
SO ONCE again I draw upon the original notes for this work.
The notes I have turned to today speak of the struggle which writing was then, often still is.
Sometimes writing is an intense experience, as if I had to squeeze my being to extract from somewhere deep inside the flow of words, while at other times the struggle is to stem verbiage!
Sometimes too writing is as a purifying fire: resisted because the dross of my wounds recoils, not wanting to die, while at other times there is a graced impulse to plunge into the fire of grace!
IT HAS BEEN so long since I have written any of this, I can hardly remember, without checking my notes, where I was in the story, or, when I last wrote.
Certainly months have passed.
Months of extreme humid heat, which seem to have incised a languid spirit in me.
Nights, called so often to the ER, I have seen more death of late than any priest should face…because this priest does not want to face his own mortality!
We are at war, in war.
Not the perversely logical impact of bombs and battlefields where a wandering chaplain would at least have the stench of blood, the wail of the wounded and dying to say: ” We are at war.”
This war is disorienting in its invisibility, though in some ways its casualties are no less visible: it is spiritual warfare.
In my youth I was among the enraged marchers against a previous war, among the determined advocates of nuclear disarmament.
I seem these days to be enraged again, not per se against the reality of spiritual warfare, but rather confronted with my own poverty, my experience of weak-faith powerlessness faced with the suffering victims.
I gaze into the eyes of a teenager who is dying because cancer devours his future as relentlessly as it devours his body. Suddenly his eighteen years have passed in a flash, the futility of it all tears at his spirit, he never paid much mind to mortality –even less to what has been not even a concept of immortality. God is but a myth vaguely heard about, now suddenly to be confronted as an urgent panic question.
Dreams not to be dreamt, and the dreamt ones not to be realized; loves hungered after never to be satiated; life tenaciously clung too with the strength of youth now as malleable as a fist full of water, dribbling away no matter the youthful rage denial.
What of this God?
Who is He?
Where is He?
Why would He allow the outrage of a tumour that eats a young heart?
Where is the answer to unanswered prayer?
Where is the miracle we are told to expect?
What, at least, of some magic?
What of this aging, bald, fat, priest who sits on the edge of the dying youth’s bed, appearing to him not so much as priest of the Risen One as angel of death?
Am I not the too wordy proof of religion’s impotence when what is needed, demanded with justified youthful outrage, is power over death?
Sometimes I get angry with You too, though I remain always loath to admit that.
I know You love that child, that in Your dying You are power over death, and have died and risen for him.
I know deep in my heart You would not allow death to take him were it not for his good, the good of being taken up into Yourself and divinized in fullness of real life, forever.
But often times we experience Your good as our bad.
The youth asks me if this has happened to him because of something he has done wrong — what we priests call sin, he insists — or failed to do, what he himself refers to as: the waste.
In spite of 2000 years of Christian faith, how we cling to the age old myth about sin, and fail to see the Resurrection has forever changed all previous implications.
Death is the result of sin, but not all sin results in death.
So, who has sinned Lord, that this should have happened? [Jn. 9:2,3]
I sit here, equally wounded writing these notes, presuming the lack of miracle for this young man is because of my sins and lack of faith.
Such an egotistical statement.
I am poor and powerless to heal this young man because Your desire to embrace him for eternity is greater than anyone’s urgency that the boy should be denied You!
Yet I would argue for a miracle.
I must argue for a miracle.
As surely as I must anoint him for THE miracle: forgiveness of sins and resurrection from the dead!
I work day in and day out with the broken, the poor, the sick, the handicapped, the victims of self or other inflicted violence, the despairing, the elderly. Face the broken hearted parents when the new born dies, and sobbing children when the parent, young or elderly, dies.
I am battle weary Lord.
Damn tired Lord.
Lord Jesus I do believe, help my unbelief.
The war within myself is a reluctance to go deeper into the desert of the heart, the real poustinia.
Jesus is always inviting us to come higher friend, higher, deeper into communion of love with the Blessed Trinity.
But it is a journey deeper into the self’s absolute need of His mercy — and that’s the struggle!
My spiritual father, tenderly to be sure, nonetheless emphatic for all that, reminds me I must become a desert dweller within, before I can go into the desert of a log cabin in the bush, in the heart of The Community.
There are no short-cuts!
Fleeing the battlefield does not lead to rest within the Father’s embrace.
In this life the battle IS His embrace which gives rest!
Why do I struggle against the hunger I have to be with You alone in the aloneness of the desert within?
If I were humble enough to answer that, in truth, truthfully, I’d struggle no more.
I celebrate Holy Mass every day.
It is true what my mentor-confessor, says: ” Once I have said Mass the day is complete. It is a Divine success. It is a perfect day. “
It IS a perfect day, for You are the Mass.
You ARE the success, You ARE the perfection, You ARE the day!
You are my life.
You are everything.
The truth then is that I don’t want to step into the desert of my heart because my faith is weak.
I still ask who has sinned, rather than state, with simple trust: Lord, have mercy on me, the sinner.
….a poustinik will be a martyr…and he must be prepared for it. It is the martyrdom of facing one’s emotional self. No one wants to face his emotional self. [bp]
Once aspect of the struggle is clear: The more I write this book, the deeper I am drawn, or at least wander, into, if not deliberately enter more deeply, the desert of the heart. I do so overly weighed down, like any novice in a desert, with things I must discard or I shall not be able to journey far: sinfulness, clung to wounds, many possessions which prevent true poverty.
This, then, is not so much a writing remembering of His past mercies as it is the merciful metanoia and kenosis of the present moment.
No wonder, then, such emotional upheaval.
Now we know which man-child rebels against death, which heart is being incised, not by tumour but by the Holy Spirit.
Resistance then is not to writing but to dispossession.
In this moment I am the sinner in need of Your mercy.
In this moment I am the dying man in need of Your Resurrection.
In this moment I am the emotionally wounded in need of the oil and wine of Your very Self.
In this moment I am the desert wanderer parched for You.
Mother Mary comes and picks up this broken child and lays him in the manger beside You so that therein I shall not fear the cross, Your Cross.
She takes me then in her maternal embrace and lifts me up, places me beside You on the Cross, the true desert.
In this moment I must dwell, for it too is the great desert, it too is the wilderness wherein, because You entered, there, first and engaged in spiritual warfare, I must engage battle, the one You have already won!
This wilderness is both interior-desert-lover’s-rendezvous, Nazareth, and Golgotha, the place which is no-place, where You are Healer of we the wounded, Saviour of we the sinner.
In this moment, Your grace!