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Does this week feel holy to you yet? If not, why?
Our journey through these days should first focus on accepting full responsibility for our own existence. Then we undergo the disturbing challenge of our inescapable, unfulfillable longing for the absolute. From this we flow into an understanding of how our passage through time is woven with that of Jesus.
As soon as we wonder who we are, we meet ourselves flowing in time. We feel mortal. Death is essential for human self-understanding. ‘Keep death always before your eyes’ says St Benedict. Buddhists call it maranasati. Before long (if we don’t run away from the path we have started) we think about memory. How long has our memory has been growing? How inaccurate it can be. How easily we forget or mis-remember. For St Augustine we don’t so much have a memory as our memory is who we are.
Then it soon becomes obvious that knowing ourselves objectively is as unrealistic as knowing God as an object. God is present everywhere, yet always unknowable. So, on a smaller scale are we. But we are compelled to seek God in order to know ourselves.
What do we then learn about ourselves? That our lives don’t make sense the way we would like or pretend. That we are incomplete, imperfect, unfinished. And most painfully, that what we want never satisfies us and yet we cannot stop wanting. We desire God yet God always exceeds what we want. Any experience of God we have goes beyond our powers of description even though we still think desire is what it’s about.
God is infinitely desirable, not a fantasy of human fulfilment. As an object of imagination, we always feel God is absent. Yet this absence is a kind of unshakeable presence. This is very disturbing and Holy Week should disturb us deeply.
To seek God means to undergo a transformation of desire which is itself a loss and a death. In the process, what we think we want always peters out in fantasy. Accepting that we are mortal, limited in self-knowledge and ever incomplete is humility.
We don’t fall into love with God. That is romantic nonsense. We fall into love.
Humility is the human step into that transformation into the love that we fall into when we pay our distracted attention to the infinite attention ever beaming on us.
In Gethsemane, after deep prayer, Jesus surrendered his basic human desire to live:
He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Mt 26:39)
Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2022
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