Friday, January 11, 2013

What Do We Do When The Lights Go Out?

What do we do when the lights go out?

So much of life is a roller coaster of ups and downs, sudden curves and unexpected jolts.  At times it can even seem pointless--a lot of drama going nowhere: around and around, up and down and back to where we began--only more exhausted.  Why does God seem so far away?

Saints in the Church have had this same experience.  They too did not understand their sufferings; their long, slow obediences, the darkness in their mind, the sluggishness of their heart. St. Isaac the Syrian (homily 16) says in his prayer to God: "I have not a mournful heart wherewith to seek Thee, I have no repentance, I have no compunction, which brings the children into their proper inheritance.  O Master, I have not a comforting tear.  My mind is darkened by the affairs of this life, and has no strength to look toward Thee with groaning.  My heart is grown cold from the multitude of temptations, and cannot warm herself with tears of love for Thee."

Even the saints struggle.  

In fact, this struggle--the fact that they did and do struggle--is much of what reveals them to be saints.  What can we do when there are no resources left in ourselves?  What can we do when the well is dry, when we don't even care, when our "mind is darkened by the affairs of this life and has no strength to look to Thee with groaning [and our] heart is grown cold from the multitude of temptations"?  What can we do?

We can do only what saints have always done.  We acknowledge the truth about our weakness and ask God to do for us what we cannot do ourselves.  St. Isaac continues his prayer: "But Thou, my Lord and God Jesus Christ, the Treasury of God gifts, grant me thorough repentance and a sorrowing heart, that with all my soul I may go forth to seek Thee.  For without Thee, I am a stranger to all that is good.... I have forsaken Thee, do not forsake me.  I have gone out from Thee, come out to seek me, and lead me up to Thy pasture, and numberer me among the sheep of Thy chosen flock..."

When we are empty, we offer even our emptiness to the One who is fullness, and beg for mercy, for grace, and for the light that shines in darkness.

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