In what do you find rest?
We all seek rest. We all desire some form of rest, but often we fall into error in how we identify the rest for which we seek. For many, rest is found in the things of the flesh. There is some truth in this. After a good work-out, a pleasant meal, an entertaining movie, or some other form of comfort, there can be a kind of interior release by which one is able to set aside the cares of life and the many responsibilities that we all face and enter into a kind of repose.
In a limited way, this sense of rest is important and not to be discounted, but as is the case with all things in this world, it is incomplete. If we rely on it and make it our sole occupation, it will lead us down a path of bitterness and self absorption. Even if we are able to maximize pleasure and remain in a kind of temporal happiness, this happiness is nothing when compared to what our Lord offers through entrance into His kingdom.
There is also a kind of satisfaction and rest that we encounter when striving towards goals. In our occupations and vocations, we can achieve a profound sense of confidence and determination when we recognize our ability to accomplish tasks and to do so with competency. Such an ability can be a powerful antidote to the eventual anxieties and fears that accompany our earthly existence.
I often tell people in spiritual direction that we will all experience negative emotions. They cannot be avoided. However, there can be a kind of interior fortress that emerges within ourselves when we consistently face up against challenges and difficulties and overcome them. In our childhood, this comes when we set about engaging in different tasks, and if all goes well, we experience a kind of repose at the end of our struggles when we look back and see what we have accomplished.
In dark hours and in this midst of failure and rejection, a history of overcoming adversity is an important antidote to the inevitable suffering that we all must endure. The pattern of Christ’s death and resurrection is a powerful sign of the interior processes that we all must go through to mature both in terms of our careers and interior life.
This is the world of those noble souls who in many ways inspire the popular imagination, but yet still fall short of the glory of the saints. In our time, we see many examples of people who show admiral virtue and character strength, particularly in the case of adversity, but yet still lack that fullness which can only be illuminated by the Holy Spirit.
It might be hard to make this determination, but the person who has allowed themselves to internalize and understand the demands of the scriptures and of Jesus Christ soon learns that while noble pagans have much to praise, without Jesus their achievements seem as sand. As the Holy Spirit speaks through the writer of Ecclesiastes, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
But these intellectual and interior pursuits… excellence, glory, honor, courage, the whole life of the four cardinal virtues… allow us to move from the sensual and lead us to that threshold where time and eternity meet. Though they are never able to lead us over the threshold, nonetheless there is a sense we can stand on one shore and gaze outward into the most magnificent of mysteries and catch a glimpse of that glory that prophets longed to see.
It is only in Jesus that we wade out into the depths of this mystery, that we journey into that land that eye has not seen and hear has not heard.
This is the journey that I wish to inspire my parishioners to take, and I wish I inspire you reading this article to take. It is the journey that I share without ceasing to all who will listen. I have become so convinced of this mystical journey towards God that all else seems as rubbish in comparison. Even resting in the things of this world seem like such a stale counterfeit when one has started to taste the sweetness of contemplation.
And in this interior silence, the soul soon learns to taste the morrow of the gospel, to really delve deep into the worlds of Christ and no longer understand them according to the flesh, but rather according to the Spirit.
Does not our Lord say to take up our cross and follow Him? The soul that makes the journey into the heart soon understands that the spiritual suffering of the Dark Night is a profound teacher. Like an athlete who is mesmerized by the pursuit of excellence and is able to stretch themselves consistently in practice, the soul who has entered the path of this purging darkness learns to love how it teaches the art of surrender.
We only grow in proportion to our ability to suffer. Our rest, our repose, only deepens when our capacity to be stretched emotionally and spiritually is always pushed just a touch further than we would like. It becomes a cyclical pattern that the Holy Spirit works in the heart. By means of the purging fire of divine love, He works to purify our hearts and as we enter into the discomfort of this purgation, the suffering teaches us how to surrender and rest in Him who must be our center.
Each time, the rest deepens.
Each time it is a mini-purgatory that we must undergo until we have learned the lesson in the depths of our hearts, in groanings that go beyond words and concepts. Each time, we must die and rise with Him so that He can be the center of our lives.
My desire is to inspire you to make this journey.