Our abbot, Dom Augustine, gave a very good homily this Sunday during Mass. There was a phrase that jumped out at me as he was speaking, and it still keeps bouncing around in mind. He talked about “the hidden drama that goes on in each life.” Dramas that are deep and often hidden even from those who struggle with them. They often show themselves in our daily lives and in the crazy self-destructive actions/choices that we make. I would perhaps be more honest by saying, ‘that I make.’
Sin, is not a popular concept today, because for many people, perhaps most, even Christians (even if unconscious), sin, represents a type of guilt that goes against the whole concept of what sin is. I do believe there are two levels that our dramas bring upon us. One level, is being chained to ways of being that are compulsive and obsessive, and because they are so common, the seriousness of it all is often overlooked.
It is played out in my own inner struggles to live out my commitment as a Christian, as well as a monk. The deeper I go, the more I experience this inner struggle, this seeking for deeper faith and trust. Yet it comes, by making a choice, no matter what I am feeling, or my present mental state. Faith goes beyond that, it is our “Hoping against hope,” as Saint Paul said, when talking about the faith of Abraham, in Romans 4:18.
I can remember when I was in the first grade, Sister was talking about heaven, and how in heaven we will be eternally happy without any suffering. As I was listening, I experienced a very strong rejection of what she said. For I could not imagine how that was possible, and to this day I still struggle with that. How?
Yet I believe, ‘hoping against hope’. I put my trust in God, in Christ, even if there are days when my inner ocean is flat, dead, and I feel like I am dying of thirst being slowly burned to death by the Sun.
I have always had a deep insight (though the insight is skewed), of the absurdity of our lives. As it says in Ecclesiastes 1:1-11:
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.’
All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be
among those who come after.
Or perhaps, like Samuel Beckett’s play “Waiting for Godot.” The play is powerful for me for it brings out the ennui that can come into our lives, the hopelessness of the sameness that seems to be our lot. Is it any wonder that there is a mad dash to escape this inner emptiness or apparent nothingness?
Yet I have hope, and I strive, and I seek to love, even when I do not feel it. I seek to be patient when I am far from it. I still struggle with inner conflicts of all sorts, yet I have learned to use that energy to seek God and to not try to escape — well sometimes. Yet there are days when I see myself running from my inner (apparent nothingness), by grace I can stop, breathe, trust, abandon myself into the arms of a faithful creator. For me, that is a proof of God’s grace.
When I was seven and found myself rejecting the concept of a final consummation of my deepest desires, I was at the beginning of rejecting everything. For atheism is not something fearful for me. The thought of eternal non-being is not something horrible to be, but the ultimate escape.
Yet it is the grace that I received when young, of the ‘absurdity’ of life as it is/or seems, that propelled me to seek beyond what is obvious: In that, I found the font of living water, Jesus Christ. Who is faithful when I am not, who embraces me when I run from him, who seeks, seeks, seeks, me over and over again.
Until one day, it has not happened yet, my heart will finally break open and I will experience what has always been there, a love beyond telling. I have had sips and I could barely bear it. So the Lord (as he does with all I believe), gives us what we can bear and at the same time, stays with us as we live out our inner dramas, often hidden from all, but not from his loving gaze.
That is why we should not judge because only God sees into the depths of each heart. In the meantime, those who believe, no matter their religion, or lack of it. Should seek to understand that when they pray or are simply silent before the infinite mystery, they are one with all, and they are not wasting their time. We all bring many with us, so let us hope against hope in the grace and love of God.