Some reflections for a time
when your spiritual journey
takes you along a path moving into darkness

Approaching This New Territory:  Two poems by Ruth McLean

Where Once ...

        Where once you breathed your loving breath
                  upon my cheek, my neck, my ear ...
           now, you are gone.

        Where once you stroked my waiting palm
                   laid open to your flaming touch ...
           now, you are gone.

                  an empty womb
                  the stillness hangs   upon
                  your absence aches
                  its shadow sears      my mind
                                    my heart
                                   my soul.

         Where once you filled my vacant stares,
                  my empty rooms ...
           now darkness pounds.

         Where once you tamed my rampant storms,
                  unleashed with fury in the night ...
           now darkness pounds.

                  i am the babe
                  abandoned to      the emptiness
                                 the thick, dark black
                                the hollow arms.
                  i am the babe
                  set free amidst    the tunnels of aridity
                                 the spirals of unending
                                the waves of incongruity.

         Where once you danced before my eyes
                  in raptured strains of liturgy ...
           now, sorrow reigns.

         Where once you dressed my soul in love
                  in orbs of fragile reverence ...
           now, sorrow reigns.

                  Lost keys   Lost doors   Lost light
                   Lost me      Lost You

                      Standing on the trail at sunset
                          i await your next caress.

            i awoke, one morning,
                    from shades of sleep,
                    to find my world had changed ...

            the ground on which i had always placed my feet,
                    had subtly shifted with the darkness.

            the firm beliefs and solid suppositions
                    that ordered my daily decisions
            had evaporated before my eyes ...
            the images of God
                    which sketched my thoughts
                    and traced my days
            now seemed anachronistic to my mind ...

            comfortable pillows
                    that held my head
                      and spoke of warm security
                 in familiar ways
            were slipping silently from my bed ...

            the props i  used
                    to keep me strong
                 now seemed obsolete
            and strangely out of synchronization.

                      submerged in pools of doubt
                     lay the buoys i'd worn
                 to hold me up in times of trial.

                 caught and helpless,
                     uprooted and airborne,
                         i existed ...

                 dangling in space
                     between the old
                         and the new ...

            one eye was fixed with longing to the past,
               the other,
               with an urgent expectancy,
                   to what might lay ahead ...

            one hand was clutching
                    at what had been so easy and certain,
                    the other
                        grasped at what might fill
                        the freshly-opened void.

                      i had a new space within myself
                          which i had not discerned before ...
                 it begged designs to form its cast.

            a voice emerged      deep in my heart
                    which called me to an alien land.
           it tugged and pulled
                    and bade me come
                    to risk and grow
                       in tune with it.

            i felt the promise
                    of a more profound love
                    and communion with      divinity ...
            if i could only
                    shirk my fear
                    and put my trust
                       in what beckoned me ...

From Thomas Merton, a prayer

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
         and the fact that I think that I am following your will
         does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me
         by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
         though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
         and will never leave me to face my perils alone.

From Father J. P. de Caussade,

When God lives in the soul ... the soul is like a child ...

        There is a time when the soul lives in God and a time when God lives in the soul. What belongs to one of these periods is unsuitable for the other. When God lives in a soul, it should abandon itself completely to Divine Providence. When the soul lives in God, it takes trouble regularly to furnish itself with all the means that it can think of in order to attain union with Love Eternal. All its paths are marked out, its reading, its examination of conscience, its guide is ever at its side -- everything is regulated, even its times for talking. When God lives in the soul, it has nothing more of its own, it has nothing but what God gives it, who is the principle which animates it at each moment. No provisions, no route traced in advance; the soul is like a child whom one leads where one wishes, and who has nothing but feeling to distinguish what is presented to it. No books are appointed for such a soul, often enough, it is deprived of a spiritual guide; God leaves it without any other support than God's Spirit alone. Its dwelling-place is in darkness, forgotten and abandoned by creatures, in death and nothingness. It feels its necessities and miseries without knowing how or when it will be helped. It waits in peace and without anxiety for someone to come and help it; its eyes gaze only heavenwards.

When God lives in the soul ... the soul is like a little silkworm ...

        Dwell then, little silkworm, in the dark and narrow prison of your cocoon until the warmth of grace forms you and hatches you out. Eat all the leaves which grace presents to you and do not regret in the activity of your self-abandonment the peace you have lost. Stop what you are doing when the divine action gives the signal. In your alternating periods of repose and action and your incomprehensible metamorphoses, you must shed your old forms and methods and habits, and in your recurring death and resurrection take on those which the divine action points out to you. Then go on spinning your silk in secret, doing what you can neither feel nor see. Feel throughout your whole being a secret agitation which you will yourself condemn, while you envy your companions in their death-like repose who have not yet reached the point where you are. You still admire them though you have surpassed them. Abandon yourself to this agitation in order to spin a silk in which .... (others may be) proud to be clothed. After that, what will you become, little worm?... What will be the issue for you?... What a wonder of grace that a soul can assume so many forms! Who can guess where grace will lead it? Indeed, who could guess the designs of nature on a silkworm, if one had not observed them? All it needs is leaves, that is all. Nature does the rest.

When God lives in the soul ... the soul sings hymns of darkness ...

        Souls who walk in light sing the hymns of light, those who walk in darkness, the hymns of darkness. They must both be left to sing to the end the part and the motet which God allots to each. Nothing must be added to what he has made complete; and every drop of this divine bitterness must be allowed to flow, even when it overwhelms and intoxicates the singers. Thus did Jeremiah and Ezekiel act. Their only words were sighs and sobs. Their only consolation was in the continuation of their lamentations. If their tears had been wiped away, we should have lost the most beautiful passages in scripture. The Spirit who makes them desolate is the only one that can console them; these different waters spring from the same source.

        God communicates personally to the soul in this state as life, but is no longer present (in front) as the way and the truth. The bride seeks the bridegroom in the night, but he is behind her. He holds her in his hands. He moves her in front of him. The loving Creator is no longer there as object and idea, but as principle and source. There are in the divine action marvellous, unknown and secret sources of inspiration sufficient to deal with all the needs, embarrassments, troubles, upsets, persecutions, incertitude and doubts of souls who have no longer confidence in their own actions. The more complicated the play, the more delight we anticipate in the denouement. The heart says: All will go well, God has the work in hand; there is nothing to frighten us. Fear itself, and the ... (incapacity to believe in one's powers of memory, understanding and imagination), and the experience of desolation are the stanzas of this canticle of darkness. It is our joy to omit no syllable of them. We know that all ends with Glory to God. So each person follows the path of one's own wanderings, the very darkness serves for God's direction, and doubts do but imply assurance. The more trouble Isaac has to find a victim for the sacrifice, the more completely Abraham places his lot in the hands of Providence.

When God lives in the soul ... the soul is like the underside of a tapestry.

        God and the soul perform in common a work the success of which, though it depends entirely on the action of our Divine Weaver, can be compromised only by the infidelity of the soul.

        When the soul is well, all goes well, for what comes from God, i.e., the share God's action takes in the work, corresponds to the precise degree of the soul's fidelity. God's share is like the upper side of those magnificent pieces of tapestry which are woven point by point from the reverse side. The weaver employed on them sees nothing but the point on which she is working and her needle, and these points successively filled make up those magnificent figures which only appear when, at the completion of all the parts, the right side is displayed, although during the time of the work all this marvellous beauty is in obscurity.

From Catherine of Genoa

When God lives in the soul ....
                 God's love In the land of darkness lights, it fires, it pains ...

        I find myself every day more constricted as if I were first of all confined within the walls of a city, then in a house with a fairly big garden, then in a hall, then in a room, then in an anteroom, then in a cellar with hardly any light, and finally in a prison in complete darkness. Then one's hands are tied, feet put in the stocks, eyes are bandaged, one is given nothing to eat, with no one with whom to speak. And then, to crown all, every hope of escape is taken away. There would be no other comfort in such a situation than the knowledge that it was God who was doing all this through love and great mercy; an insight that would give one great contentment. Yet this contentment does not diminish the pain or the oppression.

From Charles de Foucauld, a prayer of abandonment

             O God you are both Mother and Father,
             You are more than I can imagine,**
                I abandon myself into your hands;
                  do with me what you will.

              Whatever you may do, I thank you:
                I am ready for all, I accept all.
                Let only your will be done in me,
                  and in all your creatures--
                I wish  no  more than  this, my  God  my All,
              Into your hands I commend my soul:
                I  offer myself  to you  with all  of my heart.
                I love you, my God,  and so need to give myself,
                  to  surrender  myself into  your  hands without reserve,
                  and with boundless confidence,
                For you are my Lord and My God.
                    ** (the first two italicized lines are my adaptation) 

Take the position of a little child, not a knowledgeable adult,
who is learning things for the first time...
and take whatever bothers you about God or God's ways, life, yourself, etc ... and bring it to the Gentle One ... and ask God to show you all sides of it ...
and then just let things come to you in prayer ....
Block out nothing.

Let your thoughts flow on their own....
put your feelings into the hands of God
and then, with your imagination and memory
just let things happen ....

This is a very easy form of prayer because we are not working
We are letting God work.

Many have thought of this as distraction,
but our life has to be part of our prayer.
Be willing to do this over a long period of time ... even months.

You might drift off in this prayer ... if so,
come back to your centre merely by recalling your concern
and then let things happen again ...

Don't fashion the flow if something starts to happen;
let it unfold even if it does not appear to have anything to do with prayer.

-- J. Roger Greenwood

Return To Home Page Of The Overall Website

Return To Orientations Vol 1 And Its Table Of Contents