Hidden and Waiting

“Anyone who sneers at beauty will not be able to pray and if one cannot pray one equally will not be able to love.”
-Hans Urs von Balthasar
Love Alone

In 2008 I was in Assisi. One morning a thick blanket of fog hid the sun and covered the town. It was mysteriously beautiful. It prompted me to jot down the following meditation:

The innermost essence of God
is hidden from us,
totally separated from the created world.
We can see only hints of God’s love,
which is enduring and incomprehensible.

In prayer, we unlock
the vault to our deepest self
and allow light to shine on God
who is already abiding
at the very core of our being,
hidden from us
yet patiently
waiting for us.

But I confess God sometimes is still so hidden I doubt Her existence. But doubting God’s existence is not a bad thing; in fact, it might even be beneficial to the life of faith. The fourteenth-century Dominican mystic, Johannes Tauler, believed that part of any growth in faith was the experience of being “abandoned [by God] in such a way that we no longer have any knowledge of God and we fall into such anguish so as not to know any more if we were ever on the right path, nor do we know if God does or does not exist…” When I began this book, I was in such a place of anguish, doubt and confusion. It is part of the life of faith, because faith is not a static or unchanging force; faith has ups and downs, peaks and valleys. Even Mother Teresa of Calcutta experienced long, tortured periods of great darkness, even years of it. In that darkness, she wrote in her private diary: “I am told God loves me – and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.”

There are going to be days when our faith lacks any sense of presence, that it is out to lunch or on a prolonged hiatus. But the very desire to feel or sense our faith points to the reality of our faith, that it exists and is real. If our faith is alive, it is always growing, changing and maturing…or else it is slowly dying. Prayer is the oxygen of faith. Mother Teresa continued to pray through the darkness and she continued to see the beauty within the lost and lowly sleeping in the gutters of Calcutta.

“God is a mystery nobody wants. What people covet in God is not mystery but certainty. God is what everyone seeks to be sure about. And is not.”
-Joan Chittister
In Search of Belief

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