Monday, August 30, 2010

The power of powerlessness…

…we don’t know how to include, how to forgive, how to pour mercy and compassion and patience upon events as God apparently does. Augustine, a man filled with contradictions, was a master at holding those contradictions within.  For example, in his Homily on Psalm 99, he says, “Before you had the experience, you used to think you could speak of God.  Once you have the experience of God, you can never say what you have experienced.”  This is the powerlessness and yet the deep inner power of true faith experience.  Faith absolutely knows and yet it does not know at the very same time.  Thus true believers are always humble and yet quietly confident.

Richard Rohr, adapted from Holding the Tension: The Power of Paradox (CD)

St Augustine hit the nail on the head, it seems to me. Isn’t it extraordinary how someone who lived 1700 years ago can perfectly articulate one’s own experience in the 21st century?

Sometimes my heart is so full with what God has given me that I can hardly speak at all, let alone speak of God. And yet, continuing the paradox, I must speak, since nothing so marvellous has ever happened to me!

Perhaps this is why, with Augustine, we must turn back to the Psalms:

The Lord is king; let the peoples tremble!
   He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
The Lord is great in Zion;
   he is exalted over all the peoples.
Let them praise your great and awesome name.
   Holy is he!
Mighty King, lover of justice,
   you have established equity;
you have executed justice
   and righteousness in Jacob.
Extol the Lord our God;
   worship at his footstool.
   Holy is he!

Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
   Samuel also was among those who called on his name.
   They cried to the Lord, and he answered them.
He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud;
   they kept his decrees,
   and the statutes that he gave them.

O Lord our God, you answered them;
   you were a forgiving God to them,
   but an avenger of their wrongdoings.
Extol the Lord our God,
   and worship at his holy mountain;
   for the Lord our God is holy.

(Psalm 99)

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