Monday, July 02, 2012

The perch of hope within the soul...

Hope takes us entirely out of this world while we remain bodily in the midst of it. Our minds retain their clear views of what is good in creatures. Our wills remain chaste and solitary in the midst of all created beauty...
Thomas Merton, No Man Is An Island
I wonder if a mental grasping after some such understanding is not the source of a misunderstanding that has dogged Christianity, in the form of various heresies, yet never far from warping orthodox teaching itself - the misunderstanding that spirit is good, while flesh (created things) is bad. (That, and the mistranslation of the Greek sarx as if it were soma!)
Hope is not something we do. It can never be grasped, and even to reach for it is to lose it, time and time again. Emily Dickinson said it well:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
We can only await the perching of the "thing with feathers," receive it as a gift from the pierced hand of Christ himself, Our prayer, if it is true prayer, is a searching for God himself, for his sake; that is why the wide fields of contemplative prayer open onto that chaste solitude of which Merton writes. If we come to prayer with a clear view of what is good in creatures, we shall come with a clear view of what is not good for them, too, and so we shall come "with the needs of the world on our heart." (Michael Ramsey) and our prayer will be for the healing of all that is broken, all that weeps and is afraid, and suffers and cries out with no-one to answer. As our pain became Christ's, so their pain will become ours, and we shall lift it again to him, to the endless mystery of the Cross...
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner...

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