On Trusting in The Providence of God

This part of Lent  opens up space to examine trust in the providence of God.
We don't use the word very often these days, so here's one dictionary definition:

Providence: the protective power of God as a spiritual power, which sustains and guides human destiny.

Ronald Rolheiser, from his book, The Shattered Lantern: Rediscovering a Felt Presence of God:  
“Today (the) concept of divine providence is not very popular. Our age tends to see it as connected with an unhealthy fatalism, an unhealthy fundamentalism or with an unhealthy theology of God (believing ‘God sends us natural and personal disaster to bring us back to true values’).

 It is good,” claims Rolheiser, “that our age, for the main part, rejects such false concepts of providence. God does not start fires, or floods, or earthquakes, or wars, or A.I.D.S, or anything else of this nature in order to wake us up and bring us back to true values.
“Nature, chance, human freedom, and human sin bring these things to pass. However, to say that God does not initiate or cause these things is not the same as saying that God does not speak through them. God is in these chance events, both in the disastrous ones and in the advantageous ones, and speaks through them.”
What we all need, brothers and sisters, is to listen for the voice of God speaking through the events of our lives and the events of our times. We are not orphans. We have not been abandoned by our Maker. God is not an absentee landlord. God is all around us. God uses everything in our lives to bring us into closer intimacy with him – both our triumphs and our tragedies. And when we put our hurts into God’s hands, God will bring good out of them. God will speak to us and comfort us."

This Sunday's Mass and Scripture readings tie in with it too as a major shift occurs and the realisation of the suffering and way to the cross and death becomes fully present.

Death is certain for all of us. The Paschal mystery of Christ's suffering, death and Resurrection exposes the tenuous hold we think we have on life and sooner or later we are all confronted in our lives with the raw emptying of death. 

Christ's suffering and self emptying or kenosis was complete and it is hard to comprehend it.  Sometimes it is more than enough just to be present.

Jesus says :
 I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
'Father, save me from this hour?'
But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.

 Unless a grain of wheat shall fall
upon the ground and die
It shall remain but a single grain,
and not give life 

So that's what this post is about ! 

By candlelight
By candlelight (Photo credit: anetz)

 There is an unseen life that dreams us.

 It knows our true direction and destiny.

 We can trust ourselves more than we realize and we need have no fear of change.

  ~John O'Donohue

Today many people describe themselves as "being in transition." In a culture governed by speed, this is to be expected, for the exterior rate of change is relentless. 

This "transition" can refer to relationships, work, and location; or more significantly to the inner life and way of viewing the world. 

Yet the word transition seems to be pale, functional, almost inadequate and impersonal, and does not have the same intensity or psychic weight as perhaps the word threshold evokes. 

The word threshold was related to the word thresh, which was the separation of the grain from the husk or straw when oats were flailed.

 It also includes the notions of entrance, crossing, border, and beginning. To cross a threshold is to leave behind the husk and arrive at the grain." -  

                              Arles: View from the Wheat Fields, by Vincent Van Gogh

For the Interim Time, by John O'Donohue

When near the end of the day, life has drained
Out of light, and it is too soon
For the mind of night to have darkened things,
No place looks like itself, loss of outline
Makes everything look strangely in-between,
Unsure of what has been or what might come.
In this wan light, even trees seem groundless.

In a while it will be night, but nothing
Here seems to believe the relief of dark.
You are in this time of the interim
Where everything seems withheld.

The path you took to get here has washed out;
The way forward is still concealed from you.

“The old is not old enough to have died away;
The new is still too young to be born.”
You cannot lay claim to anything;
In this place of dusk,
Your eyes are blurred;
And there is no mirror.

Everyone has lost sight of your heart
And you can see nowhere to put your trust;
You know you have to make your own way through.

As far as you can, hold your confidence.
Do not allow your confusion to squander
This call which is loosening
Your roots in false ground,
That you might come free
From all you have outgrown.

What is being transfigured here is your mind,
And it is difficult and slow to become new.

The more faithfully you can endure here,
The more refined your heart will become
For your arrival in the new dawn.

For Grief

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you gets fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence.

Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.

More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And, when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal

And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time. 

- John O’Donohue
To Bless the Space Between Us

                                                                        Image source

There’s an old Buddhist story about two boats passing in the night. 
The man in one boat sees the other boat coming in the fog and the dark, and
he begins to curse and swear at the person in the other boat, telling
him to get out of the way.

He’s swinging with his oar, yelling and
screaming, getting very angry. 

When the other boat emerges out of the
fog, the man sees that there’s no one in it.

So he very gently takes his oar and pushes the other boat away.
At that point, there’s no place to direct his anger anymore:
it’s an empty boat.

The Lightest Touch

Good poetry begins with
the lightest touch,
a breeze arriving from nowhere,
a whispered healing arrival,
a word in your ear,
a settling into things,
then, like a hand in the dark,
it arrests the whole body,
steeling you for revelation.
In the silence that follows
a great line,
you can feel Lazarus,
deep inside
even the laziest, most deathly afraid
part of you,
lift up his hands and walk toward the light.

- David Whyte
Everything is Waiting for You

There is a brokenness out of which comes the unbroken,
A shatteredness out of which blooms the unshatterable.

There is sorrow beyond all grief which leads to joy,
And a fragility out of whose depths emerges strength.

There is a hollow space too vast for words
Through which we pass with each loss,
Out of whose darkness we are sanctioned into being.

There is a cry deeper than all sound
Whose serrated edges cut the heart as we break open
To the place inside which is unbreakable and whole,
While learning to sing. 

- Rashani

Extract from the hymn Silent Surrendered - instrumental below 

Silent, surrendered, calm and still,
open to the word of God.
Heart humbled to his will,
offered is the servant of God.

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