Sunday, December 02, 2007

Thoughts on Suffering by Caryll Houselander

Caryll Houselander, mystic and suffering servant, died at age 51 in England in 1953--but not before she left tremendous writings, including her autobiography Rocking Horse Catholic and the classic, Reed of God.

In the chapter on "Advent", Caryll touches upon suffering. She dwelt in the Lord's "house of suffering" much of her life, in one way or another, so her thoughts on the topic are rather inspired.

"People sometimes get disheartened because they have read that suffering ennobles and have met people who seem to have come out of the crucible like pure silver, made beautiful by suffering; but it seems to them that in their own case it is quite the opposite. They find that, however hard they try not to be, they are irritable; that astonishing stabs of bitterness afflict them, that far from being more sympathetic, more understanding, there is a numbness, a chill on their emotions: they cannot respond to others at all; they seem not to love anyone any more; and they even shrink from, and dread the very presence of, those who are compassionate and who care for them.

"They say that in their case suffering is certainly a failure.

"The truth is that they are too impatient to wait for the season of Advent in sorrow to run its course; a seed contains all the life and loveliness of the flower, but it contains it in a little hard black pip of a thing which even the glorious sun will not enliven unless it is buried under the earth.

"There must be a period of gestation before anything can flower.

"If only those who suffer would be patient with their early humiliations and realize that Advent is not only the time of growth but also of darkness and hiding and waiting, they would trust, and trust rightly, that Christ is growing in their sorrow, and in due season all the fret and strain and tension of it will give place to a splendor of peace.

Is this not beauty and truth? I marvel at the images, at the hiddenness of suffering. Caryll next writes of joy, and of the same time that must be allowed for joy to bloom. We often hear the mystics and victim souls write and speak of suffering becoming joy--of loving to suffer and suffering to love, of joy and pain being on the same plane, interchangeable in a spiritual conundrum.

This is true, but it takes time--the time necessary for each individual soul to relinquish fear in pain and embrace trust in pain. This is usually done in darkness, in silence, in the final death of self-will. And, as in the seasons of seed-planting, gestation, growth and harvest, these deaths of self-will are cyclical and deepening, as a spiral boring into the heart of Love.


Blogger Marie said...

I have not heard of this lady before so must look out for her books.

I find that even through my own sufferings I unite it to Christs suffering but it must be done with JOY.

To keep a spirit of JOY irrespective of one's pain or feelings is all important.

To be longfaced while suffering is not good and though many will sympathise the focus has been shifted from Christ to oneself.

Even if one suffers do so with JOY.

Thankyou for this beautiful reflection:). A friend sent me your link. I hope I can add you to my own blog roll?

Peace & JOY to you:)


9:38 PM  
Blogger zenith said...

Thank you! So many of the blogs have described "my" suffering, "my" ordeals in striving for union with Christ and to accept the vocation of victim soul.

Joy is an interesting topic and quite a fruit of the Holy Spirit. I admit I could not comprehend how one could have this joy except by praying for it and making effort to be joyful. Yes, it takes practice in the effort, but just recently I have been given this joy, as it somehow seems linked with peace, and both flow from love.

It comes when one becomes aware that Jesus desires to be in union with the soul, and the soul desires union with Jesus, and then after whatever of God's time, somehow it happens, and it happens when the soul ACCEPTS. I am going to share about how the soul can be in union and yet not perfect. Being in union with Christ brings with it the joy in suffering, for the union is tantamount, and the soul becomes increasingly aware of Christ as an infant becomes aware of the world. It is sort of opposite in that the soul becomes aware, but of a different world!

Marie, thank you! I will try to share about various victim souls and mystics as the Lord brings me into their friendship, for they are our friends and helpers, since they've traveled this vocation and arrived at the great destination, which begins yet another traveling, for God created our souls for Himself,and created us to be in Him, to glorify Him eternally.

6:19 AM  
Blogger Marie said...


the one thing I strive to do is to place ALL focus on God and our Faith. I rarely speak about myself or my struggles:).

I have found in this journey of long term illness that it can become an obstacle if one is forever fighting it..A soul can also fall into bitterness as we all long to control our lives.

Illness leaves us vulnerable, it brings to light our own weaknesses and our insecurity. That is hard to face for many, many people.

When I first became ill I spent an entire year yelling at God..So accepting one's illness is a long term process.
I also love the way the Church teaches us to unite our illness to Christ Passion. Only this dignifies the sufferer..How good and Merciful is our Heavenly Father to give His beloved children this opportunity.

When it comes to JOY it is a choice. Joy is not a 'feeling' if we waited to 'feel' joy some would wait forever. NO! One must CHOOSE JOY and I for one chose it long ago.

What beautiful reflections you share with us all. Thankyou Zenith:)

Peace & JOY to you:)


9:10 PM  

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