Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Great Ebb

The body and soul ebb. It is the Great Ebb, and one wonders how quiet the ebbing.

The da has been ebbing 88 years. St. Francis de Sales ebbed 55. The last month of his life flowed out to sea in detailed sacrifices, such as not asking for anything yet not refusing. He did not ask for more comfortable accommodations; he did not refuse requests on his time and energy. The last three days of his life ebbed in crucifixion-style, inhumanely with the treatment of those times: blister beetle plasters on his bald head, then removed and fire-hot iron welded down into the bloody, raw flesh of his scalp. Nothing brought him out of the stroke God wiilled for the final ebb.
Even the burial was a slow ebbing, for the ground froze to shovel blades; a month later his body entered the Visitation convent at Annecy, to be entombed.

Lent begins in less than 14 hours. Lent is the Great Ebbing of our souls, in focused ebb of 40 days and nights. The waves of Lent remain a mystery to unfold.

Has this been shared from a Carthusian? More thoughts on suffering? Very well.

It is not a question of loving what is evil or painful, but of suffering it in order either to set it right or bring it to an end. That is God's way. He doesn't love evil, but He permits it for the sake of the good He draws out of it. Evil, like all reality, is a marvellous instrument in the hands of divine Providence. We shall be amazed one day--in the next world--to see what suffering will have accomplished in courageous souls, who know how to accept it and bear it out of love. It is the deepest source of true peace.

No one wants us to suffer, but we should love suffering as God loves it--that is, as something uplifting and a harbinger of peace. The world is made according to a plan which we cannot alter: it is the Master's plan. We are only servants, and we must take life as He has planned it, and bring our wills and efforts into conformity with His designs.

Now suffering falls within this plan. It is the way to joy, just as death--or mortification, which is death to self--is the way to life. 'He that shall lose his life...shall find it.' We are tiny seeds cast into the ground, and we must die if we would live anew in God. There are some verses in the 125th* Psalm which give a wonderful picture of this divine plan; but it is not enough merely to submit to it as to something inevitable; we must love it as an expression of divine love.

For that we must be strong. But being strong does not mean resisting what is wounding us to rid ourselves of it. There is another, and much higher, kind of strength. It is that strength which accepts what it cannot get rid of, remaining all the while smiling under the cross. It is not to the cross we smile, but to Him Who carried it before us and for us, and Who carries it with us still.

*Psalm 126

"When the Lord brought back the captivity of Sion, we became like men comforted.
Then was our mouth filled with gladness; and our tongue with joy.
Then shall they say among the Gentiles: the Lord hath done great things for them.
The Lord hath done great things for us: we are become joyful.
Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as a stream in the south.
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
Going they went and wept, casting their seeds.
But coming they sahll come with joyfulness, carrying their sheaves."

Yesterday, the soul found itself offering once more to suffer anything for the reparation of the sorrows of this world. It seemed as if there was nothing in this life that mattered so much as to have even one aspect of the world uplifted to the Lord, and in love a suffering would make one goodness.

Today, the body shivers, returned to bed, then up to write, praying for a priest in Wien, Austria, busy with his priestly duties, preparing little children for their first Holy Communion, studying for a degree in Sociology, preparing his homilies, and all else. The soul ponders a time in the past when the admonition came from within: Be an immolation.

Now it seems truly the Great Ebb is that of immolation, of gradual and gentle suffering as a stream in the south. Going out and weeping, casting the seeds of small prayers; yet some time after the ebbing, of coming with joyfulness, carrying the fruit of the work of suffering.

Lent: going they went and wept, casting their seeds.
Easter: coming they shall come with joyfulness, carrying their sheaves.
Death to Life: going and coming, going and coming, going and coming.


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