Cancer like any suffering, offers the opportunity to go “deeper and deeper in.” For me, I’ve found myself struggling with being unwilling to plunge. Skipping along the surface of my faith in prayer, in practice not because I do not believe, but because everything takes effort. The general fatigue that accompanies my treatment, enables the withdraw from service to seem reasonable, and that in turn allows the soul to presume as it rests, that it is somehow okay to become a still thing instead of an active soul. I noticed I spent more time alone, more time lying down, and my tastes for distraction became more external, less reflective and more impulsively needy. Not good for me or anyone else I love.
This past month, I read C.S. Lewis’ “The Last Battle,” with my youngest and was struck by the very active description of the “True Narnia” (heaven for those who have not read it). All the participants run, swim up a waterfall and even fly as they explore the ever inexhaustible wonder of seeing more and more each time they look. Conversely, in Dante’s Inferno, Satan is frozen, unable to generate warmth or light or connect with anything, let alone anyone. Satan remains forever stagnant, forever on the surface of an unbearable untouchable world. The soul is required to go out and bring Christ everywhere, that is each soul’s purpose –it is only a question of will to do and how. That is the great commissioning at the end of each mass.
This morning, I found it echoed in this lovely prayer/poem by Saint John of the Cross perfect for this season of Christmas, an invitation to each of us, to let Christmas break open in our souls.
If You Want
the Virgin will come walking down the road
pregnant with the holy,
“I need shelter for the night, please take me inside your heart,
my time is so close.”
Then, under the roof of your soul, you will witness the sublime
intimacy, the divine, the Christ
as she grasps your hand for help, for each of us
is the midwife of God, each of us.
Yet there, under the dome of your being does creation
come into existence eternally, through your womb, dear pilgrim—
the sacred womb in your soul,
as God grasps our arms for help; for each of us is
His beloved servant
If you want, the Virgin will come walking
down the street pregnant
–St. John of the Cross (1542 – 14 December 1591).
Therefore I know the surface dwelling is unhealthy for my soul. It will take willful action to fight it. Not because I have to be doing everything, but I do need to be not choosing to do nothing.
Saint Martha struggled with using busyness as a justification. I’ve done that, I’m very good at that, it was my default mode for many years. Now, I find, I was using sickness the same way. Neither was choosing the better part. Both were just allowing the self to take ascendancy, both justified themselves –one by I’ve done all this, so here is my proof, and one by I’m sick, so I can’t.
Jesus asks those He heals if they want to be made well. It seems a strange question, but it isn’t. If we’re made well, we must get up and get to the work for which we are called. The soul in that moment, recognizes, it is free to choose, but the choice will change life forever. It means surrendering the false security of being still or of being busy for something better. It means putting away childish distractions and getting up.
However it also means, you get to hear Mary sing, and there’s no faster way to Christmas than to listen to her voice.
Merry Christmas, the 5th day.