It is a terrible thing to gaze at the icons in a darkened room, and think that they must be nothing but painted wood.
That’s where I was yesterday evening. I was, if possible, even more burnt out than when I went to Mass on Assumption Day. The people who chided me for my lack of faith then would have probably thrown tomatoes if they’d had the miserable task of praying with me last night, in the icon corner in my room, when I was getting ready for bed. Rose was already asleep; the room was dark. My spirit was dark. I could barely see what I was looking at, and was half convinced there was nothing there.
With some notable exceptions, I’m horrified with how the hierarchy is reacting to the abuse scandal. I’m horrified by how the smug self-satisfied set are taking this as an excuse to hate the Church even more vocally– and I am talking about haters outside the Church as well as within her. It’s hard to tell the difference between an anti-theist and a traditionalist lately. I am sickened by how certain parties are scapegoating gay people and ignoring the female victims that don’t fit their narrative. Whether the highly suspicious Vigano testimony is true or not, it’s a disaster. I’m disgusted beyond words by my Church right now. It’s not as though I thought it was all a bed of roses before. Living in Steubenville disillusions you very quickly about what a fun bunch Catholics are. But it’s worse now.
I have often felt that the Mother that God gave my soul was a mess. This week I’ve wondered if there was some mistake. If Christ had never established this mother on the rock of Peter at all. If Christ Himself might not be real. If every consolation, every glimpse of Glory I’ve ever had was just my imagination. If the icons were just panels of wood, representing things that weren’t there and didn’t listen to my cries.
I sat in the dark, waiting for a sign, but no sign was given except the dark.
Dark am I, yet lovely,
daughters of Jerusalem,
dark like the tents of Kedar,
like the tent curtains of Solomon.
There are all kinds of dark. There’s the darkness of sin, which is always evil and must be purged by the Light of Christ.There’s natural darkness of skin tone which is morally neutral and aesthetically beautiful, but which has been stigmatized in an attempt to justify so much evil. There’s the dark of the pigment that dyed the tents of Solomon, which is a sign of wealth and status– a less important man would’ve had drab tent curtains. There’s the dark of night, the frightening absence of daylight, which plants need to grow and which allows us to look beyond our own atmosphere and see stars.
The soul is the Bride of Christ, and the soul is dark yet lovely like Solomon’s tents. If you become a Christian– not just someone who goes through the motions but someone who seeks Christ with all your heart– you will be dark yet lovely. You will see the darkness of your sin clearly, and Christ will cleanse it with the light. Standing in that light is blinding, and it changes you. It will make you uniquely beautiful, but your beauty will be stigmatized to hurt you. Your soul will be rich like the tent of a king. You will be led through places that lack daylight, and the night will be long. That will be frightening and painful but it will be beneficial. Through it, you will be able to see beyond your own atmosphere, up to the firmament and above it where God is. In the daylight, you could see so much less.
The dark is lovely.
Do not stare at me because I am dark,
because I am darkened by the sun.
My mother’s sons were angry with me
and made me take care of the vineyards;
my own vineyard I had to neglect.
Your own brothers in Christ, the sons of your Mother the Church, will despise you. They will abuse you. They will treat you like a slave and not a Child of God betrothed to the King, and they will expect you to neglect your own spiritual growth. This is unjust in the extreme, a sin that must be addressed and not God’s will, but it will come to pass because of the folly of men. And it has come to pass. We see it now. The vineyard is a broken-down wreck, the Beloved is burned, and everyone we’d like to impress stares in horror.
Tell me, you whom I love,
where you graze your flock
and where you rest your sheep at midday.
Why should I be like a veiled woman
beside the flocks of your friends?
Where is the Bridegroom at a time like this, and why can’t we find Him?
Here I am calling for the Bridegroom. In spite of myself I admit that the Bridegroom exists.
Why should I be like a veiled woman, beside the flocks of all of the Bridegroom’s false friends who have abused Him? Where can I find Christ? Has He abandoned His Church?
If you do not know, most beautiful of women,
follow the tracks of the sheep
and graze your young goats
by the tents of the shepherds.
By the tents of the shepherds. Not in them. The shepherds haven’t tended the sheep anymore than they tended the vineyard; they’re inside their tents ignoring the flock– or worse, abusing the flock. Don’t abandon your faith but don’t join the corrupt leaders in their sinful behavior no matter how horrendous it gets. Just stay where the food is. Stay by the tents. Be where you are supposed to be and follow the path laid out for you, even when the shepherds make it all look like a silly lie. This is a very difficult saying, and I don’t blame anyone who can’t accept it. I don’t blame anyone who has any different response to the horrors of this month. Not in the least. Still, here I am in the dark, and this is what I feel I have to do.
There is nothing shameful about not being able to see.
It even happened to Christ. Up on the cross when darkness covered the Land, God Himself could not find God.
To be one with Christ, we have to do what Christ did. Follow Him right up to the place where there’s nothing but bare wood and darkness. Beyond that is the Firmament, and above it Heaven.
These are some of the things that have occurred to me, as I wait in the lovely darkness.
(image via Pixabay)