That is what I came to ov…

That is what I came to over this Easter. I was reminded again of all the forces at work within me, some of them loving, some of them dark. During holy Week I get a sense that I am being ‘lived’ by something, and that I am less a choosing person, than someone who is ‘lived by’ the forces that inhabit me. During holy week I want to give myself up to them, and let God make of me what God wants.

Reflection: 15-4-12

 

 When I was younger (about 1976) I was part of a seminar where the speaker handed out copies of this prayer by Brother Charles de Foucauld.

 

Father,
I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

 

I was shocked. As a young person who had, of necessity as a child, to abandon himself into the hands of others, I did not like much what they had done to me. Here he was asking us to choose to do the same with God (who loves us) as we were forced to do with other adults (who loved us, but sometimes imperfectly). The direction was different, but the kind of movement was the same, and I did not like it.

 

But later, we sang the hymn

 

‘O breath of Life come sweeping through us

revive your church with life and power

O breath of life come cleanse, renew us

And fit your church to meet this hour.’

That I liked.

 

I got the picture of a kind of intoxication. God’s breath comes sweeping through. In this case I am also passive, but it is God who is sweeping through me, with my ‘Yes’ which seems so exciting. It does not compare, does it, with something that is reserved, and staid, and inexpressive. It speaks to me of a kind of abandonment to the power of god that then empowers me to do something.

 

This reminds me too of the idea of St. Paul, who talks about human life as a ‘determined’ existence. It is not an existence that we choose, but one where the milieu in which we allow ourselves to be determines how life goes. For St. Paul we can stand in the sphere (milieu) of God’s grace, or the sphere where God just leaves us alone to get on as best we can by our own devices. This is what we say just before the peace in Lent ‘Since wee have been justified by faith, we have peace with god, in the sphere of whose grace we now stand.’ (Rom. 5.1). It is that kind of a God from whom I ask that the ‘breath of life would come sweeping through me’

 

I remember reading about a number of conversions from the 19th Century. They were mostly women whose stories I read. They had been confined by the strictures of Victorian life, and then after their ‘giving up all their own will to god’ they found power to act in ways that were not usual for Victorian women. Many went to be missionaries. Some went into prison reform, or like Florence nightingale, reformed the whole of the nursing service. That is the kind of uninhibited action that I would like to show. It is not just ‘gushing’ but lasts the distance, and is directed to a particular goal, and can have a certain structure.

 

This I important for me because the strength of feeling is such, that I need a structure to hold and direct it.

 

Which brings me to the last quote for this reflection. It comes, again, from the book I mentioned. Alice miller writes this

 

‘ …the person who is dominated by the subjective factor is committed to a life of faith whether he (or she) likes it or not, since all their important mental processes are unconscious. But if they do not cont8inually seek expression for this faith, for this sense of the force by which they are lived, then it remains, unknown to themself, in the infantile stage of domination by ogres and ravening beasts, and the false opposition of gods of light and the underworld; and their dependence on the unseen will itself be a continual torment’

 

That is what I came to over this Easter. I was reminded again of all the forces at work within me,  some of them loving, some of them dark. During holy Week I get a sense that I am being ‘lived’ by something, and that I am less a choosing person, than someone who is ‘lived by’ the forces that inhabit me. During holy week I want to give myself up to them, and let God make of me what God wants.

 

That for me is the meaning of all the services. Because there are a lot of them, it requires that my brains and body be occupied with the ‘next thing’. It is not as if ‘normal life’ is going on, and Church is like a nice piece of lacework around the edge which is nice, but doesn’t really occupy my consciousness much, in comparison with all the other things that are going on. The amount of Church that is on puts being there at the forefront of my consciousness.

 

The other thing is that it is ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ in terms of times and profusion. There is nothing sadder for me than to come to palm Sunday, to find a few straggly palms placed desultorily in a corner. The senses have to be occupied so that like the hymn, one is ‘blown through’ by what is going on. This is also helped by the fact that we meet at strange times (8.00 pm, over-night in the chapel, 9.00 am, 11.30 pm). This also adds a certain excitement to the process.

 

So that is my Easter reflection. At Easter I do let myself get a bit ‘possessed’ but I hope that this being ‘occupied’ is an occupation that brings me closer to the reality of God

 

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About frpaulsblog

Paul Dalzell isnow a semi-retired priest living in Alexandra, Australia
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