Sunday, January 6, 2008

By the light of the silvery moon

Let me share this letter I recently wrote to an overseas friend. Perhaps some of you struggle as we do with faith and hope. And if like me, you're a fellow pilgrim stumbling through your own dark night, let's give each other courage and keep our spirits up...the day is not far from us.

"Sometimes what we want to say, we need to say through a smile. And even though I can't see you in person, can't hear your heart rejoice, weep or sigh with closeness, I know the reality is that ever so often we can move each other to joy, to happiness and courage...and to a smile....even though to all appearances our lives seem so separated by distance - both far and near. For within ourselves we constantly struggle to come closer to meaning, to purpose and to peace. All of which is but a desire to come closer to love.

I know I sometimes come across as being utterly confident in faith and hope. But the opposite is true. Like most people, I walk the shadows of my world more uncertainly, more tepidly than I would like. And there are days when it feels so much easier to lie down among the shrubbery of indifference and despair, and simply recede into the darkness. It's hard to to know where to step in the dark, much less the way to happiness when we feel lost in the jungles of our own failures, weaknesses and pains. But as I lift my weary eyes ever so often to the dark clouds above, I spy the silvery light of the moon that accompanies me with her glow, as if to assure me that behind the blanket of dark clouds, light follows me with a mother's love, peering out ever so often with protective love to remind me that she is there, that I'm not alone, that in her light is the reflection of the sun and the dawn to come.

As children we all look out of a moving car and wonder why the moon seems to follow us on our drive home. And Mary has traditionally been identified with the moon who takes her light from Christ, lighting the way for poor sinners in darkness so that even though they trudge through the tired roads of this earth, their nights may not be without the solace and comfort of her gentle light...promising always the dawn of God's love in the morning.

We often don't see the struggles of the saints. In a society used to exposing the private musings of souls to the bright studio lights of talk shows and scandal, we've become ever more unsophisticated and impotent in understanding the sacred passages of the human heart.

Who alone knows the house we keep but God? Who alone truly understands the language of our human experiences? Even our conscience is a subjective guest in the mansions of our hearts when it is not grown in the gardens of truth and the gospel light.

Frequently we spy the outward happiness, fulfillment and faith of those we admire, and wonder why God has so abundantly shielded them from the dark despairs we encounter. Likewise we also gaze sadly upon the apparent indifference, tepidity and sloth of those we think irreligous and unaccomplished, and not know the house of faith, joy and spiritual wisdom some keep alive at home. As I read the lives of the saints (particularly the later ones whom we have more details about), I'm consoled to know how much alike they seem to us in their doubts, their struggles and temptations to give up.

Mother Teresa showed the world her real face of joy and faith while unknown to the world until now, she also had a real face of doubt, questions and weariness. Both faces were truly and genuinely Mother Teresa, each supporting the other in prayer, in commitment, in hope and faith, and in real fidelity to her humanity in Christ. And even though I personally see my face of despair and tiredness more frequently than my face of love and faith, I know there is yet in me the determination of a traveller, a pilgrim who has not given up on finding his way home even though the journey has been fraught with difficulties. Not because my trust in God is unwavering, but because I know between the night and the light of day, I must continue to hope in the dawn that takes its time to come, however late, even if that hope gives me only enough strength to take a few more steps under the weight of sadness or loneliness. Still, it is a few more steps forward, a few more moments to catch my breath, a few moments to gather courage and strength to move forward from one place to the next, although our human senses may not perceive any difference between where we are now, and where we were a few days ago, or last week, or a few months ago. But look...see how far we've come.

A rolling stone gathers no moss, and we must try and ensure that we are not tangled by the tendrils and moss of apathy, discouragement and despair in our spiritual journey. Let's move courageously onward, let's trudge on through the dryness of prayer, the painful lull of love, the lifting of our hearts to hope against hope, for the night does not last forever.

I'm not sure what difficulties you are encountering, and I'm embarrassed by your impressions of my faithfulness to God. In truth, I am nothing like that - I'm just a man who feels more sadness in my heart now than I have in recent years, but I still know what beauty and truth looks like, and I can still feel the excitement of beholding them. And in speaking of them, I allow the cold, withered members of my soul to warm to their words, to feel once again the fire of Christ melting the frost of my heart; whispering encouragingly...summer is coming.

You too must believe that there is a dawn, there is a summer after this winter night. And already the fires of the first spring have been lit.

Do not let the pains and disappointments of this life distract you from contemplating this tiny spark of joy. It is there in your heart...feed it, contemplate it, feel it...and take that one more step out of the night. And when Mary peeks out from behind the clouds and sends us a friend, a brother or sister, a lover and spouse to keep us company this evening, let us avail ourselves of this support and take courage...that clouds can only hide the light for so long before the winds of change blow them away and wash our tired worlds with the light of the moon...who announces the light of the sun, who announces a new day in creation.

In the end, life is a mystery and God's ways remain a mystery to us. But it is not the kind of mystery deep in deceit and danger like in detective novels, but the kind of mystery that leaves us in wonder and immense gratitude as we behold how the designs of providence make all things well, and is able to write straight with the crooked lines of our lives. And boy, do some of us have illegibly crooked lines...which gives us greater claim on the mystery of his love and goodness. Let us be thankful for this mystery in our lives now; that even though we don't know when, how, why or what....we know the mystery of God is a miracle waiting to come alive in our lives.

Let's try and keep hope alive shall we? For you and for me."