Most unexpectedly, whilst driving on a country trip, a voice from the back seat enquired most sincerely…’are we there yet?‘ It seemed so strange – the adult asking what seemed a child-like question. And clearly we were not there yet with still some way to go.
All our journeys are a little like that. We venture out upon the path, carrying our hopes and expectations. But we walk in darkness really. We don’t know the way. We must seek out light and guidance constantly.
We are always yearning for the being there – in that place of rest and solace; the place of promise and fulfillment. As St Augustine and others have remarked – our hearts restless till we find our God. If we are in familiar terrain for too long, we fear we maybe going nowhere or maybe we’re just bogged down. Maybe we are circling in passivity and no longer on the path.
This is the being there we seek -being present to the now of our life as we follow Jesus with the Holy Spirit as our guide. Ours is to remain and abide in simply being; a follower on the journey.
Gregory of Nyssa in the Life of Moses* tell us:”… someone who does not know the way cannot complete their journey safely in any other way than by following behind their guide. .. The one who follows will not turn aside from the right way if they always keeps the back of the leader in view.
For the one who moves to one side or brings themselves to face their guide assumes another direction for themselves than the one the guide shows them. Therefore, He says to the one who is led, ‘My face is not to be seen’ (Exod 33:23), that is “Do not face your guide.”
If the follower does so, their course will certainly be in the opposite direction, for good does not look good in the face but follows it….for what looks virtue in the face is evil.”
Discernment and companioning are gifts to each of us till we reach the end of our journey. We are simply following the way ahead to our own personal wholeness. I am touched by the concluding retort in “Everyone’s Way of the Cross” –
Christ speaks – “I told you at the start, my other self,
my life was not complete until I crowned it by my death.
Your ‘way’ is not complete unless you crown it by your life.”
*Extract from Gregory of Nyssa, De Vita Moysis, ed. Herbert Musurillo-Gregory of Nyssa, Opera. vol.7 (1964) extract from The Life of Moses in Classics of WesternSpirituality. (NY. Paulist . 1978) Paras 252-255
Everyone’s Way of the Cross, by Clarence Enzler. Ave Maria Press, Indiana.1986
It is not easy to come to a quiet place and pray. Some times we back off from the spiritual journey. We may become aware of fears that are surfacing, or feel confronted or overwhelmed by a sense of our vulnerability or exposure in prayer.
With the best intentions we resist settling into the quiet silence and sometimes flee into activities, reading or mental activity in an unconscious attempt to allay the tremors or succumb to diversions.
Alone we feel our powerlessness against temptations…
Even in the most isolated of places we bring with us our distractions and attractions which are prone to disturb us. Yet, in these words of Luke 4:1 we may find a new peace –
“Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus … was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, being tempted there”.
It was the work of the Holy Spirit to lead Jesus through temptations and desert. And he prevailed. We are all disciples. The master calls and leads. We pray as we were taught “lead us not into temptation…deliver from evil”…
As we come to our place of meeting, we too seek the Holy Spirit as our guide and counsellor. We may be tested sorely in entering the wilderness of our own interior, but it is only with the Spirit, who will teach us all things, that we will come to the fullness of life we seek. In seeking the Spirit we are seeking and discovering what the mystics call ‘the ground of our being’.
Only then can we set aside the temptations, overcome the inner struggles and distractions, and persevering in trust, gradually grow into a deeper union with the Spirit. Alone we can do nothing or may even become stranded or displaced or dishevelled in our journey. Our journey is from the self focus and obsession to immersion in the mysterious Other whom Rudolf Otto termed ‘mysterium tremendum et fascinans’.
The word of God empowers each of us.
Be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Gerald G May, M.D. “Awakened Heart: Living Beyond Addiction.”
San Francisco, NY: Harper Collins, 1991.
Rudolf Otto – an introduction his concepts /overview :