August 15, 2006

Obscurity

Thank you everyone for your prayers for my retreat. I'm back and moved into a new friary, with several other transitions to go. But how can I complain? I'm supposed to be an itinerant and a mendicant. Francis was fond of a brother who refused to live more than a month in one place. After a month he would get up and go, saying, "Our home is not here, but in heaven."

I worked a lot on retreat with Jacob's encounter with the Angel of the Lord in Genesis 32. I reflected on its nature as a model for prayer. "Some man," who turns out to be the angel, or the presence of God, approaches Jacob when he is alone at night. They struggle, or wrestle, until dawn. In the same way I've often experienced prayer as an obscure and mysterious encounter initiated from somewhere, I know not where.

In the end Jacob demands two things from the angel of the Lord, but only gets half of what we wants. He demands a blessing and receives his new name, Israel, and thus his new vocation. He asks to know the name of the one with whom we has been struggling, and doesn't get it. To me it speaks of the fruits of prayer. Through prayer we can receive discernment of our next step and something we call our vocation in the Lord. But when we hope to penetrate the mystery of the One with whom we struggle, the obscure presence of God only retreats further. We're left with great blessings, but also the frustration of feeling that we know less about who God is than when we started.

Of course there are other famous details in the story, but I didn't have any inspirations about their meaning for me.

Enjoy the feast of the Assumption today. If anything, it's a beautiful affirmation of the blessed possibilities of our bodily existence.

2 comments:

Brother Lesser said...

What a beautiful insight! Like you, many times my prayer life turns into a wrestling match and it's only after I'm whipped and beaten that I come into the fulness of God's love.

Crescentius said...

My Dear Brother:

I am glad to hear that your retreat was a Spirit-filled one and an encounter with the Divine.

Your reflection on Genesis 32 motivated me to recall a reflection I had on that very same passage. I too struggle with the "obscure and mysterious" during prayer and my frist inclination is to try and capture the moment (seize it) and analyze every aspect. The Gospels have helped me to undersatnd my motivation in this violent attempt to control the "obscure and mysterious".

When demon(s) encounter our Lord they sometimes say, "I know who you are..." or at least try to give some identifying comment as to the identity of Jesus and what His mission is about. Jesus rebukes the demon(s) to silence. By saying Jesus' name the demon(s) try to excerise power over Jesus. Knowing someone's name is a form of power over them, a knowledge about them and who they are.

I attempt the same when I ask, like Jacob, "what is your name?" which I do often. This shows two things. First that my faith is lacking as I am not trusting that it is in God's presence that I always live; second, and more sinister, that I am attempting to control the situation and God. (It might also show that I am fighting the discernment I received and want more or place conditions on it)

I have to live in this "frustration and feeling that we know less about God than when we started." This might be the wound that is/was inflicted.

Peace and blessings on your profession. My prayers will be with you, brother.

peace

+Crescentius