Saint Gregory the Great with Saints Ignatius and Francis Xavier, by Guercino, 1626.
The One Thing Necessary
Quaerite Dominum et confirmamini,
quaerite faciem eius semper.
From today’s Introit, Psalm 104:4.
When the world and the Church are taken by surprise, or shaken, and filled with noisy commentary and debate, the role of the monk is to disappear even more radically into silence and adoration, seeking the One Thing Necessary, seeking the Face of the Lord. Quaerite faciem eius semper.
In the Secret of Thy Face
The monk lives hidden in the heart of the Church, beyond the veil, in her Holy of Holies, where nought is heard but the steady heartbeat of Love. The monk prefers the inviolable silence of the Church’s mystic sanctuary — the Heart of Christ — to the wranglings of the public forum, and to the exchange of private opinions. “O how great is the multitude of thy sweetness, O Lord, which thou hast hidden for them that fear thee! Which thou hast wrought for them that hope in thee, in the sight of the sons of men. Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy face, from the disturbance of men. Thou shalt protect them in thy tabernacle from the contradiction of tongues. ” (Psalm 30:20-21)
The devil seeks always to destabilize a monk and to lure him out of the silence and separation from the world that is his natural habitat. In moments of fear, of confusion, of spiritual disorientation, and of doubt, the wisest and best response is to go more deeply into the heart of the Church, following the example of Saint Thérèse and, before her, of Saint Benedict, Saint Anthony of Egypt, and Saint John the Baptist. It is to follow the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who “kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
An Unshakable Love
The mystic heart of the Church is found in the silence and hiddenness of the Sacred Host, and in the silence and hiddennness of the desert sanctified by the presence of Christ and of the angels.
We, who mystically represent the Cherubim,
And chant the thrice-holy hymn to the Life-giving Trinity,
Let us set aside the cares of life
That we may receive the King of all,
Who comes invisibly escorted by the Divine Hosts.
(Cherubikon, Byzantine Divine Liturgy)
There, in the heart of the Church, is an unshakable love, a constant indefectible love, a love that reveals itself as mercy in the face of every distress.
Until the Day Dawn
What, then, are we to do with our questions and our fears? We are to let go of them. They will be answered and dispelled in the time and in the manner ordained by God. And if our questions go answered, it is so that we might grow in faith and in hope, while keeping vigil “until the day dawn, and the day star arise in our hearts. ” (2 Peter 1:19)
What are we to do with our fears and apprehensions? We are to release them into the maternal Heart of Mary, trusting her to deal with them as she sees fit. We are, after all, children, too little to grapple with the things that frighten us and with the fear of the unknown, but we have a Mother: the Star of the Sea who shines serene and bright over the stormy waves, even in the darkest night.
In Praying Much
For a monk, the answers lie not in talking much, but in praying much, like a child in his mother’s arms, held safe upon her breast; like John, the beloved disciple resting his head upon the Heart of Jesus.
Immotus in Te Permanens
Change, all change, but especially the election of a new pope, feels threatening and destabilizing, but beyond all change, and untouched by it, is the God whom we call each day at None immotus in te permanens, “unmoved and unchanging in Thyself.” The essence of the divine immutability is that “God is charity: and he that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16) Let us, then, hide ourselves and quiet ourselves by resting in love at the heart of the Church.