submission

It is, perhaps, one of the hardest struggles of the Christian life to learn this sentence –
“Not unto us,
not unto us,
but unto Thy name be glory.”

– Charles Spurgeon

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(image of Mary, Illuminated Manuscript)

Jesus.
The name of our Lord and of my Order [The Society of Jesus]
shall be the first word I write in the New Year.
The name stands for all the things I desire when I pray, believe and hope;
for inner and outer redemption;
for relaxation of all the selfish tensions and limitations I place
in the way of the free dialogue with God,
all the barriers to voluntary partnership and surrender without reserve:
and for a speedy release from these horrible fetters.
The whole situation is so palpably unjust;
things I have neither done nor even known about are keeping me here in prison. ”

The name Jesus stands also for all that I intended to do in the world,
and still hope to do among mankind. To save, to stand by ready to give immediate help,
to have goodwill towards all men, and to serve them. I still owe much to so many.

And in conclusion the Order, too, is embraced in my invocation of this name–
the Order which has admitted me to its membership.
May it be personified in me.
I have pledged myself to Jesus as his loving comrade and blood-brother.

The Name stands for passionate faith, submission, selfless effort and service.

Excerpt from Fr. Alfred Delp’s diary
January 1, 1945

In 1944, at the time of Father Delp’s arrest and subsequent trial for treason against the Nazi State,
the young Jesuit’s date for his profession of his final vows as a priest had been
indefinitely postponed.
And as Hitler had decreed that no priest was to study for the priesthood,
as he had shuttered all seminaries, Delp’s friends arranged to have a priest, a confrere
with full support of the German Catholic Church, visit Delp while in prison in Berlin.
He would hear Delp’s profession and receive him fully into his order.

The visiting priest, Father Tattenbach,
knew that he had to disguise his visit as merely a sympathetic gesture offered to
a condemned prisoner.
The visit could have no whiff of official Church business as such had been long outlawed.
Nor could he let it be known what the two men were actually doing.
He also feared that the prison guards would be suspicious especially as the vows
were to be made in Latin…
he worried the guards would think that they talking in code while passing secrets.

So Fr Tattenbach explained that he was going to be praying with Fr Delp in Latin
and actually wrote out what he would be saying in German…
yet the guards remained suspicious hovering about as the two men
entered into a sacred, holy and solemn moment in time…
and oddly allowed the two men to conduct their most important “prayer session”…

To be submissive.

It is a word that is growing ever more difficult to act upon as our
society deems the act of submission to be a serious and egregious act of weakness…
Something that is to be scorned, reviled and forbidden.

The negative connotations associated with acts of submission are endless.
Particularly as the militant feminist movement has cast the word into the realm of all things taboo.
As they claim that the very word seethes with all things vile and odious in nature.

Yet throughout this season of Advent,
we are constantly reminded of what complete and utter submission looks like.
It begins in the form of Mary’s selfless, obedient and submissive willingness to play a part in God’s grand plan…
spanning the chasm of time to the Springtime reminder of that same selfless,
obedient and submissive willingness offered freely by her son as he walks from
the start of his life in that obscure stable to his destiny on Golgotha.

And thankfully there remains those few souls among us who make wide their beings…
opening and allowing for the totally emptying of self.
They forgo all aspects of their own wellbeing…
in turn allowing for the betterment of all humankind… at the cost of their own existence.
They act as our polestar.

And just as Father Delp demonstrated,
with hands chained and a noose waiting to be placed around his neck,
submission to the service of God is an act so much greater than any fettered or
tethered limitation imposed by man.

So may we, this season of Advent, learn the importance of submission…
May we be both strong and courageous as we learn to yield our hearts, minds and our very beings
to the will of the One True God…

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.
For there is no authority except from God,
and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

Romans 13:1

“Awaken in my soul a great longing for you. . .”

As the deer longs for the water brooks, so longs my soul for you O God
Psalm 42:1

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(a group of deer nibbling out back / Julie Cook / 2015)

I picked up a nice little new book during the holidays, Meditating On The Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer–translated by David McI. Gracie

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as we remember, was the young German Lutheran pastor who was arrested in 1943 and was subsequently sent to a Nazi death camp for his part in the resistance movement and attempted assassination of Hitler— eventually being executed by hanging on the personal order of Adolph Hitler just two weeks before Hitler’s own suicide.

David Gracie is an Episcopal priest who currently works for the Diocese of Pennsylvania.

The gist of this little book is to offer instruction to the faithful on how to utilize the Psalms when practicing and honing the act and art of meditation as a prayer tool.
The book reflects on the importance Bonhoeffer placed on meditation, as he often instructed his young seminarians at Finkenwalde to make a daily habit of at least an hour’s time spent in meditation and prayer, remarking that “every day in which I do not penetrate more deeply into the knowledge of God’s Word in Holy Scripture is a lost day for me”

Last evening I was reading the chapter on Psalm 42 which begins with a sermon Bonhoeffer preached on the 6th Sunday after Easter, June 2, 1935.
It opens with the first line of the Psalm. . .“As the deer longs for the water brooks, so longs my soul for you O God. . .” The following excerpt is “translated” by Father Gracie who chose to inject the use of the feminine pronoun—which normally I would prefer the more traditional masculine but in this instance, I found it most personal and reflective as it seemed to echo my own thoughts. . .

“Have you heard the bellowing of a hart penetrating a cold autumn night in the forest? The whole forest trembles under its longing cry. Here a human soul cries out, not for some earthly good, but for God. A devout person, from whom God is far removed, longs for the God of grace and salvation. She knows the God to whom she cries. She is not the seeker after the unknown God who will never find anything. She once experienced God’s help and nearness. Therefore, she does not call into the void. She calls for her God. We can only rightly seek God when God has already revealed himself to us, when we have found him before.
Lord God, awaken in my soul a great longing for you.
You know me and I know you.
Help me to seek you and find you. Amen

I was struck by the correlation between the cries of a hart, and the cries of a human soul. The use of the word hart is a Medieval word used simply as another term for what we would refer to as a stag or deer. I can’t say that our local white tail deer “cry out” as the description notes but I do think that the bugling of an elk would be more along the lines of such a reverberating sound, such as a hart may have made, which would certainly penetrate the stillness of any autumn night.

I can only image the anguishing sound of a human soul crying out loud to an unseen God, as I have been known to offer my own fair share of crying out, or perhaps more like screaming out, into a void.
Yet the key here is that my cries did not fly out into a void, as it often seems during such a raw moment of emotion, but rather out towards an omnipotent God.

To be in anguish and / or agony and to cry out as a wounded animal is most often done out of frustration, a sense of utter loneliness or from a sheer sense of total isolation and abandonment. To cry out into the night, to the wind, to the emptiness, to the abyss, to the void, to the nothingness is the ultimate primal act of anguish—but here’s the thing or actually the pure wonder of a seemingly empty hopelessness of which Bonhoeffer points out. . .he notes that she, me, you cries out not into a void, but rather the cry being uttered is to God. “We can only rightly seek God when God has already revealed himself to us. . .when we have found him before”

Having, at some point in the time of life prior to the seemingly single moment of separation, isolation, and devastation– there was once a prior encounter between the created and the Creator. He had revealed Himself. We cry out not to the nothingness but rather we cry out to the God of all of time.
We may cry out in frustration, in sorrow or in anger, but cry we do–and it is at this single moment, this nanosecond of time, when life, our life, is never to be the same.

Awaken in my soul O Lord, the longing which leads me to seek, to seek you and you alone. . .