Getting through these next few months . . .
Father Richard Rohr is among those who regularly receive my attention with his weekly reflections, blogs and journals. On Monday of this week he wrote a brief letter to his readers entitled, “Some simple but urgent guidance to get us through these next months.” I usually make use of my daily readings to stir my personal reflections to share with you – this day I lean heavily on Father Rohr’s Monday reflection.
Rohr wrote that he was awakened on Saturday morning last weekend with three sources on his mind for guidance: Etty Hillesum (1914-1943), the young Jewish woman who suffered much more injustice in the concentration camp that we who are suffering can imagine now, Psalm 62, which Rohr said must have been written during a time of major oppression for the Jewish people, and the Irish poet W.B. Yeats (1965-1939), who wrote his poem “Second Coming” during the horrors of World War I and the Spanish Flu pandemic.
First, from the writings of Etty Hillesum:
There is a really deep well inside me. And in it dwells God. Sometimes I am there, too . . . And that is all we can manage these days and also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of You, God, in ourselves.
—Etty Hillesum, Westerbork transit camp
Rohr noted that Etty wrote using the second person, “You, God,” to indicate that this reflection was quite direct and personal. She knew the Divine Presence within her, even as she was surrounded by so much suffering.
From Psalm 62:
For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.
Those of low estate are but a breath,
those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
they are together lighter than a breath.
Rohr asked, “What could it mean to find rest like this in a world such as ours? Every day more and more people are facing the catastrophe of extreme weather. The neurotic news cycle . . . [amplifies] the daily chaos. The pandemic that seems to be returning in waves continues to wreak suffering and disorder with no end in sight, and there is no guarantee of the future in an economy designed to protect the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and those subsisting at the margins of society.”
Rohr continued, “It’s no wonder the mental and emotional health among a large portion of the American population is in tangible decline! We have wholesale abandoned any sense of truth, objectivity, science or religion in civil conversation; we now recognize we are living with the catastrophic results of several centuries of what philosophers call nihilism or post-modernism (nothing means anything, there are no universal patterns).”
“We are without doubt in an apocalyptic time (the Latin word apocalypsis refers to an urgent unveiling of an ultimate state of affairs).”
Rohr then continued by quoting Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming” which he said feels like a direct prophecy:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Rohr wrote, “Somehow our occupation and vocation as believers in this sad time must be to first restore the Divine Center by holding it and fully occupying it ourselves. If contemplation means anything, it means that we can ‘safeguard that little piece of You, God,’ as Etty Hillesum describes it. What other power do we have now? All else is tearing us apart, inside and out, no matter who wins the election or who is on the Supreme Court. We cannot abide in such a place for any length of time or it will become our prison.”
God cannot abide with us in a place of fear.
God cannot abide with us in a place of ill will or hatred.
God cannot abide with us inside a nonstop volley of claim and counterclaim.
God cannot abide with us in an endless flow of online punditry and analysis.
God cannot speak inside of so much angry noise and conscious deceit.
God cannot be found when all sides are so far from “the Falconer.”
God cannot be born except in a womb of Love.
So offer God that womb.
“Stand as a sentry at the door of your senses for these coming months, so ‘the blood-dimmed tide’ cannot make its way into your soul.
“If you allow it for too long, it will become who you are, and you will no longer have natural access to the ‘really deep well’ that Etty Hillesum returned to so often and that held so much vitality and freedom for her.
Rohr then offered his prescription for this time:
“If you will allow, I recommend for your spiritual practice for the next four months that you impose a moratorium on exactly how much news you are subject to—hopefully not more than an hour a day of television, social media, internet news, magazine and newspaper commentary, and/or political discussions. It will only tear you apart and pull you into the dualistic world of opinion and counter-opinion, not Divine Truth, which is always found in a bigger place.
“Instead, I suggest that you use this time for some form of public service, volunteerism, mystical reading from the masters, prayer—or, preferably, all of the above.
You have much to gain now and nothing to lose. Nothing at all.
And the world—with you as a stable center—has nothing to lose.
And everything to gain.”
Blessings to you, O people of Trinity. May you be safe, may you be well, and may you be held in love.
It remains a privilege to serve as one of your pastors.
Grace and peace,
Pastor Robert Linstrom