27 March 2008

The Tomb

The title of this blog comes from the timeless poem by St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul. That glad night, that land of paradox and juxtaposition is the area in which faith dwells. I’ve heard it said that to be successful in the Christian life, one has to embrace the paradoxes that permeate the mystery. If you cannot tolerate paradoxes, if the constant battering of this-means-that causes you to squirm, then the faith is no place for you.

A week ago I stood in front of the bones of St. Peter, wedged beneath the marbled floors and vast dome of the church that bears his name. In a simple, well-worn box are his remains, dormant mortal statements of what has been. The place speaks of inheritance and every step up and down is a step into a different century than our own, each attempting to make some lasting mark for the ages to come.

Just beyond this space I heard the musings of a well-trained choir, singing some feet above me. I looked up, through a vent, and saw the great dome of the church reaching impossibly upwards. It was there that I felt, perhaps for the first time, that I was not only observing a paradox but living in the middle of it, all parts of my being in totally separate eras and emotions.

I have tried time and time again to redefine myself in terms of this faith. I have attempted the public life of seminarian, then teacher, then monk. It has all been external, resting on duties and practices that remain comfortably isolated from any real internal conviction.

So now, once again, I find myself at the beginning. I find myself at the tomb of the Apostle and wondering what it means for me, what has brought me to this place and where I will go from here. My palms are continually turned upward, my head befogged and disconnected.

It was this Apostle, who’s dust I encountered, who had to repeat his love three times before the Lord, each time bringing an added level of intensity and conviction. How many times will it take me to do the same, and you? At what point is silence the only fitting response?

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