Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Contemplative Study: Parts 3 & 4

Parts 3 & 4 are from section one of Searching for andMaintaining Peace, by Fr. Jacques Philippe.

Part three (“Peace and Spiritual Combat”) and part four (“Peace is Often at Stake in the Struggle”) describe the nature of spiritual combat, “a war without mercy,” and role peace plays in winning that war. My own particular moments of war, in its intensity, tend to occur when I am nearly asleep; the evil one makes me anxious, causes flashbacks of the miscarriage, and attempts to make me feel culpable and guilty for RG’s death. Sometimes, he attacks my marriage, making me resentful toward my husband or irritable and angry at him.

And in these moments, I truly understand what Fr. Philippe means when he writes that “this combat…is the place of our purification, of our spiritual growth, where we learn to know ourselves in our weakness and to know God in His infinite mercy” (9).

Fr. Philippe speaks of a “total adhesion to Christ” as the way to maintain interior peace in these moments. Further, he writes that it is most often this very peace for which we are fighting, for (he quotes St. Francis de Sales here) “The devil does his utmost to banish peace from one’s heart, because he knows that God abides in peace and it is in peace that He accomplishes great things” (11). And so, Fr. Philippe continues, we must be aware of which battles we are fighting with the devil. In its most concentrated form, war with the devil is usually fought over this peace, the very presence of Christ in our hearts: “this is one of the great secrets of spiritual combat—to avoid fighting the wrong battle” (11). He identifies the real spiritual battle as the one in which we “learn to maintain peace of heart under all circumstances, even in the case of defeat” (12).

Fr. Philippe is principally addressing the cases of defeat in which we sin—our own failures to attain perfection in the spiritual life. Still, I think this principle could apply to situations in which we don’t necessarily fall, but those in which something devastating happens to us, as in the case of losing RG. There come from an event such as this, many many occasions of sin, and so, of course, Fr. Philippe’s central meaning is not obscured by my own internalization of this discussion.

The concept is applicable to my situation as it was to Job’s. The occasions which tested Job’s faith began with tragic losses—not just of his possessions, but of his wife and children. These horrible losses, in total, caused Job to lose his own inner peace—his faith in the Word of God—such that he lamented, and ultimately questioned God. The occasions for his sin quickly followed.

The same has been the course of events for me, and I thank God I have the example of Job from which to learn. Here I have learned, and continue to comprehend, my own weakness, my smallness, my lack of control. And in place of my past-perceived greatness, intelligence, and “handle on it all,” I have received sight of God’s sovereignty and mercy. He has granted me great mercy in my struggle to trust Him over the past six months. And though the temptation to be jealous or to be angry over this is still so palpable, He has answered my pleas for the grace to trust in His will and His timing.

 Lord, I beg you to continue to have mercy on me. I beg you to increase my faith in Your Word, in Your Will, in Your Timing. You are holy. You are my Light in this darkness. Do not hide your face from me; do not allow me to be disgraced. Jesus, I trust in you. 

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