Vignettes of a Visit Home

As I noted on Friday’s post, I was blessed with the gift of a roundtrip airline ticket from my mom to my own particular land of grace. I was able, in less than 48 hours, to see my wife and girls, do my most unfavorite activity of all (clothes shopping), lose some sleep, change some pooply diapers, and keep trying to ingore the flight of time. Here are some moments worth remembering.

I.

I got a late start in Chicago–by two hours. But the plane made up some time in flight, and we arrived only a little over an hour late. As I got off the plane and headed toward baggage, I started looking for Anna and the girls. After a bit of a walk down one long corridor, I saw a bunch of people waiting on passengers. I looked and looked but couldn’t pick out Anna or the girls from the crowd. When I was about thirty feet away from the crowd, all of a sudden I heard a “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” and there came my tow-headed oldest running headlong down the hallway to me. I knelt down on the tile and she slammed into me, wrapped her arms around my neck tightly and laughed. I couldn’t decide whether I was going to laugh or cry, but it was mostly laughter.

II.

Sofie and I made our way to Anna, and I gave Anna a hug and a kiss. I reached for Delaina, but she moved away a bit and grabbed on tighter to Anna. I spoke to Delaina and smiled, and after a few moments, she reached out to me with her three-tooth grin. Apparently she needed to hear my voice to know it was me. Sofie kept grabbing my leg and saying, “My daddy.”

III.

On the car ride to Wichita, Sofie started whining about wanting to go home. I looked over to Anna and queried if she meant going back to Anna’s sister’s, Jessi’s place, where they’ve been staying. No, Anna said, Sofie meant Chicago. “She associates you with home. And now that you’re here, she wants to go back home.”

IV.

I hate trying on clothes. If I were going to face martyrdom, that would be what they could torture me with: trying on clothes. I’ve never liked it. Mom even told some stories on me about being eight years old and not wanting to try on clothes. But, Mom was buying. So, I tried on exactly three suits. Mom had to run an errand to her accountant, so I got an early start. I tried on a suit at one store and determined my sizes. We then met my mom at another store. I picked out the suit I liked the looks of. Fit perfect off the rack. The store clerk (with my mom) picked out another combination. Fit perfect again. Picked up some shirts, ties, belts and socks. Major, massive, eye-popping sales going on. All told, purchased three pair of slacks, two coats, two belts, four pair socks, three ties, and a pair of dress shoes–for just a wee bit more than one would pay retail for a middle of the road off the rack suit.

V.

Took a moment while hamburgers were grilling and everyone was outside except me and mom to thank mom for all that she had done for me this weekend. Didn’t make it through the sentence before my face got all twisted and the tears came. Same thing happened when my sis gave me a card with another gift in it when she and I were alone for a moment.

VI.

After a very fast Easter egg hunt, which Sofie enjoyed immensely, went to the nearby school where Sofie proceeded to go down the slide more than a dozen times. The last four times she decided to go headfirst. Typical of her.

VII.

Two nights sleeping next to my most wonderful wife. We were utterly exhausted. But there’s a certain unlooked for romance of collapsing together in slumber under the watchful eyes of the icons and the guardian angels, with all the prayers of heaven showering us in God’s grace.

VIII.

Sunday woke up feeling the draining away of time like water. Worked very hard to remember God’s blessings, the Providence of all these moments, and that my girls–all three of them–would be driving back to Chicago for Pascha. It was hard, but it was a necessary askesis.

IX.

I read a job-hunting book, cover to cover, while waiting on the two-and-a-half hour delay for my flight back to Chicago and while in the air. Very encouraged. Very Providential.

Use of the Term Might Be a Bit Stuffy, But It’s an Important Concept

From What is Prelestť?:

The term prelest is a Russian word which has come into Englisg usage for lack of a precise equivalent, although it is often translated as “spiritual delusion ,” “spiritual deception,” or “illusion,” accepting a delusion for reality in contrast to spiritual sobriety. Prelest carries a connotation of allurement in the sense that the serpent beguiled Eve by means of the forbidden fruit. (Apart from its spiritual context, the word in Russian is often used in a positive sense of something charming, “lovely.”)

The site then quotes from St. Ignatius Brianchaninov and Archbishop Theophan of Poltava. First St. Ignatius:

Spiritual deception is the wounding of human nature by falsehood. Spiritual deception is the state of all men without exception, and it has been made possible by the fall of our original parents. All of us are subject to spiritual deception. Awareness of this fact is the greatest protection against it. Likewise, the greatest spiritual deception of all is to consider oneself free from it. We are all deceived, all deluded; we all find ourselves in a condition of falsehood; we all need to be liberated by the Truth. The Truth is our Lord Jesus Christ (John 8:32-14:6). Let us assimilate that Truth by faith in it; Let us cry out in prayer to this Truth, and it will draw us out of the abyss of demonic deception and self-delusion. Bitter is our state! It is that prison from which we beseech that our souls be led out ,that we may confess the name of the Lord(Ps. 141:8). It is that gloomy land into which our life has been cast by the enemy that hates and pursues us. It is that carnal-mindedness (Rom. 8:6) and knowledge Falsely so-called (I Tim. 6:20) wherewith the entire world is infected, refusing to acknowledge its illness, insisting, rather, that it is in the bloom of health. It is that “flesh and blood” which “cannot inherit the Kingdom of God”(I Cor. 15:50). It is that eternal death which is healed and destroyed by the Lord Jesus, Who is “the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25). Such is our state.

Archbishop Theophan expounds on this:

It is evident from these words of Isaac the Syrian that what we call prelest proper exists when a man starts trying to live above his capabilities. Without having cleansed himself of passions, he strives for a life of contemplation and dreams of the delights of spiritual grace. Thus the wrath of God befalls a man; because he thinks too highly of himself, God’s grace is withdrawn from him and he falls under the influence of the evil one who actively begins to tickle his vainglory with lofty contemplation and [spiritual] delights…

Briefly, the difference between “general prelest” and prelest in the particular sense of the word can, on the basis of the above. be expressed thus. General prelest is forgetting and not noticing one’s sinfulness. That which we call prelest proper is attributing to oneself righteousness when it does not actually exist. If a man thinks he is righteous, then his righteousness is not divine, but diabolical, foreign to the grace of God and to humility. One should recall the famous saying of Abba Poemen the Great: “I prefer a man who sins and repents to one who does not sin and does not repent. The first has good thoughts, for he admits that he is sinful. But the second has false, soul-destroying thoughts, for he imagines himself to be righteous” (Bp. Ignatius, Patericon, 75).

The Church Is One

Khomiakov: The Church is One:

The Church is one. Her unity follows of necessity from the unity of God; for the Church is not a multitude of persons in their separate individuality, but a unity of the grace of God, living in a multitude of rational creatures, submitting themselves willingly to grace. Grace, indeed, is also given to those who resist it, and to those who do not make use of it (who hide their talent in the earth), but these are not in the Church. In fact, the unity of the Church is not imaginary or allegorical, but a true and substantial unity, such as is the unity of many members in a living body.

The Church is one, notwithstanding her division as it appears to a man who is still alive on earth. It is only in relation to man that it is possible to recognize a division of the Church into visible and invisible; her unity is, in reality, true and absolute. Those who are alive on earth, those who have finished their earthly course, those who, like the angels, were not created for a life on earth, those in future generations who have not yet begun their earthly course, are all united together in one Church, in one and the same grace of God; for the creation of God which has not yet been manifested is manifest to Him; and God hears the prayers and knows the faith of those whom He has not yet called out of non-existence into existence. Indeed the Church, the Body of Christ, is manifesting forth and fulfilling herself in time, without changing her essential unity or inward life of grace. And therefore, when we speak of the Church visible and invisible, we so speak only in relation to man.

The Church visible, or upon earth, lives in complete communion and unity with the whole body of the Church, of which Christ is the Head. She has abiding within her Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit in all their living fullness, but not in the fullness of their manifestation, for she acts and knows not fully, but only so far as it pleases God.

Inasmuch as the earthly and visible Church is not the fullness and completeness of the whole Church which the Lord has appointed to appear at the final judgment of all creation, she acts and knows only within her own limits; and (according to the words of Paul the Apostle, to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 5. 12) does not judge the rest of mankind, and only looks upon those as excluded, that is to say, not belonging to her, who exclude themselves. The rest of mankind, whether alien from the Church, or united to her by ties which God has not willed to reveal to her, she leaves to the judgment of the great day. The Church on earth judges for herself only, according to the grace of the Spirit, and the freedom granted her through Christ, inviting also the rest of mankind to the unity and adoption of God in Christ; but upon those who do not hear her appeal she pronounces no sentence, knowing the command of her Saviour and Head, not to judge another man’s servant (Rom. 14. 4).

[Read it all at the link above.]

Sorrow’s Dangers

[Please note: I’m still groping about trying to understand.]

There are many dangers associated with sorrow: despair, hopelessness, bitterness. But there are two in particular which are pernicious: self-pity and dejection.

Self-pity is obvious. It is the myopia into which genuine sorrow can morph after prolonged attention to the continuing pain. This is not surprising. Pain focuses the attention. But once one has dressed the wound, and attended to the discomfort, one does not as a rule continue to obsess over the injury. Inward sorrow is not so visible; one cannot bandage the broken heart. But such pains can be attended to, and though the throb still steals one’s notice from time to time, one does not need be immobilized.

No, self-pity is paralyzing and corrosive. It is a paralysis that grows in strength the longer it is noticed. It is an acid that eats away at the soul. It corrodes hope, and it crowds out thanksgiving. It is a near-sightedness that turns one’s gaze from the divine Person who alone can remedy one’s brokenness to focus on one’s self. It is, in fact, something of an obsession with self. It cares little for injustice done to others. Self-pity will not bring the soul to jealousy for God’s honor. Rather, it displaces God from the center of the universe that it might idolize itself as a pain. It seeks not love–which would give it correction–but sympathy; or, even worse, mere pity. It seeks, in other words, more of itself. In the end it is an insatiable sinkhole that will grow ever larger, ultimately crowding out the genuine self for a caricature in nominalistic identity. It seeks not fully dimensioned personhood but two-dimensional cutouts labelled victim. It casts the self as sinless, or nearly so, and undeserving of the wrongs and pains it experiences. Shut up in itself, it draws all things consumptively into itself. It uses up all the breathable atmosphere of the spirit, leaving nothing but poisonous lifelessness.

According to pastoral counsel, there is one biblical and fundamental remedy for self-pity: thanksgiving. For in giving thanks, the attention has shifted, the pain is shoved to the periphery, and the focus becomes the gift-giver, the God of Providence. Thanksgiving also puts the lie to self-pity, for it uproots the deception that no good has come to the soul, or that such goods are not sufficient. This is tantamount to blasphemy, for every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights. He causes his sun to rise on the just and the unjust. He who clothes the flower of the field and watches over the sparrow, also provides us our daily bread. The enumeration of the goods of Providence are the fatal blows to self-pity.

But there is another danger as well, the danger of dejection.
Continue reading “Sorrow’s Dangers”

On the Faith and Its Relation to Culture

From Ivan Kireyevsky’s On the Nature of European Culture and on Its Relationship to Russian Culture:

Apart from ethnic differences, three historical circumstances gave the entire development of culture in the West its distinct character: the special form through which Christianity reached it; the peculiar aspect in which it inherited the civilisation of the ancient world; and, lastly, the particular elements that entered into the formation of statehood in the West.

Christianity was the soul of the intellectual life of the Western peoples, just as it was in Russia. But it was transmitted to Western Europe solely through the Latins.

Naturally, each patriarchate, each nationality, each country in the Christian world never ceased to preserve its individual personality, whilst continuing to participate in the general unity of the entire Church. Each people, owing to local, ethnic, or historical factors, developed some one aspect of intellectual activity; naturally, in its spiritual life as well and in the writings of its theologians, it was to retain this special character, its natural physiognomy, in a manner of speaking, but illuminated by a higher consciousness. Thus, the theologians of the Syrian lands appear to have paid most attention to the inner, contemplative life of those who have renounced the world. Theologians of Old Rome were especially concerned with the aspect of practical activity and the logical concatenation of concepts. The theological writers of enlightened New Rome (Constantinople) seem to have paid more attention than others to the relationship between Christianity and the particular disciplines that flourished around it, which at first warred against Christianity, then later submitted to it. The theologians of Alexandria, waging a double war — against paganism and against Judaism — and surrounded by philosophical, theosophical, and gnostic schools, concentrated above all on the speculative side of Christian doctrine.

These divergent paths led to a single common goal so long as those who followed them did not deviate from that goal. Everywhere, particular heresies sprang up, each closely related to the trend prevailing among the nation within which it arose; but they were all eliminated by the unanimity of the Universal Church, in which all the particular churches were united in one holy concord. There were times when entire patriarchates stood in danger of deviation, when a doctrine that was contrary to that preached by the Universal Church was nevertheless in conformity with the prevailing trend and the intellectual peculiarity of the nations comprising that particular church; but in those times of trial, when the particular church faced the irrevocable choice of either splitting away from the Universal Church or sacrificing its particular views, the Lord saved His Churches through the unanimity of the whole Orthodox Catholic world. The specific character of each particular church could have led it into a schism only if it separated from tradition and communion with the other Churches; so long as it remained faithful to the common tradition and the common covenant of love, each particular church, through the special character of its spiritual activity, only added to the common wealth and fullness of the spiritual life of all Christianity. Thus, the church of Old Rome also had what we might call its legitimate peculiarity before it broke away from the Universal Church. Once it split off, however, it was naturally bound to transform this peculiar character into an exclusive form through which alone the Christian doctrine could penetrate into the minds of the nations subordinated to it.

The civilisation of the ancient pre-Christian world — the second element that entered into the making of European culture — was until the mid-fifteenth century known to the West almost exclusively in that special form that it had assumed in pagan Rome; its other aspect, Greek and Asian civilisation, virtually did not reach Europe in its pure form almost until the very fall of New Rome (Constantinople). Yet, as is known, pagan Rome was far from representative of all pagan culture; it had merely held physical mastery over the world, whereas intellectual supremacy had belonged to the Greek tongue and Greek civilisation. Hence, to receive all the experience of the human mind, the entire heritage it had amassed through its efforts over the course of six thousand years, solely in the form given to it by civilisation of Old Rome meant to receive it in an utterly one-sided form, with the certain risk of imparting the same one-sidedness to the character of one’s own civilisation. That is precisely what happened in Europe. And when, during the fifteenth century, exiles from the fallen East Roman Empire flocked to the West carrying their precious manuscripts with them, it was too late. True, European culture became newly animated, but its meaning remained the same: the mind and life of the European had already been given their special cast. Greek learning broadened the scope of knowledge and taste, stimulated thinking, gave minds flight and motion; but it was helpless to change the dominant orientation of the spirit.

Finally, the third element of Western culture — its polity — was characterized by the fact that hardly a single one of the nations of Europe attained statehood through a tranquil development of national life and national consciousness, where dominant religious and social concepts, embodied in social relations, are able to grow naturally, strengthen, and join into a general unanimity that is reflected in the harmonious wholeness of the social organism. On the contrary, owing to some strange historical accident, nearly everywhere in Europe social life arose violently out of a death struggle between two hostile races — out of the oppression of conquerors, out of the resistance of the conquered, and finally out of fortuitous settlements that brought a superficial end to the conflict between the two antagonistic, incommensurate forces.

These three elements peculiar to the West — the Latin Church, pagan civilisation of Old Rome, and a statehood arising out of the violence of conquest — were entirely alien to old Russia. Having accepted the Christian religion from the East Roman Empire, Russia was in constant communion with the Universal Church. The civilisation of the pagan world passed to it through Christian doctrine, without provoking a one-sided fascination with it, as the living remnant of some particular nation. It was only later, after it had become firmly grounded in Christian civilisation, that Russia began to assimilate the latest fruits of the learning and culture of the ancient world — at which point Providence, it would seem, saw fit to arrest the further progress of its intellectual development, thus possibly saving it from the one-sidedness that would inevitably have been its fate if its rationalistic education had begun before Europe had completed the cycle of its own intellectual development; for, not having yet achieved its final results, Europe could have drawn Russia all the more unconsciously and deeply into the limited sphere of its peculiar development. When Christianity penetrated into Russia, it did not meet with the immense difficulties that it had to overcome in Rome, Greece, and the European countries steeped in ancient Roman civilisation. The Slavic world did not present those insurmountable obstacles to the pure influence that Christian doctrine could exert on inner and social life, such as Christianity encountered in the self-contained civilisation of the classical world and the one-sided civilisation of the Western nations. In many respects, even the ethnic characteristics of Slavic life favoured the successful assimilation of Christian principles. . . .

The Restoration of the Orthodox Way of Life

From the introductory paragraphs of the editor of The Restoration of the Orthodox Way of Life, by Archbishop Andrew of New-Diveyevo:

In recent years Archbishop Andrew, founder of New-Diveyevo Convent in Spring Valley, New York, where the memory of St. Seraphim is sacredly kept, has deservedly been given much honor, especially in 1971 on the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a priest, and in 1973 on his 80th birthday, when he was elevated to the rank of Archbishop. Many came to him just to receive his blessing, knowing of him as a kind of “last Russian Orthodox Elder,” and hoping to obtain through him some contact with the genuine tradition of Orthodox spirituality which is fast dying out today. And to be sure, he was a living link with the Holy Fathers in a literal sense, for he was a disciple of the last two Optina Elders, Anatole and Nectarius, and it was under his epitrachilion that the last Elder, Nectarius, died in 1928. But it is not for this that he is most important to us today; it is rather for his teaching, received from these holy Elders, on how to survive as an Orthodox Christian in the anti-Christian 20th century.

This teaching, while solidly Patristic, is not a teaching from books, but from life. . . . In every place where historical circumstances have driven him—Kiev, Berlin, Wendlingen, New York State—a close-knit Orthodox community has formed around him; and this is closer to a key to understanding his teaching. Such communities, rare today among Orthodox Christians, do not arise spontaneously, but only in especially favorable circumstances, if there is present a conscious Orthodox philosophy of life. This conscious Patristic philosophy is what, most of all, we can learn from Archbishop Andrew. Let us try to set down here the main points of this philosophy—which, of course, is not a “systematic” philosophy based on abstractions, but a living philosophy derived from Orthodox spiritual experience.

Continue reading “The Restoration of the Orthodox Way of Life”

Evening Is the Worst Time

[I must add yet again that I write of things of which I have no knowledge. I am just groping in the dark.]

The psalm for vespers is Psalm 103 (104 in the Hebrew numbering). I do not always know why the Church has ordained certain psalms for certain times of the day. In some ways the reasons for Psalm 103 being a vesperal psalm is rather simple, for it is oriented around the providential mark of time and evening:

But man shall go forth unto his work, and to his labour until the evening.

But I wonder if part of the reason that Psalm 103 is the psalm for vespers is that the Providence of God marks the entire psalm.

The mountains rise up and the plains sink down, unto the place where Thou hast established them. Thou appointedst a bound that they shall not pass, neither return to cover the earth. He sendeth forth springs in the valleys; between the mountains will the waters run. They shall give drink to all the beasts of the field; the wild asses will wait to quench their thirst. Beside them will the birds of the heaven lodge, from the midst of the rocks will they give voice. He watereth the mountains from His chambers; the earth shall be satisfied with the fruit of Thy works. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and green herb for the service of men, To bring forth bread out of the earth; and wine maketh glad the heart of man. To make his face cheerful with oil; and bread strengtheneth man’s heart.

Even life itself is God’s Providence.

All things wait on Thee, to give them their food in due season; when Thou givest it them, they will gather it. When Thou openest Thy hand, all things shall be filled with goodness; when Thou turnest away Thy face, they shall be troubled. Thou wilt take their spirit, and they shall cease; and unto their dust shall they return. Thou wilt send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created; and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

I say this because evening is a very difficult time of day if one’s heart is aching. And it may just be that the Church in her wisdom discerned that God appointed this psalm for just such encouragement.

Not that heartache lends ease to any portion of the day. But in the morning one looks forward to the day. There is activity, chores, obligations, things that must be done. One can allow oneself to be distracted. But in the evening, the day is done. The light fades and disappears. Activity slows to stillness and rest. The noise of the day fades. Where one has even the impersonal company of strangers throughout the day, in the evening, when one’s heart aches, even the family and the friend accentuate one’s painful solitude. And if one is truly solitary, the loneliness is magnified tenfold. One is left alone with darkness and silence. Filled with weariness, one finds one’s strength insufficient to guard against the dark emotions that nestle tightly in the wounded heart.

As Job says, whose life is a testimony of the God who brings suffering:

When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ But the night is long, and I am full of tossing till the dawn. . . . When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions . . . . The night racks my bones, and the pain that gnaws me takes no rest.

And the psalmist cries in the sixth psalm

I toiled in my groaning; every night I will wash my bed, with tears will I water my couch.

If despondency is the demon of the noonday, it is also the scourge of the night.

In the evening, when one’s heart throbs with loneliness and sorrow, one is reminded with the psalmist that life is but an evening shadow, fleeting and ephemeral, swallowed up by the overtaking darkness. Sorrow and darkness go hand in hand, for sorrow blinds the soul just as darkness blinds the eyes. As the darkness of night makes one’s walk slow and unsteady, so sorrow binds the feet of faith causing one to stumble and to tremble. Just as darkness causes the heart to race with phantom images, so sorrow causes faith to falter in the face of imagined fears. Darkness strips the physical senses of that great gift of sight. One is forced to depend upon touch and hearing, senses we take for granted. So, too, sorrow strips the spiritual senses of that great gift of understanding. And one is forced to depend upon faith, that foundation of all living which we always forget in the light of comfort. It is little wonder, then, that Christians for centuries have signed the Cross over their beds and prayed for deliverence from the influence and temptation of the evil one, prayed for the exorcism of their thoughts.

In the morning we are clothed for the day, but in the evening we are stripped and lie in our beds as in a coffin. And being so reduced to seeming nothingness, it seems that we are now ready for instruction.

In Psalm 118 (119 in Hebrew) we see that the night is the time for meditation and instruction in the law of the Lord:

I arose in the dead of night and I cried; on Thy words have I set my hope. Mine eyes woke before the morning that I might meditate on Thy sayings.

And Psalm 76 (77 in Hebrew) describes such discipline:

In the day of mine affliction I sought out God, with my hands upraised by night before Him, and I was not deceived. My soul refused to be comforted; I remembered God and I was gladdened; I spake in idleness and my spirit became faint-hearted. Mine eyes were wakeful before the watches; I was troubled and spake not. I thought upon the days of old, and the years of ages past I called to mind, and I meditated. By night I pondered in my heart, and my spirit searched diligently. Will the Lord then cast me off unto the ages, and will He be favourable no more? Or will He cut off His mercy unto the end? Hath He brought to an end His word from generation to generation? Or will the Lord forget to be merciful? Or in His wrath will He shut up His compassions for ever?

So what are we taught? At evening, as the darkness falls on us, we are instructed in Psalm 103 and the Providence of God. Indeed as the rest of Psalm 76 itself teaches us:

And I said: Now have I made a beginning; this change hath been wrought by the right hand of the Most High. I remembered the works of the Lord; for I will remember Thy wonders from the beginning. And I will meditate on all Thy works, and I shall ponder upon Thy ways. O God, in the sanctuary is Thy way. What God is as great as our God? Thou art God Who workest wonders. Thou hast made Thy power among the peoples; with Thine arm hast Thou redeemed Thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. The waters saw Thee, O God, the waters saw Thee and were afraid; the abysses were troubled. Great was the resounding sound of the waters, the clouds gave forth a voice. Yea, for thine arrows passed abroad; the voice of Thy thunder is in their rolling. And Thy lightnings have lightened the world; the earth was shaken and it trembled. In the sea are Thy byways, and Thy paths in many waters; and Thy footsteps shall not be known. Thou leddest Thy people as sheep by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

It is just here that our attenuated spiritual sense of understanding, no longer available to us in the darkness of sorrow, must be set to one side for the purposes of returning to the foundation upon which understanding is built: faith. For the unique property of sorrow is the fear to believe. Hurting already with the deep soul-ache of affliction, sorrow makes the heart fearful of such trust–for who knows what will happen if the heart stretches forth once more in hope? As painful as hopelessness is, it at least seems to conform to the reality that is ready to hand.

Faith, on the other hand, causes us to incline our hearts toward preposterous things: the God of the universe condescends in love to my cry, the heart of God is attentive to my plea, miraculous provision of my needs, answers to prayer. None of these things, not one, is a conclusion of reason. None of these things, not one, conforms to our everyday experience. But we are called to remember that Israel was a stiff-necked people for whom God provided miraculous deliverence again and again. We are reminded that the ignorant and prideful apostles are the very men on whom the Lord founded his Church. That something as insubstantial as a shadow was, against all probability, the cause of miraculous healings. And if the miracle feedings of the four thousand and the five thousand are not enough to draw forth the heart into trust, then the utter impossibility of the dead coming back to life ought persuade the most fearful of hearts. If the God of the universe can reverse the natural laws of life and death, if he who created all the universe watches over the sparrow and clothes the grass of the field–what is too hard for him to do?

But the sorrow-darkened mind is not timid in terms of God’s power and ability. No, what the sad heart fears most of all is finding himself unloved by God. It is not God’s ability, but his willingness that the weeping heart doubts. One fears that these painful afflictions are the signs of God’s displeasure and that we are not his child. This fear is met with Hebrews 12, of course. But it is a stubborn sort of soul-creature, and it is not easily banished.

Which is, perhaps why, after a night of such painful tossing and turning, after these double-minded ruminations, the Psalms of Monday’s matins include Psalm 33:

I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
In the Lord shall my soul be praised; let the meek hear and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.
I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my tribulations.
Come unto Him, and be enlightened, and your faces shall not be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his tribulations.
The angel of the Lord will encamp round about them that fear Him, and will deliver them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that hopeth in Him.
O fear the Lord, all ye His saints; for there is no want to them that fear Him.
Rich men have turned poor and gone hungry; but they that seek the Lord shall not be deprived of any good thing.
Come ye children, hearken unto me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
What man is there that desireth life, who loveth to see good days?
Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.
Turn away from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are opened unto their supplication.
The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, utterly to destroy the remembrance of them from the earth.
The righteous cried, and the Lord heard them, and He delivered them out of all their tribulations.
The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart, and He will save the humble of spirit.
Many are the tribulations of the righteous, and the Lord shall deliver them out of them all.
The Lord keepeth all their bones, not one of them shall be broken.
The death of sinners is evil, and they that hate the righteous shall do wrong.
The Lord will redeem the souls of His servants, and none of them will do wrong that hope in Him.

So we are fortified against the night, with the light of morning and the assurance of God’s deliverence.

We will face the night again. This battle will be fought many many times. But we are drawn each day toward faith and hope and trust in the God who always only loves us.