I wanted to share with you that, thanks be to God, I made it through the Category 4 Hurricane named Michael. If you follow this blog, and I can’t say that I know anyone who does, you will know that my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) always links this passage with events that come into my mind. Ideas come into my meditation, prayer and contemplation from events that have happened to me. I was without power during Wednesday through Saturday of the Hurricane, October 10 to 14. It was pitch black at night with no television to lean on or lights to count on. I began to get anxious as all my crutches were taken away from me and I was left by alone with myself (but certainly not by myself). What follows are three Lectio Divina meditations I did in the dark. I wrote them down so I would not forget them. I call them tales of wonder, because I had trauma to deal with but I used Philippians 2:5 and Cistercian charisms of simplicity, silence and solitude to combat the darkness, both without and within.
SILENCE IN THE MIDST OF CHAOS AND DEVESTATION
Well, here I sit at my kitchen table in Tallahassee at 7:00 p.m. on October 11. Hurricane Michael (my wife says it was well named for me) has passed by on Wednesday, October 10, sidestepping Tallahassee by a hundred miles. The storm actually came over the Panhandle at Panama City and went inland over Marianna, Florida. It went parallel to our city, or I would not be writing this Lectio Divina for you. We were very fortunate whereas others lost everything on the coast.
Being the weak person that I am, I began to complain about the lack of light, the lack of air conditioning, and was reminded that I sounded like the Israelites at Massah and Meriba in Exodus 15-16. I thought to myself that Original Sin is alive and well in Tallahassee, even in a Hurricane.
Right now, there is an eerie calm outside with cloudy skies. It helps that the temperature outside is 55 degrees F. With no electricity, there is no air conditioning, so the cooler temperature is a blessing at night.
We received no damage to our properties, although lots of limbs and branches fell. In short, we dodged the bullet. Life has a way of presenting us lessons to be learned about pride and who is all-powerful. It certainly is not the human being.
In this context, I tried to clear my mind of the horror around me and sought solitude and silence on the park bench in the dead of Winter, just waiting and longing for the coming of the Lord. This is interesting. My mind wanted to steer me away from thinking about Michael and all the trouble and inconvenience I was experiencing. I was tempted to push Michael out of my mind so that I could do real Lection Divina and empty my thought like Dom Andre Louf recommends in this book, The Cistercian Way. I found myself talking with Christ about the Hurricane and what it could teach me. Rather than ask the false question about why a good God allows Hurricanes to happen and cause suffering to innocent people, my mind went to asking the right question, what does this teach me about how to love others as Christ loves me? From that moment on, there was enlightenment in the darkness, perspective in the midst of horror and deprivation of human comforts. I learned a great lesson from the silence of chaos.
No matter what the event or human experience, in Lectio Divina I must apply the purpose of my life to it to find meaning and resolution. (Philippians 2:5) I need to set up the scenario and then let Christ give me whatever he wants me to do. In this way, I do not control the agenda, nor do I avoid controversial topics I experience in my life (such as Hurricane Michael, my Leukemia (CLL type) and cardiac arrest.
The Psalmist bids us to trust in God alone. He is our Hope. Not Hurricanes, not popes, not bishops, priests or deacons, not spouses or children. Not in Princes or Kings. I learned a great lessons for me in that I move from the realm of the mind to that of the heart. I experience what silence and solitude is, real pitch black silence and solitude, but I also know how to put it in perspective using Philippians 2:5 and letting the healing Word made flesh make my flesh new again…and again…and again…Forever.
LIVING IN THE DESERT OF ABSOLUTE SILENCE
Being without lights or electricity is a new experience for me. I don’t have control over anything. I can’t stop the darkness from descending, I can’t turn on the lights or see my book, The Cistercian Way, by Dom Andre Louf, without lights. Any lights are not conducive to reading, but here I go again, complaining like the Israelites did when God did not give them food or drink in the desert of Sinai. They complained, even though they saw God’s works. I read this in the initiatory of the Liturgy of the House as I was sitting at my table trying to occupy my mind with prayer of the Church Universal. It helped.
My second Lectio Divina was about what inspired monks and nuns to become hermits and live in the desert. I could never have imagined what absolute silence and blackness is, being one who suffers from sensory overload on many levels. After an hour of focusing on Christ any way He wants to be present to me, in total darkness except for a single candle to pierce that night, I think I can almost feel what monks and nuns felt with they followed St. Benedict’s admonition in Chapter 4, “your acting must be different from the World’s ways; the love of Christ must come before all else.” All else, in my current experience is darkness, silence, solitude, wrestling with my own thoughts about how to get rid of extraneous ideas of Hurricane Michael.
In the silence of Hurricane Michael, I discovered just a tiny bit of what might have motivated the hearts of St. Benedict, St. Bernard, St. Romuald, St. Bruno, St. Dominic, St. Francis, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta.
It might hae been just a nanosecond of enlightenment but it lite up the room for me in a way no light ever could. It is by denying your false self that you find your true self. This denying self means trusting that God will give you what you need to sustain your Faith in times of spiritual hurricanes. This denying means that I have to learn to embrace my experiences and transform them from what the World projects is meaningful to what Christ bid me do: love others as I have loved you. I didn’t just have a mental accent of Faith but one of the heart, too.
With Christ as the way, the truth and the life, there is no phenomenon that we cannot overcome.
EMBRACE WHAT YOU HATE
Hurricanes have a way of calling to mind who we really are before God. Mother Nature always wins in these types of confrontations with humans. All humans can do is to transform the occurence into something that has meaning for our purpose in life.
I hate the darkness. I can’t sleep well, am anxious in the dark, even during the daytime, when there is no electricity. I can’t see where I am going in the darkness. I am fearful of stepping on the cats. I am always tripping on runners and rugs I can’t see in the dark. I hate the darkness.
Isn’t that what contemplation and Lectio Divina is all about, facing the darkness of the World within and transforming it with the light and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit with Christ’s Real Presence? Because of Hurricane Michael, I now know that I can face the darkness within with Christ as my light, my way my mediator with the Father.
As one who aspires to practice Cistercian Way by practices and especially charisms, we do it by doing it over and over, making all things new in our hearts, converting our old self to a new self in Christ Jesus, and invoking the Holy Spirit not to forget this broken-down old temple of the Holy Spirit and reside in me.
Praise to God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology