Dearest blog readers, this wearied, nothing, consecrated, Catholic hermit has been flat on the floor mattress with quite a severe pain siege. Thus, all has ceased other than existing; and existing is quite a bit of something.
Pain is a powerful force. Pain wipes clean the memory. Pain shuts down the more active bodily functions, including the ability to stand and walk, to prepare food to eat, to drink much or eat much or think much. Pain becomes a prayer and thus is the prayer. The body, influenced by severe pain, tends to automatically shut down enough to protect the body from having to do what will cause even more pain, thus the slow down in food and water intake.
Since it is so painful to get up and walk, the appetite for food and water subsides; thus no need to eliminate bodily waste other than once in 24 hours. There is no brushing of teeth or bathing, no ability to walk to the door if there would be anyone knocking; but of course there is no one there knocking.
The hours and days come and go, and after a few days there is the beginning of thought that perhaps the next day, maybe the body can try to rise and be up for five minutes or so. Then comes the questioning of if the body is going to be given its energy back ever.
Thoughts begin to sort through life, screening backwards to choices made, noticing weaknesses in the will and forks in life's road along the way, and how God allowed free rein but also introduced major stop lights at certain juncture points when the will could not seem to make needful choices.
As the days and nights painfully progress, the pain lifts slightly, gradually, just enough to remember the great effort to empty the bucket even if cannot recall the day of that feat. The mind recalls the body stood for more than four minutes to crush cranberries, an apple, an orange: food enough to eat on a couple times a day for a couple days. Salted peanuts, a slice of cheese, some old, refrigerated, cooked rice microwaved with some curry sauce--these are the quick-grabs at odd hours.
The laptop remains the window to the outer world and source of communication. A friend emails, asking if the hermit would like an "Ace" bandage mailed to wrap the injured hand? No, cannot do work, cannot yet walk the short distance to mailbox. Thanks, though.
Surely in a few days will be able to drive to civilization; am supposed to see the young grandson in a theater production. That day comes, and while the body can rise to get more water and use the bucket more often, there is not the energy by a far stretch to even think of driving; but the hermit has been able to gather the mail.
The spiritual father has written. The cherished letter is among a pile of junk mail. Perhaps this ratio reflects the amount of junk thoughts and wasted God-time in our lives: mostly junk with a dab of rich quality hidden in the mound of moments. Fr. V. emails, as well, and inquires as to Advent season, reports his preaching a retreat to high school students in his native Nigeria.
The mind is beginning to recollect above the pain. A dream is recalled. The Lord reveals through the images and performance that the body, mind, heart, and soul has not been accepting nor loving someone in the outer life, as himself. Ah, it is truth! Correction is needed. It is not easy to live God's law is it? We don't even realize, often enough, that we lack love right in our own inner circle.
God deals with us directly when we are reduced and simplified. Pain helps reduce and simplify.
By the sixth day of being "mattressed," the mind asks the Lord what is the purpose of this prolonged pain siege? The reality surfaces that whatever physical, natural impetus triggering the pain siege would have been already rested and corrected. What is the supernatural or spiritual reason? As with past pain sieges (of which none of this magnitude have been for months and months amidst the numerous short-term sieges), there is always a spiritual reason.
Advent. Advent waiting. It is in patience in perseverance, that the soul shall possess itself, shall be saved. These words of Jesus--verbage dependent upon which Biblical translation--give the answer. The mind considers various here-and-now options. Perhaps am not making the correct choice in continuing work efforts on this hermitage, trying to make it salable? Perhaps am not doing with this life what it is the Lord wills and desires of it?
Waiting. Thoughts of John of the Cross and Bernard of Clairvaux float to the consciousness. Am able to correspond with a couple of spiritual friends, physically far away but right here, now. One brings news of a ridiculous occurrence in an aspect of the temporal Catholic world. It is a laughable yet painful reminder of how far beyond we ought to be from such temporal foolishness. There is also great sadness in the example, great irony. Try to let go the details.
Then a young woman calls on the phone. There are the usual issues going on in her everyday life which continue to be tainted by her short past as well as issues of her own physical body, of infection and illness that interfere with energy, duties as wife and mother, and very much affect temperament and extended family relationships. Anger, misspeaking, loss of emotional control pepper the past few weeks in her interactions.
I speak of the law of minds and the law of God--the royal law, the law that fulfills and supersedes all other laws. Love God above all things and love others as oneself. I mention the example of the foolishness of the sad-but-true story of the monsignor and his parish and the temporal Catholic world occurrence in which the priest once more tamps souls down to his level of love and personal dis-ease.
We are all capable of hearing about, for example, Bernard of Clairvaux's Four Degrees of Love. "What are they?' she asks? The hermit, in the Advent moment able to think above the physical, bodily pain, explains each level and attempts to use simple examples from our current life choices.
Yes, we humans are able to grasp such matters as degrees of love. We are capable of being led to the higher levels--or at least of having them presented so that we are aware we can strive for greater degrees of spiritual maturity in God's royal law, in His Love.
You may be asking what are the degrees of love that Bernard, some ten or so centuries ago, wrote out with timeless examples. He is not the first, of course, to do so. The same loves surface in the earlier writings of the desert abbas and ammas. They also exist in the Living Word, even if not listed in ordered fashion.
The ultimate love is that of God in Himself. The basic love is love of ourselves. Yes, it is base to love ourselves; it is a starting point. Then there is love of ourselves in relationship to others in pleasing others for what reward might come. Then there is love of others and love of God for what rewards might come. And again, the ultimate love is love of God in Himself--not for any other purpose. Just love God as He Is, for Whom He Is, within Him. Love God in Himself.
All other love unfolds and flows from within God Is Love.
The pain will subside to a point in which the mind can manage the pain rather than the pain ruling the body and mind. The pain will not be removed from the body in this lifetime, not even with the strongest of pain medications other than if the body were to be medicated to a point of comatose condition.
This pain siege might last the duration of Advent. But it seems that more likely the pain will be lifted enough for continuance of the manual labor efforts, when the mind, heart, and soul have learned what it is that the Lord wills to directly teach--through reminders from His Living Word, the writings of great spiritual minds and souls, the examples of current life experiences, the flaws of self and others, in dream images and in emails and happen-chance conversation.
Advent waiting can be quite painful! Yet there is great good in pain, for sure. There is much unknowing with pain. We just never know if, when, or how it might lift enough to allow continuation of body, mind, and heart living. But always we know the soul lives fully in the experience of pain.
God bless His Real Presence in us! Little children, let us love God above all things and love others as ourselves! Desire and reach for the highest degree of the Law of God, the Law of Love.