Saturday, January 6, 2007

The Hidden Wholeness of Providence

There are three concepts that have recently helped me to relax, even in the midst of the work I pursue. My problem is articulated well by what Fr. John Hardon, S.J., the prolific writer and catechist said on his death bed:
"It's just that there's so much yet to be done."
I fear the judgment. It's a daily motivation. I am scared that I will hear God say to me (when my life is past) what he said to the servant who took the talent his master gave him, and later returned it whole but not multiplied:
Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25).
There are other reasons I could end up in hell, but getting done what seems to have been placed before me has always been the compulsion.

The three concepts that have been of some help with mediating this obsession are:
  1. The Hidden Wholeness
  2. The Scandal of the Particular
  3. The Importance of Emptiness

These ideas were part of a series of meditations given by Msgr. John Zenz, Episcopal Vicar for the Northwest Region of the Archdiocese of Detroit, at St. James parish in December 2006. Msgr. Zenz is a particularly brilliant and humble man, whose joy in Christ is evidenced by this ability to quote from memory the Gospel Reading during Mass. A talent multiplied I think as he seems to always be looking toward the light, like the picture to the right taken at a recent confrence. (Which reminds me. There's a reason the Bible describes Jesus as sitting to God's "right" hand and not his "left." --- Bobby Hesley)

The Hidden Wholeness

(This paragraph revised 4/11/07)
I choose NOT to use the article "a" as in the popular book title A Hidden Wholeness by Quaker Christian Parker J. Palmer. Palmer cites Thomas Merton as using the "a" as well. When I Googled "Hidden Wholeness" this morning I was surprised by the number of times his book on "A Hidden Wholeness" appeared. As Mr. Palmer explained to me (in a 4/11/07 email) that he prefers the article "a" and cites Thomas Merton's essay "Hagia Sophia" -- choosing to follow Merton's lead:
There is in all visible things an invisible, fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness. This mysterious Unity and Integrity is Wisdom, The Mother of all, Natura naturans. (Thomas P. McDonnell, ed., A Thomas Merton Reader. New York: Doubleday, 1989. p. 506. Thanks (!) to Mr. Parker for the quote and citation.)
Using the article "the" as Msgr. Zens does, and which I prefer, I do not think I write about something significantly different. Perhaps Merton was trying to "soft-pedal" monotheistic theology by using the "a". Normally "a" suggests that there are "others" -- whereas "the" suggests "one and only." But in context, Merton does indeed intimidate a "one and only." His phrase: invisible, fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness. This mysterious Unity and Integrity...
bespeaks of ONE (Unity and Integrity), and not "a" as in "one of many." From Merton's poetic style, and indeed from any perspective that mankind can muster, God's integrity is so far beyond our conception that "a" may be appropriate -- as in "a-priori".

It might be better, however, to call what we're discussing "The Hidden Wholeness of Providence." It's not "a" wholeness of "self" that we're seeking but "THE" wholeness of "God." But it's really not seeking to be one with God, but rather being aware that the wholeness of who God (and the being of the universe) and we are is hidden from us. As Fr. Benedict Groschel might say:
"It's a mystery. Accept it. You ain't going to figure it out! Only God understands it; and he's not going to explain it to you. Because, if he did, you wouldn't understand a word he said. So relax."
The Hidden Wholeness reminds me that who I am and what I try to do everyday is part of a wholeness of God's designs that are hidden from me. I will never know, while here on Earth, what total purpose my life and activities have (like writing this blog). But I can trust that they are purposeful and helpful to some Providential End.

Scandal of the Particular

One of the most egregious collections of linguistic fallacies found in modern communication falls under the category of missing evidence. These are over generalizations of truth based on one (or fewer) event. I do it all the time. I enjoy an esoteric book and I think everyone will love it, even my relatives who generally don't like to read. This blog entry is another example. No one is going to read this (except my friend Alan Hartwick who I'm going to tell about it), but in my arrogance I have fallen prey to the scandal of the particular.

Importance of Emptiness

I am always trying to be whole. I want to feel satisfied, content, complete, whole. I want to find myself, be acknowledged, and generally feel important. I want my efforts at multiplying my talents to be lauded here on Earth as much as I hope God will bless me for my obedience when I get to heaven.

But the fact is, when it comes to the backdrop of eternity, I know nothing. And it is that lack of wholeness, that emptiness that I need to embrace as part of my wholeness. I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. But compared to what there is to know my brain, maximized to its capacity, will only brush the surface of practically nothing. It is this reality of knowing next to nothing that makes the atheist's omniscient claim "there is no God" so ludicrous. (The Hubble Telescope picture at the top of this post is a picture that shows galaxies from 1 to 10 billion light years from Earth. That means that to get there we'd have to travel at the speed of 334,800,000 miles-per-hour for 10,000,000,000 years.)
Will the omniscents please file out of the room to the left? We have an educational field-trip we want you to take. Yes, it will take a long time.
So, be satisfied man with what God has given you. Be content with where you are planted. Just don't be too satisfied or content. You have some talents to multiply or you'll end up in hell.

Gotta get back to work....on my own wholess.