March 19, 2019

Suffering as Speech of Love?

Give Us This Day recently had a thought-provoking meditation on the gospel of the Transfiguration from Sr. Miriam Pollard:
...And the everlasting question of suffering refuses to die a respectful death.

I remember an essay by Bede Jarrett in which he warns the reader that what he says is extravagant and semi-heretical, and still he says that our suffering is the mirror or manifestation of something within God; that in God, in the depths of the mystery of the divine, is an extravagance of love that can only be expressed in pain.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

Is pain the flip side of that love, the inmost habitation of eternal desire, the urgent luminescence of that mountain encounter—the mount of glory and the mount of crucifixion?
I looked up the Dominican Bede Jarrett and while I couldn't locate that particular quote I did see this regarding the multiplicity of religious orders:
"It will, for instance, be granted that all admit the need of some austerity, some penance, as an instrument of training, and far more as the main language of love; and in this they do but repeat what even human lovers have endlessly discovered. Love finds words inadequate to hold all its deep meanings, and can only feel in sacrifice and in self-sacrifice a satisfactory outlet to its desires.

Suffering is the only full speech of love.

But how shall this suffering be selected ? What is reasonable and what merely fanatical, fantastic ? Or rather, what may not be selected in any passing mood ?

This the various religious Orders have settled each for themselves, holding much in common, yet holding much also in severalty ; for to each, as to some city state of ancient Greece, belongs its own spirit, its own education, its own music, its dress, its work, its plan of building, its schedule of daily duty, All these things are deliberately chosen in order to suit the needs of certain types of mind, and the whole assembly of them constitutes the particular asceticism of each Order."
And more from Bede:
"God sends us suffering because He loves us; we accept suffering because we love Him. Love is the only answer that can be made to suffering; it is the only explanation of suffering save that of the Christian Scientist who denies that suffering really exists.

The Christian alone teaches that suffering is to be embraced. The idea is based on the fatherhood of God for it supposes that the father only allows such suffering to come to each child as shall be for its own good... It is not, therefore, simply was a punishment that we should look on suffering, for such a view of it will add more troubles than it can answer. Suffering is also the very expression of love; almost the only language that adequately describes its feelings.

Love, then, which can alone explain suffering when it comes, can also alone give us the the strength to accept it joyfully, for life is only tolerable when it is permeated with love. There are hardships for everyone; do what we will we cannot escape them. Yet it is not the troubles of life, but the way we bear them, that makes life tolerable or not. To repine, complain, cry out, does but dig the point-head deeper into the flesh. The monk was contented in his cell, but the prisoner essayed night by night to escape: their conditions were the same, but their hopes and desires were different. The whole secret, then, of life is to adapt our desires to our conditions. Love puts into bondage as many victims as hate; but those whom love’s chains bind are glad of their lot. We are told, indeed, that God punishes with suffering all workers of iniquity; but those also whom God loves He chastens; and for ourselves who y, fitfully indeed yet honestly, to love, we can feel sure that it is only the strength of His embrace that we feel. Love, then, alone will help us to understand life and its sorrows.

Of course, the full realization of this is the attitude of the saints; for them seem to have achieved that same state of soul to which St. Paul confessed that he had reached: ‘For which cause I take pleasure in my infirmities.’...Our Lord found it perfectly compatible to shrink from suffering and yet to be resigned to the will of God, so the combination of union with the Father and anxiety about suffering is not necessarily impossible.

Sorrow, caused by Love and can be made tolerable only by Love. For it is the Crucified who alone explains the Crucifixion."

Spent some time researching a familiar line from Morning Prayer, Is 45:17.  It feels like a broken promise:

"But Israel will be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation, you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting."

There are a myriad of ways around it, beginning with different translations, some of which say basically, “you won’t permanently be disgraced or put to shame.”

You could also spiritualize it, as applying to the residents of Heaven or the Church’s final destination.  You could look at it as applicable to Christ only.

Even better, the NABRE and a non-Catholic commentary has it in quotes, as in quoting the nations.  The nations (presumably not inerrant) are exaggerating, saying, “gosh, we were wrong and you’ll never be disgraced.”

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