Like most human beings, while exploring “that which was for me,” I managed to over-complicate the matter and was about to encounter a necessary aspect of growth. The harmonious prayer rhythm and prayer routine I was accustomed to, once so sweet and delectable, became burdensome and almost sour. Of course what I needed to learn had been spoken of at length, in the writings of St Teresa of Jesus [Avila]; The Life; the Way of Perfection; The Interior Castle. And so the “dreaded” dryness I had read about settled upon me during the second year of my preparation for the Definitive Promise.
Dryness: the word signified an uncomfortable change – one in complete contrast to being sopping wet with prayer. I felt disoriented, like a person lost at sea in a boat without wind in its sails. But for once in my life, reason kept me faithful to the practice of daily prayer. In retrospect, this was a confusing period and it’s from the perspective of distance by several years that things look clear. A significant part of the dryness manifested itself as tremendous distractions before, during and after prayer. Distractions are a topic I want to explore separately in a future writing session. But at the time, nothing seemed to fit or satisfy…
Then one day, out of the blue something emerged – or maybe a better word is blossomed – within me as I prayed this Psalm:
O God, you are my God, for you I long;
for you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water.
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.
For your love is better than life,
my lips will speak your praise.
So I will bless you all my life,
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul shall be filled as with a banquet,
my mouth shall praise you with joy.
on my bed I remember you.
On you I muse through the night
for you have been my help;
in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand holds me fast. (Psalm 63:2-9)
It was the realization that I had been walking on top; maybe even skating on top of this beautiful Psalm. Suddenly I found myself part of the Psalm, almost as if my own heart – my true self – authored the words.
This commitment and obligation to pray the Liturgy of the Hours was changing – not drastically, but gently – and with it came refreshment and new life. Psalm 63 gave expression in words, to the yearning of my soul. It reminded me, or maybe I should say it re-focused for me, who I sought. It was the start of me learning to do more than read with understanding. It was a beginning for me to be more attentive to God’s word…it was strange, it was nice, it was difficult and would take me out of my comfort zone. Now, with the comfort of distance and a tiny bit of experience and wisdom it is not presumptive to declare that God gives what is needed at the time it is needed.
Observation: experienced individuals who garden, whether it is indoor or outdoor gardening, know the value of allowing certain plants to dry out between watering. Some plants will actually die if not allowed to dry completely between watering and so too – in my way of looking at this process – our soul. Why should this be? Both St Teresa and St Therese in their teachings on prayer and the state of the soul, come from observations of the natural world. So borrowing from their attentiveness to nature, I present this observation for reflection: of likening our soul to a plant, in the knowledgeable and caring hands of the ultimate gardener.
to be continued….