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Friday, November 9, 2007

Rejoice in the Mourning

At the core of each person’s “homelessness” is an insatiable longing for the Infinite that is built inside each one of us from birth (see Built to Wander, Saturday, October 27, 2007). Fr. Ronald Rolheiser builds and expands this thesis in three works, Against an Infinite Horizon, The Restless Heart and Holy Longing. In a snapshot, because we are built to experience the infinite God, we will always remain restless, lonely and in poverty on our earthly pilgrimage until we come to know the eternal God.

Modern life provides each of us with more insatiable earthly longings than ever before. Americans in particular have more food options, more beverages, more shopping, more sex options than ever before. We digress from our single "Holy Longing" that will fulfill all other longings and bring us home. As a result of these excessive modern choices, more and more people experience broken homes, broken marriages, broken careers, broken commitments and everyone experiences “homelessness” in some shape or form.

In fact, at the core of everyone’s poverty also appears to be the ever escalating fear of commitment. People today have a major resistance to permanent commitment. We are always leaving ourselves open to other possibilities. Why? We inherently know that every choice is a renunciation of thousands of other options. We confuse our being built for the infinite God with always wanting to remain open to infinite earthly options; if I marry this person than I cannot marry a million others; if I commit to being a world-class athlete than I can not be a rock star or a millionaire stock broker; if I have this then I cannot have that.

The path to ending everyone’s “homelessness” according to Rolheiser is to take the inward journey to the infinite God while rejecting all temporal infinite possibilities. In order to do this, one must mourn; if married, then mourn that I cannot marry a million others; if celibate, then mourn that I will leave this life never enjoying sex; if living in Los Angeles then mourn that I will never live in New York, Paris or Jackson Hole, Wyoming. All choices in this life must lead to mourning all the others left behind. Rolheiser says we are to “mourn the fact that we will die unfulfilled, incomplete.” Ultimately, when we fail to mourn in this way, our lives yield to daunting depression, incompleteness and a restlessness that robs us of life itself.

In summary, Rolheiser states, “In this life there is no finished symphony. We are built for the Infinite. Our hearts, our minds, and souls are abysses, canyons without a bottom.” That is why for centuries we pray a great daily prayer at the conclusion of each rosary said; “To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.” Some with more modern spirituality would discard the prayer as depressing. Is it really? More realistically it is a great summary of our loneliness and our “homelessness.” Perhaps, once we mourn with Mary her loss and now our loss, we too will rejoice with her in giving birth to the Infinite Lord within our lives. We can know firsthand the angel’s words, “Rejoice, Mary, the Lord is with you!”
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M.F. said...

Sometimes, it doesn't feel like God is with you. When things are going wrong, it feels like He abandoned us. I truely wish I could be rejoicing now in my mourning for myself...

Anonymous said...

M.F. it seems as though the American value "God shed His grace on thee ... From sea to shining sea..." has set up false expectations in U.S. Christians. The reality is that Jesus said, "Take up your cross and follow me." Jesus is in the night. Our wills are crushed in the mourning and we are sanctified in it to see God.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I really understand this concept of mourning for choices (Good choices in some cases) that I might have made. Can you explain? Why should I mourn that I cannot marry a million others? It's a decision I made knowingly and I don't feel the need to examine. And frankly, I don't want to marry anyone else. I am missing something here, can you expain?

Anonymous said...

Possibly Fr. Rolheiser is referring to loss rather than choices. In this life we "count everything as loss" as Paul says in order to gain Christ. The Apostle may be telling us that when we take the interior journey to the Infinite God it appears as though we are driven to mourn or “count as loss” everything in this life. We read in Scripture: "Blessed are they that mourn, they shall be comforted." Also, "He has turned my mourning into dancing."