In the months following a very rich retreat, I find myself in a very dry period. Where daily entries in my journal were long and full of insights, prayers, and musings, now two or three times a week I list a Scripture passage and little else. A word or phrase, maybe, that didn’t really strike me as all that profound. Usually when I return to the psalms, I find a ready oasis. But they’re all dried up, too.
I pulled William Meninger’s The Committed Life off my shelf a few weeks ago, and nothing struck me until I stumbled on this passage today:
Spiritual dryness is God’s way of calling you more intimately to himself. It is your chance to prove to God and to yourself that you are seeking God rather than the gifts of God. Love begins when nothing is expected in return. Throw your inabilities before the Lord and tell him of your frustrations. Insist that he help you.
Meninger is a Trappist who has adapted a few spiritual classics into modern language with modern idioms and examples. This book is his recasting of Francis de Sales’ The Devout Life. The quote from St Francis, I presume, I found charming as I nodded my head in appreciation:
I recall being in such a situation while trying to pray in church. I literally had to hold on to the bench in front of me to remain for the meager ten minutes I had promised to the Lord and myself.
The most hopeful news was this:
It would not be unusual if such prayer ends up in a kind of companionable silence in God’s presence. This is something of the sort that creeps up on you unnoticed even while you are in the midst of your seemingly futile struggle with dryness. Generally you will not be aware that this has happened until it is over. It is the beginning of contemplative prayer and often is the fruit of perseverence in prayer amid the distress of spiritual dryness.
Companionable silence: I like that.
It occurs to me that this is also applicable to the situation with MR3. Do I seek God or do I seek pretty words about God? Seems that God will be present whether the words are fussy, pedestrian, or artistic. It’s not that I think either MR1 or MR3 are totally acceptable. For me, anyway, they are less relevant–or they should be less relevant–than the actual presence of God. And in contemplation, how often, I have to ask myself, do my own words fail me, and I fall back into companionable silence?
As I head into the dryness of a new missal, I think I can be prepared to take this Salesian advice. And surprisingly, a ray of light shone into the day. What about you?