Put out into the deep
The fickleness of our human nature is such that we all too often content ourselves with the superficial, the facade, the appearances. It takes effort to move beyond, to enter into the depths of our heart, to “put out into the deep” waters of real and authentic spirituality, to accept to not only wade out into the shallow waters but to actually plunge into the depths, without fear, trusting in the infinite love of Godhead into which we are invited to immerse ourselves.
In every age of our world, in every stage of our individual lives, the word of Our Lord “Put out into the deep” is there to goad us on to an ever deepening relationship with Him, with the truth, with Love. St Augustine’s journey, so masterfully presented int the book of his Confessions, and which remains paradigmatic for any true conversion, is there to show that fallen man is constantly being dispersed here and there on the surface, his mind and heart are continually drawn away from the real realities, the essentials of our very being, and such distractedness distends and disfigures the very fabric of our soul and body created in the image and likeness of God.
And so it is that every return to God, every conversion, of necessity, starts with a progressive return to the interior, to the depths of that heart created by God and thirsting for Him. “I was on the outside, but You were on the inside”, writes Augustine. I was running after the shadows, and in so doing, was running away from the reality.
Let us welcome then, Our Lord’s invitation on this day to put out into the deep. Let us not fear to spend time with ourselves, to live with ourselves, as St Gregory tells us the young Benedict did in his three years he spent in Subiaco. Habitabat secum. There are few who really live with themselves, for there are few who accept to look straight into their own heart, to face the shadows that are there, allowing the bright light of Christ to penetrate and dispel the darkness. It is sad, but most men and women make great efforts to not allow themselves to go into the deep waters of the knowledge of self, the gnothi seauton of Socrates, the accedet homo ad cor altum of psalm 63, the deep well in Samaria where Jesus Our Lord meets the adulterous woman and inaugurates in her heart a path of conversion.
What does it mean for us monks? It means first and foremost that we must be men of the interior life, that we must never be afraid to let ourselves be drawn into the deep waters of our own being, of our own heart. There, in that heart that was created by God and for God, we will find God. If you find your own heart, you will find the Sacred Heart, for at the bottom of every human heart there is the Heart of God, that burning furnace of love which is continually calling us to love.
The difficulty is that in calling us to love, God is calling us to sacrifice. No one can approach God in sensuality. No one can approach God by being content with his own light. God dwells in inaccessible light, and only when we accept to go down into the darkness of the deep can we really find Him because we have really found ourselves.
It means that we monks, at every moment of the day and night, must have one passion: that of seeking and finding the Divine Lover, the one who is hidden in our heart. It means being passionate about God, about nothing but God, of sacrificing everything for that relationship with Him, including our most cherished ideas and plans. “Give all and you will find all, for all consists in dying” , says the Imitation of Christ, and we know that in Christianity, dying leads to the resurrection.
If we succeed in doing that, then we will be able to say in all truth with the psalmist in today’s introit: Dominus illuminatio mea, The Lord is my light, for I have no light of myself, but when I receive the light of God, it can then shine not only for ourselves, not only for our small monastic community, but for all those who come to us, who meet us, who see us, who look in the direction of the monastery for truth and love in a world abandoned to the ephemeral and unsatisfying pursuit of the shadows.
It is also then that we make our contribution to making the ways of the world more peaceful, and of helping the Church enjoy that tranquil devotion referred to in the oration of this day.
For in God alone there is peace and we, as Benedictines whose motto is PAX, must be always and everywhere men of peace, men who, because they are always in the depths of the ocean of divine love, can hardly feel the turmoil of superficial tempests. There, in the depths of the Sacred Heart, that is, in the depths of our own heart where we meet the Divine Heart, there alone is eternal peace and eternal stability.
Veniat. Fiat. Let it come. Let it be.