The world is bathed in white, a veil descending from the sky, bending limb, shrouding all. Saplings bow beneath the weight. All night it snowed, and it continues at this hour, a gentle whisper. A nearby raven caws every few moments. The only other sound a distant chirp from a bird whose voice I do not recognize. A steller’s jay digs for seed on the balcony, joined by a second then a third, cackling and jumping about into the branches and back, causing small avalanches. The icicles formed on the roof melt, dripping down into the drifts, indenting the snow beneath. Heavy limbs sway in the stormy breeze, a meditative scene.
Yet the soul within feels frenetic. Awoken early by unknown cause it was not content to ponder the beauty outside. It charged for more, for activity, for doting, like a four year old on a Saturday morn. The spiritual life is not one of perfect calm and tranquility. It is not the finished product, unable to be assaulted from within and without. Rather, the spiritual life is characterized by response. How does one manage the frenetic soul? The Greats speak of virtues and vice, as opposites of course, but not necessarily of different kinds. They fill the same space, these holy ones say. To rid a vice one must be filled with a virtue, the empty space will not remain, making a spiritual hope one which insists on more than abstinence. It is not enough to avoid anger to overcome this deadly sin, one must fill life with Thanksgiving, giving anger no root for growth.
The rampages of one’s internal drives goad each to their own favorite vice, an attempt to squelch the noise, to calm the storms, serving only to increase the disturbance, moving the epicenter to a place we feel more comfortable, our place of rest and death. We sin and do right in turn, weaker and stronger in response to the same bites. The spiritual life, however, always turns to good, to virtue, quenching the fire through discipline and peace, letting the noise subside rather than covering it with more clamor. It is reaching out for peace, breathing deep, letting the nature about speak subtle words of reassurance. Simple prayer, “Lord, have mercy on my soul.” A deep breath, a moment’s stare at the Great Artist’s varied work. Another prayer, “Hasten, O God, to save me; O Lord, come quickly to help me.” Seizing hold of the peace, resisting temptation to avoid the agitation, choosing instead to wade through it as through a swamp, taking hold again of that for which Christ took hold of me.
And then to my allotted tasks, avoiding idleness, retuning my soul to match the heavenly tone through meditation and work. Only with this is progress made.
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