Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Search For Truth


It is a bizarre age we live in.  Just a few days ago, a woman I work with told me that questions such as "Why are we here? What is the meaning of life?" are questions that no one really cares about anymore.  I was baffled at such a statement - how on earth can any human being be indifferent on any level as to their existence and the meaning of it?  Here, we see the effects of the 20th century's chief exponents of secularism, atheism, and existentialism's thoughts reverberating throughout our own times. 

"Religion today is considered an archaic relic to be left alone because, finally, it is thought to have nothing to do with the true greatness of progress.  What religions say and do appears totally irrelevant; they are not even a part of the world of rationality, their contents ultimately count for nothing."1 (Pope Benedict XVI)

But to have a view like this seems to speak a kind of slow and systematic deadening of the soul in modern culture today.  The search for truth is no longer embarked upon by many because they are taught that there is no such thing.  However, I am not entirely sure if this is often the fault of many who lead lives of indifference to the universal questions, but the fault of the architects of a culture of indifference, who have bequeathed to the world nothing but meaningless living, rabid secularism and relativism, and empty "spiritualities" that offer nothing but security blankets for restless hearts.

The earnest search for truth and meaning in life is not an easy journey to undertake.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  But as Thomas Merton once wrote of the men becoming monks in his day, "They have not come to the monastery to escape from the realities of life but to find those realities: they have felt the terrible insufficiency of life in a civilization that is entirely dedicated to the pursuit of shadows."2   

This is exactly the crux of the issue - more and more each day, we are seeing a society and a culture that has divorced itself entirely from Truth, that offers nothing to the searching soul but materialism and hedonism, all culminating in an existence of "the absent-minded man so abstracted from his own life that he hardly knows he exists until, one fine morning, he wakes up to find himself dead."3 (William Barrett)  In other words, "The dilemma of modern man is simple: he simply does not know why man has any meaning."4 (Francis Schaeffer)

This void of meaning, however, is why there are those who still search, as Thomas Merton said; why there are still those who climb out from under the wreckage of modern culture in order to seek the truth.  And as Fr. Seraphim Rose once said, "Anyone who studies religion seriously comes up against this question: it is a question literally of life and death."5

1 - Let God's Light Shine Forth, pg. 138
2 - The Waters of Siloe, qtd. in A Thomas Merton Reader, pg. 182
3 - Irrational Man, I:1
4 - He Is There and He Is Not Silent, ch. 1
5 - God's Revelation to the Human Heart, pg. 20

2 comments:

  1. My friend and brother in Christ, we can lead people to His Truth by simply embodying it ourselves. Let us strive to be an example of serenity and detachment. This is our true quest.

    The Holy Spirit recently put this before me (excerpt quoted from 'The Revelations of St Gertrude the Great'):

    CHAPTER LVI - Of charity towards an erring brother.
    As the Saint prayed one day for some persons who had formerly injured the convent seriously by their thefts, and were again committing depredations, our Lord appeared to her as if suffering much pain in one of His arms, which was so drawn back that the nerves were seriously injured: and He said to her: "Consider what torment he cause Me who should strike Me with his closed hand on this suffering arm: and reflect that I am outraged in like manner by all those who, without compassionating the danger to which the souls who persecute you are exposed, do nothing else but talk maliciously of their sins and what they have suffered in consequence, without reflecting that these unhappy people are members of My Body; while all those who, touched by compassion, implore My mercy for them, that I may convert them, act towards Me as if they soothed the pain of My arm with healing ointments: and I consider those who, by their counsels and charitable warnings, try to induce them to amend their lives, as wise physicians, who endeavour to restore My arm to its proper position."
    Then Gertrude, admiring the ineffable goodness of God, said to Him: "But how, Lord, can these unworthy persons be compared to Your arm?" He replied: "Because they are members of the body of the Church, of which I glory in being the Head." "But, my God," exclaimed Gertrude, "they are cut off from the Church by excommunication, since they have been publicly anathematised for the violence they have done to this monastery." "Nevertheless," replied the Lord, "as they can be restored to the bosom of the Church by absolution, My natural goodness obliges Me to care for them, and I desire with incredible ardour that they should be converted and do penance."
    The Saint then prayed that the monastery might be defended from their snares by His paternal protection, and she received this reply: "If you humble yourselves under My mighty Hand, and acknowledge before Me in the secret of your hearts that your sins have merited this chastisement, My paternal mercy will protect you from all the efforts of your enemies; but if you rise up proudly against those who persecute you, wishing them evil for evil, then, by My just judgment, I will permit them to become stronger than you, and to afflict you still more."
    ---

    The best I can do is to pray for those members of the Body who are hurt, diseased, failing. But, this is my own fault for not being able to do more to help them.
    [continued next post]

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  2. I also recently was confronted with the writings of the Passionists (St. Paul of the Cross) (quoted from 'Confraternity of the Passion - Provisional Rule of Life ' http://www.confraternityofthepassioninternational.org/Rule of Life Edited.pdf - well worth reading the entire short text):

    The gift of life has been given to everyone and yet not everyone LOVES LIFE. Disappointment, poor health, material poverty and spiritual poverty often turn people the other way. They are bitter and resentful; they do not LOVE LIFE. At any moment you too may be tempted to give up. Feelings of despair, of having been betrayed by life may be very strong. You can be weighed down by your mistakes and failures. In these moments, a Passionist will turn to Christ and listen to Him in prayer. As Christ had to suffer and die in order to be raised in glory, we are being asked to do the same thing every day. Only His voice can convince our hearts that sorrow will be turned into joy, failure into success. One who has learned to live with his or her mistakes and failures is the one who truly LOVES LIFE, all life. When the healing power of Christ has touched your life, you will be compelled to use this power to heal others.

    [...]

    As a member of the Confraternity of the Passion, as a person who loves life, you are challenged to look into the eyes of men and women who run away from life confused and wounded. You are asked to HEAL the wounds; ease the confusion. You are asked to make their lives lovable.

    So many people feel that they are worthless; others are social outcasts; some have been injured and are bitter and filled with hate; others are lonely. Very often gossip cuts and bruises; jealousy runs rampant. Our young brothers and sisters are growing up in a fearful period in history when the legitimacy of every person and the integrity of every institution are questioned. There is no control; they are enslaved to their peers and they are confused. All these people, the young and the old, the rich and the poor, all are crying out for HEALING. They are sick in spirit. How can you HEAL them; how can you help them to love life? Christ is the way.

    When Christ was physically present on this earth, He HEALED many persons from illnesses of the body. But He HEALED many more from illnesses of the spirit. Christ HEALED them, not by long sermons on sin, not by strong corrections. Rather, He helped people to change by His very attitude towards them. He accepted them, was present to them and was willing to suffer for them.

    In your daily activities, at work, at home, at school wherever, strive to accept ALL your brothers and sisters as they are. Their faults and failings may be very evident, but keep in mind that you too have faults and failings, which may, thanks be to God, not be so evident. Rejection of these people only hastens their journey into the arms despair and hate; gentle acceptance can bring them into the happiness of Christian peace and life. Take the time to stop, to talk, to BE with these people. Their only hope for a cure from their sickness in spirit is friendship, acceptance and understanding; YOU can be their medicine.

    HEALING is often a long and slow process and requires great patience and perseverance. The effort to understand and communicate with others can be painful. There are times that, like Christ, you may even be rejected by those you try to HEAL. In union with him, be willing to give to the very end realizing that your rewards may be few and your disappointments many. Your only concern must be to convince others that they are worthy of your love and respect because Christ suffered and died on the Cross for them as well as for you.

    When you have restored the self-esteem of others, when you have turned their bitterness into love and their despair into hope, you will have given them the greatest gift you have to offer. Through the HEALING power of Christ in you, you will have HEALED their wounds, eased their confusion, and made their lives lovable.

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