Hospitalland and the Divinization of One’s Passivities
Father Barron reflects on his hospital stay, after an emergency appendectomy. In such circumstances, one learns how survival means turning over one's will, one's autonomy to hospital staff. But it turns out that it is also a greater lesson in releasing control.
A convinced Jesuit, Teilhard desired to devote all that he did (and he did a lot) ad majorem Dei gloriam (to the greater glory of God). But this attitude, Teilhard felt, came nowhere near the spiritual power of divinizing one’s passivities. By this he meant the handing over of one’s suffering to God, the surrendering to the Lord of those things that are done to us, those things over which we have no control. We become sick; a loved one dies suddenly; we lose a job; a much-desired position goes to someone else; we are unfairly criticized; we find ourselves, unexpectedly, in the valley of the shadow of death. These experiences lead some people to despair, but the spiritually alert person should see them as a particularly powerful way to come to union with God.
And the whole time I was reading that, I couldn't help but think of St. John of the Cross. Well, Fr. Barron thought so, too:
In some ways, Teilhard’s distinction is an echo of St. John of the Cross’s distinction between the “active” and “passive” nights of the soul. For the great Spanish master, the dark night has nothing to do with psychological depression, but rather with a pruning away of attachments that keep one from complete union with God. This pruning can take a conscious and intentional form (the active night) or it can be something endured. In a word, we can rid ourselves of attachments—or God can do it for us. The latter, St. John thinks, is far more powerful and cleansing than the former.I would agree that the pruning God does is "far more powerful and cleansing." Consider the difference between choosing on your own to give up something, compared with being forced by outside circumstances to do so. Giving up chocolate for Lent versus being forced to give up a food for health reasons. Eliminating shopping, cable, or eating out because you are simplifying life versus having to give those things up because of an unfortunate turn in finances. Either means of sacrifice can help rid us of attachments, but the ones we don't choose tend to be more painful. Still, it is the cleansing I didn't choose that has brought me the most freedom, in terms of growing less apt to fall into despair over things beyond my control.
We shouldn't fear the pruning. Not the pruning we know we must do with intention; not the pruning that happens to us. AMDG!