So far this week, we’ve discussed the second stage of holiness: entering into the cloud of God’s presence. We’ve focused on some disconcerting aspects of the cloud, and how we may prepare well for them. We should never forget though, that the cloud is fundamentally a good thing… It is the sign of drawing closer to the presence, albeit mysterious, of GOD, Our Loving Father. Blessed John Henry Newman once said that prayer is like being in a dark room with your beloved; you feel the presence of the beloved, the warmth of the beloved, though in a mysterious way. The Cloud can be a place to confront our fears, yes, but always with an eye toward a deeper communion with the divine presence of our beloved. Recalling Jacob’s wrestling match with the angel of God (Gen. 32:23-ff) a professor once reminded us, “If you have to be in a wrestling match, ‘best to be in one with God. You’re in good hands!”
The second stage can be a time of beautiful solitude in the darkness… a time to give our senses a rest, to let the Lord do the driving… a time of trust (consider reading Caussade’s abandonment to divine providence)… It’s that special time in a relationship when all the conversations have been had. You know your beloved’s tastes, his/her interests, how the day went etc… all that’s left is the comfortable silence of reading in the same room… walking wordlessly in the park… Or as is perhaps more-often the case, the quiet relaxation of falling asleep on the couch watching tv together. In monastic life, the second stage is marked by a real entry into “Grand Silence.” (For more on this see the recent documentary of the same name). If you’ve ever been to an active and healthy monastic community, you’ve experienced this silence when you enter the chapel. It could be filled with people and you’ll hear a pin drop… the silence itself is life-giving, surrounding and nourishing us like fish in water.
So, it’s true… the cloud can be a little intimidating… but give it time. You might be amazed at the mysterious relationship that blossoms in the silence when God approaches.