Recalled to Life: A Hope and a Choice

Where is the glory of the Lord? Is it visible or invisible? Does it really dwell here on earth, other than in the Eucharist?

That is, is there any lasting good within the world of time?

You’ll forgive me for having come to doubt this, from having gone from being an enthusiast for life, brimming with joie-de-vivre, to being a captive of the death instinct. When you are hunted, you just want rest. (That’s what my poem “Benjamin in the Pyrenees” tries to express.)

When you are in the dark night, the infinite chasm between God and creation, between the eternal and the temporal, seems to be unbridgeable. “There’s nothing good, because nothing lasts. And all that comes here, it comes here to pass,” as the Avett Brothers put it.

Without succumbing to Palamism, I would like to speak of my personal rediscovery of a simple truth: there is only one way for the glory of the Lord to reach us, and that is through bodies and through time. This is of course the Christmas mystery (and I plan to celebrate through Candlemas myself), but it is also the truth of modernity, in trying to mediate between this world and the other world.

At the end of the second matins reading for the day, Saint Basil writes: “What, I ask, is more wonderful than the beauty of God? What thought is more pleasing and wonderful than God’s majesty? What desire is as urgent and overpowering as the desire implanted by God in a soul that is completely purified of sin and cries out in its love: I am wounded by love?”

With the sunlight setting the white fire of snow and ice, listening to Shostakovich, and moved by the love of those who love me, these words of Saint Basil clicked, and I remembered something I knew before night came upon me: the glory of the Lord radiates mightily through this world—in friends, in children, in nature, in art, in noble self-sacrifice. If our eyes are open, how can we do anything but fall in love? How can we do anything but sing praise and gratitude to the good Father?

This does not mean unfeeling the pain of the world. Indeed, some of us never seem to get clear of it personally. The power of lovelessness is so strong and insidious—the adversary of reputations and of friendships and of creative life.

In the face of the losses we do not cease to undergo, we must choose, by the grace of God, to be cheerful, to walk the garden without forgetting the desert. And for my children, I so choose.

I want to close with words from that master Shostakovich, who endured the darkness of totalitarian lovelessness his whole life, and yet who managed heroically to resist in his sublime music: “Life is beautiful. All that is dark and ignominious will disappear. All that is beautiful will triumph.”

If he who suffered so much can say this, then you and I can too.

“I am wounded by love!” Yes. Amen.