Monday, June 16, 2014

The Burden of Not Being Clairvoyant
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths."--Prov 3:5-6

Sadly, men are not omniscient as God is.  He is the only One Who not only knows the past perfectly, the present in its fullness, and the future in all of its unexpected turns.  Our history is quite partial, our knowledge of now is incredibly limited, and our predictions from the future are sometimes little more than a shot in the dark.  We can never know what will happen even today, a lesson that I experienced firsthand with one of my family members this past fall.  On Monday she was fine, in Tuesday she was hospitalized, and by Friday she had fallen asleep.  I cannot know when I will cease drawing breath: these could be my final words.  Of course, we can make "educated guesses," using what knowledge we have to make reasonable predictions.  Thus, my health is good right now, so I do not expect to encounter any great medical difficulties today.  For a prediction to be most reasonable, though, we must recognize that it is only a prediction and not inerrant foresight.

We cannot know the best way to direct our paths through life, since we are so lacking in knowledge: but thankfully, we have God to direct us.  If we ask Him, He will give us the guidance that we need.  As He guided the Apostles by His Spirit, so will He guide us.  He told Ananias to go to Paul and Cornelius to Peter; the Spirit forebode the Apostles to preach in Asia and Bithynia, but He directed Paul to proclaim the Gospel in Macedonia.  He does not explain all of His reasons for His directions, but His directions are all good.  After all, He is "triumphant in His judgments."  Thus we should throw our cares for the future on the Lord, and He will direct our paths: we should trust in Him, not our own insight.  Recall the words of the Novena of Confidence:

"Only look.  Then do what your Heart inspires.  Let your Heart decide.  I count on It.  I trust in It.  I throw myself on Its mercy.  Lord Jesus, You will not fail me!"

This great confidence in the Lord's direction was a common trait among the saints.  Can't St. Therese's spirituality be summarized as throwing oneself on the Lord and letting Him guide us in all things?  "Throwing oneself down before God is when a person does not trust in his own strength alone but places his faith in the help of God, for it is He Who saves us" (St. Makarios of Egypt).  It is a simple fact that we cannot know what is best for ourselves and best for the Church: we cannot know how best to use the gifts the Lord as given us.  Thankfully, the Giver of the gifts knows how we are to use them, if we only ask.  This is an issue I am struggling with, and one for which I ceaselessly need to implore the Lord for assistance.  I must pray that the "Immortal King of the ages, holding within [His] right hand all the paths of human life" may, "thorough the power of [His] saving providence," guide me in the everlasting way and "marvelously [steer] me to the light of eternity" (Akathist of Thanksgiving).  He knows how He wishes me to use my gifts, and I must humbly let Him direct me.  Jesus said to Peter, "When you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go."  I need to emulate that example, stretch out my hands to the Lord, and let Him carry me whithersoever He wishes, just as the virgins in the Revelation of John "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goes."  May we all learn to throw ourselves on the Lord, Who knows all, and let Him guide us, as we are not clairvoyant, and we cannot know enough to perfectly direct ourselves.  We must surrender our wills to God that He may guide us for His greater glory.  nd as prayer is "the source of confidence for those who are awake," let us have Metropolitan Philaret's grand prayer of abandonment end this reflection:

"O Lord, I know not what to ask of You.  You alone know what are my true needs.  You love me more than I myself know how to love.  Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me.  I dare not ask either cross or consolation.  I can only wait on You.  My heart is open to You.  Visit and help me for the sake of Your great mercy.  Strike me and heal me.  Cast me down and raise me up.  I worship in silence Your holy will and Your unsearchable ways.  I offer myself as a sacrifice to You.  I have no other desire than to fulfill Your will.  Teach me how to pray.  Do You, Yourself, pray in me.  Amen."
St. Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow (1782-1867)

Nota Bene: The quote from the Novena of Confidence is from the version found on the back of the holy cards of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne that are available at her shrine in St. Charles, MO.  The quote from St. Makarios is from The Virtues of Saint Macarius of Egypt §10, found in Tim Vivian's St. Macarius the Spiritbearer: Coptic Texts Relating to Saint Macarius the Great, volume 28 of the Popular Patristics Seres (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2004).  The quote from Metropolitan Tryphon's Akathist of Thanksgiving is from Mother Thecla's translation, as found in the liner notes of John Tavener's Akathist of Thanksgiving (Sony Classical/Arc of Light, 1994).  The quote regarding prayer as a "source of confidence" is from the anonymous Syriac text On Prayer, found in Sebastian Brock's The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life, volume 101 of the Cistercian Studies series (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, Inc., 1987).  Metropolitan Philaret's prayer comes from the Melkite Eparchy of Newton's Publicans Prayer Book (Boston, MA: Sophia Press, 2008).

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