Filling the Hole in our Souls

We attended a presentation on Teresa of Avila on Friday at Valle Crucis Retreat Center with Bishop Porter Taylor, Diocese of Western North Carolina. Bishop Taylor introduced us to Teresa and helped us understand how the saints can assist us on our journey. It was unique because I have never known a bishop that was willing to go out and teach the people about adult spirituality. Thank you, Bishop Taylor, for being there for us.
Prior to the conference, I realized that I have slowed down. Spiritual reading is no longer speed reading; it is lectio divina—pondering sacred texts. The Institute for Continuing Learning seminar with Dr. Eric Dickman on the Language of God propelled me along the path. Here is my take on God language. God’s primary language is silence; God’s secondary language is poetry. How else can you describe the indescribable? What amazes me is that I think I am developing the capacity to understand poetry.
Merton began his journey into solitude with John of the Cross which is a good staring point. Later, Merton moved on to an appreciation of the Rhineland mystics and others. Thus, I have started to read The Complete Works of John of the Cross on my Kindle Fire. Bet John never thoughts his words would be on an electronic machine that is smaller and lighter than the version he wrote so painstakingly.  The translators begin the collection with John’s poetry because it teaches John in great depth.
“The Spiritual Cantabile” immediately reminded me of the Song of Songs, the passionate, sometimes, erotic biblical book that teaches us about our intimate relationship with the Living One. The Living One is the stag bounding over hills and peering through latices to catch glimpses of the beloved.
John cries out in pain and angst; he has been wounded by the divine lover who then was nowhere to be found. Where is my Lover? Where is God? If you find the One who wounded me, O Shepherds, bring him to me. I am in pain. I have a hole in my soul.
Yes, we have a hole in our soul. The hole is the sense of incompleteness, the sense of missing something that is essential for living life fully. Augustine understood it—our hearts are restless and empty until we rest in God. Psalm  42 describes our thirst as the thirst of a deer longing for the refreshing waters of the brook. Maybe this is all we ever meant by “original sin.” We are needy. We are incomplete. We are ever growing into deeper union with the Living One so we can fill the hole. We know that only the Living One can heal us. John captures the emptiness and longing in stanzas 9 and 10:
Why, since you wounded this heart, don’t you heal it? And why, since you stole it from me, do you leave it so, and fail to carry off what you have stolen? Extinguish these miseries, since no one else can stamp them out; and may my eyes behold you, because you are their light, and I would open them to you alone. (St. John of the Cross (1991-12-14). The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross (Kindle Locations 729-732). ICS Publications. Kindle Edition.)
We are born with this hole in our soul. As we grow, develop, and evolve, the hole gets larger or smaller depending upon our experiences. If we ware bathed in the warmth of human and divine love, the hole grows smaller. If we suffer emotional and physical abuse, the whole becomes a bottomless chasm. In our more wounded state, we cry out like John, “Heal me.” This is why the church has preserved ministries of healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation. For those with enlarged holes in their souls, generational healing offers the balm of the healing Spirit. Only when the hole is growing smaller can we trust enough to seek and enter into union with the Living God. Christ is the light that can open our eyes to divine love. Christ makes the hole whole.
I really like Richard Rohr’s concept that the Christ is the icon of God’s living and eternal presence to us. We sometimes think of icons as holy pictures or panels. They are much more than that. Icons make what they symbolize present is a very real way. Beholding an icon in prayer makes the reality represented by the icon fully present to us. Christ beings the healing balm of the Spirit to our question, “Why don’t you heal us?”
Listen to John’s erotic description of what happens when the Divine Lover heals us:
In the inner wine cellar I drank of my Beloved, and, when I went abroad through all this valley, I no longer knew anything, and lost the herd that I was following. There he gave me his breast; there he taught me a sweet and living knowledge; and I gave myself to him, keeping nothing back; there I promised to be his bride. Now I occupy my soul and all my energy in his service; I no longer tend the herd, nor have I any other work now that my every act is love. If, then, I am no longer seen or found on the common, you will say that I am lost; that, stricken by love, I lost myself, and was found.
(St. John of the Cross (1991-12-14). The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross (Kindle Locations 749-751). ICS Publications. Kindle Edition.)
We go into our inner room—our inner wine cellar—as Jesus has commanded us in order to drink the wine of divine love which heals us, which closes the hole in the soul by filling it with LOVE. We then become Love. We have no other work.
In our inner wine cellar this Easter season, we hear the words of healing from the Christ. “Peace be with you.” The Risen Christ brings shalom—peace, wholeness, fullness of life. The chasm is fuller. The void is more shallow. The darkness is lighter.

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