Monday, October 19, 2009

The Absence of God

While on my silent retreat I picked up the "Inaugural Issue" of the Weavings. I love this journal, have for years. I love the poetry, the reflections, especially the writings of Wendy Wright. And, given where my life is right now, I figured it was no small coincidence that the lead article was titled, "The Absence of God" written by E. Glenn Hinson.

The article draws on Mother Theresa's memoir, her startling assertion that "The place of God in my soul is blank.....There is no God in me...I just hear my own heart cry out - 'My God' and nothing comes."

He offers this assessment: most contemplatives have discovered "The deeper you plunge into the depths of God, the more likely you are to experience how utterly inadequate is our human capacity for meeting and knowing God."

He then goes on to speak about the apophatic and kataphatic streams of mysticism - that there is no way to really know God or the way to know God is affectively as love.

Hinson writes: "Persons who want to just dabble in religious life and who have only a casual interest in God will not be likely to experience the 'darkness' and desolation' Jesus experience on the cross, 'My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me....or Mother Theresa knew as she immersed herself totally in ministering to 'the distressed Christ in his many disguises.' Like Mother Theresa and many another saint, you have to have known at some time in your life a sense of Presence, God's shekinah, in order to miss it."

And then ends with this:

"Thinking about this dark night causes me to ask another question. Given the fact that God is always beyond our knowing, should we not sometimes measure our faith by our sense of the absence of God as well as our sense of the presence of God?"


Jan said...

Yes, yes, yes. I also love "Weavings" and even have them alphabetized on a book shelf! (Amazing for me in my disorganization....)

MP, I so appreciate your daily attendance at my blog. Thank you; I feel like only a few friends are sticking with me through the ABC's of gratitude. I'm glad you're one of them.

Mompriest said...

Jan, I think there are just fewer people blogging - writing or leaving comments...but, of course I love your blog and really appreciate what you have to say.

Gannet Girl said...

Of course what you have said makes complete sense.

I have heard it argued, however, that what Mother Theresa experienced was clinical depression rather than a dark night. Whatever the case in her situation, the argument in itself is a reminder to us to take good care of ourselves and not confuse spiritual darkness with biochemical disorder.

I, of course, find the distinction perfectly clear. ;)

Mompriest said...

GG: Yes, you raise an important point. The mystics are often described as having some sort of disorder as well, epilepsy or something. And, perhaps Mother Theresa was clinically depressed, but personally I doubt that was it. I think she experienced such pain and suffering in the world and truly wondered where God was in all that suffering, including her own.

What I appreciate about this article is the idea that experiencing an absence of God is as much an experience of faith as those rare times we feel God present. I know this, but somehow, at this point in time, the way he says it, that we might measure our faith by our sense of God's absence, is comforting to me.

Anonymous said...

wow - this is truly something to ponder - it goes hand-in-hand with my lack-of-trust issue pondering... i would never choose fellow pilgrims on my journey but i appreciate your traveling alongside

revhipchick said...

it's both sad and beautiful to think of God's absence as a sign of our deepening relationship with God.

i think it's easier to define the mystics as crazy or ill than to take seriously their experiences.

it's no wonder that Mother Theresa would experience the absence of God. i think you, MP, hit it right on the head--she knew the darkest side of humanity, she minsitered to the very least and the demand for her work never lessoned, it just kept coming and coming. you'd have to wonder when God was going to show up.

Mompriest said...


Homily for the Festive Eucharist at the closing of the Episcopal Women's Caucus

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