28 November 2018

White Knuckling the Viam in Mari

+JMJ+


I have heard from my confessor of White Knuckling. To put this as clearly as I can, it's the way I tend to ward off sin: Nope. Not gonna do it. Not gonna do it. Not gonna do it. Not gonna do it. Not gonna do it. Not gonna do it. Not gonna. Not gonna. Not gonna. Not gonna. Not gonna. Not gonna. Not. Not. No. No. No. No. Drats. Time to go to confession. I'm told this is not the right way to do it. How else is there, though? My current line of defense is simply to get just a few more days of saying, "Not gonna do it. Not gonna do it." Can I go 10 days before confession? What about 11? One day at a time, you know... Not gonna do it. Not gonna do it. Wouldn't be prudent. Not at this juncture.

In (EF) Matins for the Feast of St Clement, which was observed last week on 23 November, there is this Versicle and Response:

V. Dedísti, Dómine, Sanctis tuis viam in mari, et in flumínibus sémitam.
R. Iter præbens pópulo terræ, ut enárrent mirabília tua.
V. Lord, Thou didst give unto thy Saints a way in the sea, and a path through the mighty waters.
R. And Thou gavest a way thither unto the people on the land, that they may tell of thy marvellous works.
The image came to me of Israel standing at the shores of the sea, trapped. The Army of Egypt behind and impassible water in front, death before and behind. What I'm about to say is nothing original: even St Paul saw this in the first century. But the water - which moments before had been certain death - suddenly became their salvation. And for a week now, that's been playing in my head: how did their very death become their salvation? The armies of Egypt, long seen as a typological sign of the evil, sins, and temptations of this world, drive the People of God to the brink of death... and yet, God makes that death into life.

Can one let go of white knuckles... and trust God even in the face of temptation?

Spiritual warfare is not all about slaying the enemies. We think of knights in shining armor galloping forward into battle. But I think that's the wrong image just now. Israel was going forward. The armies of temptation were behind them. To turn and fight "through" the army of Egypt would have been the wrong choice. We're trying to get to the Promised Land and, when you think about it, the tempters are not between us and heaven - they're trying to get us to turn away from the path. Think of the icon of the Divine Ladder:


The temptations are not on the ladder but rather trying to pull us off of it. They're saying the path is too hard, the road is scary, come, fight us... they know that if we grab on and hold the ladder with our white knuckles, we won't even be climbing.

How to stop "not gonna do it" and to turn to God in trust and walk through the water - that is our warfare. To say, God's got this and to keep going.
V. Dedísti, Dómine, Sanctis tuis viam in mari, et in flumínibus sémitam.
R. Iter præbens pópulo terræ, ut enárrent mirabília tua.
V. Lord, Thou didst give unto thy Saints a way in the sea, and a path through the mighty waters.R. And Thou gavest a way thither unto the people on the land, that they may tell of thy marvellous works.


Not Down, But Through

 "When Thou passest through the waters,"
Deep the waves may be and cold,
But Jehovah is our refuge,
And his promise is our hold;
For the Lord himself has said it,
He, the faithful God and true;
"When you come to the waters
You will not go down, but through."

Seas of sorrow, Seas of trial,
Bitter anguish, fiercest pain,
Rolling surges of temptation
Sweeping over heart and brain...
They will never overflow us
For we know His work is true;
All His waves and all His billows
He will lead us safely through.

Threatening breakers of destruction,
Doubt's insidious undertow,
Will not sink us, will not drag us
Out to ocean depths of woe;
For His promise will sustain us,
Praise the Lord, whose word is true!
We will not go down, or under,
For He says, "You will pass through."

Annie Johnson Flint