NOTE: As I mentioned yesterday, we are currently listening to Caryll Houselander's The Reed of God in the monastery refectory for table reading at dinner each day. I cannot recommend this book enough, especially as an Advent meditation. In the following excerpt, the author reflects on who and what we are called by God to be, which is achieved in a profound way through our human emptiness.
Emptiness is the beginning of contemplation. It is emptiness like the hollow in the reed, the narrow riftless emptiness, which can have only one destiny: to receive the piper’s breath and to utter the song that is in his heart.
Our Lady’s was a reed through which the Eternal Love was to be piped as a shepherd’s song.
It is the purpose for which something is made that decides the material which is used. The purpose for which human beings are made is told to us briefly in the catechism. It is to know, love, and serve God is this world and to be happy with him forever in the next. The material which God has found apt for it is human nature: blood, flesh, bone, salt, water, will, intellect.
It is impossible to say too often or too strongly that human nature, body and soul together, is the material for God’s will in us. It is through ordinary human life and the things of every hour of every day that union with God comes about.
Although human nature is the material which God has made for the fulfilling of his will in us, and although human nature is something we all share, and although we each have the same purpose of knowing and loving God, we do not all achieve that purpose in the same way or through the same experiences. In fact, no two people have exactly the same personal experience of God; there seem to be rules of love like the rules of music, but within them each soul has her secret—with God.
Each one of us—as we are at the moment when we first ask ourselves: “For what purpose do I exist?”—is the material which Christ himself, through all the generations that have gone to our making, has fashioned for his purpose. Our own experience, the experience of our ancestors and of all our race, has made us the material that we are. This material gives us the form of our life, the shape of our destiny.
Think again of the symbol I have used for the virginal emptiness of Mary. These are made from material which must undergo some experience to be made ready for its purpose. The reed grows by the streams. It is the simplest of things, but it must be cut by the sharp knife, hollowed out, and the stops must be cut in it; it must be shaped and pierced before it can utter the shepherd’s song. It is the narrowest emptiness in the world, but the little reed utters infinite music.
Thus it is with us—we may be formed by the knife, pared down, cut to the least, to the minimum of our own being. The most moving fact in the whole history of mankind is that wherever the Holy Spirit has desired to renew the face of the earth, he has chosen to do so through communion with some humble human creature.
In the instances we know of, it is not been to great or powerful people that the Spirit has come but to the little or the frightened, and we have seen them made new, and known that the subsequent flowering of their lives was nothing else but Christ given to them by that sweet impact.-- Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God