n. 5
maggio 2004


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echo of man's uneasiness

Theresa Della Croce *


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A never appeased uneasiness, muddy abode, common in our time, discovers its ashes foundations. Outstretched in a fraught doing of tottering certainties, saturated with doubts, hardly man exposes himself, like clay, to the bite of silence, to the bottlenecks of waiting for the discovery of the earthenware stability in himself, the discovery of the maturity in the Spirit. The anxiety that inflates the womb with wind is the most evident symptom of this interior uneasiness to which very few people can give a name. Noise, lights, agitation, craze, suffering like sparks glide high, while our senses find themselves again near the pitfall infatuation of the daily life. He who is unable to follow its jest and migrates from a feeling to the other, binds up or separates weak thoughts, is imperiously rejected by it. It is necessary to be courageous enough as to disclaim a reality made up of appearances, of emptiness, of bamboo boats, which cannot stand the vehemence of the waves. It's urgent to recuperate all that makes man the lord of the time and not the slave of fashion, of customs, of traditions taken for granted, dry straw swept away by situations of exasperate newness. In such a turmoil vortex, man fears silence, fears the unknown, fears to stop, to linger. He is scared, scared of what he can't dominate, control or manage, like waiting and solitude. Fear of the unknown, of something that bandages the mind. Whenever he sees anything that overcomes him, troubling food of daily life, to check his anxiety, along with tranquillisers, he sets on in search of Somebody who knows and can give him peace. Here is, then, a way through the existential crossroad. He can choose. Often an exact set of rites begins, made up of brief strings of prayer, of  medals and images, of kindled candles to be added to the amulets; the Bible is at hand and the sign of the cross articulates dim judgements on all that rotates around in moments of panic that catch people pitilessly. In such a case anxiety and fear are the swish of the daily action. But … more rarely, if he coks his ear, he enters in contact with the  memory of God.


I have remembered God and have rejoiced

  Man catches a glimpse of his own weakness, experiences and comes to know it. Saint Isaac proclaims such[1] a person blessed, adding "The man who has attained the measure of his own weakness, has attained the perfection of humility"3. He is ready to listen to the shofar , which resounds for everyone, the return to his dialogue with God, to the reminder of prayer4, to the memoria Dei.

  In the  dryness of serenity, once landed in the dock of anguish, he perceives the pungent need of being fascinated by the absolute and of living a time of solitude to the end of finding once again the interior balance of quietness, in such a tranquillity as it is no longer a passing state of soul, but a way of living, a state of life, it is precisely the passing through the turmoil, the agitation, the annihilation, into the feeling of entering the passionate search of what inhabits us, of the unique quiet: peace in God. The call to linger, then, resounds, "Be still and acknowledge that I am God" (Psalm 46).


Be silent and you will enjoy tranquillity wherever you live

  The search for tranquillity, for the esichia is important for prayer. The fathers of the desert recommend silence: not in the sense of keeping the mouth close, but a mental pause to prevent oneself from being flooded with noise, with the many voices, with the echo of distractions. A solitary mind, since only in solitude silence speaks and works wonders. But solitude has its own place which is the concrete safeguard of the interior dimension; the cell, the most intimate room where we dispose ourselves to the encounter with God. The constant and habitual memory of God and prayer flow from the assiduous stay in a silent place.

  Theresa of Liisieux narrates, "When I was a child I used to stay behind the bed, in a corner that could easily be concealed with a curtain, and there I thought, I sought God"5. The "vacare Deo", perceiving his absence and looking for Him in prayer, is in itself the answer to a call, a ceaseless and vigilant listening,  which does not stand between the still diaphragms of the hardness of hearing, but opens to the voice that inhabits us in the depth: Our Father6.


Our listening invokes vigilance and humility

  Not every calm man is humble, but every humble man is calm. Today's man is agitated and speaks up to the wear and tear of words; he doesn't understand and does not tolerate the listening, a freedom space for the speaking of others. His inability to listen leads him to us the language of the cunning people who create conflicts, misunderstandings, injustices, troubled thought , deep dramas; it leads to camp at the margins of his destroyed heart, of his senseless mind; to be consumed by the merciless eagerness that submerges and persecutes. To attain the silence of all thoughts seems to be quite difficult. Safeguarding the heart requires vigilance and humility. The custody of the mind is a hard exercise. Vigilance on one's own territory, so that the feeling may not submerge neither the intellect nor the will, and so that the clay projects may have their foundations in the rock.

  The humility to welcome  oneself as clay kneaded with the spirit, adherent to the earth, but taken up to the paths of truth by the eternal blow. Deprived of this habitus, man sips iniquity like fresh water, he can no longer find his face, and gaspingly looks for pools to mirror himself in the hope of finding himself once again. Humility turns man into a serene creature, who does not need to exhibit himself; a creature who communicates peace in so far as he is appeased with life and with himself; a creature capable of listening to and, consequently, able to pronounce wise words; a creature able to pray.

  Humility tries that the other may dwell in my ideas and add his own to them; that on entering he may leave the door of my secret room wide opened , inviting me to live with an open heart, to discover myself robbed or donated in the love dialogue, in prayer, in narrating and making myself be narrated about God, about man, on the ground of my nakedness7.

  Without humility prayer devalues in a monologue, falls into the abyss of the daily incongruencies  and into the sclerosis of our nothingness. It is only by breathing the humus of our sin that we can approach God  Through humility we can experience the distance that separates us from Him and, after wondering at random, like drunkard people, till dawn, through simple speaking we begin to understand the love of God for man .We, then, move near the mystery, leaving behind our pathless solitude, the waking time spent in  hopeless torture,  dazzled in the night of presumption. Isaac of Ninive narrates, "When  in prayer you will stand before God, let your thinking be simple… On seeing your desires, the purity of your thought resting on Him rather in yourself, your trustful hope, God will bestow on you this mysterious power and you will become aware of possessing him, The awareness of this power has encouraged some people to face the fire fearlessly,  others to walk on water with the certainty of not getting drowned"8.

  The extraordinary power of humility is itself origin and fruit of prayer. It opens the heart to God and to man. Opens to pro-existence, to exist for the other, to offer the hope of such a love as it can make itself presence. This happens not only with those whom we meet or ww live with, but with as many as we spiritually meet in the secrecy of our prayer.


Saltem frequenter in vita

  How many times our prayer is only a letting our eyes fall on the evil of the world, forgetting the cross of Christ: we surrender to desperation.  Only the nonsense we can meet if, crouching at the shore of evil, like greenhorn spectators, we break the nets of delusion  in the fishing of a few odd coins beneficence . No answer comes from the shore of evil except weeping and groaning. Our stay far from God, the rebellion of man's obstinate intelligence, the claiming of autonomy from him, have dug the evil furrows of men's history that from the depth of a transcendent feeling turns into "a voice shouting to man till his last breath: be converted today" 9.

  We presume to pray for the evil that afflicts, crashes, devours us without considering the cross of Christ, remaining in our sadness. If we learn to pray before the crucifix we can unveil the love of God for man, Christ becomes our prayer, the heart of our prayer.

  Let's learn to be grateful and to thank for everything10: for the tribulation and suffering, for all that happens to us, to our sister,  to our brother, because we are to enter the kingdom through much suffering11, comforted by faith that allows us to see "the first lights of Saturday morning" (Lk 23,54). Remembering the words, "your brother will rise again" Jn 11,23), today's man can build love camps in the fatigue of the morst ordinary activities, in the fulfilment of the daily task, in the sanctification of his working days, in today's  prayer and waiting without more words.


Today, do not harden your heart (Hebrew 4,7)

  In a world made up of shadows and silence in which the voices - one after the other - end their breathless race,  in that interior world that assails, steals and insidiously entraps the thought in a hideous feeling, the beauty of the human integrity cannot but narrate the warm invitation of freedom from selfishness, to go along the swinging away path back to the source. Be converted, today. The metanoia is a gift from God, origin and fruit of the works of faith, prayer being the foremost.

  Sometimes suffering leaves indelible signs that only assiduous prayer can heal. Going back is easier than advancing, because the memory of failures, of anguish, of fears in an expert in precision. "I have been uprooted on times whose order I ignore, and my thoughts, the intimate fibres of my soul, have been thorn to pieces by a multiple riots." This is the experience of a symbolic man, Augustine, who read the secret of God on the reefs of a life that had discovered itself as prayer, along the paths of his interiority, after wandering in a research outside his being. This is the experience of all times man. It's unbelievable that this man never ends to discover himself! Mystery of fullness and of frailty, parable of a journey that takes him away from himself , towards the discovery of his own meaning. He lives, but cannot define his life, except by writing pages of history, sacred pages and cursed pages, pages that he tears off, and page that he rebuilds.

  The course of existence, the sowing again today what  seems to have been torn for ever, is the marvellous adventure of prayer. Returning man to himself, is there any higher task? Restoring him to his beauty, to goodness, to what is true and does not set down. It is a journey in which man does not want to go alone for the fear of getting lost once again, a journey in which man trusts another man who is as frail as himself, being he, too, a son of man. The Saviour as the Son of God: a man that can show him the return way. This conduct also is prayer. The one who prays observes, acquires the capacity of seeing. It is prayer that changes the sight, that opens the conscience to the weakness of life, to the fullness of communion with the living and with God. A purified thought, a limpid sight, a lively mind. He who does not exempt himself from conversion, who rather perseveres in prayer, can see God, can recognise him in the Scriptures, in the banquet of the Word and of Bread, in everything. "The soul, purified from passion and enlightened ny the contemplation of the last things, dwells in God and his prayer is true"12.


He who prays resembles an explorer

  "Wisely I have applied myself to investigation and exploration of everything that happens under heaven" (Qo 1,13), since you walk towards the truth and leave nothing unattended, in spite of the continual blackmail of the doubt"  (FR21). Called to climb the limits of a natural and sensorial conscience, through faith and the works of faith13, the lost, sceptical, incredulous man can find once again his trust in his capacity to reflect 14 critically on reality's data and on the sense of life: Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going to? Why does evil exist? The metaphysical capacity of man turns him into a man a prayer so that he may look upwards and high towards the truth15. Prayer is the motor of such a flying.

  To answer the disquieting question of the sense of life that makes a nest in his life, man tries to acquire a deep and realistic self conscience, a conscience of his potentials and of his limits, along with a certain awareness of his own personality,  to the end of orienting constructively  his own energies  towards his ideals.

  Through assiduous prayer, man discovers himself oriented towards the absolute good, and this "draws its origin from the intuition and the experience of being a creature, and as such, of being limited, yet yearning to transcend himself in order to reach the fullness of his own personality". 17. Prayer consents to assimilate progressively the freely chosen values, ordained to seek self- transcendence and to reach the ultimate end, God, the desirable good in itself, worthy of being loved and sought. Infinite freedom in which he can find his freedom of a child in the Son, "We receive from Him, the concrete and perfect norm of every moral activity, the freedom to fulfil the will of God and our destiny of free children of the Father" 18.

  Free and fragile, open to the Absolute, but tempted by what is relative, the man who prays, interiorising the eternal values in view of an ever richer personal response to the love of the Lord, assumes the responsibility of his life  through a free choice, aware of a response to the appeal that God addresses to each of us. In fact, "God never wanted to create a museum, but a living and free universe that is created and re-created. Each one is a source of a creative power, source of a possible overcoming, capable of offending his own dignity" 19.


A man of prayer by vocation

  Called to transcend himself, the man can waste this vital, deep urge in horizontal possessions and immediate fulfilment, which entrap him within the boundary of resources taken for granted and precludes to it the possibility of fetching new forces from potentials unknown to him, yet of his own constitutive patrimony. Chosen by vocation to ruminate in his heart the word, as a seed that blooms  with contemplation, a strength that invokes the Spirit and the word by which God speaks to His creature, the man of prayer is he who applies himself to the loving reading of the Scriptures. If, after purifying his heart, man receives the word of God and dwells in it (2Jn,9), he emits good thoughts, and the commandments of God dwell in Him" 20. This the fruitfulness of authentic prayer. In the secret of an abundant life, articulated by the thanksgiving of the question, by the supplication up to the contemplation, the prayer leads to the fulfilment of his fullness, his maturity, the state we have been created for: men and women unified by the gift of the Spirit.

  A development model of the life of prayer that orients our acting may be that of a spiral: at each phase the previous ones are absorbed thus moving to a higher level of integration. It's a model that expresses a dynamic continuity. It is an "intelligent" journey, traced by grace that finds interior availability and opens to an everlasting life, the face of God in us, a living water that murmurs  its name drawn from the pure source of our being. Thus, we shall be able to make "our man" visible- It was Theophylus of Antioch who wrote this in his dialogue with the pagan world of his time: "If you asked me:' Show me your God', I would answer you: Show me your man, and  I will show you my God" 21. The face of man shows the features of his creator. Prayer empowers us to see with luminous eyes the face of God in our brothers and sisters.

  The relation in which each person finds the fullness of his being is that with the divine, namely with a you who is not at par, but that is at the origin of its existence, the fountain through which we can receive ourselves, the One whom man prays. It is not the horizontal area in which the creature finds its access to God, but the vertical one. It is only after delineating the boundaries of his own autonomy from the One who created him, only by praying, that man can decipher, in the face of his brother and his sister, the image of God22.

  At this point we can understand where man has gone to hide himself, Instead of  being  the dominus of his thoughts, feelings, experiences, he has remained subjected to them, confused in a prayer made up of words, sounds and little heart … We wonder where a person, who has mirrored himself in a pool, has finished by finding himself, where to look for the man who, instead of safeguarding creation, his brothers and sisters, has attempted to deprive them of their dignity because of his feeling to be the owner,


Fullness of life

  The commandment of love, a wonderful synthesis of the shkinah  (presence) of God, realized in Christ, verbum salutis, will always be the attractive object of the praying man, the irresistible fascination that leads him to the telos of his journey: perfect communion with God, with brothers and sisters. "The intelligent nature of the human person can and must reach perfection. This, through wisdom, sweetly attracts the mind to seek and to love the truth and the good; the man who nourishes himself with it, is the lead to the invisible through the visible" (GS 15).


In the folly of the cross we find the secret of the Mystery just there, where the disarming paradox of Love speaks to the Father of mercy, comforts us in the journey of life to entrust us to Him, knowing "that we are left in the night,  but under the stars".

  Beyond all the enigmas, the unknown, the crooked human destiny in the world, the truth on man, that God has written on the pages of an extraordinary history of salvation, affirms itself in the experience of a new humanity,  that of Christ, in which every person is called to participate with the fullness of God's life (2 Pt 1,4). In the creative uneasiness of man, generated by the awareness of his temporal limitation, what is more deeply human pulsates: the desire of returning to the Source of his own image, the nostalgic yearning of  being restored to unity with Him from whom he has received his being. This nostalgic feeling is prayer.

  The human person is truly a visited being, an abode open to hospitality in the name of the similitude with God that makes him capable of safeguarding the authenticity of life, thus becoming an icon of prayer for things, events, persons. The biography of man keeps on growing till it identifies itself with the word that has been pronounced concerning him, a Word of life that does not perish. The human person remains the privileged area for the encounter  with the Being.


….. as a conclusion

The experience of sleep that takes away every night, reminds us that we can go from perfection to fulfilment, to be His mirrors, without annulling the night, but by resting in it, not as homo dormiens, he who does not question himself, who lives without interests, who does not want to hear or to see, who does not allow himself to be touched,  who lives in fear, superficially more than in his dept, and thus, because of fear, multiplies his prayers, remaining in a horizontal position, almost sleeping , but rather like the homo vigilant, the true man of prayer, he who is always present to himself and to others, to his work and service, he who responsibly does not exhaust himself in the immediate, but knows how to measure himself in the long and patient waiting, he who expresses the whole that is present in each fragment of his life, he who is not afraid of feeling vulnerable, because he knows that the wounds of his humanity can change into loopholes where Life reaches with the passing of time, a Life that, being able to realise finally his End, sings to Love with his "wounded heart", rapped  in a "flame that consumes without causing pain", ready "to tear the veil " provided he can encounter Him for good.. Suffering is no longer a weight caused by disorder, but an ordered one, the sweet weight of limitation, protected by the "delicious wound", always open to the "sweet encounter". "The Loved One is the hills, the solitary valleys rich in shadow … it is like a still night, very close to the rising of dawn, silent music, sounded solitude. Who can ever heal this wounded heart of mine? … It is a flame that consumes without causing pain! O Loved one, please, tear the veil at the sweet encounter".

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