Tuesday, June 29, 2010


"En una noche oscura . . ." writes John of the Cross at the beginning of his famous poem: the key word is "oscura", reflected later in the stanza by the words "sin ser notata". "Oscura" is usually translated as "dark" but it carries many nuances most of which are alien to a culture steeped in celebrity. "Oscura" also means "obscure", and the words following, "without being noticed", reinforce this meaning.

The first line speaks not only of an interior darkness but a deliberately chosen, passionately desired obscurity. This sense of obscurity is repeated throughout the poem: "secret", "disguised", "concealed"—what could be more foreign to our in-your-face, have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too spirituality marketplace? Today's assertive claims about God and religious experience would only make him smile sadly, perhaps, or weep.

For prayer as lived, prayer as a way of being, requires a deliberate, chosen obscurity at every level. This notion is incomprehensible to our age; in fact, it is almost "heretical" according to the "experience" based smorgasbord put forward by would-be gurus and trendy parishes.

"Deliberately seek obscurity?" someone might ask, "You must be mad! Of course John means an interior obscurity." No, he means the choice for obscurity as a way of life. He means not seeking any position or honor, or separating what one may have been given from a sense of "who am I", a question that itself falls into insignificance.

God is; therefore I am.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


For one to live their life as hidden or obscure is counter-culture and counter-intuitive; unless, one is called to live it.

The 21st century world is noisy, competitive, self-serving, and chock full of spiritual narcissism. For someone intentionally absenting themselves from this is aberrant and just plain odd.

Notwithstanding, however, the life apart, the life inward, is authentic and real. In fact, the life lived as such is free of denial and masks. Obscured/hidden; yet, stripped of pretense and interior falseness. One faces God the Alone, as one is alone. How more real can that be?

Esther, Diocesan solitary

7:36 pm, June 30, 2010  

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