Enter Into Joy

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It’s the real thing

Number 4, from 29 Pieces: Lovers must have solitude
– St. Therese of Lisieux

(First off, the handful of friends who actually read my first post here may wonder if I’m the same guy they remember from the ball game or the tavern. Well, I don’t want to convert anybody, nor have I joined a cult. I’m just trying to keep an open mind, taking what I need, and what I think will last. I’ve agreed to post something weekly on this blog, and I may need to refer back to this disclaimer from time to time…)  

Lovers must have solitude. A heart-to-heart lasting night and day.” The phrase is from a poem by St. Therese of Lisieux, a Carmelite nun who died at the age of 24, and whom Pope Pius X called “the greatest saint of modern times”. So right away, you know we probably aren’t talking about the kind of love affair you’d see on TV. The poem begins with a reference from the Bible (John 14:23): “On the evening of Love, speaking without parable, Jesus said: "If anyone wishes to love me all his life, let him keep my Word.” Therese calls it the “uncreated word, word of my God”. 

I just finished The Way of the Pilgrim, one of those great books that is profound and entertaining, written by an anonymous Russian peasant in the 1850s.  He wanders through Russia looking for someone who can tell him how to “pray without ceasing”, as urged by the apostle Paul (in 1 Thessalonians 5:17).  Eventually, he finds a monk who instructs him in the use of “The Jesus Prayer” – “Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me.” The prayer has been used as a form of interior prayer – much like mantram meditation - by millions of Eastern Orthodox and other Christians since about the 4th century.  The monk tells him to begin by silently repeating the prayer, thousands of times a day. It’s a painful process, but eventally the prayer continues on it’s own, with no effort, in the pilgrim’s heartbeats, and he begins to see miraculous results during his travels. 

Few of us make a concerted effort to be careful about what enters our mind. We try to eliminate pesticides and saturated fat from our diet, but our day is filled with messages that are junk food, or worse. A 2007 New York Times article was headlined “Anywhere the eye can see, it’s likely to see an ad.” According to research cited in the article, the average American sees 5,000 ad messages a day. The article quotes an ad executive, who says “We never know where the consumer is going to be at any point in time, so we have to find a way to be everywhere. Ubiquity is the new exclusivity.”  So many surfaces are used for moving product that it has all started blending into the landscape.

I think that’s partly why so many people seem to be captivated by 29 Pieces. One result of the project will be a series of striking, large sculptures, representing words of timeless wisdom, carried forward by faith traditions over thousands of years, but now nearly lost in the noise of modern life.  Therese said, “I don’t desire to possess other goods. I want to be set on fire with his Love.” That message probably isn’t going to be coming from an ad agency.

— Kelly Nash


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