by Denise Levertov
‘Hail, space for the uncontained God’
From the Agathistos Hymn, Greece, VIc
We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.
But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.
Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.
She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.
Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
the astounding ministry she was offered:
to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –
but who was God.
This week’s Time magazine discusses a side of Mother Teresa that we have never seen. Titled, “The Secret Life of Mother Teresa,” I half expected a laundry list of conceivable ills, a pregnancy, drugs, an eating disorder, mental illness. Somehting juicy enough for Entertainment Tonight.
It’s not. Her letters, which she asked to be burned, reveal that for majority of her life — the life that she used to give love to so many people was one of extreme loneliness for the Presence she spoke for. Her letters reveal how she suffered from His silence. Confessor after confessor downplayed this longing, almost chastising her for feeling this way. Siyempre I kept thinking na sana she talked to a woman, she would have gotten her answer much earlier. Until she did find a confessor who said that perhaps it this absence, this longing which really confirmed that God did exist. The article said this finally released her from the suffering, in the sense that she learned to live with the darkness, in the loneliness.
So the atheists are all using this to further prove that God doesn’t exist that perhaps Mother Teresa woke up and she realized how religion was really [insert appropriate label here] while those who believe in God take it to mean that perhaps she shared in the cup of Christ, in his Passion to a different degree.
The value of this revelation, more than anything, humanizes Mother Teresa. She was not some crazy mystic hopped up on happy drugs able to give more than she had inside. But the way I use humanize doesn’t mean a de-ranking of some sort. In the same manner, that becoming human didn’t lower Christ, it merely elevated what it meant to be human.
Because really when you look at what she has done for so many people, you can’t help feeling that she was of another material all together. She held out her hand, pulled people close even when she herself felt only real despair, real silence from whom she served so faithfully.
The fact that she doubted does prove to be a comfort for the struggling Christian, trying to reconcile all this happy-wappy love doctrine from the New Testament with the fire and brimstone of the Old Testament and the Book of Revelations. It does further the frustrating facet of our faith which likes to tell us the God does work in mysterious ways. Not the song and dance kind, but in the unfathomable, you take my breath away kind.
It also somehow makes me able to look at God in a more intimate manner, that I want to ask him, what the hell are you doing? even if I may not like the answer or ever get one.
I like that with this invasion of her privacy, faith truly becomes more mind-blowing. That it can still be surprising, that it is still beyond the most self-righteous pompous representative’s ( bearer of the word/dogma/doctrine of God) hands.
it baffles the mind. and again, i see why we kneel. and I understand more why free will exists.
to me, Mother Teresa has become someone I can really believe in now. Jesus in the garden asking, begging the Father to take this cup away from Him is a more powerful thing. There is more than what we see in these stories.
I am left in tears, in fear actually, but like there is worth in all this.
I just hope now Mother Teresa has found her peace.
(subject from one of Mother Teresa’s letters.)