Hello everyone, this is the latest news and wisdom from Sr Rita, who is on a journey with cancer. You will find the ten previous “Wisdom Companion” pieces from Sr. Rita by searching this site.
I love this reflection and am grateful for what it teaches me. Just this morning I was doing tonglen meditation, in which we visualize taking in the pain of others with every in-breath and sending out whatever will benefit them on the out-breath. In the process, we become liberated from age-old patterns of selfishness. We begin to feel love for both ourselves and others; we begin to take care of ourselves and others. What Sr Rita discusses here is, I believe, very much in the same spirit.
From Sr Rita:
Many thanks to all for your prayers, healing energy, and good wishes. I am convinced you are the reason I can tolerate the treatments with minimal side effects. That said, the dominant experience is fatigue of body, mind, and spirit. Yesterday I began treatment 2 of Cycle 5. A CAT scan at the end of the month will set the direction for what comes next. I have spent most of the last three weeks in long naps with little physical, mental, or emotional energy. . . doing only what is absolutely necessary, making appointments, keeping appointments, taking medications, and oral hygiene after the tooth extraction. Taking a shower is like building the pyramids. So, the title is self-explanatory.
Today is the first morning I have had a modicum of energy required to write. I do not have any extraordinary spiritual consolations that enable me to transcend these experiences. While it may seem ironic, I am grateful for that. My consolation is the continuity of the spiritual journey. My path is to respond to the question, “Will I enter my human experience as fully as Jesus entered his, trusting I will meet the One he met?”
Which brings me to the circumscribed life . . .
Like it or not, we are all living circumscribed lives, some of us more than others, some of us more consciously than others. From conception, the pattern has been the union of seeming opposites — differentiation and then integration. There is an energy in us that pushes toward the “more,” wanting to expand, move beyond, and increase our circumference. Invariably, we face a limit: health, age, finance, and other irreversible life losses. Perhaps this is the most creative moment we have: meaning-making is our life task.
I find great consolation in the thought attributed to Wittgenstein, but which is really much older.
The definition of God as ‘an infinite sphere, whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere’ has its roots in the Liber XXIV philosophorum, a Latin booklet by an anonymous author, which consists of 24 commented definitions of what God is. It has been ascribed to the fourth-century grammarian and philosopher Marius Victorinus, but the earliest extant manuscript dates back to the beginning of the thirteenth century.
This expression has had a very fertile and interesting reception from the Middle Ages till nowadays, being frequently quoted and reworked by poets, philosophers and scientists to account for God, the universe or the self.
What does it mean to dwell, to sink into that kind of God? For me, it is to be immersed in inclusion and that kind of radical inclusion is the God I know as LOVE. It places me at the center of every human joy and suffering, at the travail and beauty of creation. It frees me to be one with the Love at work in UNION, DIFFERENTIATION, AND INTEGRATION. It joins me to Dante who says, “It is love that moves the sun, the moon and the stars” and leaves me humming with Julian, “All shall be well.” At the same time, it stretches me to pray as Chardin did:
Oh God, I wish from now on
to be the first to become conscious
of all that the world loves, pursues, and suffers;
I want to be the first to seek,
to sympathize and to suffer;
the first to unfold and sacrifice myself,
to become more widely human
and more nobly of the earth
than of any of the world’s servants. — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. (1881–1955)
The image below captures what I desire. This is the crucible of all who are suffering and all who contribute to the suffering of the world. It is not the hellfire of pain and punishment to which we like to consign our perceived enemies. Hate has never healed anyone. I place all here for warmth (melt the frozen, warm the chilled), for purification, returning them to an original innocence, minus the debris of life.
I invite you to join me here, praying for transformation, including all, surrendering our notions as to what that transformation should look like, and trusting the Love that would make all things new.