If 2020 and all of its difficult surprises and contradictions have taught us anything, it’s that we are small, we ultimately have little control over the circumstances of our lives, our illusions of grandeur and self-sufficiency are quaintly comic, and if we hope to find any real security, it will only be found in a sovereign God, who sees over all and, if we trust Him, works all to the benefit of our souls.
This is a difficult truth – especially when the realities and sufferings of our lives threaten to close in on us in a way that can feel impossible to navigate or sustain our way through.
This is the heart of the mystery of the lived Christian faith: that God loves us profoundly, perfectly, and does not desire or will us harm; that He sees us and hates all pain and suffering in their raw, unredeemed forms, which are all flickering manifestations of and enigmatic participations in the death brought into the world in Genesis; that He wants us in an unimaginable way to thrive fully and find true joy; and, yet, that He often permits profound sufferings to enter into our lives, sufferings which can feel so heavy as to break us, that can leave us breathless, broken, and even in various stages of catatonic, depending on the severity.
His Ways are Infinitely Not Ours, in 2020 as Much as Ever
There is truly an infinite gap between our understanding and His, as much now in 2020 as has ever been the case. Much of our suffering comes about by our own decisions and lack of character, and much of it comes by the unseen spiritual forces seeking to destroy us. In these instances, which is often, there is something to be overcome, and God in His graciousness often provides paths of grace to this end, and sometimes even the miraculous. We should ask for these precious gifts. But somewhere in the midst of a fallen story which cleaved a chasm through the centre of human existence, right into the ragged depths of each soul, God is also always there, permitting and using, if we let Him, all pain and suffering to form us into the most beautiful vision He has for us—and sometimes, mysteriously, more directly allowing it in order to perform a life-saving surgery for our souls.
It takes a cultivated gift of prayerful discernment to begin to understand what’s what—what it is we should seek to change, and what it is we should seek to accept in humility, trusting that there is a bigger story at work that God sees, one whose ending is tremendously yet unclear to our not only feebly mortal but also sin-cluttered eyes. Ultimately, we will all suffer death–our own and the death of many we love, as well as its many participatory forms in loneliness, disappointment, and wounding–and there is no escaping it. The miracle is that God can turn suffering into a way of escaping all suffering for all of eternity; that is precisely the work of the Cross at the foundation of our faith, the “oh, happy fault” that turned the cruel torture done to the innocent Christ into a path of redemption for all who receive Him.
We can maybe assent intellectually to this truth, but integrating it into our lives can be excruciatingly difficult. In the earthy reality of our experience, however, what we can begin with now, regardless of our circumstances or perception, is trust. No matter what the suffering or its source, no matter how small or how grave, we can choose to trust Him and His love, and allow Him to use everything for the sake of turning us into our truest forms and preparing us for the land where all suffering, sorrow, and death will cease—while also opening us up to a deeper capacity for love, joy, and human flourishing, even in this life. Nothing is ever wasted; all works to our true good if we let ourselves trust Him. Suffering in its contradictions is an opportunity to remember our deepest good, and our only true home.
A Contemplative Catholic Music Project as a Means to Engage with Christian Mystery
But bald spiritual truths rarely feel like anything but guilt-ridden platitudes, particularly if we have known them a long time and have ceased to see them as anything new. Sometimes another avenue is needed.
CASSIA & MYRRH is a contemplative Catholic music project in 2020 that seeks to address the sometimes unspeakable encounters with grief and confusion many experience, through offering an avenue of mystery, music, and creative applications of the depth and truth of the Catholic faith. Today is our second day of Launch Month, continuing through September 8th, 2020, where I’ll be uploading a song demo each day on YouTube. We offer here our second Catholic Chapters, I-IV trailer, featuring a section of the original song, “I Am Your Light” :
As the song says in its full version: “My little one, you do not know how My ways are not your own[…] Though you’re empty, and your heart’s dry, and you’re thirsting in a wasteland: I am your light..” and sometimes that’s all there is in different stages of our life: mystery in suffering, and continuing simply to walk in the midst of bone-dry barrenness, trusting that He will sustain you and always lead from His vantage point of eternal wisdom, eventually bringing you safely to water, shelter, and peace.
It is the goal behind CASSIA & MYRRH that this work reaches many souls through our 2021 project “Catholic Chapters, I-IV,” assisting them in entering more deeply into this mystery of following Christ, through suffering and joy and everything in between.
Special thanks to Elizabeth Mirzaei for her direction, cinematography, and editing on both trailers for Catholic Chapters, I-IV.