Daily Reflection
October 6th, 2001
Robert Hart, S.J.
Theology Department
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

Optional Memorial of St. Bruno
Baruch 4:5-12, 27-29
Psalms 69:33-35, 36-37
Luke 10:17-24
I grew up ...

St. Bruno

Jessica Powers, Carmelite contemplative sister (1905-88), has a wonderful poem about Bruno, about his seeking God and of his finally being given the gift of "uninterrupted conversation with God."

  How did this wonder come to him?  Without
  Carthusian insights I can only guess:
  There must have been at first some seeds of grace
  Which Bruno planted in his wilderness
  He must have watered them with tears, and kept
  His little garden friendly to the sun
  Till the shoots came and, marvelously, flowers.
  (Words were his flowers to woo the  Holy One.)
  Bruno had peace, I know, but all the same,
  I doubt that he perceived if answers came.

  And surely there were winters in his heart
  Where leaf and blossom died, and the land froze
  And a white silence covered everything.
  He offered God this silence, I suppose,
  And his cold poverty (which few believe
  That God in his warm silence will receive).

  How did this wonder come at last to Him?
  I would surmise: when Bruno understood
  How love that crushed him had no gift for God –
  Though through all seasons he had sought the good—
  He entered  his own hut, pulled down the shades,
  And  sat and grappled with his pain till he
  Himself became the word, the total need,
  The gift, the outcry, the last agony.
  And one day God, most ready to discover
  The moment that a heart fills to the brim,
  Burst into Bruno’s time, sat down beside him,
  And eager with delight gave to this lover
  The joy of endless dialogue with him.

(The Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers, p. 65, 1984) 

Carmelites (Jessica  Powers, the Little Flower, the contemplative Sisters of the Good Shepherd), the Cistercians, St. Bruno and his Carthusians all, I believe, have three things in common, and all three are touched upon in today’s readings. 

First, from Psalm 69, they truly sought God with all  their heart.  They were, or gradually over time became, people of the first commandment  - "Love God with your whole mind, heart, soul, strength."  Jesus taught it and lived it to the hilt.  I have come to do the will of him who sent me, for example, but it simply permeates Scripture.  Psalm 69 says simply: "You who seek God, may your hearts be merry."  It's the only way to be always, Abidingly happy – to seek him whole-heartedly- "Blest the single-minded, hearted" – "Joy, the infallible sign of the presence of  God "– Leon Bloy.  We get a bit of a sense of it in the title of the hymn, "JESU, JOY of man’s DESIRING."  Jesus is the place where Christians generally find God-father-mother-parent.  In Jesus we abide, and in Him we return to the Father.  In Jesus, we live and move and have our being.

And the Gospel is a lovely one, too, for it is one of two instances in the Gospels where Jesus simply bursts into spontaneous prayer,  "his heart filled with wonder and with praise," one might say.  The seventy-two had just come back "in jubilation."  "Even the demons are subject to us."  And Jesus replies (my paraphrase): I do share your joy, but it was I who gave you this power; so, rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.  And then this remarkable prayer in these remarkable words:

"At that moment Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit (enter into that joy if you can – this is the joy of the fourth week of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.) and said: 'I offer you grateful praise, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because what you have hidden from the learned and the clever you have revealed to the merest children.  Father, you have graciously willed it so.  Everything has been given over to me by my Father.'"

This emphasis on becoming little to become big permeates the Old Testament and the New.  Jesus says the last shall be first, the greatest in the kingdom are they who serve the rest, unless you become like little children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of God.

Finally, Jesus’ emphasis on becoming small to become tall, of emptying yourself and letting yourself be empty in order to be filled with God, joins the mainstream ascetic tradition (finding  full flower in Francis of Assisi) with its emphasis on humility as the CARDINAL (hinge) virtue from which all others hang, as opposed to pride, the CAPITAL from which all other vices flow.  For example e.g. Augustine on the sin of Adam in the garden, wanting to be God  without God.  The AA version of this goes simply: the only thing you have to know about God is that you are not God. 

To close, just this!  From my recently discovered favorite poet, Jessica Powers.  In  her poem HUMILITY (l947) she writes:

 Humility is to be still
 Under the  weathers of God’s will.

 It is to have no hurt surprise
 When morning’s ruddy promise dies,

 When wind and drought destroy, or sweet
 Spring rains apostatize in sleet,

 Or when the mind and month remark
 A superfluity of dark.

 It is to have no troubled care
 For human weathers anywhere.

 And yet it is to take the good
 With the warm hands of gratitude.

 Humility is to have place
 Deep in the secret of God’s face

 Where one can know, past all surmise
 That God’s great will alone is wise,

 Where one is loved, where one can trust
 A strength not circumscribed by dust.

 It is to have a place to hide
 When all is hurricane outside.


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