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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

The Key of Wisdom

In speaking about the Silence of God and its importance for the Christian life, Catherine de Hueck Doherty recounts her own journey into this silence and then makes this beautiful observation:

"There is a moment when God gives us a key to the mystery of life. We always had a key to his heart, and he always had a key to our hearts. But this is a special key. It is the key of wisdom, which allows us to live a good life. It is given to those who have walked the silver sands and, out of love for him, decided to plunge into the endless infinity of his sea of silence. They needed the key to guide themselves amid the noises of the world. They needed a key to choose what is wise. One of the things Satan does is confuse. And his favorite confusion is to substitute earthly wisdom for divine wisdom. Many are caught on this bait. But with the key of wisdom one can avoid such pitfalls. And this key can unlock many doors, even doors men have invented that block their own true progress." Molchanie: The Silence of God, New York: Crossroads (1982), 88-89.

The key of wisdom is vital for those who yearn for true prayer. Psychological techniques for meditation are often substituted for the silence of God. This is because such methods yield spiritual experiences - but such experiences lack the wisdom that is only given in God's silence. Indeed, no psychological achievement or state of consciousness can replace the silence of divine love, the silence of a heart to heart with the Living God. This silence lives in our holy patrimony of prayer. It is entered into through the obedience of faith. Because this heritage is not passed on as it should be, because it is often rejected as anachronistic out of nothing but chronological snobbery and a lack of confidence in God, we can sometimes find ourselves cut off from the silence in which this key of wisdom is found. Catholics need to work to recover the tradition of true Christian prayer.

True prayer - where, pierced to the heart, we gaze on the Son of Mary gazing on us in love, where the Father delights in us and the Holy Spirits burns within - such prayer is possible by faith alone. This standard is strongly articulated in terms of a warning for our time by a Camaldolese Hermit whose words were edited by Father Louis-Albert Lassus, O.P.:

"The dominate spiritual climate manifests ... an extreme individualism. It is not so much God who is of interest to us, to speak with Him and to belong to Him, but rather we look for personal experience, we shut ourselves up in our own spiritual search... Let us admit that, at present, a spiritual self-centeredness reigns, which arises from the current opinion that the world is only an appearance and that, basically, the self and God coincide. If the supreme criterion of life in Christ is no longer adherence in faith to the Triune God, but personal experience, the change to a religious syncretism will be quickly made." In Praise of Hiddeness: The Spirituality of the Camaldolese Hermits of Monte Corona, Bloomingdale, OH: Ercam Editions (2007), 53

True faith opposes syncretism and the lack of confidence in God's love which feeds it. True faith creates space for a kind of prayer which deals with reality and one's own hostility towards God. True faith frees from individualism and self-centeredness because the prayer it makes possible leads to a heart to heart with the Lord. By true faith prayer begins when we hear Christ beg us to give Him our misery that He might give us His glory.

In true contemplation, the world is not an appearance but the place God manifests his glory. We pray precisely because "the self" is not God but someone in whom God has placed his hope. Prostrating ourselves before the One who is so beautifully other than we are - this is our freedom from individualism and self-centeredness. Such a raising of our hearts and minds to Him is pregnant with gratitude even when some gifts He offers are especially hard to accept. What does the key of wisdom unlock for the soul that hungers for a true conversation with God, a conversation that is open to sacred silence? Even in the deepest sorrows, most tragic disappointments and overwhelming trials, souls like Catherine de Hueck Doherty witness the discovery of astonishing tokens of friendship from the One who constantly lavishes us with his immense love in ever new, ever unimaginable ways.

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