The soul’s winter (1b)

Those who begin with a sense of the void, the Absence, who live with a dullness of soul, feel left out when others speak only of bright spirituality. . . .

It may be that those who pursue the Spirit in unconventional ways, or who receive the Spirit’s gift in the ways that depart from those the group cherishes, receive no support.  They are left to their own devices, and after frustration, choose to be alone again.  Honesty is their premium, aloneness their price, absence their destiny. . . .

The message in this world of spiritual best sellers and large audiences is consistent:  “follow me, follow my prescription, think the right thoughts, and all the chill will disappear.  Joy comes to those who prosper in faith….”  Many serious people who seek are repelled by such appeals. . . .

To call for two styles and to find impetus for the wintry sort of search demands boldness.  It receives so little attention that anyone who defends it may well express the old reformers’ anxiety:  Am I alone right, and is the whole church wrong? . . .

In matters of faith and piety, nothing is ever chemically pure.  The summery types have to be honest and know that behind their smiling facades and their forced praise-the-Lords, the serious soul knows absence when doubt pleads for time, when despair intrudes, when death scourges. . . .

[Those of the wintry sort] have also left their pages in the classics of Christian mysticism.  They may use other images for their equivalents:  the dark night of the soul, the cloud of unknowing, the negative way to God.  But they are less likely to be sustained on their lonelier horizon than are the summery, sunny sorts.

from ch 1, A Cry of Absence: Reflections for the Winter of the Heart 
(c) 1983-1997 Martin E. Marty


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