February 9, 2017
It is hard work remaining faithful to Christ in thought, deed and word. To discipline one’s mind, one’s tongue, one’s heart and one’s body for the sake of always being guided by love of God and neighbour, including through prayer and fasting, and not by the wanton desires of the flesh.
Lately I have been feeling weak. Feeling weak in my discipline, finding it harder and harder to pray and see and listen to God every step of the way.
And so it was that this morning, after exercising at the gym, as I was washing my hands in the change room, I was having an internal struggle. “If I am tired, I thought “then should I not rest? Maybe put the rosary down for a day and take a break from being spiritual every second that I can in the day?” And the answer that I received in turn was a roaring “No! For just as it is easier to work out at the gym when you are habituated in doing it, so it is with the spiritual exercise of prayer and contemplation. It will get easier, but you are coming to a wall, which you will breach, and from which you will grow even higher.”
In fact an acquaintance at the gym had just articulated this very principle to me on the floor of the gym. “Gotta keep at it especially at my age,” he said. “Otherwise, if you miss three days, you may as well not show up again because it’s so hard to get back into the swing of things”. How right he was on that account, and how truly the principle also applies to the asceticism or training of the soul. I am going through a dark night of the soul, I thought, to purify myself and to strengthen me. God provides us with these little opportunities and conspires to make them coincide with each other and with the thoughts on our hearts to allow us to come closer to Him in the internal journey of our souls, which we experience in the quiet conversations we have with ourselves, and with our Creator. “God, give me strength and help my unbelief” I prayed as I drove home.
Having these thoughts on my mind, about the difficulty of staying on track with the rigorous exercise of my faith, I took my son out of his crib and started walking with him in my arms downstairs to start the day. Just as I started down the stairs, the word Vidura popped into my head. I don’t know the meaning of this word, so I looked it up later. Here is what I learned from its entry on Wikipedia:
Vidura (Sanskrit: विदुर, lit. skilled, intelligent or wise) is one of the central characters in the Mahabharata, a major Hindu epic. Vidura is held to be a paragon of truth, dutifulness, impartial judgement and steadfast dharma. He is considered the embodiment of the inner consciousness of the Mahabharata.
Beautiful stuff, but I didn’t understand half of it. So I looked up the word Dharma. Here is what I found, again, from that wonderful democratic encyclopedia:
In Hinduism, dharma signifies behaviours that are considered to be in accord with rta, the order that makes life and universe possible, and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and ‘‘right way of living’’. In Buddhism dharma means “cosmic law and order”, but is also applied to the teachings of the Buddha. In Buddhist philosophy, dhamma/dharma is also the term for “phenomena”. Dharma in Jainism refers to the teachings of tirthankara (Jina) and the body of doctrine pertaining to the purification and moral transformation of human beings. For Sikhs, the word dharm means the “path of rightness”.
The Classical Sanskrit noun dharma is a derivation from the root dhṛ, which has a meaning of “to hold, maintain, keep”. The word “dharma” was already in use in the historical Vedic religion, and its meaning and conceptual scope has evolved over several millennia.
I was elated. The Holy Spirit acknowledged with mercy and kindness the struggle I was going through and I believe He sent me the word Vidura, the paragon of steadfast dharma, as a word of encouragement, to do like Vidura and “to hold, maintain and to keep” on “the path of rightness,” “the central order of the universe” and “the cosmic law and order” (to me, God’s will), “the right way of living”, and the way to “the purification and moral transformation” of my soul, which is the purpose of the dark night of the soul, on which I have been meditating and have been experiencing these past few days.
Why does Spirit send me words from different languages and even different faith traditions? I believe it is because this is a trademark of His, so that I know that it is genuinely Him. Recall, for example, the apostles speaking in tongues during Pentecost. I believe He sends me words I certainly don’t know, so that I know it is not from my mind, but from Him. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to send me words in other languages, and from different but nonetheless enriching faith traditions.