Today is a really, really, really hard day to be Catholic in Minnesota! If you care to read the details that leave me somewhere between exasperated on the way to enraged you can find them [here].
Let me simply summarize by saying that I called for the resignation of John Neinstedt as Archbishop of St Paul & Minneapolis [here] one month ago today. Now I am confident that it will only be a matter of time! But how long, oh Lord? How long?
Perhaps this is perfect context in which to reaffirm that our Christian faith is grounded — not in humans, not in a church or any authority, not even in any human interpretation of Scripture — but ultimately and solely in God alone.
So today is a day in which I feel the cost, challenge and pain of loving a church that is corrupt, sinful and in desperate need of a thorough house-cleaning! All the more need to keep my eyes focused on God alone! All the more reason to stay with the very same theme I had planned for today — living in the dark!
Yesterday, before the bomb shell news report, I could never have anticipated how I would come to value Barbara Brown Taylor’s quote from the 14th century classic, The Cloud of Unknowing: “… darkness and cloud is always between you and God, no matter what you do.”
Let me be clear, the anonymous author of this Christian classic was speaking of “darkness” as that intriguing, beguiling, frustrating mystery of God that is as impenetrable as its opposite, trying to look directly into the sun. This darkness — only metaphorically apprehended in what mystics express as a “dark night of the soul” — is the direct polar opposite of the sin and corruption we so vividly see in the Church of St Paul and Minneapolis.
Keeping our sights singularly fixed on God alone, we acknowledge that some things we will simply never be able to see by the light of human understanding. At times — thankfully not most of the time — faith feels like a forced exile, if not a long captivity, the spiritual life weighs like an imposing burden.
The anonymous text from the 14th century remains a classic because of its incomparable ability to express our universal and perennial experience. Ultimately, like the penultimate lawgiver, Moses, we are able to encounter or “see” the Holy One — if at all — only from within a cloud of luminous darkness.
Moses never made it to the Promised Land, being given only the gift of seeing it beckoning on the horizon. Others lead the People’s crossing over from slavery into freedom.
How long, oh Lord? How long!!! Our trust rests in you alone.
Barbara Brown Taylor’s reference on p 48 of Learning to Walk in the Dark is from The Cloud of Unknowing, ed. Emilie Griffin. HarperSan-Francisco, 1981. p 15.