Raissa writes something which pagans simply do not understand. I remember years ago at Notre Dame, one of my professors saying that the Catholic Church was perverse because of the teaching of celibacy and chastity, which encouraged suffering and self-denial.
Yes, it does. Our God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, died on a cross. He showed us the way to self-denial and redemptive suffering. He call us to love without return, to sacrificial love.
Raissa writes something which reminds me of St. Bernadette's comment that although she suffered terribly from tuberculous of the bone, the waters of Lourdes were not for her.
Raissa notes that she knows that God will not give her any happiness in this world. She was not created to be happy on earth, but to suffer. She writes that she will never have but moments of joy with God alone, and not human happiness, not natural happiness except in rare moments.
Some people may find this idea shocking, that God would, from the beginning of a person's life, call them to the via negativa
, denying that person any human or Godly consolation while on earth.
The person who is called to live in suffering has a vocation which now is popularly called being a "victim soul". Raissa knew that she was a victim soul but expresses it in different words in her diary.
One cannot decide to be a victim soul, one just is. God decides that a person will live in a darkness and a loneliness. One is called to a complete detachment of normal human joys. One cannot expect human love.
That Raissa was Jewish, and that the Jews gave us the beginning of the Revelation of God, also allows her to understand the mystery of the unknown God, the God of the Burning Bush, the God Who wrestled with Jacob in the night, the God Who disappeared from Jewish history directly for several hundred years before Christ, when prophecy dried up and the world awaited the Messiah, the Revelation of God, the via negativa
was mixed with the via affirmativa.
One who is centered on Christ may be called to times of both ways. But, one way usually is dominant. Some people are asked to be rooted in the joy of the Incarnation. Some have to rest in the Passion of Christ.
Years ago, I read The Philokalia, which includes some of the writings of Maximus the Confessor, a proponent of the via negativa. What we do not know about God is just as important as what we do know, especially when one is in the Dark Night of the Spirit. God wants to strip us of false images of Him.
That God is hidden in the darkness of that spiritual time cannot be denied. He is and He is not present. One knows He is present, one senses the Presence of God by faith. This causes a suffering of denial even of desire, which is very hard, but not impossible.
Raissa needed Jacques' love although they were separated on a regular basis because of his work. She still had that basis, but God called her to Himself as the Bridegroom and her suffering was both purgative and redemptive. She did not use the term "victim soul" but she knew she was suffering for Jacques, who was constantly attacked by the liberal Catholics and secular philosophers, and for others.
The couple brought many people into the Church.
To be in the Presence of God which is also an Absence is a mystery which causes the person to live in faith, hope and love, in that order. It is the mystic way and the way of the contemplative.
I shall return to her Journal in a few days. I am taking a break from it for a day or two to read some other books and to ponder on these hard words, Here is Raissa in her own words.
"Human felicity has not place in my destiny. I know very definitely that god will never allow me to belong to myself and to seek my own happiness. He has never allowed it. I belong to Him, and through Him and with Him to those whom He wishes. It is He who chooses any intimates for me. In the midst of all my sufferings, God has given me a very clear view of my destiny. I have a destiny, and that, in itself, is marvellous. For a destiny make the unity, the usefulness and beauty of life. And my destiny is not to belong to myself. God has granted Jacques and me the same destiny and, as a viaticum, a unique and marvellous mutual affection."
I wish God had given me such a companion in destiny, but it has not been so. She admitted later in life that for her to be celibate and without Jacques was much harder on her than him. Such was her intense love for him, but God did not allow her that consolation. That was all part of their mission in the world.
I also wish that God would make it clear to many of us the destiny of our lives. In these days of chaos, so much like the times of the Maritains, we need direction to keep us focused. But, not knowing is also humbling and part of the suffering.
to be continued..