Rest, A Fullness of Gathered Peace

Rest is not idleness; indeed, restlessness is the torment of idle people. It is not relaxation. Relaxation should never be necessary, because the nervous tension which makes it so should never be present. Rest, far from being relaxation, is a culmination, a fullness of gathered peace. Like the fullness and stillness of waters gathered to a flood tide. (Caryll Houselander: The Little Way of the Infant Jesus)

So begins the chapter entitled 'Rest in Christ and let Him rest in you'. Today I'll drift with Caryll's thought as material for a quasi 'Lectio Divina'. But first I should praise Caryll publicly for providing me countless hours of fruitful meditation. Many acclaim her as a mystic, and I've prayed for her intercession; being quite convinced that she enjoyed God's favor even in this life. If you're looking for food for meditation try her writings, as she never disappoints.

Whenever I feel the twinge of restlessness or the pangs of anxiety stealing my calm, I pray that her passage springs to the forefront of awareness, as it is very useful for setting me upon the high path towards peace. Notably, this spiritual 'rest' is not a state of recuperation from fatigue; it may even come in a period of high emotion or zealous activity. I find that it arrives at a time when the heart is pure and the mind is gathered and keen.

When I say the mind is 'gathered and keen' I mean that it is not agitated: that it is not burdened with plotting schemes and the like; though it may be involved deeply in activities of pondering, doing and creating. The heart is pure in that it is not aware of any selfish motives and perhaps not even aware of itself, though it may be in the midst of nurturing, healing, and loving.

Rest is not idleness; indeed, restlessness is the torment of idle people. Inactivity may lead to sensations of impatience, agitation, feeling fidgety or on edge. We should guard our leisure and free time by simply keeping aware of intruding feelings of restlessness and recognizing the need for countermeasures.

Relaxation should never be necessary, because the nervous tension which makes it so should never be present. This is an interesting insight which is challenging. Anyone having read Houselander's autobiography and collected letters knows that she had her share of nervous tension and yet she eventually discerned they signal a lack of peace and rest. I have always valued relaxation because of it's property of reducing stress and tension; and yet Caryll is pointing us toward creating a habit of living in spiritual 'rest' and nipping nervous tension in the bud.

Rest, far from being relaxation, is a culmination, a fullness of gathered peace. The peace that we know as 'Christ's Peace' is the key here. Spiritually we speak of peace, not as lack of conflict, but as harmony with God. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives." [John 14:27]

Like the fullness and stillness of waters gathered to a flood tide. Flood tide is that entire period when the ocean moves from low to high tide. Its opposite is known as the ebb tide. I spend much of the summer months at the ocean shore where Long Island Sound meets the Atlantic Ocean. Each day is a day to watch the tides bring to culmination, slowly but surely, a 'fullness'. I would imagine there is some peak moment when the tide has reached its potential; when it has fulfilled its destiny. From here the tide is 'turned' and now ebbs.

Looking to the future we imagine the life beyond as 'eternal rest'; a gathering flood tide of eternal life, but with no ebb. 'Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord', is how we pray for our departed friends and loved ones. But to experience some 'eternal rest' in the 'temporal order - here and now' is the gift of the Holy Spirit, offered to the most ordinary of us. A gift given to souls who are willing to live in the harmony of God's peace. A gift to disciples willing to nurture peace even in this 'valley of tears'; where it is abused, neglected and scoffed at. A gift of 'rest' miraculously bestowed even as some select few lift the weight of a heavily burdened cross in the tribulation of daily life. Our gift of 'rest' awaits us here and now, each and every day. Perhaps we can't escape our ebb flows with its daily tensions and distractions, but neither can we avoid the pull of the flood tide, whose culmination is the fullness of gathered peace: our spiritual rest.

4 comments:

Barb, sfo said...

What a wonderful recommendation. I do have a book by Houselander but have never had the chance to read it. I will definitely put it on my "read me next!" pile, right on top!

Tausign said...

Barb; I carried 'The Reed of God' (her most well known work) around in my car for years before I read it. I kept it in the car door pocket in case I needed something to read on the road. When I finally got around to reading it I felt dumbfounded that I had carried such a treasure at arms lenght and never thouht to pick it up. Oh, I forgot to mention that Caryll was a Franciscan Tertiary.

Joyful Catholics said...

Thank you! What a fine post. I will surely read more of her work. A very fine blog, too. God bless.

Jan said...

Wendy Wright introduced me to Caryll Houselander and I've always been grateful for that. Thank you for writing so beautifully about her. I will be pondering your words for awhile.

BTW, I came over here from The Mercy Blog.