The Path of Celibacy and Marriage
(We all carry the monk archetype in our souls)
What does it mean to be alone before God? The human situation I believe is one of deep aloneness. Perhaps one of the reasons that solitude is avoided is because this self-evident truth has to be faced. Even if one is a strong introvert, solitude may be difficult. For being alone, one can still fill one’s life with projects, many of them good, helpful to others, and life-affirming for the one involved in them. Yet, there always comes a time when we experience our inner-alienation not only from others but from ourselves as well.
Being alone, the inner silence can be very loud and frightening. Over time as our experience of solitude deepens, the pleasures we experienced by our activities become bleached of their content and we are left with an inner void. We can find no place to put our heads. This often drives people deeper into seeking the Lord. For in the desert there is more life than many may believe.
For others, it can lead to dissipation, which only worsens the condition. Many of our sins, addictions, and relationships come from this experience of our human situation. Where nothing on this earth can fulfill the desires of the human heart.
Being ‘alone before God’ demands that we stop running from these inner experiences and let go of fear. In order to do this, takes faith. When we face our inner existential situation in faith, you could say that we slowly learn to get out of the boat as Peter did and walk over the stormy seas. It must be done. The 12 step is a good illustration of this. A conscious choice is needed in order to do this. We do not fall into trust.
No matter our makeup, be we highly extroverted, or deeply introverted, our restlessness, and the destructive ways that we seek to self-medicate ourselves, has to be faced. It is our relationship with God that can help us to make this inner journey.
We are all inward creatures. Our inner lives are deep and it is from that place that we interpret the world around us. If we do not ‘deal’ with our inner lives, then ‘it’ will deal with us. We are often driven by unconscious forces that can wreak havoc in our lives.
We can only embrace our inner aloneness when we learn that we can always choose to open up our hearts to consciously allow God’s gaze to look into our depths. In order to do this, we have to trust in God’s love for us, and swim upstream, which can be exhausting.
Most of our battles are with ourselves. Many of our outer altercations flow from our projecting our inner chaos and pain onto the community, or certain individuals, or even whole groups. The very human tendency to stereotype shows us this in the daily news.
This kind of altercation is worthless and leads nowhere. This is the place where gossip often finds its beginning. Gossip, detraction, is so common, that the serious nature of this ‘sin’ is often overlooked and not even considered. Yet to gossip drains love from the heart and soul. It also leads others down that same path. As long as gossip is a habit in our lives, it will be very difficult to grow in the love of God and others. In fact, the opposite can happen without one even knowing that one is poisoning one’s soul.
In marriage, the wedding vows point to a steep path of inner transformation that is lived out in the sacrificial aspect of being wed, as well as raising children, and dealing with other family members. It is an often painful crucible that has to be traversed before inner peace can be found. This is done through prayer, study, growing in humility, which is the fruit of self-knowledge. I have talked with many couples, and many of them have told me that marriage does not take away from that deep sense of being alone. They have found that living out their faith at its deepest levels is the only way to healing and overcoming the fear of being unaccompanied. As they both mature, they find that their hearts also expand outward to others. Marriages from my experience from listening to the life experiences of men and women who have been married for many years come about when the man and wife have a listening heart for one another and are quick to forgive.
Being celibate is not about letting go of relationships with others, but in how we can over time realize that we as celibates can only truly love others by living out our vocation from the heart. The 'One', for us is God, and from that, we learn to experience that ‘One’ in those we see. This will lead to the ability to love many people on a deep level, but not putting them in the place of being our central defining relationship. In a marriage that is appropriate, for it leads to growth in giving, and showing mercy and forgiveness of one’s partner and children that opens up the heart to others.
In living in a cloistered environment, this is lived out differently than those who live a more active life in the world. Nevertheless, the goal is the same. When seeking the goal of our vocation, we understand that our primary relationship is with the Infinite. As Christian monks, it is centered on the revelation of the Father through Jesus Christ. Until it becomes Trinitarian. We then consciously enter deeply into the dance of the Trinity. A lived experience, not just a dry theological concept.
In the depth of our souls, we are all alone before God, as well as being connected with all. Though that connection for many can only be experienced after growing into the understanding that our aloneness and embracing it and letting go of fear, is the path that we are all called to follow. It is a true death to self.
Those who are single, are also called to live out their faith in celibacy. Perhaps this group has a more difficult vocation. Often living without community and support from others. They need our support and prayers.
All humans will one day have to experience this death to self. If not during life then at the time of death, or in the process of dying, when they are in the no-man’s land between life and death. We will all experience death alone, yet at the same time being deeply connected to the Infinite.
Each human being has the ‘monk archetype’ branded into their souls, for we are all pursued by God. We are made for deep union with the Infinite, and our heart's longing will not be fulfilled until that is learned. When that is grasped through experience, then deep connections are experienced and a deeper understanding of what it means to be human begins. Slowly Christ Jesus becomes the very life of our bodies and souls. The seed dies and new life unfolds…..grace is the gardener poured out on all who seek and those who as well, do not. We will each one day have to respond one way or another. There is no way to get around it. Yet each life is unique, there are no molds for the inner journey that each of us has to make.
When that journey is chosen, from the very start we are loving God fully according to our capacity. The capacity grows for eternity. It starts in time but has no ending in our eternal journey into the mystery of the Infinite.Br.MD