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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

In Times of Trouble and Strife; in Life or Death; Love transcends all!






For all the respectful adoration or vehement animosity aimed at Baroness Lady Margaret Thatcher’s legacy. To me she was an inspiration in my life as was I am sure the case for many others like me. With passion and utter vigour she, in her own way, encouraged people to do something with their lives. She was a pioneer of the “yes [you] can” ethos. Her leadership style of strength and conviction created a landscape for people to pursue something better! One of optimism and hope! Just get up and do it! This is quite meaningful when viewed from the perspective of religion, as Baroness Thatcher was a committed Christian of the Methodist denomination, a person of loyal faith.
 
However, her weakness in hindsight was that the ‘you’ should have been ‘we’! A point not lost on the Obama Administration I might add. It is debateable that more emphasis on the 'Common Good' and particularly compassion towards thy neighbour rather than own personal wealth and standing, to be more selfless than selfish. Would maybe have mitigated the level of resentment and universally increased condolences. Nevertheless her accomplishments were staggeringly commendable by any measure.
Therefore as the historians start to establish her legacy, I contemplate the extent to which her passion in the life of politics was a case of ‘my will’ or ‘Thy will’? (In reference to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane; Luke 22:42). She also was double-crossed in the end when she was forced to step down from office as Prime Minister, after being betrayed by some of her closest friends and colleagues.
The sense of loss is something everyone one has to endure to various degrees in our lives. However, as Christians and religious depending on how we answer this choice of duty we can look upon our own loss as God’s gain, by providing Him with an opportunity to make us complete again. In a similar way he brought Our Lord back from the dead to life everlasting. So we mustn’t waste these opportunities by allowing loss to corrode our souls with bouts of hatred, rather to cherish them by relying on our faith in the victory of righteousness over wickedness. And that God will always meet our every need, through His ever giving and everlasting providence.  
The following is an excerpt from the books “The Story of a Soul – Study Edition [Commentary Notes - Marc Foley O.C.D.]” – by St Therese of Lisieux and “The Search for Meaning” by Dr Victor Frankl; which collectively puts life and death into a thought provoking perspective that illustrates why love will always conquer hate.
The former is an autobiography of a cloistered nun who Pope Pius X proclaimed the “Greatest Saint of modern times” after enduring many sufferings in her life. She died an agonising death of tuberculosis at the tender age of 24. The latter being a Jewish psychiatrist and Auschwitz survivor who wrote a thesis on his experience in the death camps of WWII.
As Therese recounts the time that she stood before her mother’s coffin, the memory of standing before Mother Genevieve’s [Carmel’s Mother Prioress] coffin come to her mind, she reflects upon the vast difference between the two experiences. As a four year old child who had just lost her mother, the coffin “appeared large and dismal”. In contrast, as an adult, who had “grown up…the coffin appeared smaller…[and now, the reality of death, seen through faith, was an occasion] to contemplate heaven”. As Therese looks back upon her four year old self, who had been shattered by the death of her mother, she stands in amazement that she has survived this loss. “All my trials had come to an end and the winter of my soul had passed on”.
Like Therese, there are moments when we take a backward glance upon our lives and stand in amazement that we were able to survive a devastating loss. “Black grief closed over my heart,” wrote St Augustine on the death of a friend. “Everything I had shared with my friend turned into hideous anguish without him. My eyes sought him everywhere, but he was missing; I hated all things because they held him not…All this is over now, Lord and my hurt has been assuaged with time.”
Like Therese and Augustine, all of us have experienced losses, which at the time; we felt that we did not have the strength to bear. For when we are overwhelmed with black grief, it is beyond the power of imagination to believe that the winter of our soul will ever pass. Therese experienced time’s healing hand as she cast a backwards glance upon her mother’s death, but she experienced something else, the faith that pierces the dark veil of death. “I had no need to raise my head to see and, in fact, no longer raised it but to contemplate heaven which to me was filled with joy”.
In less than a year after Therese had penned these words, the thought of heaven would not fill her soul with joy but with anguish. During her night of faith, when she doubted the existence of heaven, she wrote, “that the thought of heaven, up until then so sweet to me, was no longer anything but the cause of struggle and torment”. Yet, in the midst of her darkness, when she felt that she lived “in a country that is covered with thick fog”, God’s light would periodically “shine through even in the midst of the darkest storm…[and for a brief moment] heaven was a calm and serene and I believed I felt there was a heaven and that this heaven is peopled with souls who actually love me, who consider me their child”. Therese is describing an experience of God’s love that pierces through our pain during times of our deepest darkness and for a moment, we know that love is eternal.
On a cold winter morning, as he and his fellow inmates were marching to their work site in Auschwitz, Vickor Frankl had such an experience.
We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbour’s arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly:
“If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.”
That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imaging it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is ultimate and highest goal to which man can achieve. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know this bliss, be it only for a brief moment in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation...for the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”
I sensed my spirit piercing through the enveloping gloom. I felt it transcend that hopeless, meaningless world. At that moment a light was lit in a distant farmhouse, which stood on the horizon as if painted there, in the midst of the miserable grey of a dawning morning of Bavaria. “Ex lus in tenebris lucet” and the light shineth in the darkness.”
Baroness Margaret Thatcher RIP.