Sunday, November 05, 2006

Vitam Impendere Vero

To risk one's life for the Truth.

(To reduce the risk of giving wrong expectations, I must put a disclaimer here that this post, however lofty its title may be, has been in my draft for the last one month, struggling to take form, and I must finally post it because any tribute to Truth, however insignificant, should not be suppressed)

It's been awhile since I last heard of this phrase; this phrase I last saw in one of Madeleine L'Engle's children's books. Truth: What is truth? Pontius Pilatus famously asked this question to He who is Truth himself. The search for truth, for me, is nothing less than a full time enterprise that is demands both time and energy. (Well, if not physically then at least mentally!) It is little wonder that St Jane Francis de Chantal said, "Hell is full of the talented but Heaven of the energetic."

From the Church's teachings, we are taught that Jesus is Truth Himself; He proclaims himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life. When restlessness stirs in my heart, I know it is a restlessness for Truth and quoting St Augustine, our hearts will remain "restless until they find rest in God." The term "nostalgia for Heaven" aptly, although incompletely, described the way I view this longing for Truth; incomplete because nostalgia is normally used to fondly look back at things in the past that we cannot return to, but otherwise accurate because we do indeed come from the Father who art in Heaven and fortunately for us, we harbor a valid hope that we will return to where our true patria.

Our dear Pope Benedict XVI said, echoing countless mystics before him, in his Angelus address on All Saints' Day this year: "Human existence, however, by its very nature, is directed toward something greater, which transcends it. The yearning in human beings for the fullness of justice, truth and happiness is irrepressible." (Emphasis mine)

What is Truth to you?
There is an Absolute Truth that I believe in, which by its definition means it must be true for everyone and in any condition. What differs is what Truth meant in different people's lives. Natural law necessarily means for those who live according to it, are not contradicting Truth. Yet often I feel it is not enough to face the Truth that says we are created because "God loved us first"! Again, quoting il Papa: "How is it possible to remain indifferent before so great a mystery?" he asked. "How is it possible to not respond to the love of the heavenly Father by leading a life of grateful children?" There is a shining quality in Truth that must attract, and I can do nothing but be attracted. This condition creates a hunger and demands a solid response to satisfy that hunger.

For me, this restlessness has begun last year, especially after the death of our beloved Pope John Paul the Great (who could forget his echoing of Jesus not to be "satisfied with mediocrity" and to "put out into the deep"?), intensified gradually this year and sometimes drove me to the edge of impatience because I couldn't figure out what will concretely satisfy this restlessness. What would you have me do, Lord?

Living with restlessness, anyone but masochists out there would tell you, is a torturous journey. For it is against myself to let my life proceed as before, when the restlessness suggests I might look elsewhere. The path was a dark one, just like St John of the Cross wrote, for I could not see whether this is the path that will lead to the Truth. It is dark also because it didn't give one's soul a tinge of consolation nor illumination. It is a path in which I grope along in the hope that there is an end, and increasingly I realize that it is not a path where a Deus Ex Machina lifts one out of the darkness...

Before anyone thinks I might have been driven to despair, let's give thanks for the excellent witness of the Church triumphant. Who better to tell us about dark nights of the soul, about the hunger for Truth, than the saints, whose faithfulness we just celebrated in All Saints' Feast? In his homily for All Saints', Pope BXVI said (referring to the saints' way to heaven), "it is above all necessary to listen to Jesus and then to follow him and not lose heart in the face of difficulties."

Ahh.. "the little things" in life again! It is not intuitive to speak of "the little things" when one starts with "vitam impendere vero", all ready to stake one's life in the quest for truth.. only to be told that this "dying" really consists of denying ourselves everyday, in doing our little things well, in our little pinprick mortifications, in surrendering our will in every action and doing His will instead..

Well, this is the end of this rambling, meandering post. The end of this post hasn't necessarily meant this lesson has sunk its teeth within me; it will take awhile for this stubborn one to internalize it. Pray that we may share the saints'
"will to incarnate the Gospel in [our] existence through the impulse of the Holy Spirit."

1 comment:

Actus Essendi said...

Hi, read this article in Zenit on the Pope's address at Lateran University on 21 Oct.

Here's my favorite part:
To make the theme of truth central is not merely a speculative act, restricted to a small circle of thinkers; on the contrary, it is a vital question in order to give a more profound identity to personal life and to heighten responsibility in social relations (cf. Eph 4:25).

In fact, if the question of the truth and the concrete possibility for every person to be able to reach it is neglected, life ends up being reduced to a plethora of hypotheses, deprived of assurances and points of reference.

As the famous humanist, Erasmus, once said: "Opinions are the source of happiness at a cheap price! To understand the true essence of things, even if it treats of things of minimal importance, costs great endeavour" (cf. "The Praise of Folly," XL, VII).