Holy longing

November 6, 2009


I write this after spending time at Saint John’s Abbey monastery in Minnesota.  I have to admit that I am a little “out of step” with my usual world.  But that is a good thing to experience once in a while.  The interesting thing about being cloistered is that through disengagement one becomes immersed in the human condition from a different angle; being absent from the day-to-day means that one can become very present to the essence of human experience.


You perhaps have heard of Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl who, with her family, hid from the Nazis in a secret Amsterdam apartment during the war years.  She is known to us now for the diary she kept, a testimony to what is universal and deeply connected even though her life was quite removed from the normal and everyday.  This is what she wrote on February 12, 1944:


Today the sun is shining, the sky is a deep blue, there is a lovely breeze and I am longing -- so longing for everything.  To talk, for freedom, for friends, to be alone.


And I do so long… to cry!  I feel as if I am going to burst, and I know it would get better with crying; but I can’t, I’m restless, I go from room to room, breathe through the crack of a closed window, feel my heart beating, as if it is saying, “can you satisfy my longing at last?”


I believe that it is spring within me, I feel that spring is awakening, I feel it in my whole body and soul.  It is an effort to behave normally.  I feel utterly confused.  I don’t know what to read, what to write, what to do, I only know that I am longing. (cited in Ronald Rolheiser, The Shattered Lantern, p. 78)


Last Sunday we rehearsed the experience of lament as it emerges within the Jeremiah story.  Lament can arise for so many reasons of course, but one of them is this deep seated longing for the more we cannot fully name.  And yet.  And yet, we sense that there is more, more than what we currently know, more that ought to be lived into and fully experienced.  We hope to begin to work this hope out over these next few weeks, a hope that moves to the center of life in the city.  The story of Jeremiah is one of holy longing, of grief and frustration that turns toward hope, of a cloistered life that connects more deeply with the human condition that most of those who busy themselves with distraction.  When I think of the story of Jeremiah, I think of the words of Anne Frank, “I only know that I am longing.”


We continue our series in Jeremiah this Sunday.  See you at 9:29 or 11:11.


Bob Osborne