Friday, November 30, 2007

Spe Salvi - Random Observation No. 4

Offer it up!
I would like to add here another brief comment with some relevance for everyday living. There used to be a form of devotion—perhaps less practised today but quite widespread not long ago—that included the idea of “offering up” the minor daily hardships that continually strike at us like irritating “jabs”, thereby giving them a meaning. Of course, there were some exaggerations and perhaps unhealthy applications of this devotion, but we need to ask ourselves whether there may not after all have been something essential and helpful contained within it. What does it mean to offer something up? Those who did so were convinced that they could insert these little annoyances into Christ's great “com-passion” so that they somehow became part of the treasury of compassion so greatly needed by the human race. In this way, even the small inconveniences of daily life could acquire meaning and contribute to the economy of good and of human love. Maybe we should consider whether it might be judicious to revive this practice ourselves.(Spe Salvi 40)

Actually, there are some interesting aspects of a mystical theology of suffering for others in paragraph 38:
Indeed, to accept the “other” who suffers, means that I take up his suffering in such a way that it becomes mine also. Because it has now become a shared suffering, though, in which another person is present, this suffering is penetrated by the light of love. The Latin word con-solatio, “consolation”, expresses this beautifully. It suggests being with the other in his solitude, so that it ceases to be solitude. Furthermore, the capacity to accept suffering for the sake of goodness, truth and justice is an essential criterion of humanity, because if my own well-being and safety are ultimately more important than truth and justice, then the power of the stronger prevails, then violence and untruth reign supreme. Truth and justice must stand above my comfort and physical well-being, or else my life itself becomes a lie.
Echoes of Charles Williams?


Jane said...

"Offer it up" was my school's unofficial motto--and my husband's clan motto is "learn to suffer." Looks like we've got that one covered in this household.

Anonymous said...

Why must it be an echo of Charles Williams? Offering up one's suffering is a traditional facet of Catholic life.


Zadok the Roman said...

I was being unclear. I didn't mean to suggest that the Pope was drawing on Charles Williams. And it's not so much the offering up part that reminds me of Charles Williams but the idea of taking up the suffering of another, which is slightly different to the idea of offering up.

Anonymous said...

Hm, yes. Descent into Hell. Very chewy reading, that one.