Love and Light

“True creative sympathy does not throw one into the darkness of another’s life. Stand in the light that has been revealed to you by your communion with him who said, “My joy I give unto thee,” and by so doing help to illumine the one in need.”

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“During your times of quiet, those lovely moments, pools of restoration where you drink deep of the waters of spiritual health, learn to discipline yourselves. Not with the fist, for that soon tires; not with the mind, for that is forgetful; but with the heart. Love will keep you there. Love is vigilant, it is quieting, it is your gently strong awareness, it is the oil of joy that supplies the Light.”

[From: Letters of the Scattered Brotherhood, edited by Mary Strong, 1948]


8 thoughts on “Love and Light

  1. : – ) Your posts always end too soon, you know–just before the Beatific Vision Itself. What a tease.

    Man, exile stinks. But I believe in Love, and that renders the nose more and more impervious (to all but skunks, at least).

    Indeed, even the Church is too low on oil; I recently fussed at one who corralled us into proper mea culpism by quoting St. Francis de Sales’ “Are you also a cowardly penitent? Are you one who is not thrilled to be suffering from giving up sin?? Shame, shame!” Uh, don’t speak of cowardliness to my gray hair and tear tracks and long memories of coffins I would not let shadow upon joyous bassinettes of future sacraments. Missing sin? Well, I’d thought of it as fun and freedom for a long time, so mea culpa– but I fight it, for the sake of obtaining Christ’s fun and Christ’s freedom for self and others. The priest, the persona Christi in the confessional doesn’t consider us cowardly at all for returning month after month, if need be. But indeed, the oil of joy is low, here in the midst of the world. If nothing else, we might trim our wicks here at the Haven, where there is sweet love consistently abundant.

    Can you clarify what is meant by “creative sympathy”?

  2. Carol, you are oil of joy yourself!

    I think creative sympathy would mean truly effective or efficacious sympathy. If we enter into another’s dark time only by sympathizing or empathizing, by reinforcing the darkness that the other person is experiencing by telling them of our own similar experiences but with no solutions, we simply increase the negativity and draw the other person down even further and ourselves as well. This is not helping in any way. It is rather like negative criticism instead of constructive criticism (I mean, works in the same way).

    As the author says, we must stay in the Light, and offer the possibility of joy – draw others to the Light rather than ourselves entering their darkness and commiserating but without drawing them towards hope and joy.

  3. Wonderful post! Thank you so much, Gabrielle – I hadn’t encountered these Letters before. What a discovery!

    By the way, I’m reminded, by the phrase “creative sympathy” of Maggie Ross’s remark, “Even something as simple as refusing to anaesthetise the gnawing pain in the pit of your soul that is a resonance of the pain of the human condition is a form of habitual intercession. To bear this pain into the silence is to bring it into the open place of God’s infinite mercy.”

    The phrase also reminds me of one of my own favourites, Keates’ “negative capability”, which seems to me an essential qualification in one who prays!



  4. Well, for someone who had to ask what “creative sympathy” meant, I’m surprised that it seems I understand what Mike said. I think the only time I didn’t anesthetise that pain was when I either couldn’t get away from it (on one July morn in ’94 in my mom’s room) or when I forced myself to bring it helplessly in a different way to Him, say, as I watched bits of “The Passion” without running out, or when I purposely listen to what a baby hears before and during its “termination.” Without the relief that one’s grief, rage or determination provides, it can either be a breakage of one’s spirit, or a silent intercession for all (or both) while knees bump against the Cross under His “Eloi eloi..” –perhaps such as the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants must undergo out on the sidewalks of too late.

  5. Mike, this book is one I discovered by chance in the public library a good number of years ago. After Teresa of Avila’s “Interior Castle”, it helped me enormously at the beginning of what I had come to recognize as a contemplative calling. I was reading it at about the same time as The Cloud of Unknowing and the Philokalia, and all seemed to blend so nicely and reinforce each other that it was a period of tremendous benefit to me. I would highly recommend it to you. That is a wonderful quote you’ve shared with us from Maggie Ross (whom I haven’t read). We can see from this quote, as well as from Carol’s comment, that this refusal to numb the pain can be undertaken either for the individual or on behalf of the collective. I think I would like to share a couple of other quotes from the Letters of the Scattered Brotherhood regarding this, so we can see what happens after the refusal to anaesthetise, if we continue in contemplative prayer.

    Carol, you’ve focused on something that’s at the very heart of it: either the breakage of one’s spirit or the silent intercession for all. As I mentioned above, now it would be good to explore how contemplative prayer brings us beyond either of those points…

  6. Stand in the light…and illumine the one in need.

    This line speaks to me of how we let God shine in us and through us, and how we also encounter his light shining through others. It adds to our sense of dignity and commands a dignified approach from us to ALL those we meet.

  7. Ann, absolutely. Very well said. It speaks to me not only of our dignity as children of God, but of courage, fortitude and certitude, and how His grace alone makes us capable of these things.

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