Good Zeal

God Waits to be Sought

Sacred Heart Monastery groundsRabbi Baruch’s grandson, Yechiel, went outside to play with the neighborhood children. They took turns playing hide-and-seek. When it was Yechiel’s turn to hide, he found a nearby place and waited to be discovered by one of the boys. After a long wait, he peeked out of his hiding place only to realize that the other children had not sought him out but had all gone away. Yechiel ran home, tearful with dismay and hurt. Rabbi Baruch wrapped his grandson in his arms and asked what happened. The boy explained about the unkind friends. Tears rolled from the eyes of Rabbi Baruch as he said, “Yechiel, that’s exactly what the Almighty Himself says: ‘I hide myself, but nobody wants to look for Me.’”

I love this poignant yet playful Hassidic story and imagery of God waiting for us, hiding for the sheer joy of being sought and found. If I delight in the belief that God enjoys pursuing me – “gazing in at the windows, peaking through the lattice…” (Song of Songs 2:9) – then why shouldn’t I take my turn in pursuit? Do we stop seeking God because, like those children, we’ve gotten bored or tired and moved on to something else?

Perhaps in a similar way, we might stop intentionally trying to know the people with whom we live or work. We assume we already know everything there is to know about them. For heaven’s sake, we’ve known them for 50 years! But we can know someone for a lifetime and never plumb the depths of that person. We are all in the process of becoming. And because we are made in the image and likeness of God, we each contain an “otherness” or mystery that will be beyond our grasp. Richard Rohr’s definition of “holy, holy, holy” to describe God is “beyond, beyond, beyond.” I like that. While God is always beyond my full grasp, God still desires to be endlessly and lovingly accessible.

Benedictine monasticism is intent on daily stoking the fires of our yearning for and seeking God. I love the title of Jean Leclercq, OSB’s book, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God: A Study of Monastic Culture. We are life-long learners and seekers. The first seven years before we make Perpetual Monastic Profession is called Initial Formation. Beyond that is referred to as Continuing Formation. We never walk across the stage at a spiritual graduation with a certificate to frame. Saint Benedict has high expectations. “The concern must be whether the novice truly seeks God and whether he shows eagerness for the Work of God, for obedience and for trials.” (RB 58:7-8).

In Sister Susan Quaintance’s article in the spring/summer edition of Benedictines, she reports on a survey of her former students of 23 years at St. Scholastica Academy, an all-girls high school sponsored by her Benedictine community in Chicago. She wanted to find out what difference a Benedictine education made for each of them, how the lens of Benedictine spirituality shaped their worldviews. I loved reading their responses, but the answers that dovetailed for me were around the love of learning. Sister Susan’s former students agreed that Benedictine spirituality “makes us seekers,” “not afraid to ask questions,” to explore and be curious,” “to look deeper under the surface.” Because of our love of learning and desire for God, Benedictine monasteries have well stocked libraries and beautiful chapels. We usually have artists, musicians, poets, scholars of biblical studies, theology, and the humanities. Wherever we plunge, we can encounter the Creator of it all, and delight in discovery. Whether that holy conversation is in terms of ecology, sociology, jurisprudence or monastic studies – it is all part of our desire for God, our seeking greater knowledge and love of the One who pursues us.

Interestingly, the day this blog will be posted, June 12, is the first day of Shavuot, one of the three Jewish pilgrimage festivals. This spring festival commemorates the giving of the Torah by God on Mr. Sinai. In that moment, God’s will was expressly communicated to human beings, and marked their bond by covenant into a mutual relationship with God, a relationship of continual pursuit.

“If you seek him, he will be found by you.” (1 Chronicles 28:9)

By Sister Sara Aiden, OSB

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