The Clefts of the Rock, Where the Martyrs Rest
In Loving Memory of the 90,000 Christians who died for the sake of Christ in 2016.
" My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the crannies of the wall, show me your face, let your voice sound in my ears." Song of Songs 2:14
Taking this journey of The Little Way Through the Interior Castle has not been a direct route for me personally. It has been full of hopes, disappointments, falls, landslides and even avalanches. Every season has been met with storms of their own kind, challenges, obstacles, failures and detours. And, in some instances, I have been totally lost in darkness so thick, I never think I am coming out of it. It has been a true spiritual battle, some fiercer than others. But, what I am suffering, is nothing compared to my fellow Christians around the world.
Having left off, last April, at the beginning of the Seventh Mansions of the Interior Castle, by Saint Teresa of Avila, I am returning now. The last four chapters address the Spiritual Marriage within the spiritual life. Knowing none of this by experience, I can only look to the saints for guidance in these matters. Following, is an excerpt from the Interior Castle. St. Teresa of Avila describes the state of a soul that has attained Spiritual Marriage. When I read it today, I clearly saw the state of the martyrs around the world.
..." A king is living in His palace: many wars are waged in his kingdom and many other distressing things happen there, but he remains where he is despite them all. So it is here: although in the other Mansions there are many disturbances and poisonous creatures, and the noise of all this can be heard, nobody enters this Mansion and forces the soul to leave it; and, although the things which the soul hears cause it some distress, they are not of a kind to disturb it or to take away its peace, for the passions are already vanquished, and thus are afraid to enter there because to do so would only exhaust them further. Our whole body may be in pain, yet if our head is sound the fact that the body is in pain will not cause it to ache as well..."
It became clear to me today, that there is no need to look back into history for guidance on this as present day Christianity offers the reader the opportunity to see the wonders of those who reach such degrees of sanctity. In 2016, an estimated 90,000 Christians worldwide died for the faith. And, in the past 100 years, more Christians died for the faith than in all centuries combined prior. Pondering the realization of the magnitude of grace in our century, in the midst of such tribulation is hard to wrap the mind around. But, hopefully, the heart will enlarge as we consider all things for the glory of God.
I have found myself asking God often to give me the grace of courage as I read the stories from around the world of the faithful being put to death or imprisoned. Frequently, the Song of Songs comes to me during this inner battle of fears. I will say little verses as they arise, most frequently,
" Set me as a seal upon Thy heart. For, greater than death is Love... Deep waters cannot quench Love, nor, floods sweep it away...." ( Song of Songs 8:6-7)
But, this past Holy Week, the scripture that took hold within me and would not refrain was also from the Song of Songs. " My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the crannies of the wall, show me your face, let your voice sound in my ears." I recalled that Saint Gregory the Great has compared the "clefts of the rock" to the wounds of Christ . For, Christ is the Rock. Thinking of how the human wounds of our Lord, have brought the tender mercies of the divinity , I have often found the most shelter within these sacred clefts. Recently, while speaking about the victims of terrorism, someone asked me where was a safe place to live, I responded, " The only safe place left to live is in the wounds of Christ."
Still, as each day passed this Holy Week, the scripture verse above just kept playing over and over in my mind, like a song set to constant replay. It did not want to quit. So, today, I returned to reread what Saint Bernard of Clairvaux wrote on the verse. Following is an excerpt of his Sermon 61 on the Song of Songs. Here, he profoundly expresses a soul in the Seventh Mansions of the Interior Castle, which also beautifully expresses the soul of the martyrs and their Beloved Saviour. In essence, the soul in the Seventh Mansions, dies to itself for the love and glory of God. I felt in my heart that God kept giving me the verse this Holy Week to lead me to the Mansion of the Martyrs. And, just to give this beautiful writing of Saint Bernard for the consolation of the worldwide Christian persecution.
" ....I shall leave the cities and dwell in the rock I shall be as the dove resting in the highest points of the cleft, so that like Moses, in his cleft of the rock , I may be able to see at least the back of the Lord as He passes by....One day, He will show His face in its dignity and glory, now let Him show the back of His gracious concern. He is great in His Kingdom, but so gentle on the cross... The back of His back is pale gold. Why should He not grow pale in death?...The foolishness of God is wiser than men. Gold is the Word, gold is wisdom. This gold discolored itself, concealing the form of God and displaying the form of a servant. It also discolored the Church...So then, her back is like pale gold, because she did not blush at the swarthiness of the Cross, she was not terrified by the bitterness of the Passion, she did not flee from the ugliness of the wounds. She even takes joy in them and hopes that her last end may bear their likeness. Accordingly, she hears these words ' My dove in the clefts of the rock.', because all her affections are preoccupied with the wounds of Christ; she abides in them by constant meditation. From this comes endurance for martyrdom, for this her immense trust in the Most High. The martyr need not be afraid to raise her bloody and bruised face to Him by whose wounds she is healed, to present to Him a glorious likeness of His death, even in the paleness of gold. Why should she fear, since the Lord Himself, says to her,: 'show me your face'? ....While gazing on the Lord's wounds...the martyr remains jubilant and triumphant though her whole body is mangled...Where then, is the soul of a martyr? In a safe place; in the rock, of course; in the heart of Jesus, of course, in wounds open for it to enter. Left to itself, it would not endure the pain; it would be overpowered and reject the faith. But, now that it dwells in the rock is it any wonder if it endures as rock does?...From the rock therefore comes the courage of the martyr, from it the power to drink the Lord's cup....'For the joy of the Lord is our strength..."
In Loving memory of the faithful martyrs worldwide. Following are videos from 15 countries. Warning: Parts of some of these videos are brutal. We know scripture teaches us that ' He who dies in Christ, shall also rise in Christ.' My deepest and sincere sympathies extend to all the faithful who are suffering from the Christian persecution and have lost loved ones. " Blessed are those who are persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
The Christian persecution is worldwide. Following, is the link to the World Watch of Christian Persecution: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/