Monday, March 14, 2011

Our search for what we have

There is a prevalent strain in many spiritual authors, both men and women that speak of the human need to go out and find oneself and this is not new. Early Church Fathers and monks and mystics have written about this quest for us to have to go out on a search.

But what is also very common is for us to write the corollary – which is the fact that after all the searching, all the exploration, wanderlusting, all the scaling of mountains both metaphorical and physical, man will come to realize that what he has been looking for, trying to find a meaning to, and what he deemed to have been elsewhere and ‘out there’, has been within him all along.

And it was a strange necessity for him to go out and find what he thought was to be attained by exiting, when all he really needed to do was to ‘enter into’ within.

It’s the other way of saying that the two halves of life are really existent in each one of us. The first half consists of our need to attain, collect, amass, strive for, conquer, climb and overtake. The second half sees us contented and secure enough to do just the opposite – to allow, to divest, to let go, to face defeat and failure, to descend and to yield.

But it doesn’t mean that the first half is unnecessary and a waste of time and energy. Neither is it futile, or something that should be avoided at all costs. If our human need for actualization doesn’t take place, it would be tantamount to not putting into use the gifts given us by a gracious God.

It only becomes problematic when we think that life is only about the first half, without coming to that crucial point of realizing that the outgoing energy is meant to reach a zenith, and return to find placidity and rest, as St Augustine said ‘to find rest in God’.

When we go out helter-skelter to find what we think is only out there, we may miss something deep and resonant, and that is that what we look for has been deep within all along.

In the tradition of the Church, one of the Stations of the Cross is “Veronica wipes the face of Jesus”. Nowhere in Sacred Scripture is this recorded that on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, that there was this encounter between Jesus and the said woman Veronica. The story goes that Veronica, so moved with pity for the tortured Jesus, goes out of her way to use her veil to wipe Jesus’ blood-stained and grime covered face. Her reward was that the image of the Divine Face was miraculously imprinted on that veil, as a gift and reward for an act of kindness shown. No one has seen this veil, and perhaps this is good.

Why? Because if there is such a veil that exists, millions may flock to it to admire it, to pay devotion to it and to revere it. That in itself is not a bad thing if it leads us to be remorseful of our sinfulness and to love God in a more intense way. But in only doing that, what we may miss out on is the fact that there is an image that exists not somewhere ‘out there’ on a veil, but rather, ‘inside’ each one of us.

We are, after all, made in the image and likeness of God, and we forget this all too easily. After all, the etymology of Veronica is “true image”, or in Latin “a vera icon”.


  1. Hi Fr Luke!

    Hope you're doing well. Yesterday night my DAD asked me what the meaning of life is! O.O Don't worry, he's fine and it was just one of the moments.

    What is the meaning of life? Do you have an answer?

    My birthday is coming up and soon I will be 3 years from my midlife (crisis), if I die at 60, which is what my mum did. Half a life has gone by so quickly. And if I may, I realize now that searching for the answers came after being content. Should it not be the other way round? Perhaps I am looking for trouble where none is to be found!

    Just a random one :)


  2. Interestingly, your second half of life- the path of descent ( as you termed it)- seems to resonate with what the Holy Father said about "living by faith". He said that to do so," demands our whole existence,understanding, our will,our feelings, our love. It requires letting go of our whole self....a perishing of the mere self and a resurrection of the true self. " ( Pope Benedict XVI )

    To live by faith then would thus require us to divest,to have a simplicity or poverty of spirit - so that one can travel light, deeper within self to unveil the image and likeness of the maker within - the'true self'. This descent is probably also the path of contemplative prayer ?
    Thank you Fr. for very interesting post. God bless you!