The End for Which We Are Made


This weekend I asked my Carmelite community whether detachment was a means or an end. We concluded that it was something of both (at least for Carmelites). That is, the real end is loving God completely and having complete freedom in God. For this to happen, we must be stripped of everything that has a tendency to keep us from God; hence detachment is a means. Nevertheless, once we have achieved the real end--proper love of God, we will also have achieved detachment whether or not we have consciously striven for it. The two fit hand-in-glove. So, while there may be other paths to achieve union with God, they all ultimately involve dying to self. Now this prospect sounds hideous, but I think this passage from Ruth Burrows clarifies what is meant.

from Ascent to Love
Ruth Burrows

We ourselves are mystery and our proper ambience is mystery. When we speak of God's hiddenness we are saying he is the answer to our yearning. He is unfathomable mystery offered to us. Through Jesus he reveals himself not only as our beloved--the object of desire--but as our lover. The we realise that he has always been our beloved for the simple reason that he is our lover. We learn that there is a fulfilment to our endless longing but not within ourselves, not with the limitations of this world or our own achievements, but as pure gift. There is an inevitable conflict between our true self and its deepest desire to be enfolded, possessed by our beloved, and the innate drive to control, posses, to find fulfilment within ourselves. This we can call the ego. It is our basic self-orientation which is a dead end. Let us say the true self is loyal to transcendence, the ego betrays it and settles for limitation. 'We must courageously resolve to pass both interiorly and exteriorly beyond the limits of our own nature, so as to enter illimitably within the supernatural which has no measure and contains all measure within itself. " But it is precisely our nature to go beyond the limits of our nature so as to enter into God! The self must triumph over the ego.

When we speak of dying to self, this is what we are referring to. We must put aside the ego--the false self, the sense of ourselves that we have constructed and by which we identify ourselves, and discover our identities in Christ. In Sr. Burrows's words, it is the ego that must die so that the self can assume its proper and divinely appointed place within the body.

Naturally we fear this because once our construct is dead, we will be naked and exposed. The whole world we see us for what we are and we do not know what that will be. Nevertheless, if what lies buried under this burden of ego (speaking for myself) resembles St. Anselm, St. Patrick, St. Thomas More, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis Xavier, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Clare of Assisi, etc. then what have I to fear when I stand exposed? The world may hate me, but God will have taken me and made me already one with Him in the body of Christ, aware of who and what I am and what my purpose for His glory is. Even at a distance I can acknowledge this as what I would like to achieve. Loving union with God for all eternity starting here and now--for that end the stripping away of ego, no matter how painful, is worth the effort and the pain. Now, it's just overcoming the fear and the selfishness that hold me back.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on January 10, 2005 7:57 AM.

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