That Hungry Hollow

“The monks seem happy but are not in love with each other. If they love each other it is because they are in love with the same invisible yet apparently ever-present person. Unnamed, unseen, even unspoken-to, God plays in every scene. At first, one assumes it is the visible people who are the lovers. Slowly it dawns that they are mirrors. The love we speak of is not our love for God but God’s love for us.”

“Those who are close to God are usually hollowed out in some way. Cardinal Basil Hume delighted in the fact that monks are not there for any particular reason. We cannot make sense of their lives in terms of what they achieve. They do useful things, such as serve in parishes and run schools, but that is not the point of their lives, which revolve around the unseen God, like planets around an invisible sun. And the life of every believer will be marked by a certain void. We are incomplete, like someone waiting for the one whom they love to come home, their ears straining for the sound of steps on the gravel, of the key turning in the lock. This void may take the form of a lack of ambition for power, or a strange sort of ambition, the absence of care for money or success or reputation. Each of us must find that hollow in one’s life, which is the space in which God is enthroned. Rabbi Menahem-Mendl said, ‘My mission on earth is to recognize the void—inside and outside me—and fill it.’ Someone who was perfectly fulfilled, whose happiness and fulfillment was complete, would have no space for God. The saint is not full of herself.”

“Robert Barron described giving Communion to crowds of pilgrims in the square of St. Peter’s. People called out, ‘Over here, Father; please Father, for me please,’ waving their empty hands, almost in desperation. They were hungry for the Eucharist. They were needy, with an appetite which only the Eucharist could answer. In 304 in North Africa, when Emeritus was arrested for having strangers in his house for the celebration of the Eucharist, he justified it by saying, ‘Quoniam sine dominico non possumus‘: ‘Without the day of the Lord, we cannot live.’ In many countries people still have to walk for hours through the jungle or intense heat to attend to the Eucharist, or do so risking arrest and imprisonment, for example in parts of China. All for a small white wafer! One cannot begin to understand why until one has discovered that hungry hollow within oneself.”

—Timothy Radcliffe, Why Go To Church? (Act 3, Prologue: Recognizing Jesus)

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