We all hear people say “I’m a spiritual person, but not a religious one.” You might even say this about yourself. Or maybe you feel, as I do, that this statement leaves much to be desired, that it barely covers the definition of what it means to be a spiritual person, let alone scratches the surface of the deeply devout soul. If you agree, you may want to read Ronald Rolheiser’s The Holy Longing.
In the preface, Rolheiser sets forth that this book is for you if you are struggling with spirituality. It is to be a guide book of sorts for those who have not been exposed to Christian spirituality in a way that makes it palatable. He goes on to explain that we all have an inner fire, a desire he calls our dis-ease, which sends us to search outside ourselves. He refers to this energy as Eros, which is defined as sexual desire in Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.
I must admit, I have never heard any word remotely related to our sex drive used in reference to the driving energy behind our spiritual quest. But as I continue to read The Holy Longing, I have learned why Rolheiser uses this term and how apt it is at conveying what he is trying to say.
In Chapter One Rolheiser uses the example of the lives of three very famous women – Mother Teresa, Princess Diana and Janis Joplin – to show how each was a deeply spiritual being whose core energy or Eros drove them to live and act as they did. He explains how every soul has the principle of chaos and the principle of order embedded in it. Too much order and the soul suffocates; too much chaos, the soul dissipates. Joplin’s life was spent pursuing the latter, and she died of dissipation. Princess Diana worked hard to keep balance between the two, living on the edge but also giving generously of herself for love of humanity. She, too, came to an early end. Mother Teresa, a true saint, lived the perfect balance. She was able to channel her powerful Eros in a creative, life-giving way, and was able, as Rolheiser describes it, to “will the one thing.” For her, this one thing was God and the poor.
I love how Rolheiser explains what spirituality actually is. He writes that spirituality is the way in which we learn to live with and use the energy, the desire, inside us all, the Eros; how we use our intentions to hold this powerful force in check and to use it to enhance and bless not only our own lives, but also to lift up others: humans, animals and the environment.
Mother of God parishioners and friends are reading The Holy Longing this Lent as part of the Parish on the Same Page series. I am participating in one such group, and I’d like to share just a few of the comments members of our group have made during one of our in-depth discussions.
“My view of God keeps changing.”
“Instinct is about sexual energy that is both spiritual and physical.”
“The simplest definition for social justice is mercy.”
“Like a child, the immature Christian spirituality wants only sweetness.” [referring to the parable “The Sweetness of Life’ in Chapter 2.]
If you want to know more or would like to join one of the existing groups or if you would like to read the book on your own as part of your Lenten practices, contact Tanya Stager at firstname.lastname@example.org or 859-331-4151.
— Ginger Watkins