Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Serenity

I suspect that "serenity" would not be on the top of too many people's lists if we asked them to name some of the characteristics of the Apostle Paul. Zeal? Of course. Ardor? Necessarily. Tirelessness? Without a doubt. But serenity? As in "to accept the things I cannot change"? Hmmm.
But that's just what today's first reading seems to indicate! Paul and Silas (in Philippi, a Roman colony, where Paul the Roman citizen should have been quite at home) have been beaten with rods (they literally got a "lickin' " by the lictores) and thrown, bleeding and sore, into a dungeon. And there, in the middle of the night, they sat, chained to a stake, "praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened." Luke makes a distinction between the apostles (with their feet in chains) and "the prisoners." The apostles, praying and singing, were free men. Paul doesn't express a hint of frustration at being unable to "go out to all the world" to preach. He sits there and sings his heart out.
Interestingly, we find this same serenity, under the same sorts of circumstance, in the letters St. Paul wrote while "in chains for the Gospel." To the Philippians, who had witnessed his early imprisonment in their own city, he wrote from another prison in another city (probably Rome), "the circumstances of my imprisonment are helping to advance the spread of the Gospel. And so I rejoice!" What a contrast with the line in the Gospel, set before the Lord's suffering, death and resurrection: "grief has filled your hearts." Paul shows us that the Lord's promise had been fulfilled in him: "your grief will be turned into joy."
And see how well the often-neglected Entrance Antiphon sums it all up: Let us shout out our joy and happiness, and give glory to God the Lord of all, because he is our King, alleluia!"

6 comments:

chris said...

Very interesting!
I just recently published a book about the prayers of the Apostle Paul, and thought you may be interested in checking it out. You can preview and even order the book at www.Amazon.com. Just type in Praying The Prayers of the Apostle Paul.

Thanks and God Bless,
casparkman@gmail.com

xaipe said...

Chris, to promote your own book on someone else's blog, at least share an insight from it and then you can mention the book... Otherwise, it seems as though you are just crassly using someone else's creative work as a platform for yourself.
Looking over the write-up on the Strategic Book Publishing site, I am not at all sure that your approach blends well with the mystical or theological tradition of the Catholic Church.

Anonymous said...

Sister Anne, in situations like these, there is no substitute for class

xaipe said...

Was I too curt? I really didn't think the book was one I would want to recommend.

Anonymous said...

au contraire

Katie P. said...

I thought the exact same thing as I was reading his comment and was delighted to see your comment back. Well done.

And on serenity, one of the things I've really been to reflect on recently is this idea of "allowing for" God to work in your life. I personally get really caught up in the action verbs and want to "do things" or "make progress." A lot of times, I feel like even in the serenity prayer the challenge is acceptance which sounds kinda passive. Like "Oh well, I couldn't do much about that so I just have to deal." Almost a giving in.

I've really been trying to work on and think about serenity is choosing to allow for things to work as they well. "Setting the stage" for what whatever kind of truth to unfold in its own way.

I'll admit I'm completely stumped in finding the balance between this kind of "passive" allowing for the stage to be set and seizing those moments that require action. St. Paul was literally chained to the wall and had to accept he couldn't go anywhere. So he worked with the situation.

Maybe that's what serenity is in this day and age when we're not necessarily chained in dungeons. The key to serenity seems to be trust that if you allow it to happen, acknowledging that you are letting go of the need to control, the truth will out in the end.

Maybe it's a "if you build it, they will come" moment.

It's hard. That I know personally.