What oracles do we use to orient our journey? What signposts guide our walk with and toward God? Let’s consider an important one – desire.
The word desire is taken from the original sense of the Latin word desiderare, meaning ‘to look to the stars’ or ‘to await what the stars will bring.’ One can feel the ancients who looked up at their crystal night sky and felt an ache, a yearning well up within them that carried a promise with it. Their interior echoed (like a homing device) with a strange, too-good-to-be-true “I am coming!” and, in response, could not help but gasp, “Come!” Thus, ‘await what the stars will bring’. Thus, desire.
There is nothing under so much attack in our Western world than desire. The enemy has deceived us into not fearing spiritual lukewarmness most of all; instead we fear being hot or cold. We have fashioned ourselves into living as if there wasn’t some enormous star of hunger burning in our chests. Instead we keep busy, amp up the noise and blare our own lights. We do this so that we can’t notice our desire; so we can’t see the stars. And, to an extent it ‘works’ (how ironic that we obscure our desire now in a time when it is harder than ever to see the stars). But, as a result we have ripped our life out and turned ourselves into machines. So, deaf to our own dynamism, we live in an age of (cosmic) loneliness/boredom-induced depression and sex, which we use in exhausted fashion to somehow let our desire breathe some air.
Living in a place with no stars, with no desire is Hell, as Dante implied through a voice from Hell, pleading:
So, if you would get out of this dark place
And go back to see the lovely stars…
Do not omit to speak of us to people.’ (Divine Comedy, Inferno)
Or, in the last line of the Inferno when Dante arises from Hell:
And then we emerged to see the stars again. (Ibid)
In ignoring our desire, we have lost our most central signpost home.
He said, ‘If you are following your star,
You cannot fail to reach the glorious harbor… (Ibid)
What sense does our coming from God and going to God (i.e. all of life) have if it is not fundamentally oriented by our desire? To know but not yet possess, to be known but not yet possessed by, to await what has been promised, to live in the age of the already but the not yet, to be as a bride looking at the bridegroom but not yet in the bridal chamber – how can these things not pivot in us around a knot of desire? Listen to our brothers and sisters:
Have great confidence, for it is necessary not to hold back one’s desires, but to believe in God that is we try we shall little by little, even though it may not be soon, reach the state the saints did with His help. (St. Teresa of Avila)
If you would make progress, then, you must be thirsty, because only those who are thirsty are called: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.” Those who are not thirsty will never persevere in their journey. Either weariness or pleasure will make them stop. (St. Catherine of Siena)
Our hearts have a thirst which cannot be quenched by the pleasures of this mortal life… Oh wonderful yet dear unrest of man’s heart!… Ah! That a union of our hearts shall there be with God there above in heaven, where, after these infinite desires of the true, good never assuaged in this world, we will find the living and powerful source thereof. (St. Francis De Sales)
“The Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Rom 8:26)… By the light that he gives us, by a sure experience day after day, we are convinced that our desires and groanings come from him and go to God, to find mercy there in the eyes of God. For when did God make the voice of his own Spirit ineffectual? He “knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:27). (St. Bernard of Clairvaux)
How affected are we by the antichrist spirit of lukewarmness?
Is our desire strong? Are our hearts broken? Are we lovesick? Do we allow the Holy Spirit access to stir up in us a desire we can’t control, handle or bear? Have we surrendered to what God wants to awake within us? Have we allowed it to be let loose? The sign of a human being fully awake is a deep, deep desire that is far from ‘safe’ and which he or she is past the point of understanding.
Therefore, take courage! Ask the Holy Spirit to awaken you; to wound you with His love; to allow the stars to have their affect on you; to have a new desire for your destiny born within you.
But, beware – for “ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find.” (Matt. 7:7)
Note: the title of this post is taken from this book.