It is not a formless emptiness, a void without meaning; on the contrary it has a shape, a form given to it by the purpose for which it is intended. It is emptiness like the hollow in the reed, the narrow riftless emptiness which can only have one destiny: to receive the piper's breath and to utter the song that is in his heart.
It is the emptiness like the hollow in the cup, shaped to receive water or wine.
It is the emptiness like that of the bird's nest, built in a round warm ring to receive the little bird.
The pre-Advent emptiness of our Lady's purposeful virginity was indeed like those three things. She was a reed through which the eternal love was to be piped as a shepherd's song.
She was the flower-like chalice into which the purest water of humanity was to be poured, mingled with wine, changed to the crimson blood of love, and lifted up in sacrifice.
She was the warm nest rounded to the shape of humanity to receive the Divine Little Bird.
Emptiness is a very common complaint in our days, NOT THE PURPOSEFUL EMPTINESS OF THE VIRGINAL HEART AND MIND, but a void, meaningless, unhappy condition.
Strangely enough, those who complain the loudest of emptiness of their lives are usually people whose lives are overcrowded, filled with trivial details, plans, desires, ambitions, unsatisfied cravings for passing pleasures, doubts, anxieties and fears...
Those who usually complain in these circumstances of the emptiness of their lives are usually afraid to allow SPACE OR SILENCE OR PAUSE in their lives. They dread space, for they want material things crowded together, so that there will always be something to lean on for support. They dread silence because they do not want to hear their own pulses beating out the seconds of their life, and to know that each beat is another knock on the door of death. Death seems to them to be only the FINAL VOID, the darkest loneliest emptiness.
They have no sense of being related to any abiding beauty, to any indestructible life: they are afraid to be alone with their unrelated hearts.
Such emptiness is very different from the still, shadowless ring of light round which our being is circled, making a shape which in itself IS AN ABSOLUTE PROMISE OF FULFILLMENT...
Can someone whose life is already cluttered up with trivial things get back to this virginal emptiness?
OF COURSE HE CAN; if a bird's nest has been filled with broken glass and rubbish, it can be emptied.
It is not only the trivialities which destroy this virgin-mindedness; very often, serious people with a conscious purpose in life destroy it by being too set on this purpose. The core of emptiness is not filled by trifles but a hard block, tightly wedged in. They have a plan, for example, of reconstructing Europe, reforming education, for converting the world; and this plan,
THIS ENTHUSIASM, HAS BECOME SO IMPORTANT IN THEIR MINDS THAT THERE IS NEITHER ROOM TO RECEIVE GOD NOR THE SILENCE TO HEAR HIS VOICE, even though HE COMES AS LIGHT AND A LITTLE COMMUNION WAFER AND SPEAKS SOFT AS A ZEPHYR OF WIND TAPPING ON THE WINDOW WITH A FLOWER.
...At the beginning it will be necessary for each individual to discard deliberately all the trifling unnecessary things in his life, all the hard blocks and congestions; not necessarily to discard all his interests forever, but at least once to stop still, and having prayed for courage, to visualise himself without all the extras, escapes, and interests other than Love in his life: to see ourselves as if we had just come from God's hand and had gathered nothing to ourselves yet, to discover just what shape is the virginal emptiness of our own being, and of what material we are made.
We need to be reminded that every second of our survival does really mean that WE ARE NEW FROM GOD'S FINGERS, so that it requires no more than the miracle which we never notice to restore us to our virgin-heart AT ANY MOMENT WE LIKE TO CHOOSE.
Our own effort will consist in sifting and sorting out everything that is not essential and that fills up space and silence in us and in discovering what sort of shape this emptiness is in us. From this we shall learn what sort of purpose God has for us. In what way are we to fulfil the work of giving Christ life in us?
Are we reed pipes?
Are we chalices?
Does he ask to be sacrificed in us?
Are we nests?
Does He desire of us a WARM, SWEET ABIDING IN DOMESTIC LIFE AT HOME?
These are only some of the possible forms of virginity; each person may find some quite different form, his own secret.
...It is really through ORDINARY HUMAN LIFE AND THE THINGS OF EVERY HOUR OF EVERY DAY THAT UNION WITH GOD COMES ABOUT.
...We do not all achieve that purpose in the same way, or through the same experiences;
IN FACT NO TWO PEOPLE HAVE EXACTLY THE SAME PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF GOD
The reed grows by the streams. It is the simplest of things, but it must be cut by the sharp knife, hollowed out, and the stops must be cut in it; it must be shaped and pierced before it can utter the shepherd's song. It is the narrowest emptiness in the world, but the little reed utters infinite music.
The chalice does not grow like the flower it resembles. it is made of gold; gold must be gathered from the water and mud and hewn from the rock, it must be beaten by countless little blows that give the chalice of sacrifice its fitting beauty.
The twigs and fluff and leaves of the bird's nest are brought from all sorts of places, from wherever the brave careful mother alights, with fluttering but daring heart, to fetch them, from the distances and explorations that only the spread wings of love know. It is the shape of her breast that moulds the nest to its inviting roundness.
Thus it is with us-we may be formed by the knife, pared down, cut to the least,
TO THE MINIMUM OF OUR OWN BEING.
We may be marked indelibly by a succession of strokes, blows from the gold-beater's hammer; or we may be shaped for our destiny by the love and tender devotion of a devoted family.
We can accept and seize upon the fact that what we are at this moment, young or old, weak or strong, mild or passionate, beautiful or ugly, clever or stupid, is planned to be like that. Whatever we are gives form to the emptiness in us which can only be filled by God and which
GOD IS EVEN NOW WAITING TO FILL.
~ Caryll Houselander