Spirituality for Today – Winter 2021 – Volume 25, Issue 2

Stay Safe

Reverend Raymond K. Petrucci

"Stay safe" became a mantra of the Caronavirus pandemic. This ubiquitous wish was pleasing to the ears and, certainly, was a message to heed. Our health and, perhaps, our lives were threatened. In order to stay safe, we needed to follow the rules of the medical professionals and the government; we needed to exercise discipline, self–sacrifice, and to have a deep respect and a responsibility for ourselves and for others. I am sure that anyone who has been formed in the secular culture of self-worship, a distorted notion of strength and self–confidence, must have found the Christian values of love of neighbor, discipline, and self-sacrifice to be something hard to swallow.

The idea of staying safe regarding the virus finds ready application to the Advent and Christmas season. Watching out for one's spiritual well-being and knowing what ensures it captures the essence of these holy seasons. Sin can be perceived as a pathogen infecting the soul with a disease that can be life-threatening. Celebrating the birth of Christ, the Savior, the one who frees our souls from sin and death. A discovery of a vaccine offering prevention of the aforementioned virus pales before the protection of the eternal gifts of salvation and the assurances of hope afforded to daily living.

Cold and hot, dark and light are contrasts familiar to us. Outside the air is bracing and early darkness are common features of winter. Although we might love the cold and the mysterious quality of a winter's night, we welcome the warmth and light of an inviting home. Internally, often our mood is more tranquil and meditative, here is an opportunity to adjust the feel of life, to seek God in quiet thoughtfulness, and to invite the influence of the Holy Spirit. Other seasons of the year are filled with activities and distractions, but the communal joys of the numerous religious and civic holidays from late fall until spring do not obscure, but enriches the soil of a deeply personal, spiritual fruitfulness. We all need a strong sense of security in our lives. Without a doubt, there are many frightening realities in life that threaten that very security we wish to maintain. Often, our greatest threat comes from ourselves, our weaknesses of character, our unpreparedness before worldly temptations. Although we may be dismayed by our lack of virtue and, at times, fear that our conscience has been short–circuited by our desires, we are not without resource. In faith, our contrite hearts find the loving mercy of God. In faith, we discover an enduring hope. In faith, the love of God for us vanquishes fear, sin, and death.

When mystics stay quiet in the muteness of naked truth, resting in a simple and open-eyed awareness, attentive to the darkness which baffles them, a subtle and indefinable peace begins to seep into their soul and occupies them with a deep and inexplicable satisfaction… What is it? It is hard to say, but one feels that it is somehow summed up in "the will of God" or simply, "God."

Thomas Merton

Living in God's grace is something attainable, something that every human being can achieve. This feeling of confidence may be what is needed to stay safe from the prodigiously unsavory influences of the times in which we live. The noise of the unbeliever is loud, but never victorious. Anger, hatred, and a numbing indifference turns in upon itself and ultimately leaves a person spiritually bankrupt. Living in the light of God's grace envelops us in the freedom of Truth and Love that bestows on us the courage to shine that light against the darkness of those who really have no power. Unless we give it away, no one can take from us the joy and hope that God has given. We know that a pandemic can be a painful, distressful, and sorrowful experience, but it cannot destroy the soul. There is hope and love that only faith can give; death itself cannot overcome it.

As we can imagine, staying safe is an effort that demands constant attention. From the point of view of our physical health, a staying safe protocol can become almost automatic. From the spiritual perspective, keeping our souls safe can develop into something similar, but that effort calls for a daily awareness that we are trying to prevent the damage of sin, but also to attain the goal of the kingdom.