Rilke’s life and works remind us that our faith can be a struggle. Even more, it must be struggled with – and there is great fruit that can come from that struggle.
I share with you his poem, “Sometimes a Man Stands Up” as translated by Robert Bly:
Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.
And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.
And another man, who remains inside his own house,
dies there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,
so that his children have to go far out into the world
toward that same church, which he forgot.
One of the themes of the poem regards the need to abandon the familiar and the complacent for the sake of a spiritual quest.
That’s what Lent is to be for us – a spiritual quest. We set off on a journey away from what is common and into a place of adventure, testing, and the promise of a great reward. It is a journey that we know will be difficult and will require great exertion from us. There will be many obstacles to overcome. Yet the more we persevere in hope and remain faithful on the journey, the more we are changed, in a deep and lasting way, and the object of our quest becomes present to us in a way that is far more glorious and grand than we had imagined.
Sad and empty ends the life that has never undertaken the great and holy spiritual quest. Thanks be to God for the ways He makes us willing to undergo the struggle in search of that glorious reward.
Lent has begun. I pray that all of us have too. Rise up and set off on the quest.