The main character is Chief Inspector Gamache and the story is set in the monastery of Saint Gilbert Among the Wolves in an ethereal wood, inaccessible to the rest of modern society. The story's prologue gives a thorough background into the history of plainchant, or Gregorian chant, which was the format for the Divine Office. Through the years, the Church lost this art form, and it wasn't until the 19th century that a young monk in France decided he was up to the task of recovering this lost art form. The chants were simple and pure. And it is said that all who heard the ancient chants were profoundly effected. So much so, that the chants were known as "the beautiful mystery."
But this isn't a book review post. It's a reflection on a quote from Dom Philippe, the abbot of St. Gilbert. As he stands before his community, one of whom is a murderer, he reminds them:
"Our order has been tested over the centuries. And this is another test. Do we really believe in God? Do we believe all of the things we say and sing? Or has it become a faith of convenience? Has it, in splendid isolation, grown weak? We challenged we simply do what is easiest. Do we sin by silence? If we have real faith we must have the courage to speak up."
To me, that, is the real mystery.
It's easy to stand on unwavering faith when life is easy. It's not impossible, but it's a lot more difficult to walk the walk when everything falls apart.
And that's the mystery, isn't it? How does a life of faith stand up to the tests of life?
I can only speak from my own experience and from the experiences written by the saints. But I would argue that walking through the fire isn't just an inconvenience, a punishment by an cruel world or the mocking of an unjust Creator, it is a requirement of a life of faith.
Because one thing is for sure, at these times when our faith was most fragile, at the point when we thought there was nothing left to do but wave a white flag of surrender, God drew us closer. We sought Him or He sought us. I want to be clear, though. This doesn't mean at those most difficult times that God showed up and "fixed" everything. It doesn't mean that from the pits, God reached down and drew us out. In many cases, during these darkest hours, we wondered if God was still there. But, what did happen, (as it happens in any relationship where strong emotions are present) is that our relationship changed, deepened, and revealed itself to be something different from what we had previously thought.
It is impossible to have a "faith of convenience" when the very circumstances you are in demands you have courage and put on your big girl panties of faith and be who you say you are.
Ask the saints. Read their stories. You'll find that if there is one way to deepen your relationship with God, it is to step into the darkness where the only way through is to seek the Light.