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Center for Action and Contemplation

Suffering: Week 2 Summary

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Suffering: Week 2

Summary: Sunday, October 21-Friday, October 26, 2018

The genius of Jesus’ ministry is that he reveals that God uses tragedy, suffering, pain, betrayal, and death itself (all of which are normally inevitable), not to punish us but, in fact, to bring us to God and to our True Self, which are frequently a simultaneous discovery. (Sunday)

The mystery of the cross has the power to teach us that our suffering is not our own and my life is not about “me” but we are actually living inside of a larger force field of life and death. One moves from “me” to “us” inside of this field of deep inner experience. (Monday)

Although it is true that there is no refuge from suffering; it’s also true that suffering has no refuge from love that permeates it through and through and through and through and through. Love protects us from nothing, even as it unexplainably sustains us in all things. —James Finley (Tuesday)

We can learn to sink the taproot of our heart into that invincible love and draw out from it resources of courage, patience, and tenderness to touch the hurting places with love, so they might dissolve in love until only love is left. This is Christ’s presence in the world. —James Finley (Wednesday)

Our practice is to become present to that infinite flow of compassion and love and bring it to bear in a tender-hearted and sincere manner in our very presence to the painful situation. We do this knowing that God is sustaining and guiding us all in unexplainable ways that are not dependent on how the painful situation might turn out. —James Finley (Thursday)

In general, you can lead people on the spiritual journey as far as you have gone. Transformed people transform people. When you can be healed yourself and not just talk about healing, you are, as Henri Nouwen said, a “wounded healer.” (Friday)


Practice: Where to Start

This past week in our daily meditations we have been talking about suffering. Through practice we can discover that God is present with us in our suffering, permeating it with love and compassion and sustaining us in ways we cannot understand. God’s presence in our suffering means that our suffering, fear, or shame do not have the power to name who we are. God’s love names us as infinitely precious in our vulnerability.

James Finley, one of our core faculty members, and Alana Levandoski, a Living School alum, collaborated on a beautiful musical experience that can lead us through our suffering to discover our preciousness. Listen to their words and music and open your heart to taking the first step, to learn how to be “vulnerable and safe at the same time” in the heartfelt presence of a trustworthy guide.

I don’t know where to start.
Or how to bare this heart.
But I fear I’ve become what’s been done to me.

Move slowly, move slowly,
move slowly into deep water.

You are safe with me,
no longer thrown out to sea.
Now it’s time to breathe.

Click here to listen to these gentle, encouraging songs.

Where to Start

Move Slowly

Read a transcript of these songs.

James Finley and Alana Levandoski, Sanctuary: Exploring the Healing Path (Cantus Productions: 2016), CD. Used with permission. Visit to learn more about Alana and her work.

For Further Study:
John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, trans. Mirabai Starr (Riverhead Books: 2002)

James Finley, Intimacy: The Divine Ambush (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), CD, MP3 download

James Finley, Thomas Merton’s Path to the Palace of Nowhere (Sounds True: 2004), CD

James Finley, Transforming Trauma: A Seven-Step Process for Spiritual Healing, with Caroline Myss (Sounds True: 2009), CD, MP3 download

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life: The Diaries, 19411943 and Letters from Westerbork, trans. Arnold J. Pomerans (Henry Holt and Company: 1996)

Richard Rohr, A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (CAC Publishing: 2016)

Image Credit: Jonah and the Whale (detail), by Pieter Lastman, 1621. Kunstpalast Museum, Düsseldorf, Germany.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Jesus says, “There’s only one sign I’m going to give you: the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Sooner or later, life is going to lead us (as it did Jesus) into the belly of the beast, into a place we can’t fix, control, explain, or understand. That’s where transformation most easily happens—because only there are we in the hands of God—and not self-managing. —Richard Rohr
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