Daily Reflection – First Days in the Wilderness

I have to confess that I’m heartily tired of Zoom. This is, of course, not the technology’s fault. But I feel like one of the Israelites, wandering in the wilderness and complaining about manna. Things were better in the good ol’ days of two weeks ago, when I could actually be in the same physical room with people, rather than just staring at their faces. I’m having trouble adjusting to this new reality, and that trouble is manifesting itself as a complaint about technology.

I’ve been reading St. John of the Cross’s The Dark Night of the Soul in preparation for this week’s Lenten Program (also to be held on Zoom), and he, too, turns to the story of the Israelites in the wilderness to talk about our tendency to falter when we enter into a new world by strange paths. John’s book is about the human soul, and how we seek and find union with God. Part of this seeking involves cultivating Christian non-attachment, which is just radical attachment to God. “The spirit must be simple, pure, and naked of all attachments,” he writes.

“Only then can she freely partake — with fullness of spirit — of the divine wisdom. Through her purity, she tastes the eminent sweetness of all things. Without this purification, she would be unable to feel or taste the delectability of these abundant spiritual delights….The Children of Israel could not taste the delicate bread of the angels in the desert, which was the manna the scriptures say contained all flavors and became the favorite taste each one most desired. This is because they still held onto the memory of the meats they loved in Egypt. In the same way, the spirit that is still affected by desire or by some particular concept or by any other perception is unable to taste the delights of spiritual freedom.”

Of course, meeting with people in person is not a metaphor for Egypt. I have never for a moment thought that I was enslaved by seeing any of my loved ones face to face. But my desire for that contact is making it hard for me to appreciate the gifts of technology that are sustaining this moment. I’m grieving something that was lost, and expressing my grief as anger. I can be patient with myself in this, but I also need to recognize that it comes from my attachment to a certain way of life. That way of life wasn’t bad in any way. Yet as long as I let my spiritual attachment to it rule me, I will not be able to taste the spiritual delights, the sustaining manna, of this moment.