Remembrance and Absence

It is good on this day, as well, to remember the countless number of civilians who have died in all our wars.

God’s home is absence. God is found in absence, says a Rabbi who should know. How he expects me to make sense of that is beyond me.

Annie Dillard instead offers an experience we can understand. She says, Many times in Christian churches she has heard the pastor say to God. "All your actions show your wisdom and your love." And every time she tried in vain to find the courage to rise and shout, That’s a lie!" Just, as she says, to put the things on solid footing.

Does God live in the consciousness of the cosmos, as quasi-mystic Joel Goldsmith surmises? I say it makes more sense to say he makes his home in the unconsciousness of the universe. A place where, as near as I can figure, absence is well rooted.

Do we find God in the coils of absence, just by seeking? or chanting? or praying?

I find that often, here in the monastery, in contrast to expectation, God’s absence is pronounced. And so I have no trouble singing along with the monks the Canticle of Isaiah: that God’s ways are higher than my ways and his thoughts beyond my thoughts. Which seems to me just another way of expressing God’s absence.

It was said St. Martin of Tours was scoffed at, when, having been approached by a beggar who was freezing because of the cold, cut his cloak in half, keeping half and giving half to the unfortunate beggar. It was also said of St. Martin–who is celebrated on this day by all Catholics–that after this, he remained a soldier for two more years, but in name only.


  1. The death of civilians…the absence of god…the determination that keeps us on our path…the profound disillusionment that puts out the fire within…you nailed it all again. I had a white poppy, but lost it this year.

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