March/April 2004
Carmelite Ponderings: Loss - Life in A Fishbowl

Sr. Rosmarie Cameron, O.C.D.

Once, a Carmelite priest, trying to explain how and why God purifies a soul, offered me the image of a crystal clear fishbowl. Looking at a clean aquarium, one could see many objects through the glass; fish, castles, shiny rocks, plants, etc., each with its grace, beauty, and place. All might seem perfect and without need of any other touch. Life can appear relatively like that.

For all the joys, mixed with the problems and the uncertainties we deal with day in and day out, somehow, more or less, all seems to have its place. Though far from perfect, usually we are relatively comfortable with life, and able to sit back and "let it be." The contents of the fishbowl hold good things. We know when to feed the fish and, when the water gets murky and the objects look sort of slimy, we know it's time to clean the bowl. All is orderly; we are on familiar terms with the positive and the negative of our lovely little aquarium. In life, God has blessed us with so many wonders. Every good gift is a reflection of Him, something shared with us to give us a glimpse of the wonder of Him. All in life is basically good, even if our "water sometimes gets murky, and a bit slimy." Yet, with His help, we find our way and are reasonably content.

Though relatively appealing, God has deep and lasting "plans of goodness and peace" for us. The fishbowl of our person is meant to reflect a unity of love that has no murkiness. What the bowl of our human existence has the capacity to hold, and share with all who come near it, is more than glimpses of beauty - it is beauty and goodness Itself. For that to happen, the "pretty little things" of the fishbowl need to give way to deeper and lasting realities. Slowly God begins taking out one thing at a time until one day, the bowl is completely empty of everything. Yet, as all is being removed, a new beauty fills it. One day, when God's work is done, the fishbowl is transformed into a glowing tabernacle, where all that is seen is God Himself.

The most awesome example of this is Christ Himself. Our Lord proclaimed, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." He knew no greater poverty than when he was completely emptied on Calvary. On this hill he cried out to the Father, "It is finished." And three days later the glory of God shone through Him for all of us.

St. John of the Cross has this to say to those who are emptied for and by the Father:
"Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners. The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me. What do you ask, then, and seek, my soul? Yours is all of this, and all is for you. Do not engage yourself in something less or pay heed to the crumbs that fall from your Father's table. Go forth and exult in your Glory!"

To me, it would seem that the only loss we could truly call loss would be to have a lovely filled fishbowl, and not have God.

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