The future is seldom clear to any of us. We know where it begins but not where it will end. History records other crossings of the desert, such as that of Moses and his people. Yet they longed to return to the land of familiar haunts and material security, and their hearts had hardened and rebelled. The desert is the very antithesis of the sheltered nest. It was a very bold decision for Thérèse to agree to make the desert her life, to commit herself to God unconditionally, to concern herself with his love alone, and to welcome everything within that perspective.
We can say without exaggeration that few young girls have loved as passionately as Thérèse loved her Lord Jesus. In order to find her Beloved, she walked through the very heart of the desert, for, after all, that was the quickest way to find him. Her spiritual father, St John of the Cross, had taught her ‘to go to the All by way of the Nothing’. Solitude did not mean Void. It implied a pleasurable walk to the dwelling-place of her Beloved in the oasis. This gave privation a meaning and the desert a new dimension of profundity.
But when she crossed that spiritual desert, the Beloved was not only in the oasis. He also accompanied her on the journey. He was an elusive companion perhaps, but he was always close at hand, and visible to a prayerful soul’s eyes of faith and joy.
Conrad de Meester, O.C.D.
With Empty Hands: Chapter One, Love Beckons
de Meester, C 2002, With Empty Hands: The Message of St. Therese of Lisieux, translated from the French by Seymour, M, ICS Publications, Washington DC.