Congress will (let’s hope) go into summer recess soon, if they can finish whatever they think they’re doing. An old joke in Washington – even before the House and Senate spectacles of recent years: at least during the vacation, the Constitution is (temporarily) safe and the nation secure. Also this week (August 15, Feast of the Assumption), parts of Europe, notably Italy, will enter ferragosto: that blessed time when most activity ceases until early September. Lately, it has seemed very good when the Vatican goes quiet as well. But these are only passing interruptions in the turmoil of institutions. At this time of year, it’s even better for each of us to try to enter into deeper, personal stillness.
The challenges never go away, and we can’t abandon the struggle for the Good, True, and Beautiful. But a neglected part of that struggle, as the Psalmist says, is to “Be Still and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:11) For most Americans, eager to do or achieve something, this is a hard saying. We have a native bent towards Pelagianism, as if we can – in the absurd modern lie – “be/do anything we want,” if we just work harder, smarter, better. But we can’t.
Just before “Be still,” the Psalmist explains:
9 Come and see the works of the LORD,
who has done fearsome deeds on earth;
10 Who stops wars to the ends of the earth,
breaks the bow, splinters the spear,
and burns the shields with fire. . .
Many things depend on us. But the greatest things, even the ability to carry out our duties, do not come merely by our own efforts. We have to invite graces that far exceed anything we ourselves could do.