Watch therefore -- for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. Mark 13:33.
Longing for God is universal experience in almost all of the religions. The encounter with God, mostly by the end of a long-suffering time, is different in the perspective of different mystics. For a few it is very tender but for others it is mighty. Most of the time, in Jesus’ parables the encounter with the God was in the form of caution, where God is a master returning to his servants.
But the difference is in the mind set of servants depending on their status on His return, a fearful one finding the sleeping servant or a happy reunion with an attentive servant.
The possible point of time of the encounter in his parable is interesting, in the evening , at midnight or at cockcrow, or in the morning. Typically the evening is the beginning of spiritual life where we know nothing of future, no clear directions and everything going to be full darkness.‘On that glad night, in secret, for no one saw me, nor did I look at anything, with no other light or guide than the one that burned in my heart’. Dark Night, St John of The Cross.
Midnight is dreadful, as we left everything in the back, journeyed to a new direction but still don’t have a clear vision. The poor soul is not experiencing the love of God, thus in total darkness. But still the night itself is guiding, as at that point no return:‘O guiding night! O night more lovely than the dawn! O night that has united the Lover with his beloved, transforming the beloved in her Lover’. St John.
After the long waiting hours, there is a spark of light, God is willing to give the soul a glimpse of hope, cockcrow brings hope of a beautiful and calm morning, and at this point soul doesn’t need anything more than one feet at a time.‘The night is dark, and I am far from home, Lead Thou me on! Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see The distant scene; one step enough for me’. John Henry Newman.
Thus the morning is here, after treacherous long hours of darkness with only glimpses of light, in it’s full glory. As per Newman,‘To rest forever after earthly strife In the calm light of everlasting life.’
‘May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice!’ Philippians 4:4.
In fact it doesn’t matter much when the encounter will be, at the very beginning of spiritual life, in the middle desert or almost at the very end but what is important is the state of soul. In revelation it is clear:
‘I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth’. 3:15. Keeping a longing heart is enough, may be at the early stages, when the fruitfulness is almost impossible. The parable of barren fig tree make this clear as God is ready to wait one more year : ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’
Now, the uncertainty is always disturbing, but it is the essence of a Christian life. A soul doesn’t know the dangers of the night, even doesn’t know the path. Unclear of the next hour, only she had in her hand is love to God and a trust in Him. The nature of a journey is uncertainty. That is why he says – Watch! A soul doesn’t have anything more to do than watch, watch not only the dangerous around her but the glimpse of her lover. King David is clear of this : ‘I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.’ Psalm 84:10. It is more meaningful reading along with St. Paul’s words : ‘Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?’ 1Corinithins 3:16.
And the last thing, is how we ‘watch’. It is yet very simple and direct but more hard to follow. St Paul lay out a structured pattern:
‘Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’. Ephesians 6:14.
Clear gadgets; truth, righteousness, preparation for gospel of peace, faith, salvation and word of God .There is only one weapon, the word of God, everything else is to protect us.
‘Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning’.
T.S.Eliot’s East Coker