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Fr. Simon and Marcus Schonnop

The Double Abyss

“Oh God, your sea is so great, and my boat is so small, have mercy on me!” The Fisherman’s Prayer.

We at the Combermere Assumption Farm have settled into our fall teachings and one of the most foundational teachings is something we call ‘the double abyss’ - the realization of the greatness of God contrasted with the very real limitations of the human person. Even a modest reflection on the vast glory of creation can become overwhelming. There are truly no words on how to relate with a being of such power and grandeur. Then there is the second sad truth of our own limitations, the blunt tools left to our fallen human nature, our dulled intellect, disordered passions and a weakened will. 

It does not look to be a happy ending.

Yet there is hope, and more to the point, there is mercy. Faced with the distance of the spiritual journey we must travel, and the limited natural means left to our disposal, it would be understandable to give into some element of despair. But, the good news is that we were never meant to overcome this gap by our own efforts (in fact attempting it is known as the heresy of Manichaeism).

"Friends in Christ, we cannot do this thing ourselves. So take a deep breath and exhale slowly in relief. You are not lost and you are not alone, that is the good in the Good News."

As we close this Year of Mercy, I have been asked to give a talk on this very theme at a local parish, St Hedwig’s, in Barry’s Bay, ON. I hope to show that we must all make a critical choice when faced with the stark truth that we do not become all that we once hoped we would be. 

We can pretend that all is well while still living lives of quiet desperation. Or, we can come to experience the life transforming mercy of God, real mercy that is offered to real people, not just a banner slogan on a poster, but a lived experience and the true beginning of our spiritual lives.

The sun rising in the Madawaska valley is very beautiful experience. But, it is a pale symbol of the power of God’s mercy rising each day in the hearts of the faithful. Yes, the spiritual life does take some effort on our part, but let’s remember who is doing most of the heavy lifting and how incredible eternity will be.

Do not let the Year of Mercy end without drawing from the great ocean of God’s love.


Fr. Rob A

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