Rags of Light

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marriage & faith: ecstasy, discipline, bondage, freedom.

Many misconceive religious life in the same way they misunderstand married life: They expect spontaneous ecstasy where there is really the practice of discipline, and they see bondage where there is perfect freedom. Ecstasy and bondage can most assuredly arise in a marriage or in a vocation. But far more likely one will experience discipline and freedom. Why are so few of us taught to desire discipline and freedom; why do we hunger so for ecstasy and enslavement?

One answer, of course, is that as creatures caught in the cycles of elation and bondage we are perfect consumers: that is, creatures who will pay anything to be constantly elated… And thus we only very painstakingly and very slowly and very deliberately begin to see how discipline and freedom are—in a marriage, in a religious vocation—at once the conditions for and the consequences of love: and how correspondingly ecstasy and bondage stem from hate (of self or other) and despair.

—Donald Sheehan, The Shield of Psalmic Prayer