October 18, 2018

The Indwelling of the Trinity

What animates Christian Contemplation is the most beautiful and intimate mystery of the universe -- the Glory out of which all things visible and invisible have issued forth.  This unseen Glory causes all that is to exist and holds all things in existence for no other reason that sheer love and goodness. By an utterly excessive outpouring of love, in a divine and wholly gratuitous gift of sheer grace, this inexhaustible treasure has been entrusted to the heart to be known and loved.

Such is the Divine Indwelling - beyond holding us into existence, the Trinity manifests its goodness and truth to those who believe in the Risen Lord. This is no ordinary knowledge, no simple accumulation or mastery of information. It is sacred truth - the kind of truth that when humbly received shatters all rash judgments and helps us find the way home.

The prayer that receives this knowledge and love is called mystical. It is produced, not by human effort, but by the gentle touch of the Holy Spirit.Only the most humble act of faith and determined devotion makes the soul vulnerable enough to receive this Divine Gift.

The Holy Trinity may dwell in a soul for many years before the soul become conscious of the gift that it has been given. The humble love that such a gift requires can take years of constant vigilance and silent readiness. Steeping the imagination in holy images prepares the soil. Baptizing our intelligence with revealed truth makes the necessary space. Surrendering affections and offering painful sorrows with love draws this powerful blessing. 

This hidden secret cannot be grasped by mental gymnastics or intellectual feats.  This deepest spiritual truth evades the proud and powerful. The wise of this world are confounded by its simplicity. The clever stumble over its shocking liberty.  Only poor beggars are ready for this hidden bounty.

Pierced and disjointed in helter-skelter agony, hung on dead splintered wood between heaven and earth, the last wordless cry of the Word of the Father fills the empty voids of this world with this living fullness. It flows like a font from the deepest center of Holy Spirit bathed baptized souls. It falls like rain on the contrite and runs like streams from their eyes to their hearts. Its fragrance awakens and draws love. It shakes the foundations of human existence and rips open the veils that separate Bride from Bridegroom.  

Such is the august mystery of the Holy Trinity. An endless sea of love and life flows immutably from its tenderness toward humanity and its patient purpose remains un-thwarted by our hostility.  Oh, that the stillness that we might share the great stillness that it knows -- the peace of love poured and received. That humble greatness resists our pride and that gentle immensity silences our aggression.

Generously implicated in our misery, the Father sends His Son in the power of His Spirit again and again into our hearts anew -- a pure, total and personal gift -- as if always for the first time. For, in the image of the unrepeatability of God's majesty, this astonishing gift never comes the same way twice.  A personal gift of mutual relations, enkindling with bright warm splendor, this indwelling mystery is the hidden uncreated form of every created gift of self given and received in love.  

October 15, 2018

St. Teresa of Avila


St. Teresa of Jesus draws us to the light of Christ.  She does this by moving our minds, our imaginations and our hearts into the humanity of the Lord. She baptizes our imagination with the night of the Agony in the Garden so that the King might illumine us. She explains His teachings on prayer to help us see just how far heaven is beyond what we can see. She exhorts us to be mindful of His majesty and humbled by His great love so that when we ask we might receive. She argues that our prayer lives by His Body and Blood so that no matter how sublime the experiences we might have, we will stay grounded in real life.  We need this mystical wisdom in these difficult days -- for it reminds us about who we are and of the great things to which we are called.

For more on this amazing Doctor of the Church:

https://stpaulcenter.com/unmasking-popular-spiritualities-what-teresa-of-avila-can-teach-us-today/

October 11, 2018

On Keeping the Word of the Father

How do we remain in the Word? The night before He died, Christ commanded his disciples to remain in Him - and, explained, that this means to keep His Word. (See John 15.) Obeying this command goes beyond any moralism or fulfillment of minimal obligation. Minimalism does not keep the Word - for the Word, in its sheer grandeur and inexhaustible wonder, is maximal. We need to live with a maximal response if we are to hear and keep this Word whom the Father fully speaks into our lives. Such is the great task of being Christian -- and the constant effort of contemplation in the Catholic Tradition.

Keeping His Word is painful - because to receive the Word of the Father is to accept being stripped, pruned of what is not fruitful in one's life. The Father cuts off dead branches from our lives as we keep His Word in our hearts.  If we try to keep what is not fruitful, there is no room for what is fruitful. We are dissipated, wasting energy on what has little or nothing to do with the Word. So the Father prunes away what is lifeless.

He does so in respect to our freedom -- for He will not prune what we do not allow Him to. That is why remaining in the Word requires great effort. It costs us trust and confidence in the Father and surrendered openness. It means a receptivity that welcomes what the Father desires and that readily gives permission, assents to all that He yearns to do. When we freely surrender to the Father's purifying action - room is made in our hearts for the new life that the Word makes fecund within. 

October 8, 2018

Prayer and Discouragement

Sometimes, when you offer all that you have and there is no more to give, all the good that you intended seems to crash down around you. All of your efforts seem to have been for naught. Hidden sacrifices and hidden tears seem to have paid no dividends.

Sometimes, while offering a noble sacrifice and tender act of mercy, you only accomplished your own humiliation. Not only the project that you failed to bring to completion, but your own weakness and inadequacy stares you in the face. No noble feelings are left. Only void remains.

Do not let this abyss of humiliation go to waste! Do not let the opportunity to pray in the midst of failure pass you by. For here, we are finally able to offer something of real worth in the eyes of God. Here, in the place where plans are shattered and the heart is broken, Christ Crucified awaits us in love - and the Author of our Faith waits to make our own faith perfect.

The King of Glory prefers these places of poverty and failure: consider where He was born and how He died. The Image of the Invisible God has chosen to make our humiliation His own.  When we are humiliated for His sake, He who is Mighty stands ready to exalt us.

That is why, precisely when we are engulfed in disappointment, we should not torment ourselves with what we thought ought to happen, but give thanks for what the Lord Himself will accomplish. We do not need to know how or what He will do. We only need to trust that His work will be so much more beautiful than anything that was limited by our own categories of success.

Faithfulness, not success, is the good soil of prayer. In failure and defeat the frailest act of love and trust makes the whole world vulnerable to a new work that the Creator yearns to accomplish. In such a sacred place, the smallest act of gratitude is like a mustard seed. When the heart is crushed, one instant of praise in such circumstance is like a priceless pearl in His eyes. Such an act opens fissures in this world and into these the Fount of Living Waters waits to pour the inexhaustible treasuries of His great mercy.

October 6, 2018

The Personal Presence of God

God's presence in the world is personal and intimate. He is vulnerable to every concern and attends with tender care to every request. He does not approach with programs or agendas. He approaches in true friendship - offering forgiveness, salvation, a new beginning and a bond of love. He longs that we might know peace with Him and with one another.

God's personal presence in the world unveils a great mystery of love and truth that cannot be circumscribed. In His inexhaustible Fullness, He overflows the barriers of malice and contempt and shatters prisons of confusion and deception. The shrill cry that fears love and truth is silenced before His holiness. His Truth in silent majesty is always victorious when clamor of darkness would stand in His Way. Where there is no love, the Author of our Faith fills with love until love is found -- and all our clever calculations are confounded when what seemed impossible is suddenly accomplished.

God's intimate presence in love and truth is shared with us by the grace that comes from the Cross. We pull back and fear what this might mean. Yet the the King of Righteousness suffered our hostility to the end and marched into Hell so that death could not have the last word about our humanity. The power of His presence confronts our every sin and, in the face of our ignorance, makes known His justice -- so that we might come to our senses, give up our rebellion, turn to Him and know His merciful kindness. For He awaits us with open arms.