November 21, 2010

How to Prepare for the Lord's Sheer Grace

In our last post, John of the Cross described an experience of seeking the Lord, fired by the urgent promptings of love in one's heart, free of the normal concerns that normally trap us within ourselves.  Such freedom for seeking the the Lord is "sheer grace." Is there anything we can do to prepare our hearts for such a gift?

In Ascent of Mt. Carmel, Book 1, Chapter 13, Fray Juan de Yepes y Alvarez proposes practices, which in his own experience, have helped people find this freedom.   While many have heard of his doctrine of nada, very few really understand it in a beneficial manner.   Here, we will consider a good foundation for a proper understanding and personal appropriation of this teaching.

The first thing to remember is the "sheer grace" by which we find the freedom to seek the Lord with our whole hearts - this grace is exactly that, a grace, a gift, something entirely undeserved.  This is why John of the Cross emphasizes that they way to come to know the Lord is more "passive" than "active."  The passivity he has in mind is not the absence of activity, but an active receptivity, a generosity of heart that is ready to make a total response to the Lord.  Gratitude, humility and love of God form the dimensions of such generosity.  Such is the only proper response to the Lord for the price He paid for the freedom He yearns us to know.   In Salvation History, the best example of this response comes from Mary in her encounter with Gabriel, "Let it be done to me according to your will."

Once we see that all the counsels of this doctor of the Church concern principally the river of grace flowing from the side of Christ, then any practices or disciplines we take up on our part are simply subordinate to the Lord's work, a humble response to a generous gift.   How can we repay the Lord for his goodness to us?  How can we say no to his invitation to friendship?  Everything we do for the sake of this friendship is a simple cooperation with what He has already done for us: it is love in the face of Love.