November 16, 2010

Recollection in Prayer: Hurry and come down!

Christian recollection is a movement of heart to an urgent appeal of Jesus not unlike the appeal he makes to Zacchaeus in the story related in Luke 19:1-10.   Recollection involves a humble acceptance of one's own need for God, a gentle awareness that something is missing in one's life.  It is a movement toward humility, a coming down to earth.   It is a realization of one's own misery.  One focus's the powers of one's soul on what is truly essential. It is not, however, self-pity, which is only an emotional counterfeit.  Self-pity is stuck in the self.  Recollection goes down into the difficult places of one's own heart in search of Christ, at his urgent invitation, with the same hope of meeting Him that we see in Zacchaeus.

Elisabeth of the Trinity, a Carmelite nun who died at the age of 26 of Addison's Disease, wanted her family and friends as well as the other nuns with whom she lived to grow in prayer.  She knew, from her own experience, that recollection helped her meet Jesus.  At the same time she also knew that the encounter with Christ was not something she produced by her efforts.  Entering into deeper friendship with the Lord was in the nature of a surprising, an unexpected gift.  She found in Jesus' words to Zacchaeus an illustration of this experience.

We know from the Scriptures that Zacchaeus was a man who wanted to see Jesus, and even climbed a tree so he could catch a glimpse as the Lord walked through Jericho.   He wanted to see Jesus, but Jesus saw him.  Biblically, to be seen is to be known.  It is obvious from the passage that Jesus knew Zaccheaus.  His appeal to Zaccheaus was urgent: "Hurry and come down, I must dwell in your house." Luke 19:5

Elisabeth used this Scripture passage to illustrate the purpose of recollection.  She is writing to loved ones who already are seeking the Lord, who want to find them in their own lives, like she did in hers.  Through this beautiful Scripture passage, she gives a sense for how recollection, as a movement of humility, allows us to meet Jesus and to make room for Him.  As we search for what is truly essential in the broken places of our hearts, He is there to meet us - we find Him already bearing our misery for us.