April 27, 2012

The Simplicity of Faith - Heaven and Faith Episode 12

Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity understood something beautiful about contemplation.  As a simple gaze of love on God in faith, this kind of prayer opens us to the simplicity of love, to an interior harmony, to an inner unity with ourselves which allows us to freely give ourselves in love.  This unity, this harmony, this new life comes from God and is in God.  This is because God through the Cross imprints us, touches us, kisses us with his very own divine simplicity.  The Mystic of Dijon believed that when we spend time seeking Him in the silence of our hearts, the One who is immensely simple offers us this loving touch, this holy kiss, that we might know again the simple greatness of our humanity.

Through his Word and by his Holy Spirit, the Father unites the powers of our soul in a work of love.  Through this simple movement of love He inspires, we learn to submit our thoughts, judgments, fantasies, dreams, desires, feelings and choices to Him.  We do this by forgetting all of this and giving ourselves wholly over to the simple acts of love He entrusts to us.  Love envelops us the more we surrender to Him in this way.  This is what we are doing  when we choose to spend time in loving attentiveness to his Presence within.  It is what we are expressing when we choose to implicate ourselves in the plight of those who suffer so that they too might know this exceeding love.

The One who is Incomprehensible and totally Transcendent dwells in our innermost being because in his Omnipotence He has chosen to make Himself that accessible to us.  It was at a great price that He chose to do this -- to the point of making Himself completely vulnerable to our hostility to Him.  Behold the enigma of the Cross where misery and mercy embrace once and for all.  By this mystery, the Most High God has made the lowliness of our hearts his heaven for no other reason than He loves each one of us in a unique and unrepeatable way.

Just as the Word came into the world in the flesh to destroy death, the Victor now comes into each of our hearts in the Power of the Holy Spirit.  He, the Bridegroom of our Souls, comes to free us from the personal hell we have hid ourselves in.  He comes because He did not create us for hell.  He is eager in this quest: to rejoice with us, to delight in us, and to be enamored by us.  Such is the irresistible power of the divine love we were fashioned to share.  He also aches over the complicated pride that attempts to block His simple love.  Yet no height or depth can resist His power - for His love is stronger than death, having descended deeper and ascended higher than all else that is.

The Perfecter of our Faith is come to free us from our bondage.   He opens before us the pathway to holy freedom.  Trust in the Risen Lord is how we journey on this road.  Such trust is born in every humble prayer and grace filled decision to let go of anything and everything that keeps us from Him.  This trust, this prayer, this grace imbued choice is given by gazing on Him in faith, even as we are imprisoned by our own complications, by our own bloated sense of self.

Contemplation, time spent in silence, careful scrutiny of the Presence of God in Word and Sacrament; this kind of prayer is vital for simplicity of life.  In gazing on the One who is recognized in the Breaking of the Bread, in making oneself present to the incomprehensible gift of his Presence, in making the God who thirsts the priority of one's heart, one discovers the secret by which irrational desires for lesser things lose their power.  The heart is pure, the eye single, each effort unified, every moment of life full.

Yet this kind of prayer involves great effort, difficult trials, and all kinds of purifying hardships.  As long as we are entertaining fantasies, as long as we are driven by what seems to satisfy, as long as we are given to little power games, as long as we are tormented by righteous indignation, as long as we wallow in resentment, as long as our hearts linger on what is not for the honor and glory of God; we are not gazing on the One who gave Himself up for us.  If such failure seems certain, more certain is the victory.

It is in the very center of our failures and inadequacies where He stands victorious. Even the faintest glimmer of the Lord's radiance draws us forward, through every darkness and void.  This Word is the Light that shines in our darkness and we must vigilantly seek this divine radiance to find our freedom.  He is the substance of our hope and we possess Him by cleaving to Him in faith.  By keeping our eyes fixed on His radiance, His victory is realized again and again in each concrete, here and now circumstance, no matter how overwhelming or impossible it seems.

Only the humble, contrite gaze of faith permits the Word to share His very life with us.  Indeed, the light of faith exposes the complications in our hearts for what they truly are.  When we see such things in the light of God's love, it is easier to repent, to rethink, to let go, to accept, to forgive, to hope.

God is love.  Love is immensely simple.  Cleaving to God by faith makes us simple too. Here, the saving truth really does free us from all that is not worthy of our dignity.  Here God's power raises us up and causes all that is simply wonderful about our frail humanity to shine.

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity  takes her younger sister Marguerite through these powerful truths in the retreat she left for her.  To continue to follow my reflections with Kris McGregor on these beautiful teachings, please click here.