Saturday, October 24, 2009

The efficacy of the word of God in us depends on our faith

"The Carmelite tradition is sometimes contrasted with that of the Benedictines and even set in opposition to it: as if Benedictine piety were liturgical and objective and Carmelite spirituality individualistic and subjective. On the basis of this oversimplified distinction, partisans can line up in opposing factions and argue with one another about the relative merits of the two 'schools.' It is inevitable that such divisions should spring into existence but we must regret them, for they diminish the horizons of the Christian spirit. In actual fact, both the Carmelites and the Benedictines of our day can and should appeal to a common monastic tradition with its roots in the Oriental Desert spirituality. If the Benedictines have maintained the emphasis on community and liturgy, the Carmelites are no less traditional in their emphasis on solitude and contemplative prayer. These two trends, far from being opposed to one another, actually complement one another. Without both these emphases the monastic spiritual tradition is incomplete.
One who seeks God seeks the supreme, though invisible Reality. He therefore exposes his whole life to anguish and to risk. He seeks supreme security in what seems to the world supremely insecure. How can he ever be 'sure' that he is seeking God, and much more, how can he ever be sure that he has 'found' Him?

Christ prayed at the Last Supper that His Apostles might be 'santified in truth.' The word of God is truth, the highest reality, planted in the depths of our being by our Creator and Redeemer. This word must grow in us like a seed. It must awaken to life, to knowledge, to love, to experience. Our whole interior life is centered on the spiritual 'activity' and 'dynamism' of this word which St Paul calls 'living and efficacious.' The efficacy of the word of God in us depends on faith, and out faith is itself a gift of God. The 'living and efficacious' word of God, received by faith, fully embraced by loving acceptance in the depths of our being, flowers into an experience of God as present to us. We come, in this experience of presence, to an inexplicable, yet utterly real, personal awareness of the Almighty Who loves us and dwells in our inmost heart.

To reach this spiritual awareness of God, this 'knowledge' of God in the obscurity of faith, we must first of all awaken to a knowledge of our true selves. And so we must pray, as did Saint Augustine: 'Lord, let me know myself and let me know Thee' If we do not know ourselves, we cannot know God either. But we must know ourselves rightly, as images of God. And so we must avoid a twofold danger. On one hand we tend to indulge in unhealthy instropection, analyzing ourselves without end. On the other, ignoring the reality both of ourselves and God, we tend to take God for granted and to assume that He is simply what we want Him to be. Instead of knowing ourselves as images of God, we contemplate a god who is the image of ourselves. That means our 'god' is an idol - the justification of our own illusion about ourselves. Under such conditions, the interior life is anything but real.
The combination of austerity and kindness, detachment and good humor, mysticism and common sense, is one of the characteristics of Carmel."

-- Fr Mary Louis, ocso, (Thomas Merton) in his introduction to The Simple Steps to God by Fr François of St Mary, ocd

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