Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Persevere and go along they way of humble submission to God's good pleasure

"The real test and end of prayer is union with God, and the real test of that is acceptance of His will. But there is no denying that this is not the inevitable result of prayer; there is a type which, practically speaking, appears to lead no one any farther. Our Mother begged me quite severely on no account to practise that sort; she said it was no good at all in the religious life. It may be a source of great pleasure to those practising it, but they keep it, as it were, in a separate compartment of their head, or their heard, or somewhere, and it never gets anywhere near the will, either God's or their own. She said that Christ did not teach us to pray like that: He taught us to pray, 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,' and we poor mortals just could not imagine how perfectly it was done in heaven because it was so far above us. Still, we could struggle towards it, towards the perfection of surrender to the will of God that is, and that was the whole use and meaning of things like holy poverty, and mortification, and detachment.

Prayer itself and its effects must keep constantly in step, and where the prayer begins to leave the effects far behind, so that we are practising a prayer, not one or two, but four or five degrees beyond our display of practical virtue, it is time to do something about it or we run the danger of ending up in delusion. She pointed out that the proper way was not in the least to slow down or stop the prayer, but only to speed up the practice of virtue.

Then she became quite serious; she began to tell me about the people who have real difficulty praying, and real darkness in their souls. It sounded quite awful as she described it; awful and yet marvelous. Of course, one reads St John of the Cross, but that is a saint writing about wonderful experiences in the Middle Ages, and this was an old nun talking of that she seemed to think quite every day happenings... She  described how such people will sit in church or choir for an hour on end, trying to concentrate, trying to find their way to God through the dark, and everything remains completely blank. They can, of course, still pray vocally, but they do not want to pray vocally. They could, of course, meditate, but unfortunately they do not want to mediate. What they want - and want with their whole souls - is to find God: to find Him in heaven, or to find Him within themselves, they do not care where or how, so long as they find Him. And they cannot.

But if they persevere, one day, she said, they will. If they go on quietly stepping along they way of mortification, of patience, of humble submission to God's good pleasure; if they follow the star which is leading them, even though it is always unaccountably disappearing over the edge of their world; if they follow it, not only trying to pull it down to them but by climbing slowly and painfully towards it, towards the clearer skies above, it will lead them to that real communion with God for which their souls long. All paths in prayer lead to Him, provided that they are the up-paths of solid virtue, and not mere cul-de-sacs of pious fancy and the end of which we shall find nothing more exciting than ourselves."

--  A Nun's Answer by A Carmelite Nun

1 comment:

Mark said...

Thank you for posting this.