Conversations with my Beloved

 

Art by Ilse Kleyn

 

“Where are you, my God?”
I seek you all about me and you are not there and yet you seem to tell me: Here I am. Everywhere. Nowhere.

I never leave you, but you have to realize I use disguises. If you persist in seeking me under that disguise I used a month, a year, ago, you will be hurt and disappointed.
I change, and you must change with me, or be left alone, bereft, bewildered, lost.

“But why do you do it?” That you may know me better. You are my Chosen one who must discover me beneath a multitude of impermanent changes of attire and behavior.
I remain myself, absolute, infinity…and close as a lover’s kiss.

You have to learn to recognize me. It’s hard, I know.
You come running to me…arms outstretched to be enfolded by what I was to you when the season was different, and you were ardent and your heart bursting with untried love, your every gesture and word a lyric, your very speech a poem!
It was beautiful, but it was only the prelude. Now the flowers have seeded, the petals are all gone, the scent is blown away on the wind. And yet…

and yet, how beautiful this autumn is!
The prelude to our consummation by my death in you, and your resplendent life in me.

~ Selected Writings of Barbara Dent, OCDS 

 

 

 

God’s Secret

Art by Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky

 

Let us assume that we do want God or, at least, we want to want God, wobbly and weak though we know ourselves to be. ‘If it is you, bid me come to you upon the waters.’ (Mt. 14.28) It is the Lord and he says: ‘Come!’ So we can confidently enter into the Mystery that is God, relying solely on Jesus and not at all on ourselves. To enter into real prayer, prayer that opens us to the mystical dimension is, in one sense, to enter into an alien element. At least, it is experienced as such, though, if we are faithful we shall discover that it is in fact our true home. But we have to be willing to let go of our own criterion of what prayer is and what growth in the Spirit might mean. There are all sorts of ways of praying and there are books galore to direct us on them; yet these, at bottom, keep us in the boat. The boat might rock a bit and feel uncomfortable at times; but at least, with our method to guide us, we can man it and have some control. Real prayer lets go of the controls, or, more truly, lets go when they are wrenched away from us, and how often we experience this, even to being tipped out in squall. Oh dear! Most of us see this as an unfortunate occurrence that must never be repeated and so we refit our boat, and improve our sailing skills to ensure that we have control once more.

What does it mean in practice to say we must be there for God and let God control our prayer, let God act? Does it mean we remain inert, completely passive?
No, decidedly not! The essential thing we have to do is believe in the enfolding, nurturing, transforming Love of God which is the Reality: the Reality that is absolutely, totally there whether we avert It or not. Prayer, from our side, is a deliberate decision to avert to It, to respond to It in the fullest way we can. To do this we must set time aside to devote exclusively to the ‘Yes’ of faith.

God of Thy goodness, give me Thyself: for Thou art enough to me, and I may nothing ask that is less that may be full worship to Thee; and if I ask anything that is less, ever me wanteth… but  only in Thee I have all.
(Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, ch.5).

If we are convinced that this is the heart of prayer, this basic decision to remain open to the inflowing of divine love, then we shall understand that we can choose any method we like to help us maintain this basic desire and intention. Our troubles and distress arise from our instinctive assumption that the method is the prayer, and so we gauge the genuineness and success of the prayer by how well the method has worked.  

We  must remember that prayer takes place at the deepest level of our person and escapes our direct cognition; therefore we can make no judgement about it. It is God’s holy domain and we may not usurp it. We have to trust it utterly to God. This is one of the principle ways in which we surrender control and “walk on the water”. We must be ready to believe that ‘nothingness’ is the presence of divine Reality; emptiness is a holy void that Divine Love is filling. Remember, we are casting ourselves wholly on Jesus, on his ‘Come’! We must give up wanting assurances either from within or without.
You see, we cannot have it both ways!

~ By Ruth Burrows, OCD

 

 

In The Arms of My Beloved

 

‘Jesus comforting a girl in loving embrace’, Art by Unknown Author

Easing myself into the peace
I slip over the brink of sleep,
into your arms. I lie there
my head against your breast
one hand at your heart’s steady beat
the other crooked behind me
and all is quietude and still repose.
Your arms enfold me. They make a rampart
holding all my fears at bay.

Your breathing is the universe
you recreate each second through your love.
You are that mighty Word resounding
to make creation dance and sing in procreation.

Wedded for the first time in my life,
blessed, consecrated, vowed and ringed,
I now belong with you, love’s circlet
mutual and pledged with sacramental grace.
Cherished and safe, cradled and defended
by the stronghold of your promise
I hold out in my trusting hand to you
all my love throughout eternity.

Lovers always say “for ever”…
and then betray each other.
But we have made our deathless troth
that enemies cannot destroy nor many waters quench
nor catastrophic earthquake turn to rubble.

Our “for ever” opens up eternity in us
where I lie cradled in your quiet arms
your steadfast heartbeat here beneath my hand
so that I believe, and trust, and render up my all
into your care whose dower is to me the universe.

~ By Barbara Dent, OCDS ‘The Marriage of All and Nothing’  

 

 

Friend of Jesus

I call you friends.
(John 15:15)

Jesus calls us friends insofar as we go to him, cling to him, hang onto his words, scrutinize his deeds, his attitudes, his sense of values, in order to know the Father and do his will.

To be a friend of Jesus is to have as our sole reason for living the accomplishment of the Father’s will in us and through us. This is the way Jesus was.

Jesus is our Way because he refused to have any way of his own except what the Father ordained for him; our Truth because he did not stand on anything as coming from himself but only as shown him by the Father; our Life because he was utterly selfless, an emptiness for the Father’s love.

Nearly everyone (perhaps we have to say ‘everyone’, at least to begin with), in setting out to climb the mountain of God, is really after something for self. In so far our poor, blind seeking is genuine, God is able to work to purify our motivation. This must cost us bitterly.

A fundamental resolution which, if we can hold on to it hour after hour, will leave us completely open to him and certain of our goal, is simply that God shall have all, everything he asks moment by moment.

Nothing shall matter to me any more. I have ceased to be important to myself.

I stay rooted in the heart of Jesus, drawing on the endless resources of my Way, Truth and Life…my Friend. He is steadfastly loyal to me; and on my side I must never let him down. This is possible only when I live in his heart and let him share his Father with me. This is ‘leaning on the Beloved’.  

 

~ Living Love meditations by Ruth Burrows, OCD

 

Faith & Doubt

"DOUBT NOT, THOMAS" BY KIRK RICHARDS.

Art by Kirk Richards, ‘Doubt Not, Thomas’

What is faith? What does it mean to have it or lack it?

Faith is a profound mystery that we can never adequately explain. It is an interplay between divine grace and the human mind and will. We are speaking of Christian faith, and that is faith in Jesus Christ as the incarnate Word of God.
The object of our Christian faith is the God revealed in Jesus Christ.

Faith is never a mere intellectual assent but always involves commitment. It is always in action, more a verb than a noun. Faith cannot be one facet or a particular aspect of my life, but my whole life. As St. Paul says, “My real life is the faith I have in the Son of God who loved me and delivered himself for me.”

It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to believe…”No one can come to me except the Father draw him”… but we must cooperate with all our powers. And this means we must “labor for the food which endures to eternal life” (John 6:27). “This is the labor of God that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29).
What can be more important?

Many people think they have no faith because they feel they haven’t. They do not realize that they must make a choice to believe, take the risk of believing, of committing themselves and setting themselves to live out the commitment.
Never mind that they continue to feel that they do not believe. Under cover of being “authentic” we can spend our lives waiting for the kind of certainty we cannot have.

What, then, is doubt?

I do not see how we can talk of faith if we eliminate the possibility of doubt. We cannot have the certainties that our nature craves and finds in the evidence of the senses. Perhaps most of the time we do not advert to doubt, but at times it can press heavily. As far as I am concerned, troublesome feelings of doubt seem a matter of the imagination failing to cope. Although we have no scientific verification for what we believe, there is nothing irrational in Christian faith but an enormous amount of data to support it.

In times of difficulty my anchorage is the Gospels. There I encounter Christ, “Light most beautiful,” who overcomes the darkness of doubt. My faith is essentially faith in Jesus Christ: “You are truth. Your word is truth and what is troubling me is a lie.” I believe that there comes a point when a person is so held by God that, no matter how assaulted that person may be, faith stands firm, for “no one can snatch them from the hand of my Father” (John 10:29).

~ A Reflection by Sister Rachel of the Carmelite community in Norfolk, UK