Your Heart…The Mirror of God

Heart by Janice VanCronkhite

Heart, art by Janice Van Cronkhite

Seeing God does not necessarily have to do with visions or extravagant gifts of grace. It can be a simple and quiet consciousness of God’s presence and reality. It can be an unshakable confidence in him who gives you a solid grounding.
To see God can also be an insight and conviction that your whole life rests in the hands of God, and everything that happens is a message from him. Or it can be a deep insight into the human longing for an infinite love which only God can fill.
The pure heart can see God already in this life, since he reigns in our midst. God wants to be mirrored in your heart. But if the mirror is stained and soiled, it can’t reflect God’s image. And so it is not God’s fault if you don’t see him.
If you want to see and experience God, you must let your heart become what it was meant to be from the beginning: a clear and pure mirror for the one who is love and who loves all that is.
To let your heart recover its originality, you must first discover and admit that you are an abyss crying out for God’s infinity, and then you must empty your heart of all the surrogates with which you have tried to fill it.

~ A Meditation by Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.

 

Simplicity Serves Best

 

Nativity ~ By unknown artist

Nativity ~ By unknown artist

To a Christian it is very simple to come into contact with God. God is not just the goal at the end of a long and hard journey. In Jesus Christ, God is the way itself. As soon as we take the first stumbling steps on this way, we are together with God. 
No demanding exercises in concentrating are needed, no heroic asceticism. The only thing needed is to genuinely love Jesus. Love entrusts itself to the beloved, opens itself to him or her, trusts him or her. If such a genuine love of Jesus fills our hearts, then everything else will follow.
Jesus is Immanuel: God with us. We don’t need a telescope to scout for God. God is near; he is our traveling companion. We need only let him take us by the hand. Since God has shown himself on the earth and has pitched his tent among us, he is “grab-able” to all.
It is not through profound speculation that we grow in our relationship with God, but through the unsophisticated faith of the heart, and the trust in what transcends human understanding. When we bow before the mystery that has come so close to us in Jesus, then he reveals himself most clearly. 

 

~ A Christmas meditation by Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.

 

Christmas Within

a child stand by Jesus crib

A manger filled with Love ~ Art by unknown artist

The mystery of Christmas is not a reality outside of you. It is realized only if it becomes a reality within you.
Mary and Joseph sought shelter. And the King of Kings  was satisfied with a poor stable and manger meant for cattle. Is there a shelter for him within you—he doesn’t ask for much—or are you so preoccupied with your own that there is no room for him?
If you let Jesus be born in you, you become a messenger of love. Then you will no longer do anything just for your own sake. Everything will be inspired by Love. If you continually make a home for him in your heart, he will continually become visible in and through you. As he is ceaselessly born of the Father, he will ceaselessly be born in you.
Do not think that you must have something big and magnificent to offer him. It is his presence that makes your poverty shine with divine light. He is most comfortable in the simple and unassuming, if only the door is opened to him.

~ A Christmas meditation by Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.

Eternity Born in Time

 

The Nativity ~ Art by Bradi Barth

The Nativity ~ Art by Bradi Barth

Christ—the Word—is eternally begotten of the Father. “The Lord said to my Lord: You are my Son; this day I have begotten you.” (Entrance antiphon for Christmas, Mass at Midnight).
It happens outside of time, in the mystery of eternity. In this birth, God reveals his own blessedness. Continuously, he goes outside of himself, and he does this so completely that, in and through this, he gives birth to a Son who is just like him, just as great, just as divine as he is.
The Son is like the Father in everything, except in that he is the one who receives  everything and the Father the one who gives everything.  He is God in the manner of the Son, and the Father is God in the manner of the Father. God is not a monologue; God is dialogue. And the harmony between Father and the Son is so complete, so full of life, that it forms a Third in the communion. The Spirit is the spark of love that always jumps from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the Father.
That God has revealed himself to you, this is the great Christmas gift to you. This gift also contains an order of trust. You must bear witness to the true love that has become visible on earth, when the Son who is eternally begotten of the Father is born in time as well.

The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem is the birth given most attention at Christmas. But if you don’t see this birth in connection with the eternal birth of the Word from the Father, then you miss what is essential. Then all that is left is a little romantic mood-making: a sweet child who for a few moments may touch your heart, but who is really not allowed to seize your heart.
God’s Incarnation is the greatest mystery in Christianity, the most incomprehensible and unfathomable. How can the great God make himself so little? How can this vulnerable, crying baby be “my Lord and my God”?
It is precisely  this mystery that is the great stumbling block for non-Christians. But if you believe this, you have the solution to all the riddles and difficulties in the world.
Then you can no longer doubt that God loves his creation. That the Almighty God has become a little child, for our sake, is a definitive proof of the definitive victory of his love. To doubt that you are loved by God is only possible if you forget the manger.

~ A Christmas medidation by Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.   

 Wishing you All a Merry and Blessed Christmas!

Celebrating Advent In The Proper Way

Do you hear what I hear Art by Sandy Maudlin

‘Do you hear what I hear?’ Art by Sandy Maudlin

During Advent you may be looking forward to all the beautiful experiences of Christmas. But Advent is not meant as a waiting period for this. Rather, you are awaiting someone who will come closer to you than you are to yourself.
Advent is like a portal you have to walk through to enter the sanctuary of Christmas. The portal is flanked by two figures who guard the sanctuary and ask you why you want to enter, and at the same time teach you how to do it. Both figures are very dissimilar. One is big and strong, a man clothed in camels’ hair. But in spite of his size, this man wants only to be a voice calling out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord.”
The other is a vulnerable woman expecting a child. She doesn’t cry out, she is silent, total attention to what is happening within her. The only thing she quietly whispers is: “I am the servant of the Lord.”
They both know who they are waiting for. They are not awaiting better times, or nicer experiences. They are waiting for God, and they know that nothing can hinder his arrival if they are open to receive him.
If you also know who you are waiting for, if you are sure about his arrival, then you are celebrating Advent in the proper way.

~ An Advent meditation By Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D. 

 

Conversations with my Beloved

Art by Ilse Kleyn

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, O.C.D.S .

 

 

 

God’s Secret

Art by Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky

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, O.C.D.

 

 

In The Arms of My Beloved

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

‘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, O.C.D.S. ‘The Marriage of All and Nothing’  

 

 

Friend of Jesus

 

I call you friends

Jesus in the garden (unknown source)

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, O.C.D.

 

Faith & Doubt

 

Art by Kirk Richards, 'Doubt Not, Thomas'

‘Doubt Not, Thomas’ , art by Kirk Richards

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