Waiting is purification, is patience quelling desire, is God’s time permeating human haste.
The crystal droplet gathers at the curled leaf’s tip but does not fall. The mighty wave bounds in but does not break.
The heart’s new season pauses on the threshold of the walled, inviolate garden, the spring of living waters at its center.
We wait till that authoritative voice cries once more, “Come forth! Begin to bud and bloom! Toss in the breezes of my ardent love! Be all renewed and filled with light! Waiting is over— the hour of fulfillment come!”
Beloved, this is our new season. Together let us go to meet it.
O Lord, grant that I may seek You, not only at certain moments during the day, but also at every instant of my life.
~ Divine Intimacy
A soul who longs for a life of intimacy with God is not satisfied to limit its relations with Him to the time of prayer, but tries to extend them throughout the whole day. This is a rightful desire, for one who loves tries to prolong continuously his relations with the beloved. This is true, therefore, of a soul who loves God; and its desire is the more easily realized, since God Himself is always with us; He is always present and working in us. We are treating, it is true, of a presence which is spiritual and invisible; it is, however, real and not merely affective and moral, as is the presence of a loved one in the heart and mind of a lover.
If God is always with us, why can we not be always in continual contact with him? This contact is realized by thought and love, but much more by the latter than by the former. In fact, it is impossible to be always thinking of God, partly because the mind becomes tired and partly because our many occupations demand all the application of our intellect, which cannot pay attention to two different things at the same time. The heart, on the other hand, can always love, even when the mind is busy elsewhere; and it never grows weary of tending toward the object of its love. Since supernatural love does not consist in sentiment, but in an intimate orientation of the will toward God, we know that this turning is possible, even during the performance of duties which absorb all our attention. The will can strengthen this orientation of itself toward God precisely by the desire to fulfill each duty for love of Him, to please Him and give glory to Him. St. Thomas says that the heart can always tend Godward by “the desire of charity,” that is, by the desire to love Him, to serve Him, and to be united to Him in every action. “Prayer is nothing but a desire of the heart; if your desire is continuous, your prayer is continuous. Do you wish never to cease praying? Then never cease desiring” (St. Augustine).
~ A Meditation by Father Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.
The traffic goes on and on. Talk about rush hour!
Lord, I don’t want it to be this way, I long for stillness for both of us, for us to meet and embrace in a holy emptiness filled with your Spirit. I don’t want these endless, trivial interruptions, these mundane comments, this sheer nonsense— like confetti thrown all over us as we walk away from the consecration of our nuptials, into the world and our work there.
You are very patient. You take no notice of my repetitive slogans. My captive mind that reiterates so boringly these matters of no moment and dallies down side roads looking at silly signposts and place names, seeming to disregard you.
I say “seeming” for all the time I am so deeply and intricately intertwined with you, so absolutely yours, (as you are mine) that there’s no separation now for all eternity.
The purified heart has been finally and fully claimed by God can, paradoxically, become progressively purer and more fulfilled in him right till the moment of death. This is because God himself expands its capacity with his inpouring love, fills the enlarged space with more love, which expands it further—and so the process goes on. But never without our full consent. A helpful prayer is “My God, penetrate and possess me to the uttermost—and don’t take notice when I squeal in pain.”
It is fear of suffering that holds back so many from the unqualified gift of themselves to God, so that he can do whatever he likes with them. But has he not promised he will match every trial with enough grace to bear it? Of course this may well mean that part of the trial will be the experience of desperately needing more, and more, and more grace.
However, this in itself provokes a constant plea for what we know we cannot endure without. It engenders intimate knowledge of our own helplessness—“Without Christ I can do nothing” (cf. John 15:5)—coupled with a reckless confidence—“With God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.”
The truth is that grace can be flooding into us while we remain unaware of it and experience no comfort. This happens because we are only too prone to think, as soon as we realize we are over-coming, “Aha! I’m getting somewhere! I’ve conquered! How brave and strong I am! How far I’ve advanced in virtue! I hope everyone else is noticing this!”
Such self-congratulations and the tendency to various forms of self-exaltation arise from those buried roots that only the passive purgations can eradicate. So God’s work progresses in direct relation to our humble receptivity to grace, and humility, as is well known by the humble, comes above all through dire humilations. What appears to be the curse of being refused the grace we need is really the blessing of being given it in abundance, but minus the extra grace of the awareness to enjoy it. Being what we are, this last grace would engender pride. Only those with great humility dare say, “He who is mighty has done great things to me” (Luke 1:49).
Candle and Pinecone Sequence
This flame’s shape is like a spear— or else a dagger—leaving wounds concealed behind the bulwark of the living flames of love, which do not burn.
Lights illuminate our darknesses and flames give warmth—though the uncircumspect receive what could be stigmata, exposed or else concealed in heart, or brain, or bloodless hands.
This flame’s symmetry is like a spear’s keen blade or else a dagger, small but dangerous, shaped to deal out penetrating wounds mysteriously secret, all of them deep buried in the heart’s blind fastnesses spousal gifts from those living flames of love.
The purpose of the dark night, according to St. John of the cross, is to lead us into the full day of perfect loving union with the Trinity. This means that we merge with Christ in all his resurrection glory and joy, though in this life these attributes will manifest themselves only intermittently and mutedly, for we are still confined by the limitations of our physical existence. Faith in the reality of this full union, hope that Jesus will lead us into it if only we follow him trustingly all the way to the tomb, and the unconditional love of our as yet imperfect hearts—these are the attributes that through the dark night “join Beloved with lover, lover transformed in the Beloved,” as John puts it in his poem, “In one dark night.”
During these necessarily passive nights, grace penetrates all levels of our inner being to eliminate every trace of sin. It invades—as long as we stay receptive—those deeply rooted, perverted tendencies for which we are not personally responsible, but which do influence our behavior and attitudes in numerous unloving and even evil ways (At this stage of the spiritual journey there is no deliberate evil action, but indeliberate blindness to others’ serious needs can well operate because of some hidden complex of insecurity, anxiety, or the like).
Pulling Up Roots
In the so-called “active nights,” we purposefully do what we can, with the help of grace, to accomplish the cleansing, and in fact we must persevere in such activity till death. In the passive nights, divine help and activity penetrate where we cannot to reach those stubbornly embedded roots of sin so that they are either wrenched out or dissolved away.
To use a gardening analogy—we can easily deal with bedding plants, whether flowers or vegetables, using handforks and trowels or larger forks and spades. If we labor hard enough, we can even dig up some of the bigger shrubs and small tress with perhaps a heavier shovel and fork and a grubbing tool.
But what do we do about an oak or pine tree? True, it can be cut down and the stump burned out, using more advanced power tools and a number of skilled helpers. But say for some good reason we want to have the whole tree taken out by the roots. In that case, outside help and implements like tractors, mechanical diggers, and maybe explosives, together with experts to use them, have to be employed. We can only stand back and let it happen, though it is true we ourselves have initiated the procedure. For whatever reason, we want it done.
Similarly, in the deeper passive nights, we have to invite God in to do the work for us, because our own tools and strength are inadequate. This invitation may itself be more passive than active, in that we may not clearly realize in the intellect what our heart is saying to God, but its motive is always love and only love.
This means we do not want to be cleansed just so we can self-righteously admire our own virtues and, satisfied with what we see, set about planning our exact place in heaven (near the throne, of course), much as we would choose prime site for our palatial new home with all modern conveniences. Nor does it mean our chief motive is an urgent desire to escape the pains of hell.
Rather, the love motive wants the ultimate cleansing for quite different ends. It longs to be used by God to give him honor and glory and to share in Christ’s redemptive work for others, to become perfectly adaptable tool for Jesus to use in his ongoing work in the world. It wants to be a channel cleared of all debris and pollution so that, through it, divine love can pour living waters into the world for healing of humanity’s wounds. It longs for every obstruction to this in-and-out flowing to be removed, if need be by divine force and through its own agony.
It wants to be made a kind of compelling advertisement for the power of divine grace over human weakness. In its humility and self-awareness of its own inadequacy and unworthiness, it wants others to see it as it is and exclaim. “If God can do that for her—and we all know what she’s like—then there is hope for me!” It wants these others to catch its own insatiable thirst for grace and so become reckless in their longing for God and their readiness to suffer all and even die in order to be purged and so reach full love-union with him.
~ A Reflection by Barbara Dent, O.C.D.S.
The soul cannot come to this union without great purity, and this purity is not gained without great detachment from every created thing and sharp mortification. This is signified by the stripping of the Bride of her mantle and by her being wounded by night as she sought and went after her Spouse; for the new mantle which belonged to the betrothal could not be put on until the old mantle was stripped off. Wherefore, he that refuses to go forth in the night aforementioned to seek the Beloved, and to be stripped of his own will and to be mortified, but seeks him upon his bed and at his own convenience, as did the Bride, will not succeed in finding him. For this soul says of itself that it found him by going forth in the dark and with yearnings of love. (Dark Night 2:24:4).
I have a shrine within me. Tapers burn there day and night flowers gather round the candles— colors and living flames mingle in extravagance of bloom, celebrating love and chastity.
I meet you here in stillness. My head against your tranquil heart bends in homage, rests in peace; my own heart dares to merge with that unquenchable furnace from which we both derive our reckless gift of self.
This is the living flame of love, this is the source of primal energy, of every urge to impetuous offering of myself. Here, with bowed head and face against your breast I drink the strength I need, and give my all.
When I was haltingly beginning to acknowledge both God and Christianity, I asked myself in the midst of my travail: “What is the most important thing in life?” The answer came without hesitation: “The kingdom of heaven within.” I was startled. I should never have expected a reply like that. But when I look back over my life, I see that this is precisely true. The times when I felt most alive, most real, most complete, were those when I experienced that state of being I had called “the kingdom of heaven within.” At these moments peace established itself in me.
Without being able to define anything. I had known I was one with God and through him one with all people. Without being able to understand the why and how of the chaos of the world or the chaos in my own heart, I had yet been sure that all things were ordered well and held safely in the hollow of God’s hand. Without being able to explain how, I had been filled with a tranquil joy.
Without any doctrinal background, I knew the truth—that God was love, that I lived and moved and had my being in him, that in some obscure fashion he was working out his will in me, and I might trust him and be at peace.
Yes, this was the kingdom of heaven within, and this was the most important thing in life for me. The times when I had entered into this state of soul had been the times when something enormous had happened to me. On my faith in this reality I could build the whole structure of my existence.
“Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and the rest shall be added unto you.”
This realization was one of the crucial happenings of my life. Now I had a focal point. I had a purpose for living—full of meaning for me because it was based on the reality of my own experience. I knew exactly what I wanted from life—I wanted to enter more and more frequently, more and more completely, into this state of being called the kingdom of heaven within. From a bewildering disorder, life became astonishingly simple.
I thought back carefully over the circumstances I was in when I attained this state. These were what I would seek to recapture and cultivate. Many of the items of everyday living were found useless for my purpose, and I put other things in their place. I still did not know why, how, when, or where. I simply relied blindly on an experiential truth to be the light in my darkness.
What I really did was entrust myself to God, and looking back, I can see now the unerring way long which he led me to my true destination once I put my hand in his. Now that he had brought me to the Church, everything was clear. This state called the kingdom of heaven within was the very presence of God in the soul who loved him. It was the Christ-life within. To enter into God in this way was to enter into something of the state that the blessed enjoy in heaven, to become submerged in Christ, to taste here and now the bliss of eternity.
This was the life of identification with Christ to which all Christians are called, and which the Church extols as its goal. As members of his mystical body, they were incorporated into him, sharing his divine life, and fed by his sanctifying grace. The more fully they merged themselves with him, the more completely they were the instruments of God’s will, the nearer they approached the state of the saints. Self still existed, but only as Christ’s vehicle for loving, working, and suffering, only as a husk inhabited by the fertile seed of the Holy Spirit.
At last I understood the life principle of my soul, the source of all my restless yearnings and mysterious, luminous peace over the years. Now it was clear—God had been calling me, as he calls each soul he sends into the world, to a share in his divine life, to identification with his Son, to sanctity.
❤ How for his praise to order my new ways? I would be no more myself, but he using my breath and blood and song to his own end, my life long.
So do I say—Master, your way in mystery and wonder has evolved my safety, and my curse resolved. Glory and honor and homage are your due. After the refining fire I bow to you.
That long brown habit hanging on the door recalls me a solid human body, tall and straight, reliable and steady as Gibraltar, the guard of that ancient sea and all its craft.
I touch it with my reverent hands I rest my cheek against it. I feel at home and safe at last, within our mutual Beloved’s arms; He holds me lest I fall. He has my head against his heart. His left hand clasps it close, his right hand “doth embrace me.” Such indestructible enclosure makes me laugh at threats and turns my tears to precious stones he links into a chaplet and puts upon my head.
The brown habit was your robe when you said Mass for us within my home— a blessing and a treasure past all reckoning and it was you who brought it to me across the heaving oceans and cold, autumn skies, and then presented it as gift and grace adornment for my poverty, crowning for my solitude, proof of the Christed love between us.