The Lord is Coming!…

Tapiz

‘Waiting’ by Unknown Artist

First Sunday of Advent

The Lord is coming; I place myself in His presence and go to meet Him with all the energy of my will…

“The Name of the Lord cometh from afar…I look from afar, and behold I see the power of God coming…Go out to meet Him, and say, ‘Tell us if You are He who shall rule…'” These words are taken from today’s liturgy, and in reply, it invites us, “Come, let us adore the King, the Lord who is coming!…” 

This coming was expected for long ages; it was foretold by the prophets, and desired by all the just who were not granted to see its dawn. The Church commemorates and renews this expectation with each recurring Advent, expressing this longing to the Savior who is to come. The desire of old was sustained solely by hope, but it is now a confident desire,  founded on the consoling reality, renewed in ever deeper and fuller reality in every Christian soul. The spirit of the Advent liturgy, commemorating the age-long expectation of the Redeemer, will prepare us to celebrate the mystery of the Word made Flesh by arousing in each one of us and intimate, personal expectation of the renewed coming of Christ to our soul.  This coming is accomplished by grace; to the degree in which grace develops and matures in us, it becomes more copious, more penetrating, until it transforms the soul into an alter Christus. Advent is a season of waiting and of fervent longing for the Redeemer: “Drop down dew, ye heavens, and let the clouds rain the Just One!”    

O sweetest Jesus, You come to me with Your infinite love and the abundance of Your grace; You desire to engulf my soul in torrents of mercy and charity in order to draw it to You. Come, O Lord, come! I, too, wish to run to You with love, but alas! my love is so limited, weak, and imperfect! Make it strong and generous; enable me to overcome myself, so that I can give myself entirely to You, Yes, my love can become strong because “its foundation is the intimate certainty that it will be repaid by the love of God. O Lord, I cannot doubt Your tenderness, because You have given me proofs of it in so many ways, with the sole purpose of convincing me of it. Therefore, trusting in Your love, my weak love will become strong with Your strength. What a consolation it will be, O Lord, at the moment of death to think that we shall be judged by Him whom we have loved above all things! Then we can enter Your presence with confidence, despite the weight of our offenses!”
O Lord, give me love like this! I desire it ardently… My poor soul needs You so much! It sighs for You as for a compassionate physician, who alone can heal its wounds, draw it out of its languor and tepidity, and infuse into it new vigor, new enthusiasm, new life. Come Lord, come! I am ready to welcome Your work with a docile, humble heart, ready to let myself be healed, purified, and strengthened by You. Yes, with Your help, I will make any sacrifice, renounce everything that might hinder Your redeeming work in me. Show Your power, O Lord, and come!
Come, delay no longer!

~ An Advent Meditation by Father Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. 

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’  

 

 

A Reflection on Prayer… God – or ego?

 

A vision, art by Yongsung Kim

 

Prayer. We take the word for granted but ought we to do so? What do we mean by prayer? What does the word mean in the Christian context? Almost always when we talk about prayer we are thinking of something we do and, from that standpoint, questions, problems, confusion, discouragement, illusions multiply. For me, it is of fundamental importance to correct this view. Our Christian knowledge assures us that prayer is essentially what God does, how God addresses us, looks at us.
It is not primarily something we are doing to God, something we are giving to God but what God is doing for us. And what God is doing for us is giving us the divine Self in love.

Any talk about prayer, if we are to stand in the clear, pure atmosphere of truth, must begin by reflecting in firm belief on what Jesus shows us of God. Let us push straight to the heart of the matter.
What is the core, the central message of the revelation of Jesus? Surely it is of the unconditional love of God for us, for each one of us: God, the unutterable, incomprehensible Mystery, the Reality of all reality, the Life of all life. And this means the divine Love desires to communicate Its Holy Self to us. Nothing less!
This is God’s irrevocable will and purpose; it is the reason why everything that is, and why each of us exists. We are here to receive this ineffable, all-transforming, all beatifying Love.
Well-instructed Christians know this notionally but, alas, few know it really. And here I must add an important reminder that knowing it ‘really’ does imply ‘feelingly’. To know really – or really to know – means living that knowledge, living out of it. It means that our way of looking at things, our attitudes, our actions arise from this knowledge. Of this real knowledge we use the word faith. This must give us pause and make us very cautious of claims to faith. ‘Of course I have faith!’ We can feel quite indignant if someone implies otherwise! My experience tells me that real faith is rare and it is best we acknowledge this so that we may really work at believing.

Basing ourselves, therefore, on what Jesus shows us of God (and we Christians have only one teacher, Jesus the Christ, who is our Way), we must realize that what we have to do is allow ourselves to be loved, to be there for Love to love us. It cannot be a matter of our finding some way of contacting God, of making God real to us, of getting hold of a secret key with which to open the mystic door. Nor is this faith in Jesus our Way compatible with such distressed meaning as: ‘I can’t pray’ or ‘my prayer is hopeless’ or ‘I have never had anyone to teach me how to pray and therefore I don’t pray.’ When we find ourselves dissatisfied or anxious about our prayer it is worth asking ourselves the question: ‘What do I really want?’ and trying to listen honestly to the answer. We can be fairly certain that it will be some kind of ego-satisfaction.
I may want to feel I am making progress, that my prayer is ‘working’ or that I am a spiritual adept. I may want to feel I am getting something for my money! True prayer means wanting GOD not ego.
The great thing is to lay down this ego-drive. This is the ‘life’ we must lose, this the ‘self’ we must abandon if we are to have true life and become that self God wants us to be, which only God can know and ultimately only God can bring into being. We have to recognize that a great deal that goes for interest in and longing for prayer is a subtle form of self-seeking. To give ourselves seriously to prayer is to recognize this and face up to the choice it presents: will we cast aside our egotism, allow God’s love to purify it more and more whatever the cost, or will we camouflage it, give it other, more spiritual names, and look around for so-called spiritual guides who will offer us ego-satisfying techniques with the promise of an ‘experience’.
Perhaps we give up the prayer-project altogether with the reflection that, after all, what matters is living and loving and serving our neighbour.
Another very popular form of evasion is just to go on worrying and asking endless questions about prayer with the illusory aim that one fine day we will be shown ‘how to do it.’ The thing to do is, of course, to get down to praying! That will answer our questions.

 

~ By Ruth Burrows, O.C.D – Essence of Prayer     

Heart To Heart

DESCENDING INTO THE HEARTHere’s something to reflect upon and pray with on the feast of the Sacred Heart. “When we say to people, ‘I will pray for you’, we make a very important commitment. The sad thing is that this remark often remains nothing but...

Art by Stephen B. Whatley, ‘The Sacred Heart of Jesus’

In Your heart I live, O my Lord
In Your heart I trust
In Your heart I hide
In Your heart I seek
O my Beloved,
In Your heart I dream
In Your heart I wish
In Your heart I place all my longings.

My Jesus, King of my heart
In Your heart I hope and love and see
O my Beloved,
Lover of my soul
In You I rest alone
You are my peace
You alone suffices
You are my all
In You and in Your silence I find my way.

~ My Carmel, A personal reflection

 

Returning Love For Love

Carl Dietrich - Sacred Heart

Art by Carl Dietrich (1821-1888) + Sacred Heart of Jesus

“Awake , O my soul. How long will you remain asleep? Beyond the sky there is a King who wishes to possess you; He loves you immeasurably, with all His Heart. He loves you with so much kindness and faithfulness that He left His kingdom and humbled Himself for you, permitting Himself to be bound like a malefactor in order to find you. He loves you so strongly and tenderly, He is so jealous of you and has given you so many proofs of this, that He willingly gave up His Body to death. He bathed you in His Blood and redeemed you by His death. How long will you wait to love Him in return?
Make haste, then, to answer Him.
“Behold, O loving Jesus, I come to You. I come, drawn by Your meekness, Your mercy, Your charity; I come with my whole heart and soul, and all my strength. Who will give me to be entirely conformed to Your heart, in order that You may find in me everything You desire?
“O Jesus, my King and my God, take me into the sweet shelter of Your divine Heart, and there unite me to Yourself in such a way that I shall live totally for You. Permit me to submerge myself henceforth in that vast sea of Your mercy, abandoning myself entirely to Your goodness, plunging into the burning furnace of Your love, and remaining there forever…
“But what am I, O my God, I, so unlike You, the outcast of all creatures? But You are my supreme confidence, because in You can be found the supplement or rather, the abundance of all the favors I have lost. Enclose me, O Lord, in the sanctuary of Your Heart opened by the spear, establish me there, guarded by Your gentle glance, so that I may be confided to Your care forever: under the shadow of Your paternal love I shall find rest in the everlasting remembrance of Your most precious love.”

~ St. Gertrude of Helfta (1256-1301)

 

 

 

I Will Remain With You

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, art illustration by Jennifer Rivera

This Heart of the Trinity,
Beats for us in a small tabernacle
where it remains mysteriously hidden
In that still, white host.

That is your royal throne on earth, O Lord,
Which visibly you have erected for us,
And you are pleased when I approach it.

Full of love, you sink your gaze into mine
And bend your ear to my quiet words
And deeply fill my heart with peace.

Yet your love is not satisfied
With this exchange that could still lead to separation:
Your heart requires more.

You come to me as early morning’s meal each daybreak.
Your flesh and blood become food and drink for me
And something wonderful happens.

Your body mysteriously permeates mine
And your soul unites with mine:
I am no longer what once I was.

You come and go, but the seed
that you sowed for future glory, remains behind (Mk 4,26; Jn 12,24),
Buried in this body of dust.

A luster of heaven remains in the soul,
A deep glow remains in the eyes,
A soaring in the tone of voice.

There remains the bond that binds heart to heart,
The stream of life that springs from yours
And animates each limb (1Co 12,27).

How wonderful are your gracious wonders!
All we can do is be amazed and stammer and fall silent
Because intellect and words fail.

~ A poem, by Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) 1891-1942, Carmelite martyr, co-patron of Europe. 

 

 

An Encounter

Robert Hagan - Garden Moments

Art by Robert Hagan, Garden Moments 

My Beloved,

Come and visit me in my garden,
the flowers are wild and unkempt,
but they like to grow freely in your space,
breathing from your air and soaked in your warm rays.

Come and stay my Beloved,
the birds greet you with reverence,
and I am still, sinking everything in.

My garden is your abode.
It’s our meeting place…Oh how much I thank you my Jesus!
I thank you for this space filled with the joy of you.
This is my place of retreat, where I come to learn all your mysteries
and rejoice in your unfailing love.

My Rabonni, your eyes seek me and I encounter yours in an unending song of praise!
How do you love me so much?
How do you seek me so much?
I am breathless…my heartbeat stop at your majesty.
I close my eyes,
and I lay in your arms,
and my garden transforms into an eternal bliss of me in you and you in me.

~ My Carmel, A personal reflection

The Wounding of Her Heart

Image may contain: indoor

Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1647-1652

Last year I had the blessing to travel to Rome and visited the church of  Santa Maria della Vittoria. This beautiful church is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and is known for the masterpiece of Italian sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the Cornaro Chapel, the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa of Avila. Here above is the photo I took up close of this very impressive sculpture that is so worth of viewing and contemplating. Bernini became inspired by the most famous vision of Saint Teresa, the wounding of her heart.  

In Saint Teresa’s own words:

“Sometimes love, like an arrow, is thrust into the deepest part of the heart and the soul doesn’t know what has happened or what it wants, except all it wants is God. The soul feels as if the arrow has been dipped in a poisonous herb that makes it despise itself for love of him. This pierced soul would gladly lose itself for him. You can’t explain this. It’s impossible to exaggerate the way of God wounds the soul, or the agony this causes, for the soul forgets itself. Yet this pain is so exquisite…so delightful…that no other pleasure in life gives greater happiness.

“Oh, how many times in this state do I remember the words of David: ‘As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.’ I experience it literally when he wounds me.

“Sometimes in this state I saw a vision: an angel in bodily form, standing very close to me on my left side. The angel was not large, but small and very beautiful. His face was so aflame that I thought he must be a cherub, one of the highest order of angels, who seem to be made of fire.

“I saw that his hands held a great golden dart, and at the end of the iron tip fire plumed. The angel plunged the flaming dart through my heart again and again until it penetrated my innermost core. When he withdrew it, it felt like he was carrying the deepest part of me away with him. He left me on fire, consumed with the immense love of God. The pain was so fierce that it made me moan, and its sweetness so utterly divine it abolished any desire to take it away; nor is the soul content with anything but God.