As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.
~ Psalm 42, 2
While taking a walk through nature, listening to a beautiful music that “sends one into raptures” or fervently praying, who has not suddenly experienced a strange and overwhelming sense of freedom, a delightful feeling of being liberated from the constraints and limitations of daily life? At that instant, we are released from the grip of time and space, and overcome with a joy and inner peace that nothing could shatter. In those privileged moments, we love everybody, we feel unified, reconciled with ourselves, with others, with the whole universe. It is “the state of grace”, which happens unexpectedly, but which, unfortunately, we cannot recreate at will…
The Springs of Life
It is as if we had come upon a spring, ready to give us water in abundance, only to see it disappear again, shrouded in mystery… Once we have had a glimpse of that other world, we can never forget it and we will always try to find it again.
We will continue to yearn for those blessed states when our soul brushed against eternity, when we sensed the existence of another dimension of our being: immutable, peaceful, unchanging in the midst of fluctuating events. It is the deep, calm waters of a lake that reflect a wild duck in rapid flight without a single ripple on the surface. It is the discovery of “something indefinable” that suddenly and completely takes hold of us. Is not this “little corner of paradise” a reflection of that untarnished happiness enjoyed by our parents in the garden of Eden of our beginnings?
How can we find that center of our being where springs the water of life, where our thirst for happiness and fulfillment can be wholly quenched? How can we reach that secret place whose existence all traditions in the world have sensed and that so many men and women have “realized” in union with God?
Toward the Bliss of the Kingdom
To enter the Kingdom, it is not enough to think about it, just as we cannot quench our thirst merely by thinking of a cup of tea. If our intellect enables us to understand many things, it cannot alone fill the gap between us and these realities. It leaves us standing on the shore, trying to measure the surging waves, yet not allowing us to dive in and splash about in the sea spray.
And so, in his infinite love for us, the Lord does not content himself with our good thoughts for him; he wants us closer and wishes us to unite with his divine Person, just as a fiancé will not be satisfied merely to correspond with his beloved, but longs to marry her and live with her.
The love God has for us is a burning fire, and we are invited to warm ourselves up by its flame; it is the Song of Songs, in which the Lover kisses his bride on the lips: such is the intimate embrace to which God summons us, as of now, on this earth!
The pleasures of this world are but a pale reflection of the profusion of joys that God wishes to share with us; a flash in the pan, they fade away as soon as our passions are assuaged, leaving us frustrated and unfulfilled. Only permanent happiness can satisfy completely our yearning for infinity and eternity, but such happiness is not of this earth, but belongs to the Kingdom of Heaven.
If our mind cannot lead us to it, we must use another instrument, better suited to our quest of unity with God: our heart… Not only the heart that loves or rejects, the seat of feelings and emotions, but the very center of our being, that innermost “place” within ourselves where the divine Presence is revealed. And the path to ever deepening interiority is the prayer of the heart.
Knock and the Door Shall Be Opened
The word prayer is used in many different senses. For some, it is the reading of the Holy Scriptures or a meditation on their meaning; for others, it is communing with oneself… These exercises of Christian life certainly complement each other toward achieving union with God. But what we call the prayer of the heart is a form of contemplation.
In the secret garden of the heart, we no longer pray, we become prayer: the prayer of the heart is “pure prayer”. But we must not think of it as a difficult exercise, only meant for contemplatives. It is surely more difficult to meditate on the Word of God than to contemplate his face. The infant who cannot yet speak gazes at his mother, drinking her presence in, and she delights in returning that loving look that says so much more than mere words!
Likewise, the prayer of the heart is a contemplation of God’s Presence, a moment, heart to heart, when we surrender in the divine sight, in the Lord’s tender presence, just as when he was in Galilea with his disciples: how sweet it was to rest beside Him!
It is as when two lovers gaze into each other’s eyes: all talking ceases, activity is reduced to the simplicity of silent mutual contemplation where words have no place.
But why do we need a method to achieve this? Is it not sufficient to let ourselves be carried by the flow of grace itself? Can we actually learn something in a domain where God is the only captain on board? Why not let ourselves drift alone, rocked by the waves?
It is right that we should contribute to our relationship with the Lord; if indeed he does not impose himself upon us, he always offers his love and secretly calls us: I stand at your door and I knock (Rv 3, 20); Jesus, who is gentle and of humble heart, stands by, ready to receive those who seek him and who knock at the Kingdom’s door: Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened (Lk 11, 10).
~ By Daniel Maurin
Grace, art by Yong Sung Kim