28 January 2009

Continuing with Hugh of Balma: The Sixth Petition in the Lord's Prayer

In the prayer that Jesus taught us, the sixth petition is: “And lead us not into temptation.”

Hugh of Balma continues with his mystical reflections on the Lord’s Prayer by teaching that “the human spirit is led into temptation” by getting caught up in the enticements that partially agree “to the wicked work that the crafty seducer has insistently urged on” the human spirit. We, therefore, ask “to be spared of this danger.” This prayer is brought before the Throne of God because we are “aware of the weakness of human flesh” and not because we lack “confidence in the Beloved’s constant aid.” The human spirit “intently strains upward” with the hope of deservedly attaining “Him and to call Him forth by… affected clamorings.” With confidence in “His mercy,” the human spirit “can contemptuously face down the enemy’s pressing and powerful temptations,” confident in the Beloved Who promised deliverance through the psalmist: “Because he hoped in Me, I will deliver him; I will protect him because he has known My Name” (Psalm 90 [91]:14).

Another reason to pray, “And lead us not into temptation” is because of “the enemy’s insolent deceits.” To the limits which are permitted, these deceits rage against the human spirit, but the more we are “directly subject to the Creator’s control, the farther” we are removed from the enemy’s dominion. When “temptation fails to prevail,” the human spirit is then pursued “with raging fury.”

Thus we beg our Lord to set us free, “longingly challenging Him, asking Him not to fail to see that” His love is gained now by trampling “down earthly joys and the kingdom of the devil; and the Beloved, through the prophet has promised such a yearning one that He will not only hear” the “request, but, like a welcome leader and companion in battle, will liberate… completely through His joyous Presence in the midst of… temptation, and reward” the yearning one “with the crown of glory… as He says: ‘He shall cry to Me and I will hear him; I am with him in tribulation’” (Psalm 90 [91]:15).

Another reason why we ask “to be set free from temptation’s danger is that,” being “united to God,” we don’t pursue our own affairs but follow the “Master ‘Who makes His sun to rise upon the good and bad, and rains upon the just and the unjust’ (Matthew 5:45), that is, He sends the rays of His goodness to good people and uses those rays to draw them to Himself; even while His rays also shine expectantly outside evil people, like the sun’s rays shining expectantly on a shuttered window. He retracts not a bit of His goodly nature, but keeps on knocking on the door, lest any rational spirit… should lack divine love because God stopped sending it forth.” When “united to God in friendship,” we “can beg great favors for sinners from the Beloved because as His friends we are faithful and true to Him, “agreeing completely with what He wants to do and wants not to do.” This will, of course, incur “the raging indignation of the enemy and thus… asks on behalf of everyone for liberation from the enemy’s snares.”

And now, the final reason for this petition: “Having already experienced how sweet it is to love such a kind Beloved,” we must consider “it a most bitter death, something” we “can scarcely come to terms with, to be separated from” our “happy consort now and forever.” Certainly “it is an unbearable disgrace that someone who in godly fashion knows the great joy of loving the Beloved should listen to the enemy’s conversation, should think worldly joys or earthly riches of any worth – as if… never really” knowing “whether something is truly good.” A “happily trained” human spirit “will warn sinful souls who have miserably withdrawn from such a fount of goodness.”

Our Lord tells us through the prophet: “Know and see that it is an evil and a bitter thing for you to have left the Lord your God” (Jeremiah 2:19). “By God’s just judgment,” the one filled “of creaturely delights is filled with endless bitterness. For the more deeply worldly delight penetrates the recesses of the human spirit, the more the soul, sad to say, is filled with noxious poisons.” The Beloved “imparts the streams of His happiness to human spirits… When a soul is separated from that wellspring without Whom there can be no joy… it is not surprising that such a soul separated from Him becomes depressed, for the aqueduct of love from which the soul joyfully experiences and obtains gladness from the Creator has been obstructed and broken off.”

“Yet, through affections and yearnings for the Beloved, the spirit is completely disentangled and triumphantly set free.”