11 January 2010

Intimacy with God

A Carthusian offers some thoughts on intimacy with God: how to attain it, and how to keep it by learning how to guard the heart. The first part begins by recognizing God in creation.

A few years ago I had a brush with the Almighty in what may seem like a small and insignificant occurrence, but to me it was very personal. I was sitting on the steps outside in the front of my house. It was a beautiful, sunny day with a bit more than a gentle breeze. For whatever reason, I turned my glance to the grass. All the blades of grass were moving in the same direction with the breeze – that is, all the blades of grass except one. It was very strange and unexplainable, but a single blade of grass remained completely still while the rest moved with the breeze. I remember thinking as I continued to stare at it that I am the only person on the planet that knew this was occurring at this moment on my front lawn. God showed me something that He showed to no one else. I thanked Him for that moment of intimacy.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock;
if any one hears My Voice and opens the door,
I will come into him and eat with him,
and he with Me.
He who has an ear, let him hear
what the Spirit says to the churches.
~ Revelation 3:20,22~

God is so close to us, around us, in us. The wind that caresses our face, the bird that sings, the mountain touching the heavens, an exquisite flower among the rocks, the immense sky, silence that trembles in its fullness, a smile, a look of love – all speak of the Creator, leaving everywhere the marks of His passage. And ourselves: He is the source of our being and is more intimate with us than we are with our own souls. But He is not an impersonal force. He has a Name. His Name is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He is communion in knowledge and love, the gift of His infinite Self. He seeks our response. He desires our love freely given, because it is not love unless it is free.

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).

The perfection of the human person resides in union with God by means of continual prayer. Pray always (Luke 18:1), in all seasons (Ephesians 6:18), without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17); these recommendations are embedded in Scripture and should be taken literally. We are not always able to engage in specific acts of prayer without interruption because this is physically and psychologically impossible. This means that we must strive for an approximate state or a permanent disposition of heart, which, in a certain way, beyond the acts that flow more or less frequently from it, can be called by the name of prayer: the perpetual remembrance of God, the mysterious habit of the heart that is manifest as a form of virtual prayer and constant contemplation, the expression of a love that always tends towards the beloved without distraction even when it must attend to something else.

The origin of [hurtful] thoughts lies in the passions, our attachments and the working of the powers of darkness. This disregarding of thoughts is effected by guarding the heart, called vigilance, a state in which the soul is wide awake, balanced, present to itself and God; vigilant and alert so as not to be taken by surprise by the wiles of the enemy. Guarding the heart assures the intelligent practice of discernment of spirits.

One of the better ways to combat thoughts and enter the perpetual remembrance of God is meditation in the ancient sense, that is, rumination, often on a text from Scripture, that will help to root a spiritual idea of beneficial attitude in the soul.