15 July 2010

The Natural Presence of God

The following is from the Carthusian, Dom Jean-Baptiste Porion, a twentieth-century monk of La Grande Chartreuse. If we were able to grasp and act out at each moment of our lives what is written here, the world and its current condition would be a very different place.

In order that we may fully understand more clearly God’s supernatural presence, let us first consider His natural presence in all things.

God is everywhere – a simple truth all too easily forgotten. Yet it is a thought which could change the whole tenor of our lives.

We tire ourselves at times by trying to imagine God as someone far away, and our prayer suffers accordingly. God is a Spirit, Whose presence is not limited to any one place but is to be found in all things. So shall the true adorers of God, we are told, adore Him ‘in spirit and in truth’ (Saint John 4:23). So, too, the apostle says: In Him we move and live and have our being (cf. Acts 17:28). This is the first truth that strikes us at the beginning of our spiritual life, and it would achieve amazing results if only we could make this thought of God’s actual presence in all things a reality in our lives.

Even apart from and before all supernatural revelation, reason tells us that God knows and sees us completely and constantly, since He knows and sees all things. Where shall I go from Your Spirit, or where shall I flee from Your Face? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I descend into the abode of the dead, You are present (cf. Psalm 138:7-8). Not only is God present to us by simple knowledge, but He governs and directs us in all our ways. It is He Who gives us ‘both to will and to accomplish’ (Philippians 2:13). Apart from Him we cannot lift a finger. There is nothing, literally nothing, which is not subject to His governance – not even sin. Even when we sin, God is present, since it is He Who gives us the power to act and sustains us in the act: the only thing which does not come from Him is the depravation of our will. Were we able to do the slightest thing without Him, He would not be the first and universal Cause: in other words, He would not be God! ‘If I take my wings in the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Your Hand lead me, and Your right Hand shall hold me’ (Psalm 138:9-10).

But that is not all. It is enough that God should watch over us and direct our ways. As the sole and sovereign source of all being He must keep us in existence, giving us at each moment all we are. Were this divine action to cease for one instant, we and the universe itself would vanish like a dream. Once we have understood the necessity for this divine intervention, preserving all that God has created, the tiniest object for us assumes a singular greatness, since it is the omnipotent God and He alone Who, present in this little creature, saves it from falling into nothingness.

Who would deny that a shadow is the frailest of realities? Our shadow is nothing compared to ourselves. But compared with God, present within us, we ourselves are even less real: indeed, in the presence of the divine Reality, we are not even shadows!