22 July 2010

Raised by God's Fire

God is a brazier of love. Prayer brings us near to Him, and in coming near to Him we are caught by His fire. The soul is raised by the action of this fire, which is a kind of spiritual breath that spiritualizes and carries it away. The soul frees itself from all that weighs it down, keeping it attached to this wearisome earth. The Psalmist compares this breath to incense: Let my prayer be directed as incense in Your sight ~ Psalm 140:2. Now incense is a symbol universally known and exceptionally rich. But from all the substances that fire penetrates under the form of flame or heat, there follows a movement by which it spreads, causing it to increase by communicating itself to all that surrounds it.

The movement of the soul that prays has something special about it. It goes out from itself and yet remains in itself. It passes from its natural state to its supernatural state; from itself in itself to itself in God. At first glance, these expressions may seem strange. The mystery is not in the realities but in our understanding of them. Our mind is not used to these realities; we have to become accustomed to them.

Our soul is a dwelling with many apartments. In the first, it is there with the body: that is to say, with all the body's sensitiveness. It sees when the eye sees, hears when the ear hears. It moves with the muscles; it remembers, imagines and appreciates distances, when we take part in all the activities which are the common ground of its action with the body. In the second, the soul is alone and acts alone. The body is there -- it is always there -- but it no longer acts, it has no part in the soul's action. The soul alone thinks and loves. The body with its senses prepares the matter and elements, the conditions of this spiritual activity, but it has no part in producing it. That room is closed: the soul is there alone, and dwells there alone.

In that spiritual dwelling there is a part still more remote. It is the dwelling-place of Being, Who communicates Himself and makes us to ‘be’. We are so accustomed to live turned outwards; we hardly ever open the door of that chamber, and scarcely give it a glance; many die without ever suspecting its existence. Men ask: Where is God? God is there -- in the depths of their being, and He is there communicating being to them. They are not ‘Him Who is’ and Who gives being to all other things. They receive being; they receive a part of being which does not depend upon themselves. They receive it for a certain time, and under certain forms. And from His ‘beyond’ God gives them existence. They exist only by His power, and are only what He enables them to be. He is at the source of all they do and, no matter how much they may desire to continue those activities, they cannot do so if He is not there. To understand this, we have to think a great deal, and reflection -- perhaps the highest form human act can take -- has given place to exterior action and to local movement, both of which are common to animals and matter.

The soul that prays enters into this upper room. It places itself in the presence of that Being Who gives Himself and enters into communication with Him. To ‘communicate’ means to have something in common, and by this common element to be made one. We touch, we speak, we open out to one another. Without this ‘something’ we remain at a distance; we do not ‘communicate’. God is Love. We enter into communication with Him when we love, and in the measure of our love. The soul that loves and that has been introduced by Love into that dwelling-place where Love abides, can speak to Him. Prayer is that colloquy. God will not resist that love which asks. He has promised to do the will of those who do His will: He will do the will of them that fear Him ~ Psalm 144:19.

It is to love that is due these divine communications which have drawn from those happy recipients the most amazing exclamations. ‘Lord, stay, I beg you, the torrent of Your love: I can bear no more’. The soul, submerged and ravished, has fainted under the weight of these great waters, and has asked to be allowed to take breath for an instant, in order the better to renew its welcome. The anchorite in the desert, when he prayed, had to forbear extending his arms, so as not to be rapt in his prayer. Saint Mary the Egyptian, Saint Francis of Assisi, were raised up from the ground and remained upheld by a power greater than the weight of their body.

~ Dom Augustin Guillerand ~