09 September 2010

The Continuous Battle Against the Result of the Fall

Between the development of prayer and the elevation of souls, there exists an assured connection, universally admitted, which is essential. In being raised up, the soul arrives at regions untouched by the agitation of transitory things. All movement ceases or grows less. The passions are calmed, the noise of the world, its cares, even our thoughts, fade into the distance, and our attention is concentrated on Him alone Who is silence, repose and the God of peace. We feel invaded by calm, and as it were clothed in the divine immutability, which seems to communicate itself to our whole being. This is where prayer flourishes -- that prayer which is a devout upsurge of love, which draws us towards God, Who is unceasingly inclined towards us. His Spirit enfolds us, penetrates us, descends into our depths, and says: 'My son'. Then, returning from the depths of our being that He turns back to its Source, He answers for us: 'Father'. There is no greater or more profound moment, no higher activity possible.

In a soul praying thus, certain dispositions are necessary, requiring long exercise and sustained effort. Our sensitiveness, distorted as a result of the fall, rebels. It alternates between mad outbreaks and periods of discouragement. It does not want to take up its role of servant; it wants to be its own master, to follow its own caprices. And so it resists. Any opposition infuriates it. The more we try to discipline it, the more it throws off all restraint and goes mad. We have to re-orientate it, restore it to its proper place, which is that of a servant -- useful but submissive. The wrecked harmony of the fine human edifice that God made must be re-established. We do not realize enough that He alone can do this. The absolute necessity for His aid is about the last idea to enter into our heads and persuade us to turn to Him. We spend the whole of our lives trying to sanctify ourselves without His help, and we are convinced that we can manage it of ourselves.

Properly understood and well carried out, prayer restores us to our position as a creature receiving all from the Creator. Without His aid we are not only weak, but completely helpless. Now we see clearly again and unmistakably; we see what we have to do, and we can do it, for God Who is Truth is in us, and He is giving Himself. Until now, we were in our nothingness and were content to remain there. The soul that prays may still be far from perfect, but it is on its way and it will arrive at perfection. It is united with the Source Who will give it that perfection. It will welcome the knowledge of what it should do moment by moment. It follows a way that is sure, for this way is also the end. The soul is both traveling to that end and has at the same time arrived at it. God Himself prays in that soul, leads it to Him, and already gives Himself to it.

Prayer proceeds from union; it seeks it and attains it. God is continually making us ask for what He wants to give us, and He gives what He makes us ask for. Then He inscribes this movement in His Book of Life, the angels record it and, delighted, treasure every single note of it. They seize them before the lips utter them, sometimes barely or badly formed, seeing only the right intention or the frailty which is our excuse. ‘Prayer’, says Saint Augustine, ‘serves the needs of souls, and draws down the help which they seek; delights the angels, infuriates hell, and is to God a sacrifice which cannot but be pleasing to Him. It is the crowning point of religion, the unspoiled praise, the perfect glory and the source of the most assured hope’.

How is it possible to prefer vain discourses, wasted hours, stupid amusements and pointless dreams to such joy, such a treasure and so great an honor? God is there: He awaits us, He calls us; He offers us enlightenment for our mind, strength for our will, unspeakable joys for our sensitive nature, and priceless treasures for ourselves and others. And we turn our backs on Him!

We have our excuse, it is true -- it is His very love, ceaselessly offering itself and apparently eager to give itself. But the gift of oneself appears degrading only to sordid souls. Noble souls know that this love He offers us is the Truth and the Life, and they love to be held by this Love, Who reveals Himself and in doing so gives Himself.

~ Dom Augustin Guillerand ~