To Be Hidden from Myself
Presence of God— O Jesus, totally consecrated to the glory of the Father through complete forgetfullness of Yourself, teach me how to forget myself.
In order to enter the fullness of the hidden life, it is not enough to hide oneself from the attention of others; we must also hide from ourselves, that is, forget ourselves, avoiding all excessive concern about ourselves. We can be preoccupied with self not only from a material point of view, but also from a spiritual point of view. To be overly concerned about one’s spiritual progress, about the consolations which God gives or does not give, about the state of aridity in which one may be–all this is often the sign of a subtle spiritual egoism, a sign that the soul is more occupied with itself than with God. We must learn to forget ourselves, to hide from ourselves, by refusing to examine too minutely what is happening within our soul, and by not attaching too much importance to it, renouncing even the satisfaction of wanting to know the exact condition of our own spiritual life. It is well to understand that God often permits painful, obscure states just because He wants the soul to live hidden from itself. This was the aim of St. Teresa Margaret’s program of self-effacement; she intended not only “to live, as it were, hidden and unnoticed” among her sisters, but “to be, in a certain manner, hidden and unknown to herself, to die to herself without knowing it and without feeling any pleasure in this mystical spiritual death, burying in Christ, in a very subtle way, every thought and personal reflection, even in the spiritual and eternal order.” This is what complete forgetfullness of self explicitly proposes to one who renounces even the spiritual satisfaction of recognizing his own immolation. But in order to avoid turning one’s thoughts inward, the soul must focus its aspirations elsewhere; hence the negative exercise of not thinking of itself must accompany the positive exercise of fixing its center in Christ, of “burying in Christ” every thought, every preoccupation with self, even in the spiritual order. No one can succeed in turning away from himself unless he concentrates all his attention on the object of his love. St. Teresa Margaret completely forgot herself; her thoughts were absorbed “in Christ,” her one Well-Beloved.
O my God, teach me how to forget myself, to bury every preoccupation, all excessive care of myself in You. Why do I wish to serve You, O Lord? Why do I desire to love You and to advance in the paths of sanctity? Would it be for my own interest or foolish self-complacency? Oh! how mean the spiritual life which would have such vain and low aims! No, my God, You have created me for Your glory, and I humbly ask to be able to live for it alone, without personal interest or satisfaction!
Is not the honor You do me sufficiently great when You allow such a miserable, wretched creature to consecrate its life to glorifying You–when a poor worm like me can procure glory for You, O God most high, O infinite Perfection? What more could I wish, O Lord? Would it be better to please creatures than the Creator, to satisfy myself rather than God? O Lord, I wish to serve and please You alone, to give pleasure to You alone; this will be my only satisfaction, the only reason for my joy. I understand that if You lead me by an obscure and arid road, if You often permit the darkness to deepen around me, it is only because You want to teach me to serve You with a pure intention, seeking nothing but Your satisfaction, not my own. If You allow me to continue to practice the interior life and virtue without seeing any results, if You veil my eyes to my slight progress, it is to establish my soul in humility. If I had more light, or if the workings of Your grace were more evident in me, perhaps I would glorify myself and halt my progress toward You, the one object of my affection.
O Lord, how admirable are Your ways! Blessed be this interior obscurity which protects me from the dangers of spiritual pride! No, my God, I do not ask You to change my path; on the contrary, I beg You to continue to lead me in the same way, the road of complete self-effacement, veiled not only from the eyes of others, but even from my own. And if, by Your grace, there is anything good in me, it will be for Your pleasure and not mine; if I were to take satisfaction in it, everything could be ruined in a moment. Keep me, then, in the shadow of Your wings, teach me how to serve You out of pure love; show me how to forget myself entirely, to hide all concern for myself in You, to put my soul into Your hands with complete abandon. In order to gain it for You, I give it up to You, I want to lose it in You; in You I shall find it again clothed in Your beauty.
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Art: St. Teresa Margaret, painted after her 1770 death by Anna Piattoli, meets public domain criteria. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.