Loving Attention to God
Presence of God – O Lord, let Your presence be the light and strength of my soul, the aid and support of my prayer.
If God invites the soul, by means of aridity, to a more simple and more profound form of prayer, it would be absurd to try to compel it to continue in meditation, which, moreover, it can no longer make. On the contrary, the soul ought to be encouraged to give up this form of prayer without scruple, and to apply itself to remaining calmly in the presence of God, attentive to Him by means of a simple glance of faith and love. It should stay there and keep Him company, glad to be with Him, even if it has no feeling of His presence. The soul will see that it is gradually becoming accustomed to this new way of prayer and will notice that it is in contact with God in a way which is substantially better than that which it formerly had.
The thought that it no longer knows how to love should not disturb the soul. Of course, it can no longer love as tenderly as before, when the mere thought of God’s love for it could arouse its feelings; however, the soul must remember that the supernatural love of charity is not sensible love, but a love of the will, which does not have to be felt. It consists solely in a decision of the will by which the soul gives God preference over all creatures and wills to consecrate itself entirely to His service. This in the real love which leads to the “sense of God.” Moreover, St. John of the Cross teaches that it is precisely in this period of obscure, initial contemplation, entered by way of the sufferings of purifying aridity, that there begins to develop in the soul what he calls infused passive love, that is, the love by which the soul goes to God, no longer merely by a decision of the will, but also by a secret drawing by God Himself. This explains why its love, although not felt at all, is in reality stronger than before; it urges the soul to give itself to God with increasingly strong resolve. It is God Himself who, drawing it secretly to Himself, awakens love in it. When during prayer the soul suffers because of its powerlessness and aridity, and fears that it does not love God, let it gently examine itself on this point, that is, try to find out if, in spite of all the difficulties met with, it remains firmly resolved to give itself wholly to God. To make this decision more concrete, the soul should apply it to the different circumstances of its life, particularly those which cost it most. Because it no longer feels any love, it is impelled to give God concrete proofs of love, that is, good works and the virtues, which are practiced to please Him.
“O God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? Far from my salvation are the words of my sins. O my God, I shall cry day by day, and Thou wilt not hear: and by night, and it shall not be reputed as folly in me. But Thou dwellest in the holy place, the praise of Israel. In Thee have our Fathers hoped: they have hoped, and Thou hast delivered them. They cried to Thee, and they were saved: they trusted in Thee, and were not confounded. But I am a worm and no man…. I am poured out like water; and all my bones are scattered. My heart has become like wax melting…. My tongue hath cleaved to my jaws” (Ps 21:2-16). When I would sing Your praises, my voice stops in my throat. O Lord, I have scarcely enough courage to raise my eyes to You, and yet it is my great desire to love You. I should like to tell You that I love You, but I dare not, for my heart is like stone, cold and hard as marble. What shall I do, O Lord, in such aridity? I shall disclose my misery to You; I shall show You my nothingness, my weakness, my lack of power, and I shall say to You: Remember, O Lord, that I am wretchedness and You are Mercy, I, the patient and You, the Physician! O Lord, do not permit the sight of my nothingness to cast me down, but let it draw me to You in humility, confidence, reverence and abandonment! O Lord, let me know myself that I may know You! Let me know myself, that I may despise myself, and know You, that I may love and bless You eternally.
Although I am an arid and desolate land, and in my heart there is not one drop of devotion, yet I wish to remain here in Your presence, here, near You, to tell You that, in spite of everything, I desire and want nothing but You alone. “O Lord, when I feel nothing, when I am incapable of praying or practicing virtue, then is the moment to look for small occasions, nothings, to give You pleasure. For example, a smile, a friendly word, when I should much prefer to say nothing at all or look bored…. When I find no occasions, at least I want to keep telling You that I love You; it is not difficult and it keeps the fire of love going; even if that fire were to seem wholly out, I should throw little bits of straw on the ashes, little acts of virtue and of charity; and I am sure that, with Your help, the fire would be enkindled again” (St. ThÃ¨rése of the Child Jesus, Letters, 122).
Note from Dan: This post on “Loving Attention to God” is provided courtesy of Baronius Press and contains one of two meditations for the day. If you would like to get the full meditation from one of the best daily meditation works ever compiled, you can learn more here: Divine Intimacy. Please honor those who support us by purchasing and promoting their products.
Art: Gravure de “Sainte Thérèse de l’Enfant Jésus, Histoire d’une âme écrite par elle-même, Lisieux, Office central de Lisieux (Calvados), & Bar-le-Duc, Imprimerie Saint-Paul, 1937, édition 1940.”; PD-US copyright expired; Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.