Presence of God – Help me, O Lord, to advance rapidly in the path of virtue.
“Be ye holy, because I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19:2): this is the will of God, this is our vocation, the object of all our desires and efforts. Created to the likeness of God, we do not wish His image in us to be dimmed by our sins and passions, but to shine forth clear and pure, reflecting His sanctity as far as possible. In order to make us like Himself, God has infused into our soul, together with grace, the moral and theological virtues, the purpose of which is to reproduce in us to some degree His infinite perfections; and as a father delights to find in his children some traces of resemblance to himself, so God greatly desires to see us grow in virtue. St. John of the Cross says, “The virtues cannot be wrought by the soul alone, nor can it attain to them alone without the help of God, neither does God work them alone in the soul without its cooperation” (Spiritual Canticle, 30,6). In fact, although God has infused the virtues into us at Baptism without any merit on our part, He does not make them grow without our collaboration; it remains for us, always with the help of grace, to put into practice the virtuous principles he has given us. Only in this way shall we acquire good habits of virtue and facility in practicing them.
Therefore, if we desire to cooperate with the action of God who wishes to make us like to Himself, we should apply ourselves with great zeal to the practice of the virtues. We should concentrate particularly on the virtue that we see is most necessary in order to correct our faults, or to overcome our dominant passion. This should be the special subject of our resolutions, of our examinations of conscience, and of the account given to our spiritual director. We should not think that this exercise is only for beginners, for “the obligation to advance in the love of God–and therefore, in all the other virtues as well–lasts even unto death” (St. Francis de Sales). No one, however advanced in the spiritual life, can consider himself dispensed from the practice of the virtues.
“O Lord, You said, ‘Be ye holy because I am holy.’ I think this was the wish You expressed on the day of creation when You said, ‘Let us make man to our image and likeness.’ It is Your continual desire to associate and identify Yourself with Your creatures…. How can I better satisfy Your desire than by keeping myself simply and lovingly turned toward You, so that You can reflect Your own image in me, as the sun is reflected through pure crystal?… But if I am to reflect Your perfections, I must first put off the old man before I can put on the new man created by You in justice and holiness of truth. The path is traced for me. To walk therein as You intend, I have but to deny myself, to die to self, to lose sight of self” (Elisabeth of the Trinity. Last Retreat, 9 – I, 7).
Help me, O God, to combat my faults and to put off the old man; help me to practice virtue in order to put on the new man. You have far greater esteem for the practice of virtue than for magnificent deeds or the fame of a great name.
“You would rather see in me the least degree of purity of conscience than all the works that I could do.
“You desire of me the least degree of obedience to all the services I might think to render You.
“You esteem my acceptance of aridity and of suffering for love of You more than all the spiritual consolations I could have” (John of the Cross. Spiritual Maxims: Words of Light, 12-14).
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Art: St. John of the Cross, Francisco de Zurbarán, 1656, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.