Seeking God in Love
Presence of God – Help me, O God, to concentrate all my affections on You, so that my heart will be satisfied with You alone.
Faith “is like the feet wherewith the soul journeys to God, and love is the guide that directs it” (John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, 1,11). Charity follows faith; in this life, faith and charity, as it were, go at an equal pace: the one depends on the other, one progresses with the progress of the other, and both of them immerse the soul deeper and deeper into God. A soul who believes with its whole strength that God is truly God, that He is the supreme Being to whom we all belong and that He is worthy of all our love, will have an ardent desire for Him, and in it will be fulfilled the words of St. John of the Cross: “The soul will merit the revelation by love of that which faith holds within itself” (ibid.). That is, faith will make us believe in the greatness, mercy and infinite charity of God, but love will make us taste and experience them: this happens especially during contemplative prayer in which God draws the soul to Himself. However, even prescinding from this experience, we ought to exercise ourselves in love in order to go to God “by steps of love.”
Jesus Himself commanded us to practice this virtue in the highest degree: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength” (Mk 12:30). St. Paul exhorts us to “walk in love” (Eph 5:2), and St. Thomas teaches that “love is the life of the soul.” However, the love that is charity is pure benevolence toward God; its intensity depends upon its purity, that is, this love must consist in the one desire of pleasing God and doing His will, without seeking personal satisfaction.
O Lord, grant me this pure, strong love which seeks You alone, by a continuous and generous adherence to Your holy will! Grant that Your divine will may be my food and drink, as it was for Jesus; grant that like Jesus I may hunger and thirst for nothing but the fulfillment of Your will, and apply all my faith to recognize it and all my love to fulfill it in every circumstance of my life.
When I have learned how to see my duties in the light of faith, I shall realize that my daily duties, as they present themselves to me moment by moment, and under various aspects, are the expression of Your will, which asks of me at this moment that certain task, that duty, that pious practice, that act of charity. If I know how to do this with fidelity and constancy, I shall really know how to “seek You in love,” and You will not delay in letting Yourself be found by my soul.
But how weak, O Lord, is my love, how feeble it is, and how easily it comes to a standstill in the face of difficulties, vanishes in time of trial, and is dismayed in aridity!
“O my God, how can I have a love worthy of You, if the love You have for me is not united with it?… Love alone gives value to all things and the most needful thing is that it should be so great that nothing can hinder its operation. But alas! I have only words and am unable to give You more. May my desires, my God, be availing in the sight of Your divine presence: consider not my slight deserving…. Lord, since we have to live, let us live for You and let our own desires and interests disappear. What greater good can we gain than to please You? Lord I desire to please You. Well do I know that my pleasure can be found in no mortal being; since this is so, You will not blame my desire. Behold me here, Lord; if it is needful for me to suffer in order to do You some service, I refuse none of the trials that may come to me on earth…. Oh, my pleasure and my God! What shall I do to please You? Since I can serve You in nothing, I must needs console myself with any little service. Blessed are they who serve You by doing great deeds! If I could accomplish anything by merely envying them and desiring to imitate them I should not be backward in pleasing You. But I am of no worth, my Lord. Do You put worth in what I do, since You have such love for me” (Teresa of Jesus, Exclamations of the Soul to God, 5-15 – Life, 39).
O Lord, in my weakness I cannot ask to do great things for You, nor do I wish to ask You for consolations and sweetness. I only desire that I may prove my love for You and know how to “seek You in love,” doing Your will from moment to moment.
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Art: St. Teresa–Transverberación, Josefa de Ábidos, 1672, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.