Christian formation requires above all formation in the truth. We are formed in truth when our judgments conform to the way things actually are and we act in harmony with what we know. No one can arrive at such judgments or actions by himself. To judge rightly, one must be formed. Only when one is gratuitously loved does such formation take place. Natural fathers and mothers help their children live in such a way concerning the natural good things of the world. In the spiritual life, only spiritual fathers and spiritual mothers can provide such a formation.
A spiritual mother and a spiritual father know that a well-lived life needs an orientation point, firm footing, a sure center. Formation in the truth guides the heart to such a sacred place. This journey requires the courage and humility to see things as they are, especially oneself and God. Firm footing for life cannot be found by oneself. The difficult ambiguities to which this world below is subject do not allow the truth to be a private, individual pursuit even if it requires solitude and silence. God sends us living icons of Himself so that we might find signposts to His Heart.
We are blind until Someone opens our eyes to see. Even then, our seeing is only partial, so we need others to accompany us on the way. Jesus Christ is the orientation point and under the shadow of His Cross, we find firm footing. The prayer of faith knows this sure center around which the world turns. Spiritual fathers and mothers lead souls to this deepest center.
Christ is the Life, the Truth, and the Way. Truth confronts disharmony in the things of this world and in ourselves. If we have truly found moments of joy, there are also many secret sorrows that we must learn to bear – and He is ready to teach us. He who is Truth unveils confusion casting its shadows over the many good things that we enjoy and discloses a certain gnawing emptiness that we might wish to put off or walk away from. The Truth Himself makes us deal with the fact that there is something more for which the heart aches, and healing for this is not grasped, but received only as a gift.
Here, in prayer before the Risen Lord, we discover feelings that cannot bear the weight of our existence. They often betray us. If this life is too short for all that lives in the heart, it can also feel too long for all the evils that must be endured. The faith that comes from the Lamb of God purifies our feelings. Christ crucified stands ready to give this freely to whoever asks in humble perseverance. Since this gift comes from the Cross, faith knows that frustrated desire, sin and death do not exhaust the way things are. Faith sees that the love of God is also hidden in the shadows of life and that this love is the pathway of the Truth.
Spiritual fathers and mothers give souls real food when they train them in prayer and fasting. These are, as it were, labor pains in the spiritual life. When a soul is hungry, learning the prayer of faith in fasting gives real food, true sustenance. If prayer and fasting go together, it is because part of dealing with the truth is allowing ourselves to “feel” our hunger for love to the point that it leads us to pray. Such faith is not escape from reality. The discipline of faith requires us to experience life for what it is: the hunger, the thirst. God also hungers and thirsts. So too all who are in His image and likeness. Wherever we find this hungry absence of love among His children, faith sustains us in choosing to love anyway just as does He. And where there is no love, if we put love, we will find love say St. John of the Cross. When we pray and fast, what we eat and drink by the truth of faith frees us to love when love seems impossible. It is to this love that spiritual fathers and mothers bring souls to birth in labor pains of Truth.
This post was originally published on Beginning to Pray and is reprinted here with permission.