Letters of St. Paul of the Cross: Preparing Our Heart for the King

The retreat is completed, the cells are finished. There’s nothing more to do than to furnish the church a bit in order to make it better equipped to house the Divine Sacrament. Oh, true God! It seems 1000 hours before I will see my sacramental Lord in our church so that I can take myself for hours to be alone at the foot of the sacred altar, who will give the wings of a dove to make flights of love to his Divine Heart! Around the Feast of the Annunciation we will make our solemn entry.  Right now it seems we cannot do it sooner, but we await the assent of the king. – St. Paul of the Cross, Letter 134

 “My heart is overflowing with a good theme. I recite my composition concerning the King. My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. You are fairer than the sons of men…” -Psalm 45:1

St. Paul of the Cross had prepared a place for the King in his own heart, and for many years made the necessary sacrifices, in order that space in his inner man would be made ready for Him. The monastery that finally came to be spoken of in this quote was a manifestation of what had already happened in the place of prayer through this saint. The space, the actual building, was a long time in coming and birthed out of many trials, troubles, and persecutions.

All of hell, it seems, will come after the soul who is given to prayer, and the corporate expression of that prayer. The enemy doesn’t mind ministry of all different and varied types and forms, but he will resist the one who prays and will try to halt any corporate expression of prayer. He understands that his doom is near when God’s people pray out of deep intimacy with God such that their prayers are the very prayers of Christ.

The resistance to St. Paul of the Cross was ongoing and brutal. Storms raged constantly, but he understood the ways of God in this and did not resist letting himself be formed by the tempest. Resistance is the way that spiritual muscles are built up. Strength in the inner man comes through troubles. For example, 1 Samuel 30:6 highlights this principle: “Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” Many times it looked as though St. Paul of the Cross’s calling to start an order and have many monasteries was just a wishful fantasy. The work was tested and tried. For years, the appearance of this order was so weak that it looked as though at any moment it may fail and come to nothing.

St. Paul of the Cross came to a place of great detachment, inner peace, and holy indifference to the assignment God had given him.  He understood that this house of prayer would only be built by the Lord Himself doing it.[1]Different regions were offering him buildings for his order to expand, and financial backing for this to happen, yet he would not accept these immediately but would give these offers back to the Lord in prayer. Not assuming anything, he would hold everything before the test of the Lord, which in turn would be confirmed with convincing proofs. He wasn’t about building his own ministry. He was about obedience to God’s will whatever the cost and whatever it looked like.

When this first retreat was completed and the furnishings put into place, the only thing that awaited was the entrance of the “sacramental Lord” to be placed upon the altar. The process was complete–the house made ready–and St. Paul’s heart was aloft in expectant waiting for the Tabernacle to be filled with the Bread of His Presence. Oh, how he longed to lose himself before this holy altar and fly into that Bread in his spirit to be consumed with Love by Love. Every trial, temptation, and trouble would all be worth it when the King comes into His Tabernacle to stay and to be adored in that place. His adoration is love that would manifest in the earth; a moment that he had prepared for with great sacrifice; a longing that only heaven could fill; a yearning with an eternal weight of glory. The preparation had to be a long time in coming and with great difficulty, for only in that sacrifice would the adoration be of the highest purity of holy love. This moment of the King coming is what he had been waiting for and preparing for his whole life.

This coming of the King is not unlike the coming of Jesus into Mary. The King had found a place prepared, a holy womb, the smallest and weakest of locations, seemingly not fit for a King. But He sees what man cannot see, and this womb was the perfect place for His coming. He would expand His Kingdom and its territory, but it would begin in the smallest of locations: a woman’s womb. Jesus, the Second Person of the Eternal Godhead, would marry himself to man by becoming human. He would come to stay, to tabernacle, to rest, to abide in man and with man.

Each one of us must make preparation for the coming of the King. He wants to come inside each person and make each soul His home. Necessary emptying must happen to clear away the clutter and traffic in our soul. Like St. Paul of the Cross, we must earnestly and longingly desire His Presence to come and stay. What sacrifice is too much to have Him? What battle is too intense? What cost is too much? He is worth it all.


Dear Jesus, help me to clear away the traffic and clutter in my soul, so that You may choose to come and stay in me; come and abide in me; come and rest in me. I long for You; I wait for You; I love You. In Jesus Name, Amen.

For Meditation:

Even as St. Paul of Cross’s heart longed ardently for the coming of the sacramental Lord into the Tabernacle, how can I also long ardently for His Presence inside of me? How can I rightly honor One so great living on the inside?

[1] Zechariah 4:6-7


 Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

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