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Sunday, 17 October 2010

O God, you are my God, for you I long, for you my soul is thirsting

The Gospel today is taken from Luke 18:1-8. "Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart" (Lk 18:1). He tells the parable of the judge who, after a widow is continually asking him to pronounce justice, finally gives in to her wish purely because her perseverance, and so Jesus advises us to do.

In the Office of Reading today we read a passage of the letter of St. Augustine to Proba. The passage finished with "When the Apostle tells us: Pray without ceasing, he means this: Desire unceasingly that life of happiness which is nothing if not eternal, and ask it of him who alone is able to give it."

What really stuck me about this line is, with the risk of taking it slightly out of context, the link between praying unceasingly and to desire unceasingly. It seems to me that the two are maybe the same, that once we conform our heart towards God, if out whole life is a prayer, it is really a continual desire for God, a continual lifting up of ones soul to God. Recently I gave a very brief reflection on prayer, reflecting on what prayer really is. I will share a bit of that reflection here: 

During prayer or with prayer, we experience God. But what is this, this experiencing of God, as most of the time prayer is not necessarily that much of an experiential activity. I think though that it is at the same time. If we stop praying we notice a difference. Something is missing, even though it is hard to put our finger on what this 'something' is. 

As much as prayer is maybe not accompanied by an obvious sensational experience, neither is this ‘something missing’, but we still notice it. Regarding prayer we could maybe say that the non-experience of an experience is maybe an experience in itself.

We also notice the fruits of prayer, over time. If we look back over a few weeks, months and years, we can see the difference a life with more prayer makes. The fruits of a deeper understanding, knowledge or friendship with God can for example be noticed in the presence of the theological virtues; a disposition of faith, hope and charity. I think that the most noticeable fruit is a profound sense of peace and meaning, a sense of things being right in some kind of way.

With a bit of practice of the will prayer starts to flow over from our dedicated time to every action in our life; prayer becomes habitual and as such a virtue. We always carry God close to us in the cell of our heart, and God is present in everything we do. This brings with it a sense of groundedness, which can profoundly alter our lives. It can seem that Gods presence flows though our veins, and is it as Jeremiah explains, a feeling of our bones being on fire. A much deeper reality seems to open up, a depth of meaning we would never have dared to hope to exist in this life at all.

But what if this reality does not seem to be so real at all? It is important to realize that there are (al least) two reflections important here. First, what is reality, and what seems to be reality. God does not abandon us even if it might sometimes seem that He does. But it is important to realise that this is just on a sensual level, not on a spiritual level. Secondly, how God works in the soul is something which cannot be sensed directly most of the time. The few times the grace of God really flows over into the sensual is in itself a gift from God, but it is extraordinary, not ordinary. 

The groundedness remains, even if God seems absent. It gets stronger the closer we grow to God, it is a way of being, not a fuzzy feeling or not an emotional high, but a steady disposition which often manifests itself with a profound sense of peace. A blessedness which is beyond telling and beyond expression, just a way to be. It makes us cry out with the psalmist:

"O God, you are my God, for you I long, for you my soul is thirsting. 
My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. 
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory." Psalm 62(63)

1 comment:

Joann said...

"As much as prayer is maybe not accompanied by an obvious sensational experience, neither is this ‘something missing’, but we still notice it." This made sense to me because I have experienced it. I believe too that God is experiencing me;knowing and loving me. That alone is worth my desire. It's harder to believe that God can't get enough of me, but I have to believe that too when His domain in the eternal and my Baptism gives me an eternal soul He can love forever. Viva God!

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