How We Our To Use Our Will To Practice The Presence Of God

by admin on September 5, 2010

ST. BONAVENTURE in his “Mystical Theology” says that the acts of the will whereby we are to raise up our hearts to God in this holy exercise are ardent desires of the heart, wherewith the soul desires to unite herself to God in perfect love. They are inflamed affections; they are lively sighs which we heave from our innermost being, cry­ing thereby to God; they are pious and loving affections of the will, spiritual wings, as it were, by which the will takes flight, extending itself upwards, rising farther and farther to union with God. These vehement and inflamed desires and affections of the heart are called by the saints “aspira­tions” because by them the soul lifts itself up to God, which is the same thing as to aspire after God; and also, as St. Bonaventure says, in the same way as by breathing we heave out breath from the interior of our body without thinking about it, so without thinking or almost without thinking, we heave out these inflamed desires from the interior of our heart.   A man gives expression to these aspirations and desires by short and frequent prayers, which are called ejaculations, “thrown out rapidly”—rap-tim iaculatas, says St. Augustine, because they are as fiery darts and arrows coming forth from the heart and in an instant shot out and sent up to God.    The monks of Egypt, as Cassian says, made great use of these prayers and set great value on them, partly because, being short, they do not tire the head, and again because, being made with fervor and elevation of spirit, they find their way in an instant into the presence of God and leave no room for the devil to disturb him who makes them, nor raise any obstacle in the heart.    St. Augustine says some words worthy of the consideration of authors who treat of prayer: “That watchful and lively attention, which is necessary to pray with due reverence and respect, is not here relaxed and lost, as commonly happens in long prayers.”   By means of these ejaculatory prayers those holy monks succeeded in continually keeping up this exercise, lifting up their hearts very frequently to God, treating and conversing with Him. This method of walking in the presence of God is com­monly more appropriate for us, easier, and more profitable; but it will be needful to explain more at length the practice of this exercise.   Cassian puts it in this verse: Come unto my aid, O God; 0 Lord, make haste to help me (Psalm Ixix. 2), which the Church repeats at the beginning of every canonical hour.   At the beginning of every business that has any danger in it, beg God to help you to come well out of it, using these words.   In all things we need the Lord’s favor and therefore we should be always asking it.   Cas­sian says that this verse is marvelously well suited to express our sentiments in whatsoever state or occasion or happening we see ourselves.   By it we invoke the help of God; by it we humble ourselves and acknowledge our need and misery; by it we brace ourselves up and trust in being heard and favored by God; by it we kindle in ourselves the love of the Lord, Who is our refuge and protector. For all the combats and temptations that may come in your way, you have here a strong shield, an impenetrable coat of mail, an impregnable wall. Thus you should ever have this ejac­ulation on your mouth and in your heart; it should be your perpetual and continual prayer and your means of walking ever in the presence of God, St. Basil puts the practice of this virtue in taking occasion of all things to remember God. Do you eat? Give thanks to God. Do you dress? Give thanks to God. Do you walk out into the field or the gar­den? Bless God, Who has created it. Do you look up to the sky? Do you look at the sun and all the rest? Praise the Creator of it all. When you sleep, every time you awake, bless God.

There are Three Ways to Practice the Presence of God

Others, seeing that in the spiritual life there are three ways—one purgative, for beginners; another illuminative, proper to those who are making progress; a third unitive, proper to the perfect—assign three sorts of aspirations and ejaculatory prayers. The first is for those whose object is to obtain pardon for their sins and to rid their soul of vices and earthly affections; and they belong to the purgative way. The second is for those who are aiming at gaining virtues and overcoming temptations and embracing difficul­ties and labors for virtue’s sake; and they belong to the illuminative way. The third is for those who aim at attaining to the union of their soul with God by the bond of perfect love; and they belong to the unitive way. These authors wish each one to practise this exercise according to the state and condition in which he finds himself. But, as for that, however perfect anyone may be, he may well exer­cise himself in sorrow for his sins and begging God’s par­don for them and grace never more to offend Him, and that will be a very good exercise and very pleasing to God. And he who is engaged in cleansing his soul of vices and disorderly passions and gaining virtues, may all the same exercise himself in love of God in order to gain that same end with greater ease and sweetness. And all may practise this exercise, sometimes with these acts: “O Lord, would that I had never offended Thee;” “Never permit me, Lord, to offend Thee;” “To die, yes, but not to sin;” “May I rather die a thousand deaths than fall into mortal sin.” At other times one may raise up one’s heart to God, giving Him thanks for benefits received, general and particular, or begging for sundry virtues, now a profound humility, now obedience, now charity, now patience. At other times one may raise one’s heart to God with acts of love and conform­ity to His most holy will, as by saying: My beloved to me, and I to him (Cant. ii. 16); Not my will., but Thine be done (Luke xxii. 42); What is there for me in heaven, and away from thee what have I desired on earth ? (Psalm Ixxii. 25). These and the like are very good aspirations and ejacu­latory prayers to enable one to walk always in this exercise of the presence of God. But the best and most effectual are generally those that the heart conceives of itself when moved by God, though they be not couched in words so well composed and orderly as those that we have quoted. Nor is it necessary, either, to have a multitude and variety of these prayers, since one single ejaculation repeated fre­quently and with great affection may suffice for one to carry on this exercise many days and even for a whole life­time. If you find you get on well with ever saying those words of the Apostle: Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do? (Acts ix. 6), or those of the spouse, My beloved to me, and I to him (Cant. ii. 16), or those of the prophet, What have I, 0 Lord, to desire in heaven or earth but thee? (Psalm Ixxii. 25), you need no more; stay and entertain yourself therein, and let that be your continual exercise of walking in the presence of God.

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