Saturday, May 08, 2010

How to practice the Presence of God - Carmelite Saints tell it is worth to try, it will change our prayer lives forever.

St Teresa of Jesus strongly recommends the practice of the presence of God for souls aspiring to divine intimacy: 'We must retiring within ourselves even during our ordinary occupations...if I can recall the companionship I have within for so much as a moment, that is of great utility' (Way of Perfection, 29). In other words, devotion to the presence of God aims at engaging our soul in making strong effort to keep God always present in our mind and heart, even when we are engaged in our daily tasks. We can do this in various ways: we can use external objects, such as an image or a crucifix which we wear or put on our worktable, the sight of which will often remind us of God; we can also use our imagination to picture 'interiorly' the Lord near us. For, if the humanity of Jesus is not physically present, it is nevertheless always exercising an influence over us - even a physical one - in the communication of grace; so we can truly 'represent to ourselves' this action of Jesus within us. We can also keep a very vivid remembrance of God by using some truth of faith. For example, I can cultivate the thought of the continual presence of the Trinity within me, and try to perform all actions in honour of my divine Guests, or else I can consider my duties as so many manifestations of the will of God, and unite myself to this divine will as I perform them. Further, I can make it a practice to view all the circumstances of my life in the light of faith, and therefore, arranged by divine Providence for my good. This will incline me to accept them and to repeat continually to my heavenly Father: "I am content with everything You do for me". One might object that this method is more suitable for those who live in solitude than for those who are in constant contact with others; yet St Teresa applies it, simply and practically to the latter: "If one is speaking, he must try to remember that there is One within him to whom he can speak; if he is listening, let him remember that he can listen to One who is nearer to him than anyone else. Finally, let him realize that, if he likes, he need never withdraw from this good companionship, and let him grieve when he has left his Father, alone for so long, though his need of Him is so sore (Way of Perfection, 29). Anyone, who works, either manually or mentally, can adopt this method in all his relations with his neighbour. Nothing can hinder him from using it even inversely, that is, by applying it to the presence of God in the soul of others. If, unfortunately, God is not present at all times in all men by grace, He is present in essence, as the creator and conserver of their being. Thus a teacher may consider God present in his students, a doctor or a nurse, in their patients; a merchant or a dressmaker in their customer, and so on. This will inspire in us sentiments of kindness, charity, and respect for all those with whom we are in contact; it will lead us to be interested in them and to serve them, neither for an advantage which we may reap by so doing, nor solely from a sentiment of duty, but as homage to God whom we recognize as present in them. It means, in practical terms, to seek, serve and love God present in our brethren. This practice will be very effective in maintaining our contact with God, whether we think of Him as present in our own soul, or in that of our neighbour. "If you become accustomed to having Him at your side" says St Teresa, "and if He sees that you love Him there and are always trying to please Him, you will never be able, as we put it, to send Him away" (Way, 26)
Let us reflect for a moment on the words of St Elizabeth of the Trinity and pray with her:

"Lord, may my motto be: Thou in me and I in Thee! How beautiful is Your presence within me, in the inmost sanctuary of my soul. May my continual occupation be to retire into myself, that I may lose myself in You, and live with You. I feel You so vividly in my soul, that I have only to become recollected to find You there within me, and in that I find all my happiness"
"O Lord, let me live with You as my friend! Help me to live in the awareness of faith always, in order that I may be united to You no matter what happens. I bear heaven in my soul, since You, who satiate the blessed in the Beatific Vision, give Yourself to me in faith and mystery."
"Grant, O my God, that my soul may be a little heaven wherein You can rest with delight. In order that I may attain this end, help me to remove everything that might offend Your divine eyes, and then permit me to live always with You in this little heaven. Wherever I am or whatever I do, You never leave me alone; grant that I, too, may always remain with You. At every hour of the day and night, in joy or sorrow, in every work or action, may I always know how to find You within me!"
"O my God, Blessed Trinity, be my dwelling, my rest, my Father's house which I shall never leave. Let me abide in You, not, not for a few minutes or hours, but permanently, habitually. may I pray in You, adore in You, love in You, suffer in You, work and act in You alone. Let me remain in You to offer myself to others through You, to attend to all my duties, while always penetrating further into Your divine depths. O Lord, grant that every day I may advance along the path of the abyss that leads me to You, that lets me slide down this slope aith a confidence full of love" (Letters, First Retreat, 1)

To read Carmelite classic "The Practice of the Presence of God" by Br Lawrence of the Resurrection click HERE
Selected previous posts on the topic HERE and HERE