There are times when the Lord reminds us of how we got to where we are in our relationship with Him. How we arrived at the degree of maturity we now enjoy. In those moments the Holy Spirit reminds us of where we learned certain things that are for us now, just the way we now naturally see things and live life. He reminds us that there was a time when what is now so natural was awkwardly and painfully new.
Let me give you a real life example from my journey of salvation.
When I think about prayer, I do not think of it as something “I am doing,” but something the Holy Spirit is accomplishing — being and then doing — in me. It is, in other words, Christ Jesus who is praying in me by the agency of the Holy Spirit. I do pray and my prayer is the prayer of Christ Jesus. I do not mean I imitate or mimic Him. No, it is He Who prays in me and that is, mysteriously, my substantial prayer.
It is hard for me to conceive of prayer in any other way. Now, there was a time when that was not the case. I saw prayer as something “I did” albeit by the power of the Holy Spirit. But, it was still somehow separate even though it was by grace.
So, the question is, “When did that conceptual shift take place?” I read a passage yesterday that served as the Holy Spirit’s reminder that that shift occurred when I was in seminary. It occurred when I read a book entitled, The Go-Between God, by John Taylor published in 1972. I still have my copy from the mid-70’s somewhere among all the boxes of books in my garage!
The point is that I now pray a prayer every morning as part of my morning prayers that articulates this very point. But, if I am honest, I cannot say that I learned this concept when I found that prayer although it felt that way. No, the real beginning of the realization, the planting of the seed that has been bearing fruit for the last 15 years or so, was planted back in the mid-70’s.
Here are both the passage from The Go-Between God that was the original seed and the fruit of that seed in my life, the “Morning Prayer of Philaret of Moscow” which Christ Jesus prays in me every morning….
The prayer of the first Christians was simply a reflection of the living Christ in their midst. It was prayer ‘in his name’; and by this, we mean not that a formula was added at the end of every petition, but that in all their prayer they joined themselves to the prayer of Christ himself, and knew that it was his spirit which prayed in them. The best worship they could offer was simply his self-oblation in them. Praying in that Spirit, the Christian’s prayer is immersed in the ocean of the Son’s communion with the Father: ‘Praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God.’ And again, ‘Keep your watch with continuous prayer and supplication, praying the whole time in the Spirit. With constant wakefulness and perseverance you will find opportunity to pray for all the Christian brethren.’ ‘We do not even know how we ought to pray, but through our inarticulate groans the Spirit himself is pleading for us, and God who searches our inmost being knows what the Spirit means, because he pleads for God’s own people in God’s own way.’
To live in prayer, therefore, is to live in the Spirit, and to live in the Spirit is to live in Christ. I am not saying that prayer is a means or a method which we have to use in order to have more of Christ in us or in order to be more fully possessed by the Spirit. I am saying something simpler and more fundamental: to live in Christ is to live in prayer. Prayer is not something you do; it is a style of living. It is living under the witness which the Spirit bears with our spirit that we are children of God. Such a witness lays upon us the aweful freedom of adult sonship. Prayer is our response to both the privilege and the responsibility whereby we cry Abba, Father! To engage in the mission of God, therefore, is to live this life of prayer; praying without ceasing, as St Paul puts it, that is to say, sustaining a style of life that is focused upon God. This is indeed to engage in the mission of the Holy Spirit by being rather than by doing. To realise that the heart of mission is communion with God in the midst of the world’s life will save us from the demented activism of these days. The Go-Between God, by John Taylor
O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul, and with the firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforseen events let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of this coming day with all that it will bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray You Yourself in me. Amen.
The Incarnation, Ascension, and Pentecost are the feasts that reveal the nature of God’s absolute presence NOT His relative absence. The following excerpt from one of John Henry Newman’s sermons elucidates this mystery. By the way, for those who have the time and inclination, the whole sermon is well worth reading.
“If I go, I will send the Advocate to you”
Christ really is with us now, whatever be the mode of it. This he says expressly Himself; “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world” (Mt 28,20)… You may be led to explain his declaration thus; “He has come again, but in his Spirit; that is, his Spirit has come instead of him; and when it is said that he is with us, this only means that his Spirit is with us.” No one, doubtless, can deny… that the Holy Ghost is come; but why has he come? to supply Christ’s absence, or to accomplish his presence? Surely to make him present. Let us not for a moment suppose that God the Holy Ghost comes in such sense that God the Son remains away. No; he has not so come that Christ does not come, but rather he comes that Christ may come in his coming. Through the Holy Ghost we have communion with Father and Son. “In Christ we are built together,” says Saint Paul, “for an habitation of God through the Spirit” and: “Strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” (Ep 2,22; 3,16f). The Holy Spirit causes, faith welcomes, the indwelling of Christ in the heart. Thus the Spirit does not take the place of Christ in the soul, but secures that place to Christ…
The Holy Spirit, then, vouchsafes to come to us, that by his coming Christ may come to us, not carnally or visibly, but may enter into us. And thus he is both present and absent; absent in that he has left the earth, present in that he has not left the faithful soul; or, as he says himself, “The world sees me no more, but you see me.” (Jn 14, 19).
Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890), “The Spiritual Presence of Christ in the Church”
Orthodoxy is the Church of Christ on earth. The Church of Christ is not an institution; it is a new life with Christ and in Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit. Christ, the Son of God, came to earth, was made man, uniting His divine life with that of humanity. This divine-human life He gave to His brethren, who believe on His name. Although He died and rose again and ascended into heaven, He was not separated from His humanity, but remains in it. The light of the resurrection of Christ lights the Church, and the joy of resurrection, of the triumph over death, fills it. The risen Lord lives with us, and our life in the Church is a mysterious life in Christ. ‘Christians’ bear that name precisely because they belong to Christ, they live in Christ, and Christ lives in them. (From The Orthodox Church, by Father Sergius Bulgakov (1871-1944), revised translation by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1988)
the rhythms. the seasons. the pace. absent from and present. invested and detached. the familiar and the alien.
some, but not all are life-giving and some but not all life-offering. perhaps in the struggle and perhaps in the absence of struggle.
Lord, in it all work your mercy.
It wasn’t just yesterday that I remembered to give thanks to God for you and really meant it. Not one day in 365. It is today too — thanks mom…
God grant me grace to be eucharistically minded toward my mom every day.
Eternal God, eternal Trinity, you have made the blood of Christ so precious through his sharing in your divine nature. You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for you. But I can never be satisfied; what I receive will ever leave me desiring more. When you fill my soul I have an even greater hunger, and I grow more famished for your light. I desire above all to see you, the true light, as you really are.
I have tasted and seen the depth of your mystery and the beauty of your creation with the light of my understanding. I have clothed myself with your likeness and have seen what I shall be. Eternal Father, you have given me a share in your power and the wisdom that Christ claims as his own, and your Holy Spirit has given me the desire to love you. You are my Creator, eternal Trinity, and I am your creature. You have made of me a new creation in the blood of your Son, and I know that you are moved with love at the beauty of your creation, for you have enlightened me.
Eternal Trinity, Godhead, mystery deep as the sea, you could give me no greater gift than the gift of yourself. For you are a fire ever burning and never consumed, which itself consumes all the selfish love that fills my being. Yes, you are a fire that takes away the coldness, illuminates the mind with its light and causes me to know your truth. By this light, reflected as it were in a mirror, I recognise that you are the highest good, one we can neither comprehend nor fathom. And I know that you are beauty and wisdom itself. The food of angels, you gave yourself to man in the fire of your love.
You are the garment which covers our nakedness, and in our hunger you are a satisfying food, for you are sweetness and in you there is no taste of bitterness, O triune God! From the dialogue On Divine Providence by Saint Catherine of Siena — Source