Presented to: St. Thomas the Apostle Community in the 2017 Lenten Series: The Ten Minute Catechism on 3/27/2017
Topic: Living in the Presence of God
My comments today can be found in and come from the writings of the saints
I. The Saints on God’s Presence
I choose the saints as my starting point because “they describe with unnerving clarity the impossibility of hiding from God or escaping his presence.
The Saint’s writings also emphasize the loving, supportive and inspiring reality that God’s omnipotence brings to the soul, especially in its struggle against sin.
“WE avoid the eyes of men, and in God’s presence we commit sin. We know God to be the Judge of all, yet in his sight we sin.”
“One who remembers the presence of God is less open to other thoughts, especially bad thoughts. As long as we believe that God sees us, we are restrained from daring to sin before such a Witness and Judge. In two ways the presence of God is an antidote again sin: first, because God sees us, and, secondly, because we see God.”
II. The Saints: On the growth of God’s Presence in our lives…
A. On experiencing and living with another presence, other than ourselves, in our lives…
Two common experiences of this are worrying over something and being in love. When there is an active and personal love in our lives, whether of another person(s) or a profession, causes, etc., our inner voice and daily conversation begins to dialogue about and to focus on this ‘other’ and “all things related to (this) my love” rather than the normal media narratives and our simply own personal issues. Early on, in the experiencing of a new love is often when this most pronounced change in one’s inner life occurs…
… one often spends lots of time – mental and heart time – thinking about ways to share and to build that love, while often also reflecting on and idealizing the future possibilities of themselves with or in their new love.
Like a real love, worrying can wreak havoc on both the time management and focusing abilities of our inner capacities. An unexpected and unprecedented family or health crisis can cast a shadow over one for months, afflicting both the head – in the constant seeking of solutions – and also in one’s heart – with some form of affective suffering, aching or grieving.
Both love and worrying can have a dramatic impact on the mental narrative running in both our heads and the feelings in our hearts, often dragging the latter on a wide ranging rollercoaster of emotions and flowing passions.
The very realness of ‘another presence’ found in our active worrying and loving is one way of conveying the realness of God’s Presence that we are talking about today. A Presence that in our seeking to find, somehow finds and surround us with Its Holy Presence… And pervades our thoughts and hearts with It’s Loving Presence bringing hope in and active faith to continue livin’ and strugglin’ in love…”
B. How God’s Presence may grow and change in the person, according to the writings of the Saints….
The change and growth we are discussing usually accompanies one as they begin and progress through the first or Purgative Stage of Prayer the prayer life…
In this initial stage of prayer…
- One actively begins responding to God’s invitation to grow in prayer and holiness, often after a conversion experience, when one ‘takes ownership’ of one’s religious and spiritual life, beginning a life long practices of…
Service Work Prayer Almsgiving Personal Discipline/Mortification
Prayer is linked to discrete activities throughout the day: am rising/pm reclining (Examen), prayer before every meal, prayer when using the bathroom, prayer during travel to/from destinations/ am reading of scripture and daily review of that reading/ praying for those in need throughout our day… Forms of prayer used: mostly oral and some conversational.
In addition to prayer, one often begins practicing some form of mortification – spiritual disciplining of one’s self in reference to our senses: taming the tounge, tempering/moderating our physical appetite(s), caring for our bodies and the bodies of other we live with, etc.
Initially: one begins talking/fighting/struggling with oneself through out the day to return to God via prayer and to practice one’s chosen devotions, acts of kindness and personal disciplines. By grace and whether one realizes it or not, this initial struggle builds within the person, the willingness and resolve to return to God’s presence.
As the struggle to pray and reform our sinful choices continues over time, by grace it (the struggle) eventually becomes the norm, or at least, the struggle eventually becomes the background and context of our daily inner life, replacing a former inner life of selfish and oriented inner dialogue – that was often about our desires…
As one begins to have some success praying throughout the day, the forms of prayer we can utilize expands: oral/vocal prayer continues as conversational/dialogical increases as we find new ways to “be with God…” We begin to pray for those we see in passing with obvious needs and to praise Him for the blessings witnessed during the day….
As God leads the person through this stage, subtle changes begin to occur with in one’s internal conversation: one’s inner voice is no longer only or primarily conversing with oneself, but it is increasingly directed to and finds itself in some form of dialogue with God throughout the day: about one’s failures, hopes, disappointments, etc. If the conversation is with one’s self (not directed to God), it is often about or in reference to its chosen spiritual goals…
Over time, and as one transitions to the 2nd phase of the spiritual life, one is now praying and dialoguing with God throughout the day and often in a myriad of ways… One is now, by grace and save for mortal sin, living generally in an awareness and Presence of God. Forms of prayer used: oral/ conversational and now increasingly, the prayer of walking in and being in God’s Presence, etc.
Summary: One begins this phase with an interior life that is composed mostly of talking/conversing primarily with one’s self in one’s internal conversation, but eventually ends the first phase of the spiritual life transformed, experiencing, perceiving and living more constantly and comfortably in the Presence of God in their internal life… Guided and spurred on to grow by the Holy Spirit, one’s inner life moves from a singular presence of you alone – occasionally praying and crying out to God – to eventually a constant dual presence of you and God, in a living dialogue…
 Jill Haak Adels, The Wisdom of the Saints: An Anthology. Oxford University Press: New York. 1987.