There is a line in William Blake that says, “We were placed on earth for a little space that we may bear the ‘beams of love’.” As human beings we are irradiated and nourished by love. We long for the exposure to the ‘beams of love’ yet we fear what they might demand of us when we come within their transforming power.
Deep within the heart of each of us is a yearning and a need for the God of Love. Carl Jung believed that the human soul has an inborn longing for God that is urgent and powerful and must be satisfied if we are to be psychologically healthy.
St Augustine expressed this very well when he wrote, “You have made us for yourself O God and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” So, this longing for the ‘beams of love’ continually surface within us. The deepest prayer at its core is a perpetual surrender to the God of love. Teilhard de Chardin rethought the mystery of Creation in terms of human progress and of the unification of human society through love.
God is existence itself and He makes all things exist. Every creature and every created thing is a ‘flaming up’ of God. This is a Christian world view - a continuous ongoing process which is perceived by us as the forward movement of everything in time. Through this ‘flaming up’ of God we co-create with Him through love which comes from within us and co-operates with His plan.
It is impossible to love God without loving others too, as self-seeking ends in the reduction of self. When we pray, we make room in our hearts for God and for others. God’s Word is the truth and love of God communicated into our human condition. So, the Word of God must be engraved in our hearts which involves meditating and ruminating on it and as the Psalmist says, “murmuring it day and night.”
The ancient Fathers unceasingly advised young monks to return to their hearts because it was there that they would encounter God. The creative contact with God takes place deep within one’s own being. It is there that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf. We must therefore allow the call from within to awaken the many calls from without.
The Spirit breathes where It wills and invigorates and encourages us to respond to the needs of others. Prayer is a personal stance towards life rather than an activity. The place where God dwells in us is also the place of prayer. This prayer is our heart’s treasure. St Benedict in his Rule insists on the importance of a humble listening attitude.
He wrote “Listen carefully to the Master’s instructions and attend to them with the ear of your heart. Welcome it and put it into practice.”
John Main OSB asserts the conviction that prayer is not essentially about talking to God but of being with God. The essence of Christian prayer is the experience of coming into full union with the Energy that created the universe. That energy is Love and it is the wellspring that gives each one of us the creative power to be the person we are called to be, rooted and grounded in love.
Teilhard de Chardin said, “The day will come when after we have mastered the winds, the tides, the waves and gravity we will harness for God the energies of Love.” Perhaps old Jack Barry was right after all. Every day he struggled up the steps of the church and spent some time there. One day he was asked, “What do you do in there?” “Nothing,” said Jack. “Yerra, sure, I sits and looks at Him and He looks at me.” St Teresa did say, “Pray as you can and not as you can't.”
Sr Abbie O’Sullivan is a Columban Sister who has worked in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Bosnia and Ireland as a teacher and a school counsellor. She is now Congregational Archivist for the Columban Sisters in Magheramore Ireland and Assistant Editor of the Irish Far East.