From Isaac of Stella

"So, brother, make for yourself a hidden place within yourself, in which you can flee away from yourself and pray in secret to the Father." Isaac of Stella

Passing From Self to God: A Cistercian Retreat, Robert Thomas, OCSO Cistercian Press, 2006, p. 4

Friday, March 18, 2011

You, not Me

Many years ago God revealed to me the mystery of his love.  I was a college student and had converted to Christianity and Catholicism as a freshman.  Shortly after this I was greatly oppressed by a feeling that something wasn't right, that there was something important I needed to do.  I did not know what this thing was.  As a young unmarried Catholic man I naturally thought it might represent a call to the priesthood or religious life.  I was very attracted to a contemplative life, to spending my time on earth in the rhythms of prayer and in the gaining of intimacy with God.  But praying the liturgy of the hours and other pious exercises did not remove the feeling, at least not for long.  Finally in my junior year I decided I must figure this out before continuing along with my secular education.  I left university and travelled to Rome and began studies at the Angelicum.  There, with the help of a wonderful Dominican Friar I learned to quiet myself and wait on God to speak.  And He did.  All at once, while meditating in the presence of Christ in the tabernacle God showed me in a flash the totality of his love for me.  He showed me that I had been willing to give him my time, my money, my career, as long as He would agree to leave ME alone.  This He would not do- He would have all, and the resulting conflict was the source of my unhappiness.
I wish this story had a quick, happy ending, but immediately after this sudden infusion of knowledge the feeling that had been goading me left and has never returned, and I quickly returned to my secular pursuits and have wandered far and wide, sampling the sins and pleasures that the world can so "richly" provide.  Indeed Dante's dark forest has seen my furtive figure more than once.  As Solon said, "I call no man happy until he is dead."
As I read "Passing From Self to God" I am given new insight into the meaning of this experience of God's love, now 25 years in the past.  Unless I give up myself and look to God, I will not know the peace and union He intends for me.  Surely He has given this hunger in my heart for Him for a reason.

Oh God, do not abandon me but overlook my coldness and my egoistic sins
You are the fount of all good, all beauty, and all that is real and lasting
Pitiful are those who remain apart from you
But glorious and fulfilled are those who forget themselves in you
May your ineffable majesty always occupy all my thoughts and desires,
And may I dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

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