Tag Archives: Union with God

That It May Please You, Lord

St Gertrude the Great was born on this day, 6th January, the Feast of the Epiphany.

The following prayer was made by St Gertrude when she noticed that, relying on her own strength, she was inclined to waste the graces of God, particularly the grace of God’s presence with which The Lord had favoured her:

“And that it may please You [Lord] to preserve this precious grace in me, I offer You that excellent prayer which You uttered with such amazing fervour when sweating blood in agony, and which the burning love of Your Divinity and Your pure devotion rendered so efficacious; beseeching You, by virtue of this most perfect prayer, to draw and unite me entirely to Yourself, that I may remain inseparably attached to You.”

Why Did Jesus Die?

The Last Supper and the Sacred Passion of Christ.

For centuries theologians and scholars have debated questions like, “Why did Jesus die?” and “How does Christ’s sacrifice save us?” Does Christ take on our own punishments in order to satisfy the justice of God? Or does Christ die in order to break the power of the devil over humankind? Or is Christ’s Sacred Passion simply the expression of God’s infinite Love that seeks to save that which was lost?

These various theories of the Redemption have been perceived as competing explanations of the Redemption. I would like to suggest, however, that they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Perhaps we can find an overarching theory that would incorporate the results of each of the other theories, and offer us a more comprehensive understanding of the Redemption.

One such overarching theory has been inspired by the idea of the underlying unity of the Last Supper and the Sacred Passion of Christ. Let’s call it the Theory of Unity. St Faustina, for one, seems to have had some insight into this aspect of the Redemption. I will consider her account of this and what might be the implications of a Theory of Unity.

Saint Faustina Kowalska, who started writing her Diary in the 1930s after the Lord Jesus had initiated her into the depths of His Divine Mercy, gives us an interesting perspective on this question. She wrote that Jesus’ Sacred Passion is the “external ceremony” of what He had already given in the Eucharist: His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. It is worth quoting this passage in full:

“+Holy Hour. –Thursday. During this hour of prayer, Jesus allowed me to enter the Cenacle, and I was a witness to what happened there. However, I was most deeply moved when, before the Consecration, Jesus raised His eyes to heaven and entered into a mysterious conversation with His Father. It is only in eternity that we shall really understand that moment. His eyes were like two flames; His face was radiant, white as snow; His whole personage full of majesty, His soul full of longing. At the moment of Consecration, love rested satiated–the sacrifice fully consummated. Now only the external ceremony of death will be carried out–external destruction; the essence [of it] is in the Cenacle. Never in my whole life had I understood this mystery so profoundly as during that hour of adoration. Oh, how ardently I desire that the whole world would come to know this unfathomable mystery!” (Diary 684)

At the Last Supper Jesus, as God-made-Man, communes with His Father and invites His disciples to enter into the same communion. Jesus offers Himself to the Father, enters into mysterious communion with His Father, and then offers this same Holy Communion of Himself to the disciples in the Blessed Eucharist. This is the essence of our Redemption which Jesus accomplishes: giving Himself in Holy Communion, completely offering Himself as Nourishment, the Bread of Life (see John 6:35). The sacrifice is “fully consummated”.

This is the essence of our Redemption: to enter into Christ’s perfect communion with the Father. In His offering Jesus both satisfies God’s Justice and dispenses God’s Mercy, enabling the forgiveness of sins and the gift of Eternal Life. Remember Jesus’ prayer to the Father after the Last Supper: “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:22,23)

He then freely endures the Sacred Passion, the “external ceremony” of what He had already accomplished at the Last Supper, so that souls may begin to understand, may consciously respond to His offering, and may begin to participate in His Love. Compare with Jesus’ penultimate words on the Cross: “It is accomplished.” (John 19:30). And then: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) wrote that Christ’s Cross and Resurrection is a “gratuitous show of love to reorient sinners back to God” (Introduction to Christianity).

The Last Supper and the Sacred Passion are one. The first is the essential gift of His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity (the Blessed Eucharist), the second is the “external ceremony of death” (the Sacred Passion); one is communicated in the Sacrament and in secret, the other is communicated openly in actions that even the hardest heart can understand; in the first Jesus communicates Himself to those who are able to receive Him in faith, in the second Jesus communicates Himself to those who do not yet know the depths of His love, so that all together may come to know God’s Love and Mercy.

We might conclude, therefore, that Jesus died in order to demonstrate and communicate visibly that which He had already offered in Holy Communion, and that by doing so–in His Sacred Passion–He clearly and definitively communicates the infinite depths of God’s tender Love and Mercy, which in essence is our Redemption. Our Redemption is constituted essentially by Jesus’ offering to the Father, the communication of His perfect communion with the Father, and its visible manifestation in His Sacred Passion.

The various theories of the Redemption mentioned above can perhaps be integrated as one–under such a Theory of Unity. In this essay, I wanted only to present a Theory of Unity, based on the work of Saint Faustina, and suggest that this may be a foundation for reconciling the various theories of the Redemption.

Lord Jesus, in virtue of Your Sacred Passion, grant me to know all the depths of Your Love and Mercy, and to confide my whole being to You, with all my cares and concerns and intentions. Amen.

Leba Sleiman © 2015

The Spirit Of Prayer

Someone asked me a question one day about prayer which went something like this:

“Is it a bad thing if I incorporate prayer into my daily duties? To give you an example, if I’m doing push ups or walking the dog or doing the dishes, is it okay to pray during these activities? I pray a lot while walking, especially if it’s beautiful and sunny. Sometimes I feel bad, however, as though I’m not fully focussed on just praying.”

There is nothing wrong with incorporating prayer into your daily duties. However, you ought to know that in private prayer there are three different forms: vocal prayer, mental prayer, and contemplative prayer.

Vocal prayer is using your voice to pray: either existing prayers composed by others or just praying with words which come straight from your own heart. When this prayer proceeds with faith it is especially powerful.

Mental prayer includes meditation or reflection on the scriptures, on spiritual writings, or on your own personal relationship with God. It may also include prayer using the imagination to put yourself inside certain scenes or events from the Bible, especially in the life of Jesus, such as in the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola.

One form of the prayer of contemplation happens when you cease to exercise your own powers in prayer, when God takes over and prays in your own soul, so to speak. In a certain way, it is no longer your own power which prays, but it is God’s power which works within you (compare with St Paul’s letter to the Romans, Chapter 8, verses 14-28).

Contemplation literally means “to see with the mind’s eye”. You can also think of it as God revealing Himself to your soul or in your heart. Remember Jesus Christ’s words: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

There are many ways and methods that God uses to pray within you, and likewise the ways in which you experience this are many and varied. St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross have written extensively on this subject. It is sometimes called mystical prayer, or the prayer of union, or silent prayer, or the prayer of recollection.

There are various stages in the life of prayer which these saints describe in their works, such as, “The Interior Castle” (St Teresa of Avila), and in the collected works of St John of the Cross.

One of the manifestations of this kind of prayer is that sometimes you feel that all the movements within your soul come to rest, and you experience a kind of peace that “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), or you may experience new light in your understanding, or you may feel an overwhelming presence of God.

There is no limit to the number of ways in which God can work in the soul. And God, who in His mercy called us into existence from nothing, operates in our lives freely, spontaneously, and lovingly, without violating our own freedom, to lift us up to His knowledge, beatitude, and happiness. In a sense, this is the highest truth and all other truths depend on this truth: that before any creature was made God freely intended to create us out of nothing in order to share with us His Goodness, Happiness and Glory.

You cannot bring about this prayer of contemplation. Only God can make it happen. However, you can dispose yourself for this kind of prayer by practicing the first two kinds of prayer: vocal and mental prayer. In short, you can desire this prayer, you can pray for this experience, and you can dispose yourself for this prayer of contemplation, but even then God is not obliged to grant this experience.

The good news is, however, that God loves to grant us this experience. He does so inasmuch as we seek Him, obey Him, and love Him, for He does not want to force our free will. God grants this experience freely, because He loves us, not because we deserve it. Remember Jesus’ words, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8).

Finally, I should also mention that a life of prayer leads the soul ever closer to God, to union with God. In fact, prayer and union with God go hand-in-hand. The ultimate purpose of prayer is to unite us with God. God always wants to grant us more than we can desire at any given moment. So we should not limit our vision, but lift our eyes to God’s vision. And the ultimate purpose of God, in His infinite Mercy, is to grant us eternal happiness, Divine Life beyond our greatest dreams.

Again it is St Augustine who sums up these things so well:

“But again one might ask whether we are to pray by words or deeds and what need there is for prayer, if God already knows what is needful for us. But it is because the act of prayer clarifies and purges our heart and makes it more capable of receiving the divine gifts that are poured out for us in the spirit. God does not give heed to the ambitiousness of our prayers, because he is always ready to give to us his light, not a visible light but an intellectual and spiritual one: but we are not always ready to receive it when we turn aside and down to other things out of a desire for temporal things.

“For in prayer there occurs a turning of the heart to he who is always ready to give if we will but take what he gives: and in that turning is the purification of the inner eye when the things we crave in the temporal world are shut out; so that the vision of the pure heart can bear the pure light that shines divinely without setting or wavering: and not only bear it, but abide in it; not only without difficulty, but even with unspeakable joy, with which the blessed life is truly and genuinely brought to fulfilment.”

From St Augustine’s  “On the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount”.