From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914, pp. 231-244
A Journey Godward
of a Servant of Jesus Christ
"Gold, frankincense, and myrrh"
WE have here the three great principles of the spiritual life and its union with God. Gold stands for love, frankincense for prayer, myrrh for mortification.
It was from Father Baker's "Sancta Sophia" that I learned that the saintly life could be resolved into two activities mortification and prayer. Father Baker held, in contrast with the Jesuit system, to the traditions of the older Fathers and the Benedictine rule. He has long been noted for his wisdom and spiritual attainment.
"Whose secret life and published writings prove
To pray is not to talk or think, but love."
Mortifications are of two classes the imposed and the voluntary. It is the part of a Christian to suffer with resignation all that God's Providence sends, whether such external things as sickness, bereavements, worldly losses, injuries, or internal ones, as inward distress of mind, dryness of the soul, withdrawals of comforts, periods of darkness, desolations of spirit. Concerning external mortifications, the soul must first resign itself to them, knowing that all that God wills is for the best. It must then advance from the degree of submission to conformity with God's will. It wills what He wills because He wills it. It says in union with its Lord, not only "Thy will be done," but "Not my will, but Thine."
We voluntarily mortify our bodies by ruling our appetites. All that God has made is good and is to be used. Sin is unregulated desire and the misuse of creatures. While we may use all things given for the glory of God, we may deny ourselves in some, and so make our offering to Him. But our voluntary mortifications, however, are only profitable and meritorious when done in charity. The erroneous Indian philosophy, which regards matter as evil, practises asceticism to free the soul from it. The Christian practices self-denial in order to be more conformed to his Lord and be united by love to Him. The true-hearted bride desires to share in the life of her spouse and esteems it a privilege to share His hardships with Him.
There are various ways by which we may discipline ourselves by abstraction, solitude, silence, and by preserving tranquillity of mind. We may abstain, for instance, from engaging in works not pertaining to us; or from doing what belongs to us to do, with affections centred on them and not directed to God. In considering what we should do in any matter, we are to ask ourselves not whether it is a good thing in itself, but whether we are called on to do it. Many persons, neglecting this, busy themselves with their own plans, and not with those designed for them.
Again, we may practise retirement from the world by not letting ourselves be immersed in it. Our duties to society should be subordinate to our duties to Christ and His Church. The Christian soul must not be like a gay butterfly flitting from one flower to another in search of worldly pleasure, but like a soldier, girded and armed against the enticement of a worldly life. We may practise silence by keeping ourselves from gossiping and detracting conversation; from murmurings against God's dealings with us and vain disputes with our fellows. We may mortify our wills by acts of resignation to God's providences and dealings with us. We may mortify our hearts by detaching them from any earthly idol, and making God our Supreme Love. We may mortify our tempers and tongues by sharply schooling the latter and praying for our enemies. We may offer up all our bodily or spiritual pains to Christ crucified, and rejoice in sufferings with Him. It is the law of the new Creation.
What gravitation is to the material universe, prayer is to the spiritual one. By that we mean that it is a fundamental law. God wills to be moved by prayer, and God governs the world. Prayer also keeps man in communion with God, and God is the life of the soul. Our spiritual life depends upon it, as the body does upon the air. It is a perpetual source of light and warmth and growth and joy. It is the most divine action that a rational soul is capable of. By it we are united to God, in increasing degrees of union, and by it all grace and good are obtained. The Christian soul, aided by the Spirit, prays to God in Christ, and God, according to Christ's promise, hears and answers our prayers. He will answer them to our own spiritual advancement, as He said: "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you." He will answer our prayers for temporal blessings for ourselves or others, according as He sees the answers will be beneficial to them or to us.
I have sometimes been asked: "How shall we obtain answers to our prayers?" God has, it is my experience, been perpetually answering them. If I want anything, temporal or spiritual, I go to the Father, as His child, being sure that if it is for my own or another's good He will give it to me. I often say to myself: "I have an awfully rich Father, for He owns the whole universe; but I don't want anything except He gives it me; for my joy is not in the gift, but in my dear Father as the Giver." So I am always happy and contented and in want of nothing.
First, I would say to anyone: Before you pray, try to think what is the will of God. Will this, for which I pray, forward His interests? Desire nothing but what He wills. Be perfectly content that He should refuse your request if it is not His will. I have known persons to pray for the life of some relative or friend, and be sorry afterwards, when the person turned out badly, that they had done so.
If one is praying for some spiritual good to be done oneself, either by the removal of some temptation or the acquisition of some virtue, remember that God is less likely to take away the temptation than to give strength to bear it; for we become holier, not by the absence of temptation, but by victory over it.
Again, we find that God answers our prayers for virtues by allowing a trial. The soul prays for faith. Now faith is not poured into us like a liquid into a vessel. Faith is the victory over doubt. So if we pray for more faith, the advanced soul is more likely to have doubt. So if we pray for the overcoming of our temper, God answers by allowing trials of temper to come. God may deal differently with the young novice in religion. He, in His tender care, takes the lamb up into His bosom. But He strengthens the advancing soul by spiritual discipline.
Again, He gives answers slowly. He does so to strengthen us in our perseverance. He does so because He would train us in prayer. He does so because He would have us more gratefully prize the gift when it comes. He does so because He loves to hold communion with us and reveal to us the secret of His divine heart. Show me Thy face, said Moses, and he saw it on the Mount of the Transfiguration. The prayer of Zacharias was heard and answered, when it had become seemingly a physical impossibility.
At times every devout person desires to know God's will in his regard. Some question of duty has presented itself. He is called on to make a choice between two lines of action. He is to take up a certain work, and leave a certain position. He wishes to know God's will. How shall he do it? He betakes himself to prayer, and prays over the matter before God. Possibly he argues the matter, stating the pros and cons in his prayer. But in this way he is more likely to get at his own will than at the will of God. Let him, in prayer, seek to get into a state of absolute indifference as to what God may decide for him. When this has really been done, let him wait, and by some providential act, or the realization of some strong argument on one side, he may conclude this is God's voice. But if, as it may occur, no sign is given, then whichever way he acts will be in conformity with the will of God.
In respect to interior inspirations, those of the human spirit, or even of Satan, are often mistaken for God's leadings. No inward inspiration can be trusted which is not in conformity with the teaching of the Church, and any such should be most carefully scrutinized as probably doubtful, if it is against lawful obedience.
To keep in the spirit of prayer during the day, one should practise ejaculatory prayer. It is a simple exercise on waking, to make the sign of the Cross and to utter the Holy Name. Thus the first act of the day and the first words we speak will be directed to God.
It is very blessed to unite with the other members of the mystical body in prayer and praise. Many persons complain that they suffer from wandering thoughts. It is not the greatest of sins, but it is a spiritually expensive one. One remedy is to try, in public worship, to realize God's presence. To the degree in which you can keep Him before you, your prayer will be profitable. Some are helped by realizing the presence of our Lord. You have come into the Presence Chamber of the Great King. With the eye of the soul look to Him, and to Him address your prayer. Make a practice of this, and for a time do not think of the words. The words may be said mechanically. But if the soul in its devotion is fixed on the object to whom its prayers are addressed, we should pray effectively. It would be prayer, even if we said no words at all. Just the sense of God's presence will fill the soul with a special peace.
In saying the Psalter, remember it was our Lord's own Prayer Book. It was written purposely for Him, and for its highest use, for His recitation of it. There are many things in it you may not comprehend, but we may say them, in union with our Lord, just as a little child says its prayers after its mother. In saying the Psalter in the choir, where it is said antiphonally, it makes it more devotional to insert after the colon in each verse some word of adoration or love. Take such words as "Blessed God" or "Dearest Lord," thus: "Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies, Holy God." "Make me to go in the path of Thy commandments, dearest Lord." "Let Thy loving mercy come also unto me, O Lord Jesus."
Saying the Psalm in this way makes it more devotional. It helps to deliver us from a mechanical recitation and the formalism of a routine service.
There are persons who get puzzled by the rules given for meditation, and say they cannot meditate. Let them begin by what I have called "Praying on a subject," then they will find it easy. Let them kneel down and read over some small portion of Scripture and think: "That is God's word to me." Let them intersperse their own prayers with the reading.
Take, for instance, the Ten Commandments, or the Beatitudes, or the Twelve Fruits of the Spirit, or some parable; or let them take their own life and think how God has blessed them, protected them. Let them think over the many, many causes of thanksgiving and say in prayer: "I thank Thee, O Lord, for each and every one of them." Let them take the great mysteries of the Faith, the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Gift of the Spirit, the Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist. Let them bow down before God and repeat over and over again: "I adore Thee, I love Thee." Or say such praise as this: "O sweet Lord Jesus Christ, full of grace, I thank Thee for these mercies. Blessed is Thy most holy life, Thy Passion and Thy Death, and blessed is the Blood Thou sheddest for us," adding the separate blood shedding.
Of meditation there are two kinds or methods: the modern one, which has its prelude or picture, then the discourse upon the subject taken by the understanding, which consists in asking such questions as Who? What? Where? With what means? Why? How? Then follows an application to oneself: What practical lesson am I to draw from it? What motives to persuade me to follow that practice? How am I to act in the future? And then the will and affections, turning to God, hold a colloquy with Him.
The older method, which has the traditions of the desert and of the holy order of St. Benedict, is more simple, if less logical, in arrangement. The soul places itself in God's presence with acts of adoration, thanksgiving, love, joy, resignation, contentment. Different temperaments are drawn to adopt one or other of these methods, both of which are good.
But a time comes that devout souls, when practising the former method, leave it and advance to the degree of affective prayer. The soul no longer discourses so much with its understanding about the mysteries of religion, but by acts of the will and heart grows in further union with our Lord. These acts are first enforced by the will, but subsequently are voluntary and spontaneous as the outcome of God's indwelling in the soul. "My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the Living God." All things become to it a matter of prayer. It loves God, it rejoices in God, it cannot cease to praise Him. All things that come, whether sorrows or trials, are only food for the elevation of the soul in union with the Divine Life. Not I that live, but Christ lives in me.
And so the soul passes on to the state of contemplation. It becomes less active; it becomes more and more passive. It no longer labors and struggles. It is no longer engaged in such active warfare. Its natural powers become more quiescent. It has gone out of self and is resting in God. It does not work so much as God works within it. It is full of a diviner peace than that which came at the time of its conversion. God is its All in All. Its persistent maxim is "God only." It has been vouchsafed so ghostly a sight of the Passion that the old nature has been mortified and God lives within the soul. Oh, the sweetness, the blessedness of a state which is a foretaste of heaven!
There is granted also to some favored souls, whose humility is such that God can trust them with His gifts, a degree of prayer or communion with God called the "prayer of quiet." St. Theresa was its great apostle and teacher. I have known souls myself so held in the embrace of God that their natural faculties were held in a passive state of stillness, and without words uttered, they communed with God and God with them. One law of this prayer they learned to obey not to seek it, but to let God give it; not to cling to the state of vision, which is known to be of God, because it does its work.
The Gospel of Christ is the Gospel of love. It reveals to us that God is love, and His love to us. As love itself, it binds in oneness the Ever-Blessed Trinity in an eternal jubilation of joyous existence. God, in the Eternal and Ever Being Begotten Son and the Eternal Procession of the Holy Spirit, has the all-satisfying fruition of His own love.
His love overflows in the mystery of creation. It reflects His nature and attributes. It advances to its perfection in the Incarnation. Therein God joins it to Himself by the union of the Divine and Human Nature of Christ in the Person of the Eternal Word.
Love flows from its Incarnate Source in the Person of the Holy Spirit, Who fills the Church and transforms it into a likeness of Christ. It makes the Church, thus sanctified, the Bride of God. The Church in its completed fulness has been seen from all eternity, and been predestinated in its means of justification, and the completeness of its numbers, and the elevation of its sanctified life.
God is Light, and the Light is Life, and that Life is Love. Our life is as nothing worth unless transfigured by the active presence of the loving God in us. His love is a redeeming and justifying and sanctifying love. His love is a purifying, illuminating, transfiguring love. His love is a divine love, a penetrating, triumphant love. It is a love beyond our measuring; permanent, inexhaustible, because it is the very love which is God Himself. It surrounds us by its providence. It pleads with us by His Spirit, invites us by its compassion, embraces us in its mercy, re-creates us by its grace, makes us partakes of the divine nature, fills us with the spirit of adopted sons, perfects us in the fulness of God, by His indwelling. It leads us on to the eternal reign of God Incarnate. We are to follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.
Our love for God, as the product of His grace, is a living principle of action in us. Nature, with its powers and imperfections, remains, to be used and to be ruled. For a Christian the dominant motive of action in us is the love of God. By the constant assertion of it, it strengthens into a habit. Habit, when formed, becomes kingly and rules the soul. It must rule even if it has to take the sword of discipline and mortification for a sceptre. This applies not only to the body, but to the mind and heart. It arms itself with the holy resolve to do all things for the love of God, that it may be less unworthy of His love. It never ceases to sweep the house diligently by self-examination, and to search for the lost drachma. As fire burns away the mould on the metal, so our imperfections are destroyed by perfect love. As the love of God grows in us, it grows, like the love in God, out of itself. It has tasted of the divine fruit and knows its sweetness. Experience has revealed "how gracious the Lord is." It lives in another than a mere material world. To it there is no joy like the peace of God "which passeth understanding." Filled with love it desires to work for others. It hears the cry of humanity lying in darkness. It feels the weakness of the Church, wounded and stricken by divisions. It may be able to do a little, but it must not wrap its talent in a napkin and bury it. If we cannot go forth as priests or sisters, yet in every parish and in every department of society there is work to be done. The principle of the Incarnation, which God brought down from heaven to save us, must be our example. The soul on the rock, saved from the angry, raging waves, must not be content with its own safety, but must stretch down its hand to some fellow-creature still struggling in the waves for life. Why hold back the sacrifice of the things of this earth, when looking down from heaven is seen the face of the Blessed Lord? Why let our human fears conquer us, when it is the omnipotent word of the Master that bids us "Come"?
We are living in days when the last great battle between Christ and his foes is on. Let us not be like the children of Ephraim, who, being harnessed and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle. There is no cause for which a man can live so worthy of efforts as the cause of Christ. Nothing is so worth knowing as the will of God in our regard; nothing so worth doing as obedience to His will. Let us be up and doing most happy if we can lay down our lives for Christ's dear sake.
As love becomes the ruling principle within us, it fills our whole nature. The soul, being emptied of self-love, attains to a heavenly calm and assured peace. As we become one with God, God puts Himself at our disposal, for our wills are His. Secured in the love of God, the soul passes safely through the purifying desolation which may beset it. Even here God fills it with the sweetness and light of joy and transformation, and becomes the life of its life and the soul of its soul.
O Lord, in Thy tender mercy give me an emptied heart, a heart emptied of all worldly desire, ambition, and all self-seeking and self-love.
Give me a detached heart, made free, even by Thy discipline, from all inordinate affections. May it be set on Thee as the supreme Lover and Governor of my soul.
Give me, O Blessed Lord, a humble and lowly heart like unto Thine own. Hide me, Dearest, in Thine own hiddenness and fill me with Thy peace. Give me, O Jesus, my King, my God, a resigned heart. May Thy will be done in me and by me, and may I have my joy in that Thou hast Thy will. Give me, O Lord, ever present in Thy Church and people, a recollected heart. May I guard Thine indwelling as a sacred trust. Give me the chivalry and the loyalty of a true knight of Thine. Clothe me with the heavenly armor. And grant me perseverance unto the end!
Transcribed by David Donnell, A.D. 2001
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