LET us contemplate God Who is Love.
Let us contemplate Eternal Love before the Incarnation--His patience, His long endurance with the sins of men--His continual effort to touch the hearts of men.
Contemplate His joy in the Holy Prophets who responded to Him in their measure.
Contemplate all those in whom He was unable to waken a response until in Mary He found a home.
Let us adore the Eternal Love Who refused to be driven away--Who refused to give up His trust in man whom He had created.
Contemplate Eternal Love manifest in Jesus--His patience with His disciples--His endurance with their unbelief and sin--His refusal to let them go. Think of His patience with S. Peter--denied by S. Peter; S. Peter, as it were, dead to the Divine Presence of Eternal Love, and [130/131] Eternal Love refusing to be driven away. "The Lord turned and looked upon Peter." "The Lord hath appeared unto Simon--Simon Peter, lovest thou Me?"
Contemplate the patience of Eternal Love with doubting Thomas, refusing to be driven away by unbelieving Thomas.
Let us contemplate the victory of Eternal Love, Eternal Love triumphant, enthroned in the Sacred Manhood of Jesus, triumphant in the heart of His Mother Mary, triumphant in the hearts of the Saints.
O my God, I believe in Thee, Eternal Love. I confess before Thee mine unbelief. Father, I have doubted Thy Fatherhood and resisted Thy Love. I desire to love Thee. I desire to love Thee truly. I desire to love Thee only. I desire to love Thee above all other objects worthy of love.
O Love, I give myself to Thee,
Thine ever, only Thine to be.
GOD WHO IS LOVE
God is Love. Our faith begins with a mystery. We are thrown back upon the mystery of the Eternal Life of God Himself. For when we say that God is Love, that God's Love is personal, we are trying to explain that true love, Eternal Love, the fountain and parent of all love, is from its essential nature a social Love, a corporate Love. To put it into words isn't possible; language does not exist in which to explain it. We can only reach out and touch it as we come near to God Himself. The best thought, the best effort of theologians, can get no further than this; that the Lover, the fountain of love, and the object of love, the Beloved One, and the very activity of Love, is all one--the Eternal Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In our human minds we are bound to make human distinctions; we think of the Eternal Father Who by His very Essence is the source of all Life, the source of the Godhead, as the Eternal Lover, always giving Himself out. And [132/133] there is the Eternal Son, the very object of His Love, because He is one with Himself, equal with Himself, the Beloved One. And the activity of Love in which the Lover and the Beloved One are unified is the Person we call the Holy Spirit. We can't find any human analogy for it; but we can guess a little, for we know human love that becomes one. We know a little of what we mean--the Beloved and a Lover becoming one. But whether we understand it or not, we fall back upon that revelation of Divine Love which God has given us. Love is personal--not a sentiment, not an emotion, but a living Person. When I speak of the Love of God I mean God Himself. And the external action of Eternal Love all down the ages has been through the Eternal Spirit. That is why S. Paul blesses the Corinthians in these words: "The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost be with you all." Because it is the Eternal Spirit Who is the very personal activity of Love; it is the Spirit Who revealed Love in Creation; it is the Spirit Who makes all those objects of Divine Love which we have round about [133/134] us; it is the Spirit Who created for Eternal Love these hearts of ours. We can't understand God's Love unless we make an act of pure Faith. We take it as a Truth. Love is a Living Person--that first.
Then, secondly, this. Eternal Love, however difficult and mysterious the statement may be, is perfectly simple and intelligible to us in the Heart of Jesus. All the riddles of theology become simple when we are alone with Jesus--for our Lord Jesus is Eternal Love, Eternal God Himself. Only He has clothed Himself in Manhood, so that in the new relationship that He has set up between Himself and us at the Incarnation, we should not be puzzled or perplexed. For in this new relationship He is to us always a human Heart, human Love, human Love that veils the Divine Love; human Love, true and faithful, human Love made one with the Divine Love in the Person of Jesus. He has translated Divine Love into language that you and I can understand. Jesus Who went about doing good, Jesus the great Friend, Jesus the pitiful Teacher, Jesus the loyal Friend, the Shepherd Who [134/135] laid down His Life for His sheep, Jesus, Living Personal Love, is the translation of Eternal Love. He gives you Himself through His Body and Blood; He dwells in you--not as sentiment, not as an emotion, but substantially. He is Love; Eternal Love made plain, intelligible, to you and to me. We may contemplate Him, Jesus of the Sacred Heart; we may look up and look in, we may search into the secrets of the Sacred Heart. The Holy Spirit comes forth by way of this Sacred Heart, that He may move out to you and to me; the Holy Spirit explains Love to us through the Heart of Jesus, that we may know, however dimly, Divine Love Himself. For Jesus has received Divine Love into His Human Heart, in the very fullest measure in which Humanity can ever receive Infinite and Eternal Love. On the other hand, as I gaze into the Heart of Jesus, it becomes clear to me that there is gathered up into the Heart of Jesus every real and true human love. And in this again the Spirit has His activity; for gazing into the Heart of Jesus I can see that all the human love wherewith He loved His Father upon [135/136] earth, all the human love with which He served men upon earth, is still gathered up in His Heart, and offered continually before the Father, by His very Presence before the Throne. It is the same Jesus, the Lover, the Shepherd, the Friend: the same Jesus, the Jesus of those nights of prayer and contemplation, the same Jesus, the same Lover living in glory for ever and ever. And I see added to that love all the love that the Spirit of Jesus has ever been able to create in the hearts of the children of Jesus: the love of the heart of Mary, the great love of S. Paul, S. John, S. Peter, all gathered into the Heart of Jesus--the Crown of our Race and our High Priest. There is not one human heart in the universe that has ever given out one sign of love in response to the Spirit that is not included in that Sacred Heart of Jesus before the Throne to-day.
Love is just that. Love is God: Love is the Spirit of God: and Love is every Christian who has come into the Heart of Jesus through Baptism and has learnt to live in the power of the Spirit in however feeble a way. Thus are Love Divine and human Love unified in the Heart of [136/137] Jesus, Eternal Love, Son of God. God is Love.
And we pass on to another point, which is yet not another. We must emphasize this in our meditation that if God is Love, Love is God. Once and for all let us wipe out of our minds any conception of Love as being a sentiment or emotion, or of a feeling of happiness or sweetness. Happiness, sweetness, beautiful emotion and loving sentiment are the results of Love, and are sometimes present after Love has made its appearance; but they are in no way Love. It is because we don't always understand that or, shall we say, won't remember it, that we get ourselves into quite wrong attitudes towards God. Food makes me ready to do my work, gives me a feeling of strength, gives me a comfortable feeling--but that is not my food, is it? It is only the result of partaking of food. Food is a definite thing which may or may not be accompanied by those happy feelings. And I do beg of you as you contemplate the great mystery of Love, once and for all resolve not to be misled by any false view of Love. Love is a person.
 And now, pursuing that line of thought, remember this: we believe that God is Love and that He indwells all His creatures. The philosophers tell us that God is immanent in nature. S. Paul puts it in this way: "In Him we live and move and have our being." Every conceivable creature, however small, continues to exist on earth because it receives all that it is, and whatever it has, from God, and is set over against God as you might put a flower over against the sun. It is only when you come to deal with creatures that are possessed of free-will and self-consciousness that you understand how this life in the Presence of God extends to something of which you can only say that God indwells His creatures. Then you go a step further, keeping your mind fixed upon the Sacred Heart as the very centre of the redeemed universe. We are really.and truly members of His Sacred Heart; bone of His Bone, flesh of His Flesh. We have to consider men and women whose life's blood is no longer merely the blood that their parents gave them, but whose life's blood is the Life-Blood of Jesus, that He took from Mary [138/139] His Mother. She is our Mother; we receive spiritual life through her Son; and in these people there is an indwelling of God that is beyond all comparison with His dwelling in His other creatures. There is an indwelling which is ineffable. It is no good trying to explain it: we can only shut our eyes and quiet our minds and contemplate the mystery.
Our love to God is not a sentiment, not an emotion, but real love to God is owrselj. I am in the Presence of God and God is looking down upon me, and as I appear to God, I am no mere human creature, no mere son of Adam, but a child of Jesus, Son of Mary. And the new life of which Mary is the human Mother is in me, and I belong to a new order of things. I am on a level not merely human; that is to say, the Living Blood that belongs to the Eternal Son is in me. And again, because I am linked up with the Eternal Son, and His Blood pours itself into me, the Holy Spirit of Love is in possession of me, however feebly my will responds to Him. The Holy Spirit is in me, unless I definitely bid Him depart. The Holy Spirit is in me, and I am myself so linked up with [139/140] God, that when He asks for my lore He asks for nothing less than the whole of myself. I am simply an individual taken by God up into the great movement by the Holy Spirit, through the Heart' of Jesus, into the Bosom of the Eternal Father. Whether I am conscious of this uplifting or not, I am without a shadow of a doubt lifted up into that movement. When I say I love God, I don't mean that I have beautiful thoughts about God, I don't mean that I have a consciousness of the sweet Presence of God, I don't mean that I have any sense of sweet surrender . to God: these things' may or may not be with me. What I do mean is just this: I myself am not my own, I am in the possession of the Holy Spirit, Who is Love, and I am what I am because Jesus has taken me and made me His own, to bring me to His Father, and has made me a partaker of His life. When I say that I love God, I simply mean that I myself am in the movement that is going back into the Bosom of the Father.
God is in me substantially through my union with Jesus, and however feeble and unworthy I am, however prone to fall into [140/141] sin, I am in Jesus; I am in the movement of the Holy Spirit that is going back to the Bosom of the Father.
In the next place there follows this. There are certain essential principles which govern the life of one who is in this movement of Love. Let us think of them, and you will notice they have nothing to do with sentiment, nor emotion, nor that side of our nature at all.
First, there must be obedience. There must be obedience that is a struggle. Please don't think that the first principle is perfection. "This is a true saying and worthy of all men to be received that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." The beginning of the movement which carries us back to Him Who is Eternal Love finds us sinners. We love God because He first loved us while we were sinners. Christ was content to suffer for us, that in the end He might grant us the perfection to which we were struggling. Each one has a different duty. No two of us are alike. For this movement back into the Heart of God is the movement of the universe, the movement of the whole human race; and each individual [141/142] brings something different from what his neighbour brings. No man can say what is the duty of his neighbour; all that we can say is, that if we would in any sense try to respond to the Holy Spirit and be what the Holy Spirit would like us to be; if we would finally attain to the Bosom of the Father, we must each one of us think out in our heart of hearts what exactly our duty means. Roughly speaking, it ought to mean for each of us a certain sense of discipline; we ought to have an outline by which to rule our lives. I don't think personally that it is much use making a great big rule of life. People who live in the world don't want a very long detailed rule of life; but we ought to have some sort of rule of life that is real, and we ought to make it, not because we have a passion for making rules, but because we want to learn to do our duty.
I know that God Who is Love is within me, and I know that if I am not careful to struggle to do my duty, I shall not give Him the opportunity He needs of making Himself and His Love known to me, of making me see Him, of making His Love triumphant in me. I should make a simple [142/143] rule in order to give God a chance of speaking to me. I must decide not to frivol my time away. I won't give in to slackness about my prayer time; nor give up going to the Sacraments, or to worship. Looking up to Jesus with adoring love, looking up and seeing all His Love, I will say: "O Love, I give myself to Thee, and I will make it possible for Thee to influence me more in my coldness and weakness, and therefore I will keep a certain Rule of Life."
The second principle is this: we must exercise our desire for Love. That is what the spiritual books mean when they write about detachment and about mortification. If we have a desire to know the Love of God, and some day to be conscious of the Love of God, we must take pains to make that desire known to Him, and give Him a real chance of satisfying our desire. It is no good pretending that we desire the Love of God, if we are entirely attached to all kinds of things in no way compatible to God. Unless human love at its highest is a base thing, it is presumably a revelation of God's love for us, and of the desire of the Lover for His [143/144] Beloved. It is an all-consuming desire. It detaches me from everything else in the universe. It is a picture which Scripture itself uses of the relation between the soul and God: "My beloved is mine and I am His." But you will answer: "Oh, but we haven't those feelings"--to which I respond: it is not a matter of feelings--it is a matter of will. You may say to me: I haven't got this love and desire: I don't find that these beautiful forms of speech come naturally to me. I desire God, but I can't look up and say with truth: "My beloved is mine." But He has not asked you to. He asks you only to exercise your desire for Him. I desire to desire Jesus--we all can go as far as that--and because I desire that, some day I may really desire Him. I am going to look out upon my life and criticize it, I am going to see what there is in my life that quite obviously interferes with my union with the Love of God, and I will detach myself from it, I will cut myself off from it. I will so learn to regard the world and the things of the world, that if my use of the world and the things of the world give me a great satisfaction apart from God, if I find myself [144/145] perfectly comfortable and happy without God, then I will begin to mortify myself, and arrange that I shall not be happy and comfortable, or allow myself to be at ease, without God. At least I can do this: I can empty my heart. I cannot conjure up beautiful thoughts, I cannot always have nice feelings, but I can see to it that the heart is empty. "Little children, keep yourselves from idols"--these are practical words of S. John, after his wonderful description of God's Love. This is what we mean by mortification. It doesn't mean aiming at asceticism for the sake of being ascetics, nor living in the world as if you were Religious in the protection of a convent, nor trying to live a very hard life for its own sake. But it does mean that you must keep your hearts from idols, not letting anything get such a power over you that you can be comfortable without God. We must exercise the desire for the desire, not because humanly speaking we like doing it, but because supernaturally we have had a dim vision of the possibility of union with Love Who is God, and we are going with all our power to try to desire it.
 The third principle is Prayer--watch and pray.
Prayer is filial waiting upon our Father. If I say that my prayer is a lifting up of my heart into God, I shall speak the exact truth in the sense I should like to use it, but it is a phrase open to danger. Lifting the heart unto God is exactly what I mean by waiting upon the Father; if we remember that Love is a Person and that my love is my person. A person uplifted to a Person, that is all right, but if the uplifting of the heart is supposed to be something of a sentimental feeling or emotion, then we get wrong in our definitions. Call it a filial waiting upon God our Father: that is the essential thing in prayer, in our relation to God Who is Love. We should be always waiting, always expecting, and if we regard our prayers from this point of view, things become so much more simple. They don't become easy but simple, because we know that all we have to do, the minimum we have to do, is to correspond with this movement of the Holy Spirit going back into the Bosom of the Father. We go to our prayers not pretending we have brought [146/147] anything to the Father; we dare not ask selfishly from Him; but we simply yield ourselves to the movement of the Spirit which is carrying us all back into the Heart of Jesus, into the Bosom of the Father. When I pray, I do not know what I shall be able to do, or say or think, or whether I shall feel sweetness, or whether He will give me light or darkness, and I don't care or ought not to care, because I am a person waiting upon a Person. It is enough that the Eternal Love sees me there, enough for me to know that the Eternal Love knows I am there. I am there just like a little child waiting upon His Father's pleasure. I am there absolutely for God's Glory. I am there giving my will into this movement Godward, quite determined that I shall be found in my place in the Heart of Jesus, waiting, but altogether detached from sweetness and consciousness of God's Presence, unless He wills to give it to me; detached from everything easy and pleasant and happy in the spiritual regions; detached from everything, simply intent on waiting upon God.
And now we see, don't we, why S. Paul [147/148] insisted that it is by grace we are saved? God does everything, just everything, by His grace. It is His Goodness to us: we are recipients. Now you know what our Lord means when He says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." I am a pauper. We are paupers before God, we are there simply to struggle to do His Will, we are there to show Him our desire for Him and we are there to glorify His Name by our presence, bringing nothing to Him. We have no right to ask for anything except that His Holy Will be done.
And will you take this, not as a last point of meditation, but as a warning. There is a very important warning needed when we meditate upon Love as a coming to a Person, and when we meditate on our own love as a movement in the Spirit through the Heart of Jesus back to the Bosom of the Father. It is borne in upon us that the Love which dwells in us and moves back to God does not go direct, but passes to God through the hearts of other people. As there is a unity of Love in the Blessed Trinity, Three in One and One in Three, so here in the very Mystical Body there must be a unity of love, a Society of [148/149] those who love God and who love one another. Take this warning then: it is no good kneeling before God hoping that your love which is yourself will reach Him in the Holy Spirit, if you are conscious that there is anybody at all in the world through whose heart your love for God cannot pass. Maybe there is a barrier between you and that person. That is why we are bidden to pray: "forgive us .... as we forgive them."
Maybe you are failing in the life of brotherhood. That is why we are warned: "Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it not unto me."
My God and my All. O Love, I give myself to Thee: Thine ever, only Thine to be.
LET us contemplate the Glory of God in the face of Moses in his prayer: "And it came to pass when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the Mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come nigh him."
Let us contemplate the Mercy of Almighty God; the gift vouchsafed to Moses, the union between Moses and God of which Moses' face is the evidence.
And Moses was unbaptized, in great imperfection, yet with an earnest will to do God's Will, with a deep trust in God's pity.
Contemplate blessed S. John in his prayer--"I, John, who also am your brother and companion in tribulation, [150/151] and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and heard behind me a great Voice as of a trumpet saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last."
Contemplate again the Mercy of Almighty God in the wonderful comfort vouchsafed to S. John in his sufferings and in his prayer.
Then let us contemplate the true Christian prayer, the prayer of Man in suffering, of Man bearing the penalty of sin: "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani. My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" "Father, into Thy Hands I commend My Spirit."
O my God, I confess before Thee my failure in prayer. I have not trusted Thee, I have not trusted Thy Power. Nor have I come to Thee empty and hungry; but with pride and self-conceit have I come before Thee. I have not trusted Thee to give me all. I have dared to think to offer something to Thee. I have taken all the sweetness of my life and refused the bitter. I bewail before Thee my idleness, [151/152] my irregularity, my weakness of will, the deadness of my desire. O my God,' I pray Thee pardon me. Give me the power of Thy Holy Spirit from to-day that I may begin to live for Thee. Give me confidence in Thee; grant me Thy light in my darkness, and if the Light may not shine in me, grant me Thy protection through the darkness. Hear me, O Father, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
Let us think practically about prayer. For our union with the Love of God, and our hope of the Vision of God in the end, must depend upon our loyalty to God in our prayer. There are certain things about prayer that it is good to be reminded of in Retreat. There is nothing new, but there is a great deal that is old to be said, and I would remind you and myself too of it, point by point, quite simply.
First. What is the basis of prayer? I suppose the best thing to say is, that the basis of prayer is a deliberate choice of God, and the rejection of what is not God. That in the widest sense is the ground of our prayer. You can divide the world up roughly into those who pray and those who don't pray. Apart altogether from our particular views about institutions of Religion, mankind is roughly divided into two: those who pray and those who don't--those who have deliberately chosen God as their highest good, and those who are finding their highest good in their [153/154] fellow-creatures. If we follow out that thought of the basis of prayer, it is strange how it helps us to approach our life of prayer regularly and sincerely. If prayer is the choice of God, then every time I have an opportunity of exercising my choice and proving my choice, it ceases to be a question of whether I am inclined to pray or in the mood for prayer. Prayer essentially is an adequate expression of a choice. Inwardly one hopes to co-operate with the choice, but in a sense it is external. There is a deliberate movement of breaking off from the things of sense and getting oneself into position to pray, parting with created things for a few minutes, setting oneself opposite to God, learning to regard one's prayer times as opportunities of proving to God, and of shewing to all the spiritual powers one's own deliberate choice. That in itself is a help. But beyond that, if one could look upon one's prayer as a deliberate choice of God and a rejection of the world, I think one would be saved from all exaggerated notions about prayer. There is so much danger of associating prayer with feelings, and I don't think one can too often protest [154/155] against that. When I kneel down to pray it is an act of will, primarily, it is not an act of the affections. The affections may follow the will: they may be there, but they may be so dead that they refuse to follow the will. But I make an act of will, a deliberate choice for God, and a Rule of Prayer loyally kept in a time of great deadness of spirit, in weariness of soul, is an offering worth making and has its value. It is in a true sense an offering to Almighty God, and is a deliberate choice of God. That, then, is what is the end of all prayer--a deliberate choice of God. Whether we go and throw ourselves in with the great offering of prayer in the public services of the Church, linking ourselves with those in earth and Heaven who have chosen God, or whether it is in private secret prayer, the value of our prayer in God's sight is, that with our wills, without any encouraging feelings of happiness, joy or anything of the kind, we are choosing Him. "O God, Thou art my God, early will I seek Thee. My soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh also longeth after Thee, in a dry and thirsty land where no water is." There I am choosing God.
 Now isn't there some comfort for us in that? Zacchaeus was in the tree top, unknown as he thought to Jesus. His presence in the tree top was his deliberate choice, and his prayer was heard, not for what he thought, not for what he said, but for the act of his will. Mary, the sinner, in the face of a whole multitude, anointing the feet of Jesus, saying nothing, having nothing in her heart but the conviction of her terrible need, and her confidence in Jesus, Mary is heard because of her deliberate choice. That, then, is the basis of prayer.
Then, secondly, what is the object of prayer? Shall we begin with negations? The object of prayer is not to get what we want necessarily: not that we should be lifted up to that degree of spiritual satisfaction that we have imagined for ourselves: not that we be relieved from the pressure of burdens that are on us. The only true object of prayer is that our will shall be on the side of the Father's Will, come what may. I am not praying as a subject before his King; I am not praying as a pauper before a rich man; I am praying as a son who has glimpses of his Father's [156/157] purpose; and feeble as I am, sinful as I am, desolate as I am, yet really and truly, deep down in me, what I really want is that the Father's Will shall be accomplished. I daren't say it in so many words, because my companions would rise up against me and throw in my teeth the inconsistencies that they know of, my breaches of the Father's Will: yet deep down in my heart, in my will, there, at the back of everything, is a dim desire not only that the Father's Will shall be accomplished, but that I shall be allowed to cooperate with Him. And this is the object of prayer. This is the real truth. We press forward to whatever troubles, burdens, or sorrows may become our lot, to whatever our imagination may tell us of the possibilities of the future. And however much our hearts may be wrung by the sorrows of those round about us, as loyal sons and daughters we trust our Father's Will; we pray in order that the strength of our wills may be on the side of our Father's Will. "And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly, Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from Me, nevertheless not My Will, but Thine be done."
 Then, thirdly, what is the essence of Prayer? The surrender of our will to our Father's. Of course, there are a multitude of ways of praying, but they are all one in this. We set out from our unconverted life filled with a multitude of divers thoughts and emotions, feelings and desires. The effort of prayer is the bringing of our whole life and all its interests and all possible objects under the rule of one lord, and that lord is our own will. My life is to become a unity under the authority of my will, and that done, my will is to be yielded to my Father's Will, so that my life becomes a unity in God. It is in that way the whole universe will become a unity in God, and God shall be all in all. The surrender of my will is the essence of prayer and, because it is the essence, round it all the difficulties of prayer gather. People tell me they cannot pray because they cannot surrender their wills. That is like saying you cannot eat because you are hungry. The essence of prayer is the surrender of your will, and the process of prayer is the effort to surrender your will. It may take you your lifetime to get your will perfectly surrendered, and the last [158/159] prayer you say at the moment of death may be your first perfect surrender, but the prayers you say through your lifetime are leading up to that perfect surrender. The absolutely necessary prayer, without which we can conceive of no salvation, is this: that in the moment that you die and meet Jesus face to face, you offer Him your will. Now, no one wants to go into the Presence of Jesus to make for the first time that surrender of will. It is of His Mercy that it is sufficient: it is not what we desire--we desire to do that here.
Don't lose heart about prayer. Remember that the whole of life is a Sacramental Union; it is the period within which we are to unify all our desires, feelings, passions, everything, under one will, and give them with our will into God's keeping. Well now, we try day after day, hour after hour; we have been trying for years; we will go on trying for years; and we know that our labour is not in vain. It cannot be in vain, because we are dealing with our Father. Would you, with all your feeble, selfish human love, be hard upon a little child 'to whom you explained how she should always, behave before you, if every [159/160] day, several times a day, she fell short of what you told her to do, when all the time you could see that, deep down within her, she was struggling and trying to adapt herself to you? And can the Father of Love be hard on His children if He sees that they are trying? What is really true of most of us, I suppose, is that we give half an hour or an hour to prayer, and it sometimes takes the whole time before we get our will surrendered: one minute of surrender out of an hour; yet the remaining fifty-nine minutes are valuable to God, because God measures the surrender by the pains that it takes you to make it. The fifty-nine minutes of struggle with yourself proves the value of the one minute of personal surrender at the end of prayer. And if it takes you thirty days, and the whole month looks like lost prayer, and at the end of the thirty days for a moment or two you reach real surrender, that is its value--because of the thirty days past. It is all a matter of will, and God alone can judge the will.
Then in the next place there is the happiness of prayer. What is the happiness [160/161] of prayer? Without doubt it is a foretaste of the Vision of God. Sometimes, and perhaps very rarely with some of us, perhaps never in our past experience, but sometimes in prayer, the Living Person Who is in us, and Whose Presence in us makes it possible to pray, seems to fill our heart: we have the consciousness of the Presence of God, of which nothing on earth can make us doubt. It may be for a few seconds, it may last a few minutes, it may go with us after our prayer time, and last a day or two, or for many days: then it disappears again. It is the foretaste of Heaven. Why God gives it to us, who can say? One thing is certain, we don't deserve it; one thing is certain, that nothing that we can do can compel God to give it to us. It is certain we must not ask for it, it is certain we must not rely upon it--because we were not sent here to be happy, but to love God. We are made happy by doing God's Will, and the real and true eternal happiness is for us when we reach the Father's country, and dwell in the Father's House. We must thank God for it when such joy does come. We must not be jealous if it is not given to [161/162] us but is given to others. We must always remember that that kind of happiness is often given to weaklings rather than to strong people. It is given in God's Providence to those who perhaps otherwise would lose heart; to those whom God sees to be in need of comfort; and sometimes it is given to prepare the soul for a great sorrow. Sometimes that sense of God's Presence is almost a certain warning of a blow that is going to fall upon us, or of a spiritual trial. The Father makes us ready by bracing up our will to bear with Him the trials we have to face. If is the Father seeing the child in circumstances that are going to hurt it. The Father cannot save the child from the circumstances that are going to hurt it, because He wants the child to help to redeem the circumstances. So He braces the child's will by some dim vision of Himself, and the child gets just the strength that he needs: and then the darkness comes and the child remembers the vision, and comes triumphant through the darkness, undismayed.
You know how a great many of the Saints were for years and years of their [162/163] lives in perfect coldness, without any happiness in prayer. You could not imagine S. Francis being for two whole years in darkness, yet he was, and it ended later on in the Stigmata.
Then in the next place, let us consider the joy of prayer. We distinguish between happiness and joy. There is joy apart from happiness in prayer. And what is the joy? It is the joy of waiting upon the Father's good pleasure, the joy of knowing that you are in your right place and doing what the Father wants you to do. Just because He is our Father, and we are in His Household, He has for each one of us a place and a work in which we are capable of a certain consciousness that we are of use to Him. Isn't that joy? There is nothing selfish about it. We aren't asking anything from our God except that we be of use, each in his own place. We have the joy of sons in their Father's household.
In the next place we must discuss a little the method of our prayer. Of course one can say very little, and what I am going to say is designed entirely for busy people. I mean, I would put before you a very common method of prayer, and [163/164] recommend it strongly unless you are in any way being brought up to use other methods which suit you better. There is a method of prayer which has many names, but roughly speaking we will call it "Acts of the Will." It is a method of praying which is independent of our thoughts and convictions and feelings, really a matter of the will. It is like this. A man has made his preparation for prayer, and humbled himself before God, and seen that he comes to God without any self-conceit, or any thought that he is going to do anything in prayer. He has humbly confessed his unworthiness, and implored the strength of the Holy Spirit. He then tries to find perhaps in the Bible, perhaps in the Crucifix, perhaps in the mysteries of the Gospel, some thought on which for two or three minutes he lets the mind dwell. When he has got hold of some dominant thought and feels that that is what God gives him, he uses that for a peg, and on the peg hangs the acts that he would make with his will. He simply compels himself with his will to speak to God, and make acts of faith in Him. He says to Him all that he has [164/165] to say centred round that dominant thought--in acts of hope, charity, penitence of confession, of utter unworthiness, of self-consecration; acts of intercession that fit in with that dominant thought; so that every two or three minutes he approaches the dominant thought from a different point of view. He doesn't grow weary of it. If he does so pray with the will, not caring if the mind lags behind the will, or if the heart be heavy, but just compelling himself to do it, time will pass extraordinarily quickly and not hang so heavily on his hands as it does sometimes. And he will find at the end he has won a victory, and that he has made his will do something against its own inclinations; and for busy people that is a wonderfully good form of prayer. The two or three minutes at the beginning, thinking of something, is just like shutting a door on the outside world, and using one's will in the Presence of God. For one busy, using the will possibly all day long, to go into the Presence of God and use it in the Presence of God is an admirable method with none of the dangers of meditation. Meditation is quite admirable [165/166] in its own way, but there are dangers, and the dangers are two. First, it may become a mental exercise for thinking things out; secondly, it often ends without real speaking to God.
Try to make acts of the will with no words. Speak to God without words. Let your heart interpret your will. God can read the heart. And if you use words, first make an act of faith, in your own words, even if you don't pronounce them, yet using them. Then stop and try to feel you are trusting God's power, and then go on to acts of hope and acts of will.
Then if I may go on, there is another point to be remembered: make a note of Recollection. This mental prayer and these Acts of the Will have their own proper fruit, and the fruit is Recollectedness. But the fruit doesn't grow and develop unless it is cared for, and we ought to practise a little recollection. Now recollection is a very difficult thing to define. Roughly speaking I think we should agree in this, that there is a sort of subconscious sense of the Presence of God lying behind the activities of life. I don't know whether this is a very rough [166/167] way of putting it. Supposing that one has a sick person upstairs requiring fairly constant attention, and one is downstairs with other people and enjoying oneself, yet all the while subconsciously one is aware of the sick person upstairs, never quite free of recollection of him, at once all alert if one hears anything upstairs, or hears anything to disturb the sick person, yet taking a normal part in life around one. This power is raised to its highest degree and put to its truest use when we become recollected in the Presence of God. This fruit of prayer cannot be in any sense forced. Some people are so silly as to try and show it in their faces. It is priggish to try and look recollected. It makes us become self-conscious. We must let the prayer grow its own fruit. But we must tend the fruit. And surely the best way to tend that fruit is to get into a habit of making ejaculatory prayer, of talking definitely to our Lord at different times throughout the day. That does indeed help towards recollectedness.
Lastly, we must say just a word about the difficulties of prayer, and the difficulties roughly speaking are two.
 First, distractions. I think the truest way to put it briefly is this: what we, the children of God, have to learn is that in facing distractions in prayer we are on the side of our Father. Our Father entirely understands the difficulties because He has given us the task. It is the Father Who willed that we, living in a sinful world, in a busy world, should become His temples. He knows the exact difficulty, and He sent us to redeem our minds in prayer. If it is difficult, and if it is marked by many failures, and is sustained by an interior struggle, we are giving the Father all He expects. Don't let us worry ourselves, so long as we go on struggling against distraction. Let us be quite certain that our Father is with us, watching and helping us in the struggle, and that He values the prayer for the struggle against distraction. That is what gives it its true meaning in His sight. Of course I know that sometimes we are idle, lazy, and don't try. I am not talking about that. We are not to be afraid of all these multitudinous distractions that dog our steps. We are not to be afraid of them, for we are looking at them as the Father looks at them. The [168/169] Father has thrown us into the distracting world, bidding us redeem it by our prayer, and go on facing the difficulties to the end of our lives. Slowly our will becomes purer, our desire stronger, and distractions lose their power over us. Thus little by little prayer becomes what the Father means it to be. Never get downhearted about distractions. Some of them are the result of past sin, but that is forgiven. Some are a penance which the Father wants us to bear. Some are due to the world; some are due to the wiles of Satan.
The second thing that seems to be in this class of difficulties is darkness. What shall we say about darkness? I say to myself this; I don't know whether it will appeal to you. First, there is no promise of light until I reach a certain union with God through my will. It is absurd to suppose that at the beginning of the spiritual life we are going to be set free from the darkness that belongs to this world, and which has so much in common with the will inside. I must not be in a hurry. I must not expect to win victories before I have really fought a battle. Again, I say to my soul this: [169/170] There is a great deal of darkness due to me because of my past, and every time that I refuse to pray when I ought to pray, I am really adding to the chances of darkness. This is perfectly true. Darkness is a penance, but when I have said that, I must go on to say there is another kind of darkness, through which God is testing me. He shuts off some beams of light from my mind, He turns off some warm rays of His Love from my heart and He watches my will to see what it will do. Has it power to join itself with Jesus? "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Until the will learns to cry like that, God may very well keep the mind and heart in darkness. He loves me well enough to leave me in darkness until I have learnt my lesson. There is that kind of darkness: it is the darkness of Gethsemane. The will of Jesus was proved to the uttermost on the Cross, and my will is proved in union with His will.
There is yet another kind of darkness, the darkness that comes after old and before new light. The soul for the love of God begins to renounce herself, mortifies herself, lives under discipline; and the good [170/171] Father in His kindness grants power and a measure of light, sweetness, and happiness. She makes great advance on these lines. Then the Father hides Himself and the soul finds no visible tangible props in God. She looks back to the world, to the things that once propped her up, and she finds that they are cut off. She has cut them off herself, and she daren't go back, nor is it her desire to go back. All things from which she had mortified herself are gone. And God has removed the props which He had given her at first, to test her. So she stands there before the Father, seeing nothing that can help her; she stands there fearing to fall. Darkness closes in upon her. She remains trembling, overwhelmed by the darkness, until by the grace of God she can accept the darkness and refuse to be afraid. In the moment that she has the courage to trust the Invisible Father, and to laugh at the darkness, a new vision is vouchsafed to her, and God is able to give her a foretaste of real union with Himself. The soul passes to higher joys of prayer, to a closer union with the Father, and really and truly has some knowledge of true light.
 There is no kind of darkness that need frighten us. If it is our own fault, then the Father of Jesus will turn it into a penance. If it be the testing of our will by the Cross, His Cross is our comfort. If it be this periodical testing of the soul, preparing it for new light, why "though I pass through the Valley of the Shadow of Death I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me, Thy Rod and Thy Staff comfort me."
LET us contemplate Almighty God, hiding Himself from the people of Israel, His chosen people: "And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to-day and to-morrow, and let them wash their clothes, and be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai. And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves that ye go not up into the Mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the Mount shall be surely put to death. And Moses said unto the Lord, The people cannot go up to Mount Sinai: for Thou chargedst us, saying, Set bounds about the Mount, and sanctify it...... lest He break forth upon them."
Let us contemplate the darkness of our vision as far as we are out of Jesus.
 Then contemplate the promise of Jesus Himself: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
O my God, unworthy as I am, I do desire to love Thee, I desire to love Thee truly, I desire to love Thee above all other things. I desire to be Thine, only Thine, in all singleness of heart and purity of will. O my God, I long to see Thee. Grant me, for Jesus' sake, to persevere unto the end. Grant me Thy Holy Spirit all the days of my life: bring me to the place where I would be. Hear me, O Father, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
THE VISION OF GOD
Let us meditate upon the vision of God: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
The first thing that stands out clearly in our thoughts about the vision of God is that no man cometh to the Father but through Jesus; that no man hath seen God at any time but the only-begotten Son in the Bosom of the Father. He hath revealed Him, and without controversy the first vision of God is in the Heart of Jesus. The Eternal Son, taking into Himself the human mind, the human will, * the human heart, the whole nature of man, made Himself to be the mirror in which is reflected all that manhood can ever see or know or taste of the Godhead. In the mirror of the Heart of Jesus, Eternal God beholds Himself in the measure of the Manhood of Jesus. How can we understand? There are people we have met, there are people whom we have read about, whose faces seem to speak of Jesus, whose faces speak to us [175/176] of God. Is it then really hard to believe that the Perfect Manhood of the Son of Mary, which never existed for a moment outside the Eternal Word of God, is the mirror of the Divine Glory and of the Divine Love? The true Babe, born of Mary, offers to God His Manhood as the most perfect mirror for the reflection of the Eternal Godhead in human measure.
Into the Mirror God looks and, beholding His own Glory reflected, is satisfied. Into that Mirror the human race also looks. Into the Heart of Jesus the Mystical Body looks--the Society of Jesus, the Church, the Society of the Redeemed, the citizens of the Kingdom--into that Heart they all look, and they in their turn reflect in their hearts what is in the Heart of Jesus, God and the Glory of God.
Only of course each separate human heart reflects only a little. Each heart according to its measure and in its own degree sees part of the whole Vision, and reflects part of the whole Vision. The whole Society, the whole Family, together is needed to see the whole Vision of the Heart of Jesus, and it is in the hearts of the whole company of Heaven together [176/177] that the Glory of God is reflected as in the Heart of Jesus. Eternal God looking down upon the Mystical Body sees His own Glory and Holiness reflected to Him in measure and in degree.
Our Mother Mary reflected from the Heart of Her Son the glory that belongs to the Godhead. It was manifested in her heart, she reflected it in her heart, and Eternal God gazing into the heart of Mary sees His own Holiness, His own Glory, in a measure, as it were reflected from the Heart of Jesus.
And what is true of her is one day to be true of us, in our measure and in our degree. Let us dwell on this for our comfort, let it inspire us with hopefulness. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." This then is the beginning of the Beatific Vision.
In the second place consider this: That what we see in the Heart of Jesus, and what we reflect in our own hearts, is God, and God in us. God in us is a real Presence; that is where the analogy fails. When I look into a mirror and hold any object up to the mirror, it only reflects the image. But of God there is no image that is not [177/178] God-Eternal; God in the Heart of Jesus; God received into the heart of the member of Christ; God in Manhood and God in me. It is the real Presence of God that is in my heart: it is the Beatific Vision Himself. This Presence of God in me which the Heart of Jesus makes possible to me, how do I really receive it? How do I become one with it? How does each member of the Mystical Body learn his own secret of the Love and of the Holiness of God?
Well now, we think in this way: That God Who is in my heart, God Who from the Heart of Jesus finds Himself with me, is a living Person, and I am over against Him--a person against a Person. And union with a person, in however small a degree it may be, involves three things. First of all, my whole heart. It is the whole heart, the whole personality of a man receiving into his personality that of his friend, becoming of one interest with his friend, of one love with his friend. Is not that a little of what we mean by union of heart with heart? That explains it a little. In human language we talk of two becoming one. We understand the [178/179] union between two human beings, that becomes so close that for all practical purposes they become one.
What shall it be between me and God? If it is true to say of my present life, "that the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God," what shall it not be in that day in which my manhood is purified from every motion of sin, and related to nothing that is not entirely in the service of God? But in order to that, with a view to that, there are other two things to be considered. My personality stands over against that of God, seeing Him through the Heart of Jesus, coming into contact with Him in the Heart of Jesus. It puts out two things in order to grip hold of God; one thing is my will and the other is my mind. The two eyes of my soul with which it will see God in the Day of Glory are the will and the mind. And the whole personality puts out its will, it puts out all the forces of its mind, and arrives at true union with God.
Just think of these two things a little--will and mind--the instruments which my personality uses in order to lay hold of God.
 The will first. Why must I use my will? Why is prayer so important? As we have already seen, prayer is the expression of a surrendered will. There can be no union between God and me if we are not absolutely of one will. I see God in as far as I know the moral nature of God, in as far as I entirely approve of and sympathize with the moral nature of God. But if I find God's moral nature intolerable to me, if I find it hostile to my own way of action, can there ever be union? So by my will I deliberately choose that moral nature of God, and, in the power of the Holy Spirit, I try to bring it under the Will of God, which is Holiness. As I grow in likeness to God's Will through each struggle, as hereafter in His waiting place relieved from temptation I shall develop in my true life of holiness, I shall be found so much of one will with God, that it will be true to say that I know God. I shall see His Holiness in me because it is triumphant in me, and has made my will His. This is the union of the will. If only I could remember it in times of darkness and temptation! If only I could remember that Satan comes to the soul because of the [180/181] supreme fact that God is now living in me, that his temptations are because of God, that temptations are opportunities of choosing God, and all that remains is to persevere until my will becomes so much like His that He triumphs in me, unveiling His Holiness within me!
And, secondly, there is the likeness of mind. Who hath known the mind of God? S. Paul answers: "We have the mind of Christ." With the mind I set out to look for God. The hope that we all have is, that in that great day, the day of Christ's glory, when God gathers us all in, we shall be found having nothing at all in our minds except God: God, and the things of God: and that all our thoughts about creation and about ourselves shall be God-given thoughts, so that we shall actually have one mind with God. His Mind is without measure, universal: my mind is small and particular, covering so little ground. And yet in so far as it covers any ground at all, it will really have the thoughts that God thinks, and become one mind with God's, so that having God's purpose, God's plans, and God's methods as mine own, I shall see God with an [181/182] inward vision that is a perfect vision. That is why it is so worth while here on earth to go on fighting and struggling. I don't really think that anything matters so long as in the hour of my death God may find me entirely dissatisfied with my mind and longing for His.
God is here. He really does dwell within me. He really does love me, works with me, and whether here and now or in the dim future, the promise holds true: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Take this promise in the very fullness of its comfort. For it holds good not only for the perfect saint or for sheltered and elect souls. The promise holds good for such as have to struggle here in a busy life, for those who have to struggle for every moment of their lives, for those burdened and crushed down under the sense of their sin: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." And if anyone say, "I am not pure in heart," to such an one the Saviour answers: "Come unto me all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you." "The Spirit and the Bride say come, and let him that heareth say [182/183] come; and let him that is athirst come. .....And to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the Tree of Life which is in the midst of the Paradise of God...... And His servants shall serve Him, and they shall see His Face, and God shall wipe all tears from their eyes."