Week Nineteen Summary and Practice
Sunday, May 9—Friday, May 14, 2021
The big and hidden secret is this: an infinite God seeks and desires intimacy with the human soul. Once we experience such intimacy, only the intimate language of lovers describes the experience for us: mystery, tenderness, singularity, specialness, changing the rules “for me,” nakedness, risk, ecstasy, incessant longing, and of course also, necessary suffering.
If we could glimpse the panoramic view of the biblical revelation and the Big Picture of which we are a part, we’d see how God is forever evolving human consciousness, making us ever more ready for God. The Hebrew prophets and many Catholic and Sufi mystics used words like espousal, marriage, or bride and groom to describe this phenomenon.
There is even a term—“bridal mysticism”—for the many mystics (both female and male) whose experience of profound love of God was so deep and all-encompassing that it led to a spiritual sense of being “married” to God. —Carl McColman
Describing the soul’s relationship with God, Mechthild of Magdeburg marvels at “the powerful penetration of all things and the special intimacy which ever exists between God and each individual soul.” —Carol Lee Flinders
The soul who deeply desires to remain in Christ’s holy company, and is sincerely grateful for the intimacy with him that is possible, and finds herself truly in love with this Lord who does so much for us—is the soul whom I consider to be most evolved. —St. Teresa of Ávila
I lost myself. Forgot myself. / I lay my face against the Beloved’s face. /
Everything fell away and I left myself behind, / Abandoning my cares /
among the lilies, forgotten. —St. John of the Cross
Allowing God to Love Us
In my experience, few Christians have a sense of what it feels like to be loved by God. We might get it intellectually or even sense it in our hearts, but the marriage of the soul and God is experienced on a deeper level when we make ourselves vulnerable to being overtaken by God’s overwhelming desire for us. I offer this contemplative reflection from Carmelite nun Ruth Burrows on prayer as an experience of allowing God to love us.
What do we mean by prayer? What does the word mean in the Christian context? Almost always when we talk about prayer we are thinking of something we do and, from that standpoint, questions, problems, confusion, discouragement, illusions multiply. For me, it is of fundamental importance to correct this view. Our Christian knowledge assures us that prayer is essentially what God does, how God addresses us, looks at us. It is not primarily something we are doing to God, something we are giving to God but what God is doing for us. And what God is doing for us is giving us the divine Self in love. . . .
What is the core, the central message of the revelation of Jesus? Surely it is of the unconditional love of God for us, for each one of us: God, the unutterable, incomprehensible Mystery, the Reality of all reality, the Life of all life. And this means that divine Love desires to communicate Its Holy Self to us. Nothing less! This is God’s irrevocable will and purpose; it is the reason why everything that is, is, and why each of us exists. We are here to receive this ineffable, all-transforming, all beatifying Love. . . .
We must realize [therefore,] that what we have to do is allow ourselves to be loved, to be there for Love to love us. . . . True prayer means wanting GOD not ego. The great thing is to lay down this ego-drive. This is the ‘life’ we must lose, this the ‘self’ we must abandon if we are to have true life and become that self God wants us to be, which only God can know and ultimately only God can bring into being. . . .
The essential thing we have to do is believe in the enfolding, nurturing, transforming Love of God which is the Reality: the Reality that is absolutely, totally there whether we avert to It or not. Prayer, from our side, is a deliberate decision to avert to It, to respond to It in the fullest way we can. To do this we must set time aside to devote exclusively to the ‘Yes’ of faith. . . .
If we are convinced that this is the heart of prayer, this basic decision to remain open to the inflowing of divine love, then we shall understand that we can choose any method we like to help us maintain this basic desire and intention.
Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.
Ruth Burrows, Essence of Prayer (HiddenSpring: 2006), 1, 2, 3, 5–6.