In the Liturgy of the Hours, there is a letter from St. Augustine about prayer. He speaks of the need for prayer, even though our Lord and God already knows our needs, and simply wants us to "exercise our desires through our prayers, so that we may be able to receive what he is preparing to give us." He admonishes us to remember the words of St. Paul to "Pray without ceasing".
Prayer is a conversation with God, a dialogue, if you will, involving alternate periods of activity and silence. Or perhaps it consists of simple wordless companionship; for even those who cannot speak become friends in the depths of comfortable silence. Prayer is this, and more; it is a language that cannot be written, but is fueled by Love.
But what is Love?
"Love is a unifying virtue which takes upon itself the torments of its beloved lord. It is a fire reaching through to the inmost soul. It transform the lover into the one loved. More deeply, love intermigles grief..."
Is that not profound? He is clear; we cannot separate Love from the Cross. I know people who flee the image of Our Suffering Lord, and they flee suffering in their own lives, for it is as if they fear to face the cost of the love that frees them.
I can't say that I'm any different from any of them.
We all fear suffering; just yesterday, I was wondering if what I truly fear is love? Or could it be that I know that to give myself over to Love means that I will enter into the depths of suffering? Why is it that we cannot see that by embracing suffering we really are entring into the depths of Love?
St. Paul of the Cross reveals to seeking souls the beauty in that suffering, the love waiting to embrace us. And I can't deny that when I look upon the Cross, I don't see something to flee; I see someone that draws me to Mercy, not just as a virtue but Mercy personified. I find myself wanting to catch every drop of that Precious Blood, to bind those terrible wounds, to weep upon the feet of the Savior who is raised up before me and draws me to Him. I know that I have been drenched in His Blood out of my own vile, willful actions, and all of that He gave me freely, without anger, without hesitation.
Because He found me worthy of redemption. He thought I was worth it. Even though it was my sins that placed him on the Cross, He called me out of eternity so that I could be forever in His Divine Embrace.
This recognition of Profound Love is life-changing: I want to reach out to Him and remove those awful thorns from his head, one by one if necessary, and even as I imagine such an act, I see, paradoxically, that were it not for those thorns I would not be in a position to desire mercy from Mercy Himself, nor would I have the opportunity to be pierced by those very same thorns and united to Him through our intermingled blood. It is His Mercy that draws us to Him, and through Love, prompts not just repentance, but mercy towards Our Lord! We cannot help but seek to console Him in His Passion, and in so doing, we cannot help but be drawn into the depths of His suffering.
It is only there that we can truly know Christ; and it is only through Him that we can truly know ourselves. And it is the gentle dialogue of prayer that binds us in a loving friendship that far exceeds any suffering that can ever fall upon our shoulders. Prayer is the first step; prayer leads us to Love, the Cross reveals that Love, and it is prayer that enables us to express through a myriad of ways, the Love we offer in return.
I'm not a theologian, so I can't advance this idea without some sort of fear, but it seems to me that Love, Prayer, and the Cross are both actions of and reflections of the Trinity. Or are they simply echoes of the Trinity that goes outward and then draws us back, in a current we cannot resist if we recognize where our Shores truly lie?
Recently I wrote a post about the images that have corrupted me, and I both entered into and willingly pursued that corruption. I lamented the images that I can't unsee, for they have changed me forever.
But there is something even MORE compelling than those vile, satanic memories that have been tattooed into my moral fibres; and that is the visage of the Suffering Servant, nailed to the Cross, bleeding out of His personal sacrifice. I can't know Jesus and what He did without His Blood being personal. Now that I can look upon the bloodiest of crucifixes and see the depths of Divine Love, I can't unsee what I've seen...and it has changed me forever.
I am still corrupted, and I give myself willingly to the corruption of sin, for I cannot seem to break those bonds and flee their very shadow. Yet I know that even as I bear the Blood of Our Savior upon my very hands, there is Hope, for my Love has been Crucified in my place, and THAT is a Love that breaks chains if I could only speak out to condemn them.
But Christ compels me not only to praise His very name, but to enter into deepest dialogue with Him, to return the Love that He has so willingly given me, and ultimately, to embrace the Cross of suffering so that I will know Him and Love Him for eternity.
Would that I could even come close to living up to my own words.