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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Unceasing Desire; Unceasing Grace

This morning as I sleepily drank my morning coffee, I came across a quote from St. Augustine, compliments of Catholic Spiritual Direction:

“But there is another and interior way of praying without ceasing, and that is the way of desire. Whatever else you are doing, if you long for that Sabbath, you are not ceasing to pray. If you do not want to cease praying, do not cease longing. Your unceasing desire is your unceasing voice.”

- St Augustine

It made me sit up and pay attention. I've written before of praying without ceasing, but I've never seen this quote, or this aspect. 

Who HASN'T had that longing for God?  You leave Mass, but really would prefer to just remain, there at the foot of the Cross, having just partaken of the Sacrifice of Christ.  Who hasn't had to leave Adoration, preferring to remain there in the blessed silence of the chapel, alone with Jesus, the only one who understands you, knows you more intimately than you know yourself...and loves you anyway?

Have you ever gone about your day, wishing you could go to Mass, desiring to spend time with the Lord in prayer, longing so desperately to be with Him that you're almost ready to just fall down in the spot where you stand and BEG to be transported to Him? 

Consider Psalm 63:

O God, you are my God, for you I long; 
for you my soul is thirsting
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water
So I gazed on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory. 

For your love is better than life...

On you I muse through the night
for you have been my help;
in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand holds me fast. 


  Psalm 42

As a deer longs for flowing waters
so longs my soul for thee, O God. 
My soul thirsts for God
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God? 

I am constantly struck by the writings of the Saints, and the Psalms and readings in the Liturgy of the Hours.  How human are the expressions, the emotions, the reality of the blessed agony arising from a soul sincerely seeking God! 

Perhaps we can't remain in active prayer all day, but sometimes God grants us the consolation of that deep interior longing, and that longing itself is an expression of His grace.  It's not an emotion, but something far deeper. It is a sense of almost abandonment, yet...even that can't cover it. It's a sense of constantly reaching out for God, knowing He is there, and there is not a void, but a real presence. That longing isn't in vain, but in fact, as St. Augustine explains, is a very real connection to God. It is ongoing prayer, one so deep that it goes far beyond any words we can express, perhaps beyond our own physical presence?  

How often do we go to Mass, and we're not even engaged?  How often do we go to our regular Adoration hour, or pray the rosary...while our minds wander?

At times, it may be for our spiritual good that we are deprived of these devotions, but longing for something greater.  Deprivation of the Sacraments may, in a devout soul, increase fervor for God.  How pleased must God be if we leave Mass, or perhaps are deprived from attending Mass...and long so deeply for God that our longing cannot find coherent expression, but instead forges its own connection to God, leading us ever-closer to Him?  

I'm so grateful for the availability of the Sacraments where I live, for I can go to Confession any day of the week, I have multiple opportunities for Mass, and so that longing for God can be satisfied. Yet, it still remains unfulfilled in some dimension, for as long as we wander this world, we are pilgrims.  Our Lord in His mercy remains with us in the Blessed Sacrament, but until we are called to leave this world, we will have that unfulfilled longing that will only be satisfied when we are sanctified in His eternal embrace.

Our longing for God is an agonizing, joyful grace, and may it ever be present, constantly beckoning us towards greater sanctification.  Amen.

1 comment:

Julia said...

I love your blog because you so often describe exactly how I feel. Or you describe what may be in my future.

Every time I stand up from praying or walk out of church, I wonder why I'm leaving the presence of Christ. In reality, of course, I'm not really leaving Him, as long as God remains in my life throughout the day. One of my most frequent prayers recently is a petition to God to help me love Him fully every moment of my day.

I like this aspect you bring up about longing. I've never considered that before. There are so many times when I am sitting in class or out with friends and find myself thirsting for God and prayer. It's nice to think that perhaps my longing is prayer in itself.