Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Henri Nouwen - Praying is not only listening to but listening with

Praying is not only listening to but listening with. The discipline of the heart makes us stand in the presence of God with all we have and are: our fears and anxieties, our guilt and shame, our sexual fantasies, our greed and anger, our joys, successes, aspirations and hopes, our reflections, dreams and mental wandering, and most of all our people, family, friends and enemies, in short all that makes us who we are…. We tend to present to God only those parts of ourselves with which we feel relatively comfortable and which we think will evoke a positive response. Thus our prayer becomes very selective and narrow. And not just our prayer but also our self-knowledge because by behaving as strangers before God we become strangers to ourselves.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Casting Out the Demons - Caryll Houselander

Caryll Houselander
'But when it comes to someone who has arrived at some measure of strongly conscious spirituality, who has proved a willingness to suffer for God and his truth, the devil must find subtler ways:  he must find something which resembles God in this -- that it is always present.  What could be better than self? -- and what more certain to imprison and ultimately obsess a sensitive soul than awareness of something wrong with self?

Somehow or other the soul must be made to strive to attain a certain level of holiness, a certain peace or at least untroubledness, before abandoning itself to God.  It will be held back by this, prevented from seeing more and more the beauty of God.  The devil knows that the soul whose heart is fixed on God is lost to hell, so he must drag the gaze back from God to self.  He whispers, through a clergyman or a friend, or just your own prompting:  "You are doing wrong.  Of course you have no peace; you are putting your peace of soul before the happiness of better souls, anyway" -- and so on and so on.  If you listen, you half agree; you begin again to examine your motives; you let conflict and anxiety rage in you -- which is in itself exhausting.  A vicious circle begins:  you are too tired to pray; you think all consolation has been taken from you, aridity sets in....

I feel sure that the treatment is to ignore the suggestions.  Even ignore your own soul:  keep your mind on God, on his love....

Do not wait until you feel not uneasy; do not wait to be doing a more prayerful act; do not wait to feel more unity and completeness:  offer yourself, your will to do right, your anxiety about not doing it, your being interrupted just now, the act of taking So-and-so's temperature -- all, just as it is, to God.  Leave it to God to transform all this into himself.  It's all you've got, and he gave it to you.'

-- Caryll Houselander (+ A.D. 1954) was a British mystic, poet & spiritual teacher. (Magnificat 9/1/15)