"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

15 January 2006

Dwelling on God

Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Do not permit me to part from you.
From spiteful enemies protect me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come to you.
That with your saints I may praise you
In the lifetime of lifetimes. Amen.

Hansen writes a lovely meditation on this prayer which serves as an introduction to Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises (the prayer, apparently, not written by Ignatius). The meditation dwells on each line, as I've often done with the "Our Father," and I suspect I will find myself revisiting it often, learning to make this prayer mine. Today, this particular line is making its way to my heart.

O good Jesus, hear me.

Hansen concedes that of course Jesus always hears us. Then he adds, But "hear me" needs saying if only to remind us that a great prayer does not require an 'answer me,' for that implies a reply in our own terms, in our own way. We handicap ourselves with human plans, but improve ourselves by being receptive to God.

I struggle so much with the "answer me" aspect of prayer; we hear all the time about all the wonderful things God has done in answer to prayer, but there seem to be few courageous souls who look at tragedy and say "God be praised." I like what Hansen says here; it is the hearing of the prayer -- the fact that the God of the universe hears me! -- that is of any importance.

And receptiveness to God. I am encountering this everywhere, Chambers of course majors on it, now Hansen, and this afternoon over and over in the works included in Radiance: A Spiritual Memoir of Evelyn Underhill (excerpts of her works showing her growth in the Lord, edited by Bernard Bangley).

This excerpt will give the idea of what she says again and again:

That's the voice of wisdom -- quietly ignoring the importance we attach to our little selves. Once for all, tonight, let us turn our backs on our niggling self-scrutiny. Let us look at God, at Christ. That will bring us to a state of mind more humbling, more really contrite, than any penitence based only on introspection. It will condemn every failure in love. 'My soul opened' said Lucie-Christine, not 'my soul turned inwards and began to look at itself through a microscope'!

(Underhill doesn't say never practice self-examination, but never focus on self, even to identify sin, instead of focusing on God, where healing and health reside.)

Peace, she says a little further on, means such a profound giving of ourselves to God, such an utter neglect of our own opinions, preferences, and rights, as keeps the deeps of our soul within His atmosphere in all the surface rush, the ups and downs, demands and disappointments, joy and suffering of daily life. We cease to matter. Only God and His work matters.

I long to find this place, to know that only God and his work matter, and not myself.

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