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Holy Wisdom Or Directions For The Prayer Of Contemplation by Ven. F. Augustine Baker

CHAPTER III. More special advices touching the exercise of affections of divine Love.à

§§ 1, 2. More special advices touching the exercise of affections of divine Love.

§§ 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Likewise touching acts of Resignation. The great profit and excellency of the said acts.

§ 9. Several objects of Resignation.

§§ 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21. Further instructions concerning the exercising of the said acts.

§ 22. All acts whatsoever must give way to aspirations.

1. Whereas all internal affective prayer consisteth either: 1. of such affections as are apt to cause suitable motions in corporal nature; 2. or of acts of the will, produced by and residing in the superior soul, as among holy affections the principal is Love, the source and mover of all the rest, so among all immediate acts of the will the most useful and considerable are those of Resignation or submission to the Divine will.

2. Now, having in the second treatise spoken sufficiently concerning the nature and qualities of Divine Love, I shall not need to give particular instructions how to employ that inward affection of charity immediately to God in the exercise of internal prayer, which is to be regulated according to the precepts formerly given; but as for the exercise of Resignation (which is, indeed, an exercise of love too, but so as that it regards external difficulties as the occasion or matter about which such love is expressed), it is an exercise that deserves to be more particularly treated of, and above all others most to be recommended, as being generally the most secure and profitable of all other exercises.

3. For though acts of pure melting love to God (in which all images of creatures, yea, all direct representations of God are excluded) be in themselves more perfect and unitive than are acts of Resignation, which involve in themselves images of external things (to wit, the special difficulties in which the soul intends to resign herself), notwithstanding, to recompense this disadvantage, there is in acts of Resignation far more security and less danger of propriety or self-interest than in acts of immediate love, which being apt to cause stirrings and pleasing motions in corporal nature, very few souls can practise them purely and without propriety, except they be exalted to a supreme degree of spiritual divine charity. Again, there is in Resignation exercised more directly true mortification and contradiction to self-love and interest than in any other kind of internal prayer, and consequently it is a prayer more purifying, and considering the daily and hourly use that we have thereof in unavoidable occurring difficulties, it is of all other the most profitable; and though acts of Resignation (which are also the immediate fruits of divine love) do involve in themselves images of external things, yet this is only in the beginning of the act, so that the soul doth not tarry in such images, but presently passes from and out of them into God.

4. Good Lord, what millions of questions, debates, and perils doth total Resignation cut off! And this not only for meum et tuum, or worldly propriety in a secular state, for the regulating whereof there are such endless volumes of useless and perplexed cases dispersed everywhere, but also in external matters in a religious life, either with regard to superiors or among religious persons themselves, or towards externs, yea, and for matters of doubts merely internal, being such as are in question between God and fearful or scrupulous souls; all these, I say, are cut off by a total resignation, which doth tend to simplicity, peace, and the possession of that one thing which our Saviour saith is only to be counted necessary, to wit, the divine will (which is God Himself), and so doth reject all other things that may hinder or delay the soul from attaining to that one only necessary good.

5. Hence it follows that that soul which is resigned both for external and internal matters is not only freed from perils that may come from temptations or contradictions, but in a manner from all doubts, questions, and debates; whereas the unresigned soul is in a state wherein nothing can satisfy or secure her conscience.

6. A soul that is in the practice of the prayer of Resignation ought not to interrupt or omit the producing of acts conformable thereto, notwithstanding any failings or transgressings against good resolutions formerly made, if so be such failings proceed out of frailty or sudden passions (being then ofttimes more in sensuality than in the superior will, and so have less fault in them); for, notwithstanding such failings, resignations heartily made will not prove in vain, but in time will come to good issue.

7. In consideration of the eminent excellency of this duty of Resignation, I have adjoined several exercises of the acts of that virtue, exemplifying in all kinds of difficulties regarding either external or internal objects, touching outward goods, friends, &c., as likewise all accidents that may befall the body, as sickness, pains, want of conveniences or necessaries, &c.; and, lastly, touching the soul, as aridities, temptations, &c.; for the practising of which exercises, besides the advice given in the last chapter (which ought to be applied to this present purpose). I thought expedient to add certain more peculiar instructions here following.

8. When the exercise of Resignation in prayer comes to be the ordinary daily exercise of a soul, then she is established in the unitive way, properly so called, and well-minded quiet souls will soon be ready and ripe for the practice, both external and internal, of this heavenly virtue.

9. Concerning the matter of objects of Resignation (which are generally matters of difficulty and contradiction to nature), either they are: 1. such difficulties as are sure to happen; 2. or only probably (of which probably there may be several degrees); 3. or very unlikely, but yet possible; 4. or, lastly, altogether impossible. Now in all these Resignation may be profitably exercised. But the better the more likely that the things are to happen; and the best and most necessary Resignation of all is in things sure to befall us, and which belong to our state especially such against which our nature finds the greatest difficulty.

10. Now since these last do most frequently occur to our minds in our recollections, therefore we must be the more industrious and courageous to overcome them by framing internal acts of our judgment and will to entertain the said difficulties, that so we may be prepared against the time that they do really befall us.

11. Now, having made efficacious and prevalent acts of internal Resignation, if, when the said difficulties do de facto happen, we do truly and really accept and embrace them with our superior will (whatsoever repugnance we find in our sensitive nature), this will much more advance the soul in Divine Love, and increase the good habit of Resignation, than many bare internal acts would do, by which the soul doth only represent a difficulty in the imagination, resolving with the will to accept it.

12. In performing these acts internally, a soul must be very careful to exercise them with most profound humility, and a distrust of her own ability to resist any temptation or contradiction, and with an entire trust and dependence on God's grace, with a firm faith in Him that He will assist her at all times whensoever He shall bring such trials upon her.

13. For this reason I have frequently expressed the acts of resignation either by way of oblation and delivery of the soul into God's hands, to be entirely disposed of by Him, or of petition, that in all such occurrences not our own will but God's will should be performed. As for the acts which are made by way of resolution or purpose, though they seem to argue some confidence in our own strength, yet the devout exerciser ought in his mind to exclude all such confidence.

14. The most perfect way of producing acts of Resignation (as likewise all other acts) is by intending purely the love of God and seeking His glory, renouncing all inferior unworthy interests of our own; and therefore Alphonsus, in his Method of Serving God, in his excellent chapter of Prayer, exhorts all devout souls, either expressly or virtually, to exercise prayer with this intention; but as for the exercise of Aspirations, an express and direct intention of God's glory will scarce consist with it, because that sublime exercise will not admit any reflected act to be mixed, though implicitly and virtually they contain as much or more.

15. A soul needs not always to oblige herself in her recollections, in order to go through the following patterns and forms of Resignation according to all the examples given, as she was advised to do in other immediate acts; but she may alter, interrupt, omit, or add others as she shall see cause, or according to her present need, or as they shall be interiorly suggested to her by God or her own thoughts.

16. In the beginning of the exercising this degree of prayer, I conceive it will be the best course for a soul to single out and make choice of such acts of resignation as do regard such daily occurring difficulties, to which nature hath less aversion to resign herself, and from these to ascend afterwards by degrees to matters of more difficulty, till at last, by God's grace, she be enabled to accept even those things which nature doth most abhor; for if she should suddenly adventure upon acts above her present strength and forces of mind she will be in danger to be dejected, finding that she wants internal courage to undertake or submit to such difficulties represented to her mind.

17. And, indeed, according to this method, God Himself in His most wise and blessed providence deals with us, proportioning our trials and afflictions to our present strength, and to the measure of grace which He gives us, sending to imperfect souls only ordinary temptations (as St. Paul saith, 1 Cor. x.13), and reserving the greater for such heroical spirits as are most advanced in the ways of perfection.

18. When special occasions of actual and real Resignation do not occur, a soul may make general and indefinite acts of Resignation, regarding in gross all occasions whatsoever without exception, either according to the form practised by St. Ignatius: Deus meus et omnia, ecce me tibi penitus offero, et omnia mea tuæ subjicio voluntati. Or saying, in our Lord's words, Non mea voluntus fiat, sed tua, Domine, in terra sicut in cælo (Amen, Jesu); or in any other form like to these. And this practice of universal Resignation may be begun very timely, and accordingly continued one's whole life; although, indeed, only perfect souls can purely, without reservation, exercise such acts. Yea, when a devout soul hath a particular occasion to resign herself in any special difficulty occurring, she may for that purpose make use of any such general form of Resignation, only reflecting internally upon the present occasion, and so applying the general form, without expressly naming the particular difficulty.

19. In exercising internally these acts, a soul is not to produce them overfast, and quick one upon another, to the hurt and oppression of the head or spirit, but quietly and leisurely one after another, with reasonable pausings.

20. Though in the following examples of Resignation mention is only made of matters difficult and unpleasing to nature, yet may a soul with benefit exercise herself in the clean contrary; for example, as she may resign to sickness, pain, want, dishonour, &c., so she may also, for the glory of God, resign herself to health, pleasures, riches, honour, &c., intending, if God's will be such, to accept of these also, and to employ them only to His glory, and not to the satisfaction of corrupt nature, not diminishing but rather increasing humility and divine love by them. In which case, how pleasing soever to nature such things in themselves be, yet the Resignation is exercised with regard to that which is mortifying to nature, as he that for the glory and love of God submits himself to accept of an office imposed on him, and attended with dignity and power, intends thereby not the satisfying of his ambition, but rather frames a resolution to abate and mortify such a satisfaction, and to employ that office (not sought but obediently accepted by him) purely to the glory of God and the benefit of souls. Thus it is the nature of a spiritual life to make good use both of prosperity and adversity, in all things renouncing all self-seeking, and having an eye only to God; though, indeed, considering our frailty and inclination to be corrupted by prosperity, adversity is far more secure and profitable for us, and therefore such resignations are proper for few souls.

21. To conclude this matter, some souls there may be which will find it best for them to continue in acts of Resignation, yea, and perhaps even in the same acts, till they be thence brought to Aspirations; and others there will be whose exercises may consist of great variety both of acts and affections, and that confusedly both for matter and manner, and this either out of a book or from their own interior. And in the exercising of acts or affections, in some the said acts may be raised by a short reflection or by consideration of some motives, or even with a precedent light meditation. Lastly, some will find more relish in acts expressed in Latin, though they do but imperfectly understand the language, than in their own natural tongue (for whose sake I have in the following collection framed exercises in both languages); and all this manner of exercises are good, if the soul by experience and observation find profit by them, for by that alone must all our exercises be regulated.

22. But how perfect soever any acts or forced affections be, they must give way to aspirations whensoever a soul is invited or enabled to produce them; for as acts are the end of meditation, so are aspirations the proper end and fruit of acts, far more perfectly effecting and procuring that purity of soul and heavenly-mindedness to which we aspire by all our exercises.

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