The Noble Results of this Species of Prayer
Some persons, when they hear of the prayer of silence, falsely imagine, that the soul remains stupid, dead, and inactive. But, unquestionably, it acteth therein, more nobly and more extensively than it had ever done before; for God Himself is the mover, and the soul now acteth by the agency of His Spirit.
When S. Paul speaks of our being led by the Spirit of God, it is not meant that we should cease from action; but that we should act through the internal agency of His Grace. This is finely represented by the Prophet Ezekiel's vision of the |wheels, which had a Living Spirit; and whithersoever the Spirit was to go, they went; they ascended, and descended, as they were moved; for the Spirit of Life was in them, and they returned not when they went| (Ezek. i.18). Thus the soul should be equally subservient to the will of that Vivifying Spirit wherewith it is informed, and scrupulously faithful to follow only as that moves. These motions now never tend to return, in reflection on the creatures or itself; but go forward, in an incessant approach towards the chief end.
This action of the soul is attended with the utmost tranquillity. When it acts of itself, the act is forced and constrained; and, therefore, it can the more easily perceive and distinguish it: but when it acteth under the influence of the Spirit of Grace, its action is so free, so easy, and so natural, that it almost seems as if it did not act at all: |He hath set me at large, he hath delivered me, because he delighted in me| (Psal. xviii.19).
When the soul is in its central tendency, or, in other words, is returned through recollection into itself; from that moment the central attraction becomes a most potent action, infinitely surpassing in its energy every other species. Nothing, indeed, can equal the swiftness of this tendency to the centre: and though an action, yet it is so noble, so peaceful, so full of tranquility, so natural and spontaneous, that it appears to the soul as if it did not act at all.
When a wheel rolls slowly we can easily distinguish its parts; but when its motion is rapid we can distinguish nothing. So the soul, which rests in God, hath an activity exceedingly noble and elevated, yet altogether peaceful: and the more peaceful it is, the swifter is its course; because it is proportionately given up to that Spirit, by which it is moved and directed.
This attracting spirit is no other than God Himself, Who, in drawing us, causes us to run unto Him. How well did the spouse understand this when she said, |Draw me, and we will run after thee| (Cant. i.3). Draw me unto Thee, O my Divine centre, by the secret springs of my existence, and all my powers and senses shall follow the potent magnetism! This simple attraction is both an ointment to heal, and a perfume to allure: |we follow,| saith she, |the fragrance of thy perfumes|; and though so powerfully magnetic it is followed by the soul freely, and without constraint; for it is equally delightful as forcible; and whilst it attracts by its potency, it charms with its sweetness. |Draw me,| saith the spouse, |and we will run after Thee.| She speaketh of and to herself: |draw me,| -- behold the unity of the centre, which attracteth! |We will run,| -- behold the correspondence and course of all the senses and powers in following that attraction!
Instead then of promoting idleness, we promote the highest activity by inculcating a total dependence on the Spirit of God as our moving principle; for it is |in him we live, and move, and have our being| (Acts xvii.28). This meek dependence on the Spirit of God is indispensably necessary to reinstate the soul in its primeval unity and simplicity, that it may thereby attain the end of its creation.
We must, therefore, forsake our multifarious activity, to re-enter the simplicity and unity of God, in Whose image we were originally formed. |The Spirit is one and manifold| (Wisdom vii.22), and His unity doth not preclude His multiplicity. We enter into His unity when we are united unto His Spirit, and have one and the same Spirit with Him; and we are multiplied in respect to the outward execution of His will, without any departure from our state of union: so that when we are wholly moved by the Divine Spirit, which is infinitely active, our activity must, indeed, differ widely in its energy and degree from that which is merely our own.
We must yield ourselves to the guidance of |Wisdom, which is more moving than any motion| (Wisdom vii.24); and by abiding in dependence on its action, our activity will be truly efficient. |All things were made by the Word, and without him was not anything made, that was made| (John i.3). God originally formed us in His own likeness; and He now informeth us with the Spirit of His Word, that |Breath of Life| (Gen. ii.7), which was inbreathed at our creation, in the participation whereof the Image of God consisted; and this life is a Life of Unity, simple, pure, intimate, and always fruitful. The Devil having broken and deformed the Divine Image in the soul, the agency of the same Word, whose Spirit was inbreathed at our creation, is absolutely necessary for its renovation; and it can only be renewed by our being passive under Him who is to renew it: but who can restore the Image of God within us in its primeval form, save He who is the Essential Image of the Father.
Our activity should, therefore, consist in endeavoring to acquire and maintain such a state as may be most susceptible of Divine impressions, most flexile to all the operations of the Eternal Word. Whilst a tablet is unsteady, the painter is unable to delineate a true copy: so every act of our own selfish and proper spirit is productive of false and erroneous lineaments; it interrupts the work, and defeats the design of this adorable Painter; we must then remain in peace and move only when He moves us. |Jesus Christ hath the Life, in himself| (John v.26), and He should be the life of every living thing.
As all action is estimable only in proportion to the dignity of the efficient principle, this action is incontestably more noble than any other. Actions produced by a Divine principle, are Divine; but creaturely actions, however good they appear, are only human, or at best virtuous, even when accompanied by Grace. Jesus Christ saith, He hath the Life in Himself. All other beings have only a borrowed life; but the Word hath the Life in Himself, and being communicative of His nature He desireth to communicate it to man. We should, therefore, make room for the influx of this Life, which can only be done by the ejection of the Adamical life, the suppression of the activity of self. This is agreeable to the assertion of S. Paul: |If any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new!| (2 Cor. v.17), but this state can be accomplished only by dying to ourselves and to all our own activity, that the activity of God may be substituted in its place.
Instead, therefore, of prohibiting activity, we enjoin it; but in absolute dependence on the Spirit of God, that His activity may take place of our own. This can only be effected by the concurrence of the creature; and this concurrence can only be yielded by moderating and restraining our own activity, that the activity of God may gradually gain the ascendancy, and finally absorb all that is ours as distinguishable from it.
Jesus Christ hath exemplified this in the Gospel: Martha did what was right; but because she did it in her own spirit Christ rebuked her. The spirit of man is restless and turbulent; for which reason it does little, though it would appear to do much. |Martha,| saith Christ, |thou art careful and troubled about many things, but one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her| (Luke x.41, 42). And what was it that Mary had chosen? Repose, tranquillity, and peace. She apparently ceased to act, that the Spirit of Christ might act in her; she ceased to live, that Christ might be her life.
This shows us how necessary it is to renounce ourselves and all our own activity, to follow Jesus Christ; and we cannot follow Him without being animated with His Spirit. Now that His Spirit may gain admission in us it is necessary that our own proper spirit should be first expelled: |He that is joined unto the Lord,| saith S. Paul, |is one spirit with him| (1 Cor. vi.17); and David said, |It was good for him to draw near unto the Lord, and to put his trust in him| (Ps. lxxiii.28). This drawing near unto God, is the beginning of Union.
Divine Union has its commencement, its progression, and its consummation. It is first an inclination and tendency towards God: when the soul is introverted in the manner before described, it gets within the influence of the central attraction, and acquires an eager desire after Union: on a nearer approach unto God, it adheres to Him; and growing stronger and stronger in its adhesion, it finally becomes one; that is, |One Spirit with Him:| and it is thus that the spirit which had wandered and strayed from God, returns again to its proper source.
Into this process, which is the Divine motion, and the Spirit of Jesus Christ, we must necessarily enter. S. Paul saith, |If any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his| (Rom. viii.9): therefore, to be Christ's, we must be filled with His Spirit, and to be filled with His Spirit we must be emptied of our own. The Apostle, in the same passage, proves the necessity of this Divine influence or motion: |As many| saith he, |as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God| (Rom. viii.14). The Spirit of Divine Filiation is then the Spirit of Divine action or motion: he, therefore, adds, |Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of Adoption, whereby we, cry, Abba, Father.|
This Spirit is no other than the Spirit of Christ, through which we participate in His Filiation; |And this Spirit beareth witness with our Spirit, that we are the children of God| (Rom. viii.16). When the soul yields itself to the influence and motions of this Blessed Spirit, it feels the testimony of its Divine Filiation; and it feels also, with superadded joy, that it hath received not the Spirit of bondage, but of Liberty, even the liberty of the children of God. It then finds that it acts freely and sweetly, though with vigour and infallibility.
The Spirit of Divine action is so necessary in all things, that S. Paul, in the same passage, foundeth that necessity on our ignorance with respect to what we pray for: |The Spirit,| saith he, |also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered.| This is positive; if we know not what we stand in need of, nor pray, as we ought to do, for those things which are necessary; and if the Spirit which is in us, and to which we resign ourselves, asks and intercedes for us; should we not give unlimited freedom to its action, to its ineffable groanings in our behalf?
This Spirit is the Spirit of the Word which is always heard, as He saith Himself: |I know that thou hearest me always| (John xi.42); and if we freely admit this Spirit to pray and intercede in us, we also shall be always heard. The reason of this is given us by the same Apostle, that skilful Mystic, and Master of the Internal life, where he adds, |He that searcheth the heart, knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit; because he maketh intercession for the saints, according to the will of God| (Rom. viii.27). That is to say, the Spirit demandeth only that which is conformable to the will of God; and the will of God is, that we should be saved: that we should become perfect: He, therefore, intercedeth for that which is necessary for so great an end.
Why should we then burden ourselves with superfluous cares, and fatigue and weary ourselves in the multiplicity of our ways, without ever saying, |Let us rest in peace?| God Himself inviteth us to cast our cares, our anxieties, upon Him; and He complains in Isaiah, with ineffable goodness, that the soul had expended its powers and its treasures on a thousand external objects, and mistook its path to happiness, which was attainable by means much more facile: |Wherefore,| saith God, |do you spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness| (Isa. lv.2).
Did we but know the blessedness of thus hearkening unto God, and how greatly the soul is strengthened and invigorated thereby, |All flesh would surely be silent before the Lord| (Zech. ii.13); all would cease and be still, as soon as He appears. But to engage us farther in a boundless resignation, God assures us, by the same Prophet, that we should fear nothing in this abandonment, because He takes a care of us, surpassing the highest tenderness of which we can form an idea: |Can a woman| saith He, |forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, she may forget; yet will I not forget thee| (Isa. xlix.15). O blessed assurance, pregnant with consolation! Who, after this, shall be fearful of resigning themselves wholly to the dispensations and guidance of their God?