(2) ‘Moreover beware of doing violence to yourself in order to feel and taste what you say or do.’
This is indeed a danger and a danger to which beginners are subject; it is as follows. In their new and inexperienced fervor, their intense eagerness and almost greedy spirituality make them bent on finding and feeling sensible sweetness in their prayers and their actions. This can be a snare of the evil one. Let us beware of this inordinate desire for consolations. Let us seek as the Imitation bids us ‘rather the God of consolations than the consolations of God.’
And so, ‘speak and act in that pure faith which Mary had when she was on earth and which, in due time, she will communicate to you.’
The essential, is, then to act with a great purity of intention, with an entire abandonment and a complete disinterestedness as regards sensible satisfactions. Père Lhoumeau stresses the importance of this lesson as ‘very useful for the beginner and for those who are apt to think that their acts have no value unless accompanied by sensible sweetness.’ It is a commonplace of spirituality that union with God is achieved not through sentimental eagerness, a passing emotion, the fervour of an hour, but by a firm and permanent act of the will.
All her life Mary had a clear vision of the will and good pleasure of God. It is this will, this divine good pleasure and not, in reality, our personal satisfaction which we must seek. By an interior renunciation of our own intentions, of any reversion to ourselves, of any rights of possession, we assume the intentions of Mary. And then, whether we have sensible sweetness or spiritual dryness, we shall be calm and content. Mary will come when she thinks well, to console and delight us.
‘Poor little slave!’ says Blessed Grignion, ‘leave the Beatific Vision, the transports, the joys, the pleasures and the raptures to your Sovereign, and take as your own portion only a pure faith full of disgusts, distractions, weariness and dryness.’
It is very true that our faith is full of darkness, dryness, temptation. We are on our way at night, and our only light is the distant gleam of the eternal light. But that must suffice us. A steadfast faith founded on revelation, a boundless confidence in the infallible word of God, an invincible hope in the promises of God the Father, and a love which knows no fear of hesitation, these must shine upon our acts, in our hearts, to fill them with God and impel them to Him.
Patience and submission in the faith with Mary: yet a little while and that slight veil which hides the vision from our eager sight will be rent, we shall see, we shall understand, we shall love.
While waiting for your flight to the pure light of glory, Christian soul, be at peace with Mary. ‘Say, Amen, so be it! to all that Mary, your Heavenly Mistress does.’ Stay like a child, like a little slave at her feet, your gaze fixed upon her hands, her eyes, her lips, her heart, while you await her commands, her inspirations, her intentions, her maternal love. ‘This is the best you can do for the present.’ Later on, the clear vision of glory, the contemplation of the Beatific Vision, the enjoyment of a cloudless, unmitigated bliss. To-day let us be content with simple faith and obedient fulfillment of the will of God in Mary. It is difficult, but it is meritorious.
Let us love to recite often and reverently the prayer to Mary. ‘May the continual sight of God fill my memory with His presence…I do not ask of thee either visions or revelations, or relish, or raptures, or even spiritual pleasures. It is for thee to see clearly without any shadow, to taste without any bitterness…For my portion here below, I wish for no other joy but the one thou didst have here, that is to say, to believe in pure faith without relish or vision; to suffer joyously without consolation from creatures…The only grace I ask thee is that every day I may say three times: Amen, so be it.’
(To be continued.)