The phrase that first caught my attention when I was praying with Day 3 of the journey was:
…it is everything that is made…lying in the palm of my hand.
I pictured the photo I had taken of a ceramic hand candle holder I have, with a hazelnut in it. I took this picture for a previous post, after the retreat day I did last year at the Julian centre.
Currently, I have a small stone with the word “serenity” written on it sitting in the palm of this hand. It reminded me of my own definition of serenity, of being conscious and aware of God’s presence no matter what I am doing. The phrase also brought to mind the image of myself, as my inner child Sunflower, while planting in the garden with God, holding the sunflower seeds and contemplating them in awe as it dawned on me that God made me. This memory is from an Imaginative contemplation I made during The Spiritual Exercises when I was praying with Psalm 139, and is a powerful consolation I have stored up, as Ignatius suggests.
When one enjoys consolation, let him consider how he will conduct himself during the time of ensuing desolation, and store up a supply of strength as defence against that day.The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, Louis J Puhl, S.J.
The sunflower seeds of course, also remind me of Meister Ekhart who I quote at the top of my blog and the sunflower, of me myself, growing into God. While these thoughts were going round in my head during this prayer, I imagined myself as being curled up in the foetal position and being buried underground, being in a sort of hibernation state, a waiting phase. While contemplating my own creation, because it is what I was contemplating, the meaning behind the images I was dwelling on, I noticed my feelings. I felt so tired and weary, demotivated and lethargic. Quite the opposite of what we envisage by a process of creation. I just wanted to rest and to take refuge in Him. There was definitely turmoil of spirits going on in this prayer:
Then it is characteristic of the evil spirit to harass with anxiety, to afflict with sadness, to raise obstacles backed by fallacious reasonings that disturb the soul. Thus he seeks to prevent the soul from advancing.The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, Louis J Puhl, S.J.
Even as my desire was simply to fall into God and remain there, my head was busy berating me for my laziness. I was making lists of everything I had to do and trying to give myself a kick up the backside to just get on with it and at the same time, I was being drawn into self pity because I lacked the energy and the desire to just get on with it. Self pity is something I cannot bear: I do not tolerate it in myself for very long. I knew that prayer was the only time I felt serene and yet I experienced resistance to pray – go figure. It is an ongoing wrestling match within me, by no means something I experienced in the past, it still happens! Nevertheless, I had the sense on Day 3 of my journey that God was not too fussed about me getting on with it, that He was fine with me taking time to rest in Him, and to sleep if I needed to. I settled into the prayer and into serenity.
…everything has been through the love of God…through the love of God…
This phrase struck me in two ways. The first way – which may be how Julian meant it? – was that it was because of the love of God that everything came about. The second meaning was what I understood by it immediately, and it was what I spent the rest of my prayer contemplating. It was “to go through the love of God” in the way that we say we have been through something, usually something traumatic, that has caused a change in us. This was my understanding of the phrase and it led me to ask:
What does it mean to go through the love of God?
It may involve suffering – the cost of discipleship, a well worn phrase. As such, we might expect it to be painful to go through the love of God. When I pin point the places where I have changed as a result of my interactions with God it certainly felt that the painfulness of it was a necessary part of the process. It took me back to various times when I had prayed imaginatively with the Good Samaritan parable. Needless to say, I have always been the poor beaten up soul at the side of the road and He has always been the one to come and rescue me and to take me to a safe, comfortable place. In retrospect, even though I was unaware of it at the time, these points were threshhold moments in my life and things changed irresversibly from these moments on.
At the end of this first prayer with Day 3 of the Journey, I found myself resting in God, in spite of the difficulties and pressures of my life or maybe because of them. It was the best place to be and I was serene.
On the second day of prayer with Day 3 I was drawn by the psalm fragment and what caught my attention was the phrase:
…you are mindful…Psalm 8:4
and the critical voice in my head said:
..and I am not!…
I was very distracted again at the beginning of this prayer, there was a lot of noise in my head. However, when I became aware of the distractions and my thoughts wandering, I brought my attention back to the phrase that had caught me and I was able to let go of the other voices and thoughts and to not hold onto them. I may have fallen asleep during this prayer – although I do not think that I did. I may have been so still that I lost all track of time. I love it when prayer is like that, the eternal moment. I remember feeling amazed, awed. And I asked Him:
Who am I that you are mindful of me?
I felt myself being pulled more deeply into Him, and His response was personal and intimate. St Augustine says:
God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.St. Augustine.
He made me feel like I was the only person in the world. In Revelations of Divine Love, Julian says:
This human example was so powerfully shown, that a man’s heart could be ravished and he could be beside himself with joy at this great friendliness.Julian of Norwich: Revelations of Divine Love
Julian also says:
Our Lord God also showed that it gives Him great pleasure when a simple soul comes to Him in a bare, plain and familiar way.Julian of Norwich: Revelations of Divine Love
Imagine, a God who loves me like I am the only person in the world, and who takes pleasure in loving me.
And this is what Our Lord wants us to long for and to believe, to rejoice and take pleasure in, to receive comfort and support from…Julian of Norwich: Revelations of Divine Love
I for one, marvel at it. I do not doubt it from my experience of prayer. Still, I marvel at it.