40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 17

But still our trust is often not complete, because we are not sure that God hears us…for often we are as barren and dry after our prayer as we were before. [Here Jesus says]: Pray wholeheartedly, though you may feel nothing, though you may see nothing, yes, though you think that you could not, for in dryness and in barrenness, in sickness and in weakness, then is your prayer most pleasing to me. [W]e ought to pray…that He may rule us and guide us to His glory in this life, and bring us to His bliss…So He means us to see that He does it and to pray for it. For…if we pray and do not see that He does it, it makes us depressed and doubting…And if we see that He does it and do not pray, we do not do our duty…It is our Lord’s will that we pray for everything which He has ordained to do, either in particular or in general. And so I saw that when we see the need for us to pray, then our Lord God is following us, helping our desire.

Reading: Luke 18:1

Psalm 28:1,7

Glorious and Impassible

Christ of Maryknoll by Br. Robert Lentz OFM
Glorious and Impassible: prologue. Reading of this post.

NB: I have stayed with the word “impassible” as written in the 40 Day journey with Julian of Norwich. Wiktionary defines the word as meaning : unable to suffer or feel pain, unable to feel emotion, impassive, incapable of suffering injury or detriment; misspelling of impassable. For the word “impassable” wiktionary says: incapable of being passed over, crossed or negotiated; incapable of being overcome or surmounted. I acknowledge that Julian is unlikely to have misspelt the word she intended to mean – in the context of Day 8 of the journey that makes sense . However, when I prayed with it, the meaning I experienced with it was that of “impassable”. The misspelling is mine, and maybe also deliberately God’s, because of what He wanted to say to me in that prayer. I use the word in the sense of “impassable” in this post. Please excuse my poor spelling.

Glorious and Impassible 1: Reading of this post.

I bought this icon with some money I was given as a Christmas present and it has occupied my prayer spot this season of Lent. I first saw it on retreat a few years ago and spent several days praying with it. I have a deep affinity for it. It arrived on the morning when I was praying day 8 of my 40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, and I put it out immediately for my prayer. The words that struck me that day were;

He is glorious and impassible…

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich edited Lisa E. Dahill

and I commented in my prayer journal in my review of prayer:

This image does show Jesus as Glorious and attractive, and it is impossible to get past Him in this image. I had absolutely no desire to get past Him….

In the text at the back of the icon it reads:

It strikes me that the second paragraph is also particularly pertinent to the lockdown situation in which many of us are now living. Is Christ imprisoned or are we?

Cambridge University
Glorious and Impassible 2: Reading of this post.

On day 16 of my journey, Julian writes:

For everything that our good Lord makes us to beseech He Himself has ordained for us from all eternity.

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich edited Lisa E. Dahill

and:

This is the Lord’s will, that our prayer and trust be both equally generous.

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich edited Lisa E. Dahill

Day 8 has resurfaced in my prayer recently because it was all about desire: God’s desire and God’s thirst to have us drawn into Him. Day 16 encourages us to ask for our desire, a common practice in Ignatian spirituality, because Julian recognises that that very desire is God given: I want it because God wants it for and of me. It is a subtle movement. How many times have you heard:

I want, doesn’t get.

In God in All Things Gerard W. Hughes writes:

If I were Satan’s adviser…I would suggest that Satan ensures that Christian leaders emphasise the danger of human desire, and the need to subject it totally to the will of God, constantly warning the flock that anything they desire must be rooted in their own selfishness, which they must constantly oppose. This will ensure that they always feel bad about feeling good…

God in All Things, Gerard W. Hughes

and he also says:

Human desire is the rope attaching us to the God in whom we have every particle of our being.

God in All Things, Gerard W. Hughes
Ely Cathedral
Glorious and Impassible 3: Reading of this post.

I am sure that I would have made these connections anyway because of my direction of travel on this journey, but maybe, like many people who are currently in lockdown because of Covid-19, my reflections on what is important are augmented and my desire to change the way I live enhanced: to work more for God and less for Caesar, to live more simply and with less. I hear friends expressing the same sentiment. I have been moving in this direction for a while now, and the more it happens, the stronger my desire for it, and Him.

Of course, the critical voice is there as always, telling me that I am lazy, selfish, that I will never manage on less; that I need security – that is a big one for me. What happens if I am unable to look after myself? What then? I am just being fanciful…blah blah blah. And of course, that voice can sound very reasonable, sensible. I am a reasonable, sensible person, so I may think I am discerning with due care; and maybe I am.

But I know that when I was praying a lectio divina with Julian’s words:

For everything that our good Lord makes us to beseech He Himself has ordained for us from all eternity.

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich edited Lisa E. Dahill

something in me moved and it felt like both affirmation and confirmation.

In The Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius offers three ways that we might make a decision about our lives: he calls them first, second and third time choice. I have mentioned these three ways before. To oscillate backwards and forwards around a decision as I have been doing for the last few months, with experiences of consolation and desolation, Ignatius describes as second time choice:

When much light and understanding are derived through experience of desolations and consolations and discernment of diverse spirits.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, trans Louis J. Puhl S.J.

And after this light and understanding have been derived and a choice has been made, Ignatius continues:

After such a choice or decision, the one who has made it must turn with great diligence to prayer in the presence of God our Lord, and offer Him his choice that the Divine Majesty may deign to accept and confirm it if it is for His greater service and praise.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, trans Louis J. Puhl S.J.

What does it feel like when it is accepted and confirmed? If I ask for my desire in prayer, how do I know it has been given? What if I am just convincing myself that God wants what I want because I want God to want what I want? And these are the ways the desolating spirit can tie us up in knots. I know this one from my own experience.

Julian writes of the need for as much generosity in our trust as with our prayer.

In the meditiation on the Two Standards in the exercises, Ignatius talks about the different ways the evil one acts:

…how he goads them on…

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, trans Louis J. Puhl S.J.

And of Jesus he says:

…by attracting them to the highest spiritual poverty…

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, trans Louis J. Puhl S.J.

Spiritual directors might notice or ask are we being driven or drawn?

There is no rush with God, no fear. There is God time. It seems to me that these desires He implants in our hearts are mustard seeds and they take time to grow. He gives and allows them plenty of time to grow. I read a long time ago, prior to my engagement with Ignatian spirituality, I think it was in Shiela Cassidy’s autobiography “Audacity to Believe”, that one of the ways you can tell if it is from God is that you make a decision and hand it over to Him, and you live as if that was it and it was final. What happens in the space in between making the decision and putting it into action will let you know where the decision has come from: if it is of God, it will bring peace, a deeper desire to fulfill the choice and patience; if it is not of God it will lead to restlessness, anxiety, impatience and turmoil. It is as Ignatius suggests: make the decision and offer it to God in prayer to see what happens. Listen for His response.

Mellieha, Malta
Glorious and Impassible 4: Reading of this post.

Currently, I am in the space in between; the choice to live differently and with the next step to live that choice identified, is made and offered, and I believe confirmed. It will take some time, and there is much work to do in the meantime in preparing the way. For now it is to live with it, to work to prepare the way, and most importantly, to trust and to pray and to be patient. As I continue to pray with this icon, from within my lockdown “imprisonment” (although as I have more time at home which is my sanctuary), as I do not respect the social distancing as regards to Him and I meet Him face to face at the fence, it feels like more freedom to me. I do indeed find Him Glorious and Impassible.

While I am deeply grateful for all of the gifts He has generously given to me, I grieve and pray for all who are struggling with confinement, whatever the reason.

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 16

I’m catching up.

Jesus reassures us, saying “I am the ground of your beseeching.” For it is the most impossible thing…that we should seek mercy and grace and not have it. For everything that our good Lord makes us to beseech He himself has ordained for us from all eternity. So here we may see that our beseeching is not the cause of the goodness and grace which He gives us, but His own goodness…The fruit and end of our prayer…is to be united and like to our Lord in all things…This is the Lord’s will, that our prayer and trust be both equally generous. For if we do not trust as much as we pray, we do not pay full honour to our Lord in our prayer, and also we impede and hurt ourselves; and the reason is, as I believe, that we do not truly know that our Lord is the ground from which our prayer springs, and also because we do not know that it is given to us by grace from His love.

Reading: Matthew 7:7

Psalm 91: 1-2

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 15.

So, I have been overwhelmed with work in the last two weeks and have fallen a bit behind in my journey. I have yet to start Day 14 from last week, but I am going to make a concerted effort to put aside this time for prayer in the next few days, and to catch up to with Days 14 and 15, and move onto the next day at the appointed time.

[God] regards sin as sorrow and pains for His lovers, to whom for love He assigns no blame…For our courteous Lord does not want His servants to despair because they fall often and greviously; for our falling does not hinder Him in loving us. No more than His love towards us is withdrawn because of our sin does He wish our love to be withdrawn from ourselves or from our fellow Christians. God also showed me that sin is no shame, but honour to [us], for in this vision my understanding was lifted up to heaven; and then there came truly to my mind David, Peter and Paul, Thomas of India and Mary Magdalen, how they are known, with their sins, to their honour in the Church on Earth. And it is to them no shame that they have sinned – shame is no more in the bliss of heaven – for there the tokens of sin are turned into honours. Just so our Lord showed them to me as examples of all who will come there.

Reading 1 Timothy: 15-16

Psalm 103: 8, 10-12

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 14

By saying every kind of thing will be well,…our good Lord [Jesus]…wants us ua to know that He takes heed not only of things which are noble and great, but also of those which are little and small, of humble [people] and simple, of this [person] and that [one]. and this is the supreme friendship of our courteous Lord, tha He protects us so tenderly whilst we are in our sins; and further more He touches us most secretly, and shows us our sins by the sweet light of mercy and grace. But when we see ourselves so foul, then we believe that God may be angry with us…Then we are moved by the Holy Spirit through contrition to prayer, and we desire with all our might an amendment of ourselves….And then our courteous Lord shows Himself to the soul, happily and with the gladest countenance, welcoming it as a friend, as if it had been in pain and in prison, saying: My dear darling, I am glad that you have come to me in all your woe. I have always been with you, and now you see me loving, and we are made one in bliss.

Reading: Luke 7: 44-47

Psalm 17:8

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 13

What I am up to here.

I stood contemplating [these things] generally and darkly and mournfully, saying…to our Lord with very great fear: Ah, good Lord, how could all things be well, because of the great harm which has come through sin to your creatures?…And to this our blessed Lord answered, very meekly and with a most loving manner…that I should contemplate the glorious atonement, for this atoning is more pleasing to the blessed divinity and more honourable for [our] salvation, without comparison, than ever Adam’s sin was harmful. [He said]: For since I have set right the greatest of harms, then it is my will that you should know through this that I shall set right everything which is less…You will see yourself that every kind of thing will be well. [For] there are so many deeds which in our eyes are so evilly done and lead to such great harms that it seems to us impossible that any good result could ever come of them. And we contemplate this and sorrow and mourn in it so that we cannot rest in the blessed contemplation of God as we ought to.

Reading: Lamentations 3: 19-23

Psalm 141: 8

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 12

What I am up to here.

And with the beholding of [Jesus’ passion]…I did not see sin, for I believe that it has no kind of substance, no share in being, nor can it be recognised except by the pain caused by it. And it seems to me that this pain is something for a time, for it purges and makes us know ourselves and ask for mercy; for the Passion of our Lord is comfort to us against all this…And because of the tender love which our good Lord has for all who will be saved, He comforts readily and sweetly, meaning this: It is true that sin is the cause of all this pain, but all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well. These words were revealed most tenderly. showing no kind of blame to me, or to anyone who will be saved. So I saw how Christ has compassion on us because of sin.

Reading: Matthew 11:28-30

Psalm 65:4-5

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 11

What I am up to here.

Then our good Lord put a question to me: Are you well satisfied that I suffered for you? I said: Yes, good Lord, all my thanks to you…Then Jesus our good Lord said: If you are satisfied, I am satisfied. It is a joy, a bliss, an endless delight to my that ever I suffered my Passion for you; and if I could suffer more, I would suffer more…For although the sweet humanity of Christ could suffer only once, His goodness can never cease offering it…The love which made Him suffer it surpasses all his sufferings, as much as heaven is above earth.

Reading: John 13:1b

Psalm 103:1a, 4-5

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 10

“With this the fiend is overcome.” Our Lord said this to me with reference to His blessed passion, as He had shown it before. In this He showed a part of the fiend’s malice, and all of his impotence, because He showed that His Passion is the overcoming of the fiend…Also I saw our Lord scorn [the devil’s] malice and despise him as nothing, and he wants us to do so. Because of this sight I laughed greatly, and that made those around me laugh as well; and their laughter was pleasing to me…for I understood that we may laugh, to comfort ourselves and rejoice in God, because the devil is overcome.

Reading: Hebrews 2:14-15

Psalm 27:1-2

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 9

At the time I wanted to look away from the cross, but I did not dare, for I knew well that whilst I contemplated the cross I was secure and safe…Then there came a suggestion, seemingly said in a friendly manner, to my reason: Look up to heaven to His Father…I answered inwardly with all the power of my soul, and said: No, I cannot, for You are my heaven. I said this because I did not want to look up, for I would rather have remained in that pain until Judgement Day than have come to heaven any other way than by Him…So I was taught to choose Jesus for my heaven, whom I saw only in pain at that time. No other heaven was pleasing to me than Jesus, who will be my bliss when I am there.

Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:1-2

Psalm 90: 1, 2c