And then our good Lord …showed me my soul in the midst of my heart. I saw the soul as wide as if it were an endless citadel, and also as if it were a blessed kingdom, and from the state which I saw in it, I understood that it is a fine city. In the midst of that city sits our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man…and He rules and guards heaven and earth and everything that is. The place that Jesus takes in our soul He will never more vacate, for in us is His home of homes, and it is the greatest delight for Him to dwell there. Greatly ought we to rejoice that God dwells in our soul; and more greatly ought we to rejoice that our soul dwells in God. Our soul is created to be God’s dwelling place, and the dwelling of our soul is God, who is uncreated. Marvelous and splendid is the place where the Lord dwells; and therefore He wants us promptly to attend to the touching of His grace, rejoicing more in His unbroken love than sorrowing over our frequesnt failings.
I have now caught up on my journey after my illness, and I am carrying on my way.
And thus I saw that He wants us to know that He takes the falling of any creature who will be saved no harder than He took the falling of Adam, who, we know, was endlessly loved and safely protected in all the time of his need, and now is blissfully restored in great and surpassing joys. For our Lord God is so good, so gentle and so courteous that He can never assign final failure to those in whom He will always be blessed and praised. I saw and understood that very surely in each soul which will be saved there is a godly will which never assented to sin and never will. Therefore our Lord wants us to know…that we have all this blessed will whole and safe in our Lord Jesus Christ, because every nature with which heaven will be filled had of necessity…to be so joined and united in Him that in it a substance was kept which could never and should never be parted from Him.
Reading: Romans 7: 15, 20, 22-23
Psalm 139: 1-2, 4
In the servant is comprehended the second person of the Trinity, and in the servant is comprehended Adam, that is to say, all [persons]. And therefore…when I say “the servant”, that means Christ’s humanity, which is the true Adam. When Adam fell, God’s son fell; because of this true union which was made in heaven, God’s son could not be separated from Adam…Adam fell from life to death, into the valley of this wretched world, and after that into hell. God’s son fell with Adam, into the valley of the womb of the maiden who was the fairest daughter of Adam, and that was to excuse Adam from blame in heaven and on earth; and powerfully He brought him out of hell. For all [human] kind which will be saved by the sweet Incarnation and the Passion of Christ, all is Christ’s humanity, for He is the head and we are His members…for Jesus is in all who will be saved, and all who will be saved are in Jesus, and all is of the love of God…[For] I saw that only pain blames and punishes, and our courteous Lord [is]…always kindly disposed to the soul.
Reading: 1 Corinthians 15: 21-22
Psalm 30: 2-3
I saw…a lord and a servant….[The Lord] looks on his servant very lovingly and sweetly and mildly. He sends him to…do his will. Not only does the servant go, but he dashes off and runs at great speed, loving to do his lord’s will. And soon he falls into a dell and is greatly injured; and then he groans and moans and tosses about and writhes, but he cannot rise or help himself in any way. And …the greatest hurt I saw in him was lack of consolation, for he could not turn his face to look on his loving lord…This is a great sorrow and a cruel suffering to him, for he neither sees clearly his loving lord, who is so meek and mild to him, nor does he truly see what he himself is in the sight of his loving lord. And I know well that when these two things are wisely and truly seen, we shall gain rest and peace…by God’s plentiful grace …And the loving regard which [the lord] kept constantly on his servant, and especially when he fell…could melt our hearts for love and break them in two for joy.
Reading: Isaiah 42:1a
Good Lord I see in you that you are very truth, and I know truly that we sin grievously all day and are very blameworthy; and I can neither reject my knowledge of this truth, nor see that any kind of blame is shown to us. How can this be? For I know by the ordinary teaching of the Holy Church and by my own feeling that the blame of our sins continually hangs upon us…This then [caused me] astonishment, that I saw our Lord God showing no more blame to us than if we were as pure and as holy as the angels are in heaven…I [felt] great fear and perplexity, thinking that if I were to take it that we are not sinners and not blameworthy, it seems as if I should err and fail to recognise the truth. And if it be true that we are sinners and blameworthy, good Lord, how can it be that I cannot see this truth in you, who are my God, my maker in whom I desire to see all truth?
Reading: 1 Samuel 16:7b
In God there can be no anger. In all [my] contemplation it was necessary to see and know that we are sinners and commit many evil deeds which we ought to forsake, and leave many good deeds undone which we ought to do, so that we deserve pain, blame and wrath. And despite all this I saw truly that our Lord was never angry, and never will be. Because He is God, He is good, He is truth, He is love, He is peace; and His power, His wisdom, His charity and His unity do not allow Him to be angry. For I saw no wrath except on [our] side, and He forgives that in us, for wrath is nothing else but a perversity and an opposition to peace and to love. and it comes from a lack of power or a lack of wisdom or a lack of goodness, and lack is not in God, but it is on our side. For we through sin and wretchedness have in us a wrath and a constant opposition to peace and to love; and He revealed that very often in His lovely look of compasssion and pity.
Reading: Isaiah 55:7-9
But when our courteous Lord of His special grace shows Himself to our soul, we have what we desire, and then for that time we do not see what more we should pray for, but all our intention and all our power are wholly directed to contemplating Him. And as I see it, this is an exalted and imperceptible prayer; for the whole reason why we pray is to be united into the vision and contemplation of Him to whom we pray…with so much sweetness and delight in Him that we cannot pray at all except as He moves us at the time…And then we can do no more than contemplate Him and rejoice, with a great and compelling desire to be wholly united into Him, and attend to his motion and rejoice in His love and delight in His goodness…And [ultimately] we shall all come into our Lord, knowing ourselves clearly and wholly possessing God, and we shall all be endlessly hidden in God, truly seeing and wholly feeling, and hearing Him spiritually and delectably smelling Him and sweetly tasting Him. And there we shall see God face to face, familiarly and wholly.
Reading: 1 John 3:2
Psalm 27: 8-9
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
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.
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?
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
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
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.
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.
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.