"Many words do not satisfy the soul; but a good life eases the mind and a clean conscience inspires great trust in God."

Thomas á Kempis

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"It is not God's will that we should abound in spiritual delights, but that in all things we should submit to his holy will."

Blessed Henry Suso

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"It is well to choose some one good devotion, and to stick to it, and never to abandon it."

St Philip Neri

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John Nicholas Grou, S.J. 

 

SPIRITUAL MAXIMS (cont)

 

by John Nicholas Grou, S.J.

Twenty-fourth Maxim: Conclusion

Let us pray that these Maxims may redound to the greater glory of God, and the happiness of our own souls

The words which serve as a heading to this chapter are not in the form of a maxim, but they contain three great truths, with the explanation of which I will close this little work.

The first is that by prayer we may be counted among the number of interior souls; the second, that such souls glorify God more than others; the third, that they are by far the happiest.

I suppose myself addressing one who, having read or heard somewhat concerning the interior life, feels a keen desire to live that divine life. This desire manifestly comes from God, and is itself a beginning of that which it seeks. I would say, then, keep the spark alight by fervent and assiduous prayer. Offer yourself sincerely to God, not just once in a way but every day, and many times a day. Beg Him to open for you the way to the promised land. With that end in view, communicate often, occupy yourself with good works, fulfil the duties of your state, bear bravely with the worries attendant on them, and you will undoubtedly obtain the grace you are asking for. For God does not plant such a desire in a soul, without intending to satisfy it. Should you be eager in the pursuit of this great blessing, know that it is God Who is inspiring you. If you do all that is in your power to obtain it, again it is God Who is the author of your zeal, and is animating and sustaining it. If you persevere in asking for it and do not allow yourself to become discouraged, you will certainly obtain what you seek. For how could God refuse such a request from a soul that longs to be His entirely, and will He not grant it in the measure of the desire He Himself has given?

But you must be careful not to excite your imagination, or become impatient or over-anxious in your quest. Pray quietly, and await quietly the answer to your prayer. God has His own time for answering it: seek not to hurry His work. On the other hand, beware of tepidity, indifference or negligence in your prayer, for that would be a sign that you do not know nor want the grace you are asking for.

If, however, you pray as you should do, God will in due time take possession of your soul, either all at once or by degrees. If the former, you will feel immediately a perfect assurance of it, from the sudden change which will take place in you. If it happens gradually, then follow the workings of grace step by step, and be extremely faithful. Everything depends upon your fidelity. Once introduced into the interior way, you have but to walk in it, directed interiorly by the Holy Spirit, and exteriorly by your spiritual guide.

There are few Christians who do not receive some insight into the interior way. Either they receive it while remaining faithful to the grace of their baptism, or God gives it to them when they sincerely return to Him after wandering away from Him, it may be far and for long periods. If only souls wanted and knew how to cultivate that tiny seed; if directors, themselves interior souls, would take the necessary pains to develop it, the effect of their combined efforts would soon be apparent, and the early steps in the way would not present much difficulty. Most of the trouble arises from the false or imperfect notions we at once begin forming when we enter the interior way, on the strength of which we introduce all sorts of practices, methods and activities, in which there is a great deal of self and self-will. Difficulties also arise through having one's own fixed idea of how God wants to be served, and this hinders the work of grace, a habit which it is almost impossible to throw off once one has arrived at a certain age. They arise also from prejudices one has conceived against the interior life, esteeming it to be dangerous and out of the ordinary, and subject to a thousand illusions. Lastly, difficulties often come from the directors themselves, who for similar reasons, or because they do not want to take the trouble or are afraid to risk their reputation, close the entrance to the interior life to those under their care.

If both penitent and director were actuated by zeal for God's interests, how very differently they would think. For it is certain that we cannot glorify God more than by dedicating ourselves entirely to Him, so that He may lead us as He will. Indeed, it is God Who then glorifies Himself in the soul wherein He finds no resistance. And can we doubt that He glorifies Himself in the best way, according to the whole scope of His designs, when the creature offers no opposition? The will and the means are both within His power: nothing but man's free will can impede the workings of His grace, and the impediment ceases to exist when that liberty is freely yielded up into God's hands.

Moreover, God's glory lies in the free submission of our will to His. If that submission is absolute, extending to everything without exception; if it is continuous and never rescinded, the glory that God derives from it is as great as is possible, for the creature can offer Him nothing greater.

What glorifies God is our sanctification, and the more God acts in a soul by grace, the more that soul is sanctified. In what soul does God act more freely, more efficaciously and more independently, than in one that has constituted Him master of its faculties; that keeps these continuously submissive to His will, only reserving for itself a constant attention to His guidance, and an exact fidelity in following it? If it perseveres to the end in this disposition, is it not clear that God will raise it to that degree of sanctity which He intends for it, and that He will derive all the glory He expects from it?

What glorifies God more is when we see Him alone in everything; when we refer all to Him, look only to His interests and consider ours as subordinate to His; when, like Job, we receive good and evil at His hands with an even mind, and bless His name in all things. But that is just what an interior soul does. Its eye-that is, its intention--is single and pure, ever turned towards God; no lower view or created interest defiles it. Such a soul is in a state of holy indifference respecting what befalls it. All that it receives from God is welcome, because sent by Him. It is as contented to bear all manner of crosses and trials, as it is to be loaded with good things, for its true and only good is God's good pleasure.

Last of all, the glory that God derives from these souls in heaven is proportionate to that which they have given Him on earth. Then, perfected in love, rapt in the vision of Him to Whom they gave themselves when as yet they knew Him only by faith, they will offer Him eternally a tribute of adoration, thanksgiving, praise and love, which is beyond all human conception. As their holocaust of themselves bore a direct resemblance to that of Our Lord, so the Father will receive from them a special glory of the same kind as He receives from the sacred humanity of His only-begotten Son. But the glory rendered by the creature to its Creator is the rule and measure of its own happiness. Judge, then, if it be possible, what will be the happiness of such souls in heaven. All I can say is that God will give Himself to them as they gave themselves to Him. They gave themselves to Him without reserve, with the whole of their heart; so, too, God will not be sparing in the reward He gives them. They gave themselves to Him, weak, poor, imperfect creatures; He will give Himself to them as God, infinitely great, infinitely powerful, infinitely rich, generous and glorious. They loved Him as mere creatures, according to the narrow capacity of their hearts; He will love them as God, with a love as far beyond their own as the Uncreated Essence is beyond the being formed out of nothingness. If I may dare to say so, He will be as devoted and consecrated to them as they were to Him. In a word, He will render them all for all; but an All boundless and infinite in return for an all limited and finite. They gave without measure, they will receive without measure; a pure, generous and utterly lavish love will recompense them. Such profusion would, indeed, exhaust the riches of God, were they not inexhaustible. [136] Such is the happiness awaiting these souls in heaven.

That these souls, whilst yet on earth, are happy, so far as the conditions of this life allow, who can doubt? What is happiness but the love and possession of the sovereign Good? These souls love the sovereign Good: even in this life they possess Him according to the full capacity of their heart. God fills the heart, leaving no room for any other desire. Nothing draws them; nothing that the world can offer them in the way of honours, wealth or pleasure attracts them; they are in possession of a happiness that makes them despise all else. And this blessing, does it consist in the gifts and favours and consolations of God? By no means. They receive these things gratefully when it pleases God to send them, but they do not desire them, nor cling to them; nor do they fret when they are deprived of them. The real blessing they possess is God Himself, and He is infinitely greater than all His gifts.

Again, what is happiness? Happiness is peace of heart, and that peace never leaves them: a peace intense, changeless, unaffected by feelings, independent of vicissitudes, both of the natural and supernatural order; abiding in the depth of the heart, despite all trials and temptations, bound up with the very crosses they bear, and without which they would not wish to live. All this is incomprehensible, but it is true.

Would you know whether these souls are happy? Ask them if there is anything in the world that would induce them to wish themselves otherwise situated, to desire any alleviation of their sufferings, to withdraw themselves from the rule of the divine will. Ask them if they even wish God to relieve them and end their pain. They answer No. They will tell you that they are more than content; that all their desires are fulfilled, so long as God is glorified in them as He would wish to be. Show me any other happiness on earth to be compared to theirs--there is none. The happiness of innocence is great; that of penitence also. But the happiness of souls that God sanctifies Himself by the interior way of abandonment and pure faith is greater than them all. One needs to be in it to believe this; but when one has advanced somewhat on the way, there is no longer any doubt.

 

The End

   
 
136. Cf. Rom. xi. 33