In the previous reflection, we saw how Mary, in her loving and trust-filled bridal receptivity, became the Mother, not only of Jesus, but of all the children of God. And we emphasized that her receptivity was only possible because she knew herself to be unceasingly and totally cradled within God’s all-enveloping Love. Because of the security that such an awareness gave her, she was able to yield herself up to the touch of grace, to abandon herself in childlike confidence into the hands of her loving Father. In this way she shared in the innermost disposition of Jesus himself, who lived at every moment as the beloved Son of the Father, in and from that deep mystery of who he is as the Father’s eternal Son.
Mary and Jesus, living as God’s beloved within this world, have opened up a space which each one of us is invited to inhabit. Just as Adam and Eve, before original sin, dwelt in “belovedness,” in complete childlike openness before God and one another, so Jesus and Mary—the New Adam and the New Eve—live this attitude once again, and thus restore it to our world. They have shown us the beauty of authentic childhood—this profound trust in the love of God, which awakens in us the desire and ability to entrust our lives entirely into his hands. They speak to us unceasingly, their voices echoing in prayer, echoing throughout our life, echoing through our Mother the Church:
Come… Come, little one, into the sanctuary of your heart, where we await you. Come to let yourself be loved by the God who knows you, delights in you, and desires to unite you intimately to himself. You are thirsty…and God wants to satisfy this thirst with his own closeness, with his own enveloping embrace. Only pronounce your “yes” and we will fill you with the torrent of Love.
And if you find yourself afraid to say “yes,” then simply do not flee…simply remain in this place and let yourself be gazed upon, let yourself be known, and let yourself be held. You will experience this Love holding you and infusing your life secretly with grace. Then this Love will itself beget in you the “yes” that you are afraid to pronounce. God’s absolute “Yes” of love for you—his total affirmation of your unique beauty in his eyes—will awaken your “yes” in return, your acceptance of this awesome gift.
In order to help us enter more deeply into this inner sanctuary, to open ourselves to God’s loving gaze, in his reflection we will begin to speak about prayer. What is prayer? We have, really, been speaking about it all along. It is, ultimately, simply a matter of letting oneself be know and loved by God (which we always are!). It is thus getting in touch with the innermost truth of who we are, and with the Love that sustains us and the whole universe at every moment. Simply to sit in his gaze of love, simply to rest within his enveloping Love…this is the heart of prayer.
Everything else that occurs in prayer occurs within this primary and all-enveloping rest within the knowledge and love of God. Even our own reciprocal gaze, in which we look upon the One who looks upon us, is itself contained within God’s primary and inviting gaze. Even our thirst to rest against God’s loving Heart is but a response to the fact that his Heart is already close to us, touching us and holding us.
There is a profound truth here that we have seen in our previous reflections, which should be made more explicit now: we can only see ourselves in the light cast from the eyes of another. Indeed, we are always, in a way, seeing ourselves through the eyes of others. Therefore, we are tempted to try to make ourselves “presentable” and “lovable” before them, even if this means projecting a false image of who we are. This is how deeply our own identity is tied up with the gaze of others. But this often ends up being an “exile” from our authentic inner truth, rather than is discovery. We need, instead, to encounter the gaze of love that goes deeper, that pierces through the brokenness, the fears, the false projections, and touches, knows, and loves us in the innermost reality of who we are.
Ultimately, we know this, we know that we are deeper than what others see. Therefore, our deepest understanding of ourselves corresponds with what we think that God sees when he looks upon us. The problem is that often this image does not correspond with what God truly sees, but rather with our own wounds and fears, our own projections of who he is and of who we are before him. Prayer, in this perspective, is simply a matter of allowing ourselves to be bathed in the light cast from his loving eyes. In this way we enter into the deepest and most authentic truth of who we are before him. We can find ourselves liberated from the false and uncomprehending vision of others, who do not truly see us as we are, and even from our own narrow and limited vision…in order to allow God to show us how he sees us, and thus to give us the ability to see with his own vision.
From this place in which we allow ourselves to be beheld by God, deeply known and loved by him, a profound intimacy grows and blossoms. Prayer is therefore sitting at Christ’s feet, like Mary of Bethany, receiving the love that flows unceasingly from him. Or indeed it is leaning against his bosom, as the beloved disciple, receiving the tender and loving reverberations of his Sacred Heart. It is a matter of letting ourselves be drawn to this burning Hearth of Love, emitting light and warmth in the darkness and chill of this world. Here we allow his radiance to bathe us in its splendor, and the heat of his Love to thaw the rigidity of our fear and our pain, until we become soft in his warmth, relaxed and surrendered in childlike trust.
Through this profound intimacy with Jesus, whose Heart is the burning Hearth of Love in which the whole Trinity dwells, we are taken up into the Son’s own relationship with his Father, into the dynamic flow of love that is ever occurring between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is our highest calling and our breathtaking destiny: to be immersed into the innermost life of the Blessed Trinity, caught up into the very relationships of love that unite the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to one another for all eternity! We are caught up into the space between the Father and the Son, in which they forever whisper, in the Breath of the Spirit, to one another, and to each of us: I love you… I love you… I love you…
We live in a world, however, that places so much emphasis on “doing” and “achieving”—even making these the source of our identity—that we can find this kind of restfulness and receptivity very difficult. So many do not know their identity as a beloved child of the Father, and therefore seek it in a thousand other places…when it is right here always in the depths of the heart, in that place where the Father is unceasingly looking upon us and loving us. This is what God desires so much to reveal to us again: to reveal to us his Love, and that his most ardent desire is simply that we rest in his arms, in the place of belovedness where nothing matters but the intimacy of union for which he created us.
This all-enfolding Love of God is present and at work in every moment and circumstance of our lives, even when we do not see it or feel it. Because we have lost our awareness of this Love, because we have lost the fullness of living relationship with the One who enfolds us in himself, Jesus came among us as one of us, touching us in our most painful, most wounded, and darkest places. The light of his loving gaze pierces the depths of our darkness, our pain, our shame. In this way he has reopened these places, these experiences to the radiant light of Love, to its consoling and healing warmth. Prayer is simply a matter of letting ourselves be drawn into proximity to this healing Fire…or rather, a matter of opening our souls to the touch of this Fire that already gently encompasses us, to this light of God’s gaze which completely knows us, and in completely knowing us completely loves us.
– Do I see how Jesus and Mary have lived the attitude of childlike trust and surrender that Adam and Eve lost in the beginning? Do I believe that I, too, am capable of living this, through their gift and the support of divine grace?
– What is my experience of prayer? Do I feel like I am able to open myself to God’s healing gaze and to the sheltering and consoling Fire of his Love?
– If I struggle with this, how could I let myself be drawn deeper into an encounter with God’s Love? Do I need to devote more time to prayer? Do I need to turn to him more habitually in times of trail? Do I need to “look deeper” to the depths of my authentic desires and fears, so that I can experience his gaze in these places?