Journal Notes on St Paul of the Cross #23
by Amy Knight
If your affair did not succeed, you must adore His Holy Will with all peace and union with the pleasure of God. Often, with regard to prayer, God gives strong feelings which seem to guarantee that the petitions will be heard, and then the outcome is quite the opposite. That does not mean that this prayer has been a deceit. God simply permits this so that the soul may learn to be most faithful to God, even if, when asking for bread, God gives her stones. These are a test from God so that we stay on guard and not trust ourselves and our feelings of prayer. Feelings can have a natural source or come from our imagination, which makes us believe what is not so. So enough! The one who hopes in God, who is strong in faith, draws good from everything. It has happened that God has given strong inclination for prayers for affairs entirely noble and then has delayed the grace for years and years so that the one perseveres in prayer. Therefore, rejoice that you are called to cry out to the Divine Throne. Now I command that you quiet yourself in God and think no more about the matter. But simply love God and follow your accustomed practices, annihilating yourself more and more and confessing that you are unworthy of any good. Pray for your family, but with indifference. Think no more of it, but be careful to be dead to everything, confiding in God alone. Make nothing out of your feelings; stir up your face and strengthen yourself in faith. As for the great feelings you experience in prayer, protest that you do not want them, that you seek God alone and want to live in him, love him and so on. L226
Matthew 22:37 Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
If all of life could be summed up into one statement of the best advice, Saint Paul of the Cross says it in the above quote: “…simply love God…”. Our feelings, our prayers, our assignments, our trials, our families, our longings all can either lead us to do this one and greatest commandment, or they can be a distraction from it. Oh, that we might be able to learn to let ourselves be malleable and soft in His hands that He may have His way making us after the divine Image of His Firstborn Son, our only Love.
The first commandment is so simple, we don’t do it, and so difficult we cannot do it apart from Him. Truly, it takes God to love God. However, He is eager to give us every grace from Heaven so that we might love Him well. Indeed, this loving Him is all He asks of us and all He wants from us. He desires our love. If only we could see this truth in all its fullness, then every deed done, every word said, every relationship cultivated, every energy applied could all and would all be ordered to this one lofty and overarching commandment to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
This ordering all to love Him alone is why the Saint warns:
As for the great feelings you experience in prayer, protest that you do not want them…
Pray for your family, but with indifference…
If your affair did not succeed, you must adore His Holy Will with all peace and union with the pleasure of God…
Now I command that you quiet yourself in God and think no more about the matter…
Whatever matter concerns us where our thoughts, affections, time and energy are used, we must carefully consider our ways. For no sooner do we take on some noble cause “for the Lord” that the cause itself becomes our idol and so distraught do we become when God puts His finger on this idol and asks us to surrender this cause and give it up for Love’s sake. We do not know nor understand that we have made an idol with our own hands and have been worshipping that thing whatever form it may be. In fact, we insist the very opposite is true and we put up an argument defending our actions, emotions, will, time, and energy that have all been invested into this matter at the expense of simply loving Him.
What matter is hindering simply loving Him today? What is taking up my thoughts, my energy, my resources, my time, my heart, my strength? What noble cause is really only a distraction from the simple commandment to just love Him?
Prayer from Saint Paul of the Cross: “O Holy Spirit, Love of the Father and the Son, inflame me entirely with love… O Spirit of Infinite light, infinite sweetness, come into my heart! Come, O Infinite Good! Come, immense Love! Come, true and only God, into this poor penitent heart! Come, my Love! Come, my Sweetness, O my Light, my Happiness, all my treasure, O my Riches, O my True Good, O my only Hope, O my God, oh my All, Come, for I languish for love. Come, for I can no longer bear not to love you. Come and set me on fire to the marrow of my bones.” (L148)