Journal Notes on Saint Paul of the Cross #27
by Amy Knight
You tell me that you are able to make little prayer. I want you to make it 24 hours a day. What do I mean by this? I mean that you are to be always within yourself and totally annihilated before God, giving yourself freedom to make those flights of spirit as the loving breath of the Holy Spirit moves you, or being pleased that God is that infinite goodness that He is, your soul now in admiration, resting suspended in a high wonderment of love while contemplating his infinite perfections. But when your soul desires to remain in the silence of love, allow it to do so while you drink at that divine fountain of the most holy water that flows from that Heart. You should know that one who drinks here must drink generously. I mean to say that you must drink Love by the rivers, by the seas of that fire, and let all be reduced to ashes. Letter[IS1] #248
1 Thessalonians 5:17 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Prayer is more than making petitions or having conversation with God. Prayer is living before God silently adoring Him always in the interior part of the soul. Constant prayer is giving Him all affection, loving attention and adoration at all times. This type of prayer can happen even while sleeping.[i] The apostle Paul says to “pray without ceasing.” [ii] What does he mean by this seemingly impossible statement? Ceaseless prayer is a silent being with God in the interior part of your being. This loving silent adoration is a form of prayer that can become a giving of self over to God in ever increasing measures until it becomes ever-constant. One example is that of an unknown monk who wandered about repeating only one prayer: “Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me!”[iii] The constancy of his repeating mantra with his mind focused on God brought him into a close union with God because he became increasingly aware of his nothingness and God’s presence within him.
The repeating mantra is not a formula for success in praying without ceasing. What is needed is a humble heart that is given over in love. When the soul has found the One it loves, then the heart is awakened and begins the journey of seeking union with God, for love always seeks union.[iv] Love has a way of raising one out of oneself and focusing on its object, and when the object is God, a supernatural dimension enters into the relationship whereby the soul can become rapt in ecstasy and with God’s help, transcend beyond the natural dimension and into a heavenly one.[v]
This transcendence may or may not be an experience in the realm of the senses. If it is experienced in the sense realm, then the soul may be “slain in the Spirit”, which simply means the person may experience the power of God such that he or she falls down, or may have the look of someone drunk or even unconscious. However, this ecstasy in God, or transcending experience may also occur completely apart from the senses because God transcends our natural realm, for He created it. Therefore, He can cause the soul to be “rapt” in Him without any sensation at all. This connection is directly from His Spirit to the spirit of the soul.
This oneness, or union with God, transcendent in nature, is the reality of “being seated with Christ in heavenly places.”[vi] Many times, the Lord will bring the soul through stages of prayer such that one season may be full of experiencing ecstasies within the sense realm, then go on to experience a “dark night of the soul”[vii] where the soul feels nothing at all in the sense realm, and many times, misinterprets this void as God abandoning the soul altogether. Nothing could be further from the truth. In these times where the soul feels nothing, God is inviting the soul to come out of the sense realm and transcend into His heavenly reality. He desires the soul to be “weaned” from having to feel His presence in the sense realm and instead, know His constant presence within directly from His Spirit. This constancy, once the soul is attuned to it, is a sort of ecstasy that is a continual union where adoration and loving attention is ever-present.
[i] Song of Solomon 5:2 I sleep, but my heart is awake; it is the voice of my beloved!
[ii] I Thessalonians 5:17
[iii] Luke 18:38; The Way of a Pilgrim, an anonymous Russian spiritual classic.
[iv] Sons of Solomon 3:4 Scarcely had I passed by them, when I found the one I love. I held him and would not let him go, until I had brought him to the house of my mother, and into the chamber of her who conceived me.
[v] Ephesians 1:3
[vi] Ephesians 1:3
[vii] A term used by Saint John of the Cross. See The Collected Works of St John of the Cross.