This was the awesome day my two lines of reflection — total obedience to the Holy Spirit, and the reading of the book on how to enter into comtemplative prayer — converged.
First of all, my reflection on the “total obedience” thing had been limited up until this point to a review of the various activities I am involved in, to see which really came from God and which originated in my own worldliness. This is a worthwhile exercise, to be sure, but somewhat limited.
As I was reading the book, I came across a section which spoke of a transition within oraison, where we move from an active contemplation (using the imagination, drawing in the senses) to a passive contemplation, where God really takes over.
It hit me: have I been letting go in my prayer, really allowing God to take me to that next step? Would that not also be a form of “total obedience to the Holy Spirit” — a form perhaps closer to what God really wanted?
So I entered the chapel that evening, and knelt before the Blessed Sacrament. I began with renewing my baptismal promises, including the rejection of Satan at the beginning, and then an inner “hymn of praise” to the Trinity. I then invoked my favourite saints (which is just about every one I know more than just a little something about), and closed it off asking Mary and Joseph for special guidance (St. Teresa of Avila especially recommends devotion to St. Joseph, although I don’t know the specific reasons for this). Finally, I shifted into the Our Father, resolving to meditate on it line by line.
I didn’t get past “Hallowed be thy name” when it felt like all those saints suddenly joined me in my soul in a chorus of praise to the Lord. I couldn’t help but join in within my heart. It was like I had entered the “cloud of witnesses” — I couldn’t see them, I wasn’t hearing voices per se, but I just knew they were there, and I was with them.
I found myself leaning back more and more, like I was straining for the ceiling, so I sat in the chair in the chapel a little slouched against the back of the seat, my face turned upward. What I can only describe as a river of pure grace flooded my being, to the point of even have physical effects. It was amazing.
That being said, those physical effect weren’t enough, apparently, to prevent fatigue from setting in — I started to yawn, so I thought perhaps it was time to go to bed. It turned out, though, that the graces within the chapel were just an appetizer. Once in my room, I sat down for a second and glanced over at the icon of the Trinity I had brought with me (my favourite icon to pray with) and WHAM! Grace upon grace returned. And this time, it was not an “active” grace like I experienced with the chorus of saints. It was purely passive, a great quiet and peace. My job was simply to be there. I put a blanket on the floor, and my pillow, and just lay there, my arms extended out from my sides like in a cross. There was nothing particularly “crucifixatory” about it — it just seemed the most comfortable and appropriate posture at the time. I am not sure how long I lay there, but time seemed to be standing still. And every time my active intellect tried to intervene — “I’ve gotta write this down!” (or something like that) my will just said “Sshhhh….be still a little longer”. Like I said, my job was simply to be there.
I will be honest, I have lived a similar kind of graced moment once or twice before in my life, but each time is extraordinarily fresh and alive. Folks, I can tell you, if this is heaven, then we have EVERYTHING to look forward to. Truly awesome, in the best sense of the word. But in reading the oraison book, I see that this experience probably belonged to the 4th dwelling of the Interior Castle (certain attributes of the experience matched those of this level of prayer most closely). Actually, I was a little disappointed — I’d like to think I had made it, even only for a moment, to the Seventh dwelling, but now I just have even more to look forward to on my spiritual journey. It’s hard to believe it can get even better than that, but apparently it can, a lot better, so let’s bring it on!