27 July 2009

Retreat - part 2

I have returned, having learned that:
  1. I am a sinner
  2. God is infinitely separated from me
  3. God loves me and deigns to dwell within me
  4. God wants my complete surrender to Him

"Oh," you say, "I thought you already knew all that."

Well, yes, so I did. I know a lot of things that I need to be constantly reminded of, to deepen my understanding of, to learn to really believe; to hope in; and finally and essentially, to learn to love.

For what it's worth, here is the meditation that I used repeatedly - I hope with some profit - during the retreat:

"Come now, insignificant man, fly for a moment from your affairs, escape for a little while from the tumult of your thoughts. Put aside now your weighty cares and leave your wearisome toils. Abandon yourself for a little to God and rest for a little in him.

Enter into the inner chamber of your soul, shut out everything save God and what can be of help in your quest for him and having locked the door seek him out. Speak now, my whole heart, speak now to God: 'I seek your countenance, O Lord, your countenance I seek.'

Come then, Lord my God, teach my heart where and how to seek you, where and how to find you.

Lord, if you are not present here, where, since you are absent, shall I look for you ? On the other hand, if you are everywhere why then, since you are present, do I not see you ? But surely you dwell in light inaccessible. And where is this inaccessible light, or how can I approach the inaccessible light ? Or who shall lead me and take me into it that I may see you in it ? Again, by what signs, under what aspect, shall I seek you ? Never have I seen you, Lord my God, I do not know your face.

What shall he do, most high Lord, what shall this exile do, far away from you as he is ? What shall your servant do, tormented by love of you and yet cast off far from your face ? He yearns to see you and your countenance is too far away from him. He desires to come close to you, and your dwelling place is inaccessible; he longs to find you and does not know where you are; he is eager to seek you out and he does not know your countenance.

Lord, you are my God and my Lord, and never have I seen you. You have created me and recreated me and you have given me all the good things I possess, and still I do not know you. In fine, I was made in order to see you, and I have not yet accomplished what I was made for. And you, O Lord, how long ? How long, Lord, will you be unmindful of us ? How long will you turn your countenance from us ? When will you look upon us and hear us? When will you enlighten our eyes and show your countenance to us ? When will you give yourself again to us?

Look upon us, Lord; hear us, enlighten us, show yourself to us. Give yourself to us that it may be well with us, for without you it goes so ill for us. Have pity upon our efforts and our strivings towards you, for we can avail nothing without you.

Teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me as I seek, because I can neither seek you if you do not teach me how, nor find you unless you reveal yourself. Let me seek you in desiring you; let me desire you in seeking you; let me find you in loving you; let me love you in finding you."

St. Anselm of Canterbury, bishop : Proslogion, 1.

Prayer :

O God, You inspired St. Anselm with an ardent desire to find You in prayer and contemplation among the bustle of everyday occupations, help us to take time in the feverish rhythm of our days, among the worries and cares of modern life, for conversation with You, our only hope and salvation! We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord…..


John from Canada said...

John, what do you mean by "God is infinitely separated from me"? Is it an elaboration of the first point (i.e. being a sinner), or something else?

John Thayer Jensen said...

'infinitely separated' is perhaps not the right word. I mean He is self-existent; at heart I am precisely what I am created out of: nothing.

I was in a hurry and not trying to be theologically precise.

True in another sense that I am separated from Him (rather than He from me) as a sinner - yet by baptismal grace He has reunited me to Himself and is closer to me than I am to myself (whatever that latter phrase might mean - always puzzles me).

John from Canada said...

That's OK, wasn't looking so much for theological precision as to actually understand what you meant. And your followup explanation suggests you meant one thing primarily, and another secondarily.

For your primary meaning, I agree God being self-existent is infinitely different from us who are not self-existent. In fact, God maintains us in being, not vice versa. But I don't think of this primarily as a separation, but as a relationship. A relationship is by definition both a separation (the other as being distinct from the self) and a connection (the self and the other are linked) and to focus only on the separation is perhaps to miss part of the picture.

For your secondary meaning, indeed we separate ourselves from God by our sin, and there is a sense in which the separation is infinite. So this one works a bit better for me. I would put it this way: the way our separation from God in sin is infinite is thus: although we can address the separation through finite steps (reparation), no number of such acts on our part can in themselves remove the separation and restore the unity that is meant to be between us and God. For that, God needs to act; our actions are insufficient.

As for God being closer to us than we are to ourselves, that I think is a metaphor for the fact that God knows and loves us much better than we know and love ourselves. When we have someone we know and love very much, we tend to use this metaphor of closeness (e.g. close friendship).

John Thayer Jensen said...

What, on reflexion, I ought to have said is that God is infinitely higher than me - and yet is closer to me than I am to myself, precisely because my being is from His Being.

I think :-)

Anonymous said...

Have you ever really deeply considered, and also thoroughly felt what it is to be infinitely separate--from God.

One it is to be saturated with a hell-deep fear and trembling.

And also to confess that you are in effect infinitely godless.

After all isnt God an indivisible unity, in and as which everything and everyone arises simultaneously and without a jot of separation to be found any-"where".

If that is the case, how could you possibility be separate from this indivisible unity.

Except as a mind created presumption or delusion.

John Thayer Jensen said...

Anonymous 13/8 2:03PM - indeed. Absolute separation from God is Hell. To be sure, in our being we can not be separated from God. "If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there."

But we can be separated by our sin. As explained, that is not what I meant, though I expressed it badly. I meant not 'separated' but that God is infinitely higher than me. Yet by His grace He has condescended to dwell with me - and if I will not turn from Him, He will - God grant it! - raise me up to sit with Him in the Heavenlies.

I wonder, from what you said, if you haven't rather a pantheistic view of God and what it means to be with Him. If so, I encourage you to ponder the meaning of the word 'grace.'