As a Christian, it is one thing to promise to obey God, it’s yet another to understand clearly what He is saying so that you can be obedient. Evelyn Underhill’s book ‘Practical Mysticism’ has helped me to understand how to start to become more open to what God has to say and live my life accordingly.
To fulfill our purpose in the world we need to be open to God’s voice and guidance, and to live in communion with Him. Only then will we get a glimpse of the awe inspiring wonders of His reality, His will and His wisdom.
So how do we do this?
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
Firstly we need to have a willingness to learn more about God, to be one with Him and ask Him to reveal His wisdom.
The next step towards experiencing Reality, which could also be described as have true communion with God, is Meditation – wiping away our turmoil of thoughts and focusing on experiences of the senses, giving space for God to reveal his will to us. For example, focusing on an idea such as joy or an object such as a flower and being in awe of its beauty created by the hand of the Almighty….
or meditating on a symbol of faith and letting God speak to us through it
or a verse of scripture, spending at least a quarter of an hour, without distraction or invasion of other thoughts.
Thinkers and analysts may find this immensely difficult, whereas those with greater sensory appreciation such as artists may find it a little easier. However, to begin on the road to communion with God we need to regularly practice mediation, i.e. holding concentration on a single idea or object without distraction. As our meditation becomes deeper it will help us defend against the assaults of the outside world.
The next stage is using times of quiet for Recollection, contemplating ourselves face to face, revealing our true motives – stripped and measured against eternal values, our unacknowledged indulgences and irrational loves and hates. When we see who we really are in comparison to the model of Christ we will be compelled to remodel our existence. The light dawns….
We have been accustomed to the idea that we want or ought to want certain valueless things, status and power. Our treasures have become material things and we are chained to longing for things of this world. But as we recollect we gain a glimpse of something other, something special, the land of peace, the heart of God and as we spend brief moments in communion we are enticed with every fibre of our being to be part of it. Yet to reach it we need to prise ourselves away from the old comfortable life of the material world, like a limpet being detached, we must sever old habits, old prejudices and self-interest. “Selfhood must be killed before Reality can be attained.”
Meditating on scripture, God can use His Word to highlight what it wrong in our life, correcting our values and behaviour; He can work in us to break the bonds of sin and draw us to Himself. This remodelling of character is known as Purgation or Detachment, it’s a slow process that does not happen overnight, so we need persistence and patience. The chief ingredients of this new life are love, courage, singleness of heart and self-control.
So through meditation the mind is quietened from the buzz of the outside world and through recollection and purgation the heart is re-orientated. It can be a painful process, but as we gain brief visions of ‘beauty’ and ‘the land of peace’ we long for Communion with God, so our will becomes to do the will of God and we begin to develop a more intensively loving heart.
This process changes two things in our attitude towards life. The first is that we become more observant, we perceive a truer universe and then, released from obsessions that have governed our heart, will and mind, we are able, in union with the spirit, to pour forth love.
Take the example of a homeless man on the street. Whereas before we may have made judgmental assumptions and walked on by, now we are struck with humble compassion. We are now observant and touched by the person in need, a person created by God in His image. We cannot walk passed without at least praying for this person through which we can then be open to what God has to say about how we respond. Is it to give a friendly smile and pop some money in his pot? To stop and talk? To buy him a coffee or food? Or some other action of kindness? Whichever way, whereas before we may not even have noticed the man or just given him a brief glance, now God has instilled in us His love for this person and a realisation that to be one with Him and to do His will means doing acts of compassion and being a blessing to others.
James 2:14-16 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Because ultimately, following the will of God is walking with Him and showing His love in the world.
These are just the first few steps towards communion with God and understanding the ultimate Reality; but they are steps that will change our life and will bless others.
- What is Reality? (sianarulanantham.wordpress.com)
- The Consequences of Following Christ (biltrix.com)
- Prayer is not a purely human activity, but a communion with the will of God (catholicherald.co.uk)
- Treasures (sianarulanantham.wordpress.com)