Presence of GodFATHER GABRIEL OF ST. MARY MAGDALEN, O.C.D.
O Jesus, help me to hide from creatures in order to enter into intimacy with You.
When we speak of the hidden life of Jesus, we do not mean only His self-effacement in the eyes of men, from whom He concealed His divinity, thus avoiding their praise. Besides these exterior relations with creatures, we must penetrate into the secret places of His heart where, hidden from human eyes, another life goes on, a secret one of much greater sublimity.
It is His interior life, a life of intimacy with the Trinity. Jesus' sacred soul, personally united to the Word, unceasingly enjoys the Beatific Vision. It sees the Word, the subject of all its activity. It sees the Father, the cause of its Being. It sees the Holy Spirit, who dwells in it as "His chosen temple", and who, by covering it with the flame of His love, draws it toward God in the perfect accomplishment of His will.
Exteriorly Jesus lives with men, deals with them as if He were one of them, but His real life, His existence as the Son of God, is lived hidden from all human sight, with the Trinity and in the Trinity. The imitation of Jesus' hidden life has for its ultimate end the participation in His interior life; that is, to be hidden "with Christ in God", in order to enter with Him to the sanctuary of the Most Holy Trinity. St Teresa Margaret expressed this in her ardent desire to "emulate by faith, insofar as it is possible for a creature, the hidden, interior life and activity of the intellect and will of the sacred humanity of Jesus Christ, hypostatically united to the Word".
The practice of the hidden life has, therefore, two aspects: the first, negative and mostly exterior, consists in hiding ourselves from the eyes of others and even from our own and in dying to glory and worldly honours. The second, which is positive and entirely interior, consists in concentrating on God in a life of intimate relations with Him. The first aspect is the condition and measure of the second: the more a soul is able to hide from creatures, and even from itself, the more capable it will be of living "with Christ in God", according to the beautiful expression of St Paul: "You are dead: and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col 3,3).
"My God, I desire to enclose myself forever within Your most loving Heart, as in a desert, so that in You, with You, and for You I may live a hidden life of love and sacrifice." In these words St Teresa Margaret expressed her ideal of a life hidden with Christ. After long practising the exterior, negative aspect of effacement, concealing itself from the eyes of creatures with constant fidelity, the soul is free and ready to hide itself with Christ in God. It no longer wastes its energy looking for esteem or human satisfactions; from this point of view creatures have become as nothing to it. It can say that "created things, its own as well as others', no longer give it the least worry or trouble; it is just as if they did not exist". Thus the soul arrives at that sovereign liberty of spirit which permits it to concentrate itself wholly upon God.
Exteriorly its conduct shows nothing extraordinary, or rather, the very care it takes to hide from the eyes of others makes it very often go unnoticed, and most people consider it a soul of little worth. But in its secret heart a very rich interior life, known only to God, is developing.
United to Jesus – in Him, with Him, by Him – it participates in His Trinitarian life. This means that it attains the plenitude, the end of the Christian life – for grace has been given to us in order to make us sharers in the divine nature, in the life of the Triune God. To this end the Word became Incarnate. By dying on the Cross, Jesus merited grace for us. He grafted us into Himself so that He could take us with Him into the bosom of the Trinity, from which sin had barred us. Not through our own merit or ability, but only through our union with Christ – our mediator, our Bridge, our Way – can we penetrate with Him and by Him into the intimate life of God, in to the life of the Trinity. Faith and charity which Jesus merited for us together with grace, enable us to enter into relations with the three divine Persons, to the extent that we can really live "hidden with Christ in God".
A life hidden in God is the great attraction of interior souls, and to attain it, they are very happy to hide from their own eyes and the eyes of others, fleeing every shadow of earthly glory. O blessed self-effacement which introduces the soul to the "vita abscondita cum Christo in Deo!"
"O Jesus, I wish to strive solely to become a perfect copy of You, and since You lived a hidden life of humiliations, love, and sacrifice, henceforth mine must be the same; therefore I now wish to enclose myself forever in Your most lovable Heart, as in a desert, so as to live there in You, with You, and by You, that hidden life of love and sacrifice…. Since you inspire me to become as much as possible like You, all my efforts will tend toward that end. I shall imitate You especially in those virtues which are most pleasing to Your most lovable Heart – humility and purity of intention, interior as well as exterior – always working with a spirit of simplicity".
O Jesus, deign to open Your loving Heart to me too, and permit me to take refuge in it, so that I may live hidden in God with You. Exterior things, fame, earthly glory, have no longer any attraction for me; is it not all vanity, a simple succession of circumstance which will soon cease to be? The only life which attracts me and which will last forever, beyond all earthly contingencies, is that of intimate union with You. And this is the great treasure which You offer me by the merits of Your Passion. I contemplate You on the Cross, O Jesus, Your side rent by the lance, as if to tell me that Your death has opened the door of Your Heart to admit me into the sanctuary of Your interior life. Your death has, in fact, grafted my poor human life onto Yours and made it share in Your divine life, a life of intimate relations with the Trinity. This is true living and life eternal! I aspire to it, not by my merits, but my those of Your Passion. O Jesus, grant that I may seek my joy, my good, only in this participation in Your interior life, and put all my glory in it. Yes, let all my glory be within, in the secrecy of my life hidden with You in God.
Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. "Presence of God." Divine Intimacy: Meditations on the Interior Life for Every Day of the Liturgical Year (1952).
Divine Intimacy is undoubtedly the classic Carmelite work on meditation – a book that helps one arrive at intimate union with God by the practice of considering holy truths. It is a book that shows how to join prayer and action and put the Catholic doctrine on the spiritual life into practice daily.
Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D., (1893–1953) was a Discalced Carmelite priest who became one of the most revered masters of the spiritual life. He acquired a vast knowledge of the ways that lead to holiness and to union with God. His experience with souls, whom he guided to the heights of perfection, was outstanding. He was an expert in the spiritual and mystical doctrine of St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila) and of St. John of the Cross. The Discalced Carmelite nuns of the Monastery of St. Joseph in Rome were the heirs of the Father Gabriel’s vast output of published works and private manuscripts. For ten years, he guided these nuns as their confessor and spiritual director, and it was they who helped him to arrange his material in line with the course of the liturgical year, while following the ascent of the soul to transforming union with God, or to ‘Divine Intimacy.’ Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. is the author of Divine Intimacy: Meditations on the Interior Life for Every Day of the Liturgical Year.
Copyright © 1952 Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.
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