Wednesday, January 09, 2019

When we were still powerless...

I have been struck before by the parallel between the Quaker practice of holding someone or something in the Light - being simultaneously and intentionally aware of them, and of the presence of God - and what I have come to call contemplative intercession.

Theophan the Recluse wrote:
Divine action is not something material: it is invisible, inaudible, unexpected, unimaginable, and inexplicable by any analogy taken from this world. Its advent and its working within us are a mystery… Little by little, divine action grants to man increased attention and contrition of the heart in prayer…

The spirit of prayer comes upon man and drives him into the depths of the heart, as if he were taken by the hand and forcibly led from one room to another. The soul is taken captive by an invading force, and is willingly kept within, as long as this overwhelming power of prayer still holds sway over it.

(Quoted in The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology, ed. Timothy Ware & Chariton of Valamo)
Time and again, recently, I find myself woken in the night by the recollection, or the sudden awareness, of the need, or pain, of someone, human or otherwise. Often these are ones of whom I know very little in a factual sense. I cannot "pray for them" in the conventional sense of making explicit petitions on their behalf to an anthropomorphised conception of God in my own mind - how could I? - but I can keep them close in my heart as I sink into my awareness of the constant steadfast love of God, and of his unfailing presence that sustains all things (Hebrews 1.3). (For me, the Jesus Prayer is enough engagement for what is left of my conscious mind, enough to help keep it out of the way.)

The heart being the place where God's love meets us (Romans 5.5-6) it meets too there the one whom we are holding in our heart. Nothing else seems to be needed. It is the simplest, and yet in my little experience, the hardest and most painful thing. But it is good, and wholesome, and given by God in that place which is so far nearest, most open to his own love as it reaches us by his Holy Spirit.


Thomas D said...

Greetings from the States! You have a thoughtful and beautiful blog. The Quaker notion of holding someone in the Light is new to me, but I cherish it as being both beautiful and true. I found your site by googling the late Brother Ramon, SSF, to learn more about him. Once again, thanks for your reflections. Peace and light.

Mike Farley said...

Thank you, Thomas - good to meet you! I shall look forward to getting to know your poems better. Glad you've discovered Br. Ramon - one of my favourite Franciscan authors of recent years, and an essential guide to the life of the Jesus Prayer. He is still greatly missed.