Life In The Spirit: Inhale His Fragrance of Love; Let Him Ravish Your Heart
Spirit, whose gifts of love fill us with power from heaven (cf. Lk 24:49), many are content with a static, dry and mundane existence devoid of the supernaturally infused joy and peace that goes along with a life lived in abandonment and openness to the Spirit.
But if the immense richness and love of the Spirit is to be experienced, tasted and possessed, it need be first sought after before it can be discovered. While it is true that the gift of the Spirit is a free and unmerited one, it is also true that Christ will not lavish us with his incomparable gifts until he sees that we are willing to give of ourselves entirely to him. The Spirit is God's infinite self-gift; the fruitful reception of this Gift is actualized through our own self-gift offered in reciprocation. It is always God who initiates the embrace of love; yet a complete and lasting embrace is an impossibility in a one-sided relationship.
Embarking On Life In The Spirit
In his interview with Peter Seewald, Pope Benedict XVI often emphasized the importance of a renewed intimacy with God in the lives of Christians. He noted that the "important thing today is to see that God exists, that God matters to us, and that he answers us. And, conversely, that if he is omitted, everything else might be as clever as can be -- yet man then loses his dignity and his authentic humanity and, thus, the essential thing breaks down. That is why, I think, as a new emphasis we have to give priority to the question about God" (Light of The World 65).
That if God is omitted from our lives all is for nothing, is a crucial truth we must take to heart. If we hope to understand ourselves and direct ourselves properly in order to attain our end in God, we must grasp that truth. There can be no lasting happiness nor true human fulfillment outside of the mystery of God. In a word, God alone suffices, as St. Teresa of Avila noted. Where are we to begin? How are we to re-create our life in such a way so as to truly share in the divine life of God?
First, it is God who is the supreme and efficacious laborer; it is the Spirit whose love shapes us and defines us, delicately transforms us into who we are called to be and who we were created to become. Christ therefore re-creates through the gift of his Spirit whose gifts enable us to act in ways proper only to God. Yet we must do our human part. We must respond openly, lovingly and with complete docility to the grace of the Holy Spirit. Here we encounter an at once simple yet complex subject. Some are of the mind that study of the principles involved in the spiritual life are a waste of time; it is better, they say, to just act, do something, anything for God. But to hold to that attitude is a serious mistake. Others insist it is best to be "spiritual but not religious." That, too, is a capitol error for numerous reasons.
Life in the Spirit, immersed in his way of love and beauty, docile to his movements as a feather is carried about by a Divine Wind, is a way of life. And it is not easy: it requires determined commitment, persistence and sacrifice. It is a sacramental life that travels the way of sanctity, holiness and loving obedience in the womb of mother Church; it is an ascetic life of repentance and grace and unceasing prayer, lived in humility and love, with our human gaze ever fixed on the divine Other who sustains us and possesses us that we too might possess him. It is a life of voluntary and innocent suffering, that we truly may become "little christs." It is a life whose supreme focus is directed unrelentingly on Love.
When a lover is in the presence of his Love, his gaze remains fixed on the divine Other who is the highest object of his joyous hope. He thus remains unceasingly attentive to his cherished Love, alert to all the endless movements and delicate sighs that accompany the language of love, responding to them with depth and tenderness, savoring every thought, whisper, gesture and revelation of the Other. Not one glance from Love escapes the lover; all are rich with meaning. Each breath of sweetness, every sacred aroma that issues forth with delight from the mouth of Love is adored; these treasures of Love infuse the lover with new insights and communicate ever more deeply the sublime secrets of the divine life of God.
"Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. This . . . is why Christ the Redeemer fully reveals man to himself. . . . In the mystery of the Redemption man becomes newly 'expressed' and, in a way, is newly created. He is newly created! . . ." (Blessed John Paul II, Redemptor hominis 10).
The labor of the Church, one of the highest forms of love, is to make all women and men conscious of the reality of God, the supreme Being of love and mercy who, in a stupendous display of love, assumed human nature and became man in the Person of Jesus the Christ. Salvation is therefore realized in an encounter with Christ the Redeemer whose sacrifice of infinite worth has enabled men to be caught up in the loving embrace of God; the God of incomprehensible power yet tender compassion who, astonishingly, seeks to join with men in indescribable intimacy through the presence of his indwelling Spirit. Let us make the labor of the Church our own. Let us embrace life in the Spirit.
"Until the day breathes cool and the shadows lengthen, I will go to the mountain of myrrh, to the hill of incense. You are all-beautiful, my beloved, and there is no blemish in you. You have ravished my heart with one glance of your eyes, how much more delightful is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your ointments than all spices!" (Song of Songs 4:6-10).
F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at catholicpathways.com
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Life in the Spirit, Holy Spirit, sharing in God's life, life of love, love, prayer, sanctity and holiness, F. K. Bartels
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