When Paul says to “pray always” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), he can’t mean to walk around saying the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” all day. Prayer is basically a total life stance. It is a way of being present in the world in which we are present to the Presence and present to the Presence in all things. In a certain sense, you either pray always (or almost always) or you do not pray at all…
Once we can learn to be present to the Presence, the things that used to bother us don’t bother us quite as much. The things that used to defeat us no longer defeat us. The things we thought we could never surrender to, we now can. Even to accept that we are not ready to accept something is still a form of this utterly grounding and accepting Presence.
Richard Rohr, adapted from The Eternal Now – and how to be there!
The odd thing about Rohr’s remark about surrendering to things we never thought we could surrender to is that this grace – for it is a grace – is not given to us ahead of time. Once or twice I have had to live through things I had thought insufferable, and I still knew them to be insufferable up to the moment they occurred. Grace is not given in advance; it is not something you can store up, and say to yourself, “Well, that’s OK then, I’ve plenty of grace put by to cope with that…” Grace and faith are all wrapped up together. You have to trust, you have to have faith, that grace will somehow be there when you need it.
I recall a scene from the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where, in order to complete a task known as ‘The Leap of Faith’ to reach the Holy Grail, Indy has to cross a chasm hundreds of feet deep, and steps out into empty space with a whispered prayer, only to find an invisible bridge supporting him. We can never see the bridge…
I think this radical faith lies at the very centre of all we are, and all we can become, if only we will take that step. It is the faith of the dying, and the faith of giving birth. It is the faith that sits down in silence, without any supporting liturgy or cast of clergy, to wait for God. It is the faith of Christ, for whatever the Cross means, at least it means this, walking open eyed into death, and beyond, in a faith that can only have come with each step. Gethsemane tells us this.
But what are we to have faith in? How can we possibly know what to trust? Only love. God is love. If you know your Indiana Jones, you will remember that it was for love of his dying father that Indy took that step; and it was for love that Jesus waited in the garden for the arresting party. It is only as we follow love that the bridge will spring invisible beneath our steps.
“Take heed, dear Friends, to the promptings of love and truth in your hearts. Trust them as the leadings of God whose Light shows us our darkness and brings us to new life. ” (Advices & Queries 1)