Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Abiding Presence Of The Holy Ghost in the Soul, by Bede Jarrett, O.P. part 15. Guidance in Spiritual Life.

1. I have God the Holy Spirit with me. He comes to me in order that I may surrender myself to Him. Of course I cannot merge my personality in His to the extent of having no power of my own, but God has such infinite dominion over the heart of man that He is able to move the will, without in any sense whatever violating its freedom. In the liturgy of the Church there are two or three prayers which speak about God “compelling our rebellious wills.” Now for anyone else to “compel my will” would be to destroy it as a will, since, as even Cromwell freely confessed, “the will suffereth no compulsion”; I cannot be made to will against my will. That would be a contradiction, though I can be made to act against my will, for my actions do not necessarily imply that my will is in them. Whereas, then, no one else can move my will without utterly destroying my moral freedom, God can, for He is intimate to the will and moves it, not really as an external but as an internal power. St. Thomas Aquinas repeatedly refers to this and says over and over again the same thing, namely, that God is so intimately united to man, and so powerful, that not only can He move man to will, but move him to will freely by affecting, not only the action of man, but the very mode of the action.
2. Such is man, whether in a state of grace or not, that his will is in the hands of God, to be moved by man freely, but not so as to exclude God’s movement. Naturally enough it is far easier to say this than to explain it. Indeed the mere statement is all that is actually binding upon faith, and the particular explanation favored by St. Thomas in his general acceptance of St. Augustine’s teaching, comes to us largely as of deep and abiding moment on account of the very clear reasons given and the great authority of his name; but in any case there is something far more special in the guidance of the Holy Spirit sought for by the soul in its endeavor to “live godly in Christ Jesus.” It has to yield itself to the promptings of God, be eager to catch His every whisper, and quick in its obedience to His every call. For this to be achieved, the first work is an emptying out of the soul. Every obstacle has to be got rid of; any attachment to creatures that obscures God’s light has to be broken through (though not every attachment to creatures, since unless I love man whom I see, I cannot possibly know what love means when applied to God, nor can I suppose myself to be able to understand or love God, whom I do not see). First, then, to cleanse my soul by leveling and smoothing and clearing its surface and depths.
3. Then I must yield myself into His arms. I shall not know very often the way He wishes me to go. It may be only one step at a time, and then darkness again; or I may be taken swiftly and surely and openly along a clear road. That is His business, not mine, only I must be prepared not to be able to follow always the meaning of what He wants of me. It is not necessary at all that I should know. If I am faithful and loyal and full of trust, things will gradually settle themselves, and I shall at least be able to look back and understand the significance and purpose of many things that at first appeared accidental, and even in opposition to the end I considered God had in view for me. Thus by looking back I can sometimes get a shrewd idea of what is to follow; but often it is only a guess, nothing more than that. Still, generally, it would seem that people who surrender themselves to God do get a sense or a feeling which leads them right and makes them sure. It is the divine tenderness stooping to poor muddled humanity and making it transfigured with God’s own glory. The advance, then, whether consciously grasped or not, is in due proportion to the purity and fidelity of the soul, purity in its act of cleansing, fidelity in its subjection to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.