Friday, August 8, 2014
Review: Divine Intimacy
Mary Ann Richards recommended this book to me in a comment to a posting a number of months ago, and I cannot thank her enough. It has given me many days of deep reflection on how God works in my life.
This book of daily reflections and prayers, in truth, can only be reviewed by each individual reader. Like the Bible, these words speak many universal truths, but they also speak many personal truths to each one of us. However, I feel compelled to write now on one particular day’s reading, the topic: Divine Simplicity (Chapter 229). This is not a commentary or review of that chapter, but just excerpts of words which spoke so clearly to me.
God is one in His essence and in all His perfections.
God is not composed of goodness, beauty, wisdom, justice, but He is, at the same time, the infinitely good, beautiful, wise, and just Being. There is no distinction in Him between substance and quality, because all is substance; His infinite perfections ARE His very substance. … God’s simplicity is not poverty, but infinite riches, infinite perfections.
Consider, on the other hand, how poor you are in virtues … how limited they are, mixed with faults … God is simple; you are complicated! Contemplate the Divine Simplicity and try to imitate it by means of true simplicity of soul.
In God, being is not distinct from acting (acting is in time; it involves change) … there is no succession of thoughts … but one single act … (His) willing the good with the most pure intention.
Is we wish to approach divine simplicity, we must avoid every form of duplicity … of mind by a passionate search for truth.
Our thought is the eye which directs our acts; if our thoughts are simple, upright, and sincere, all our acts will be so too.
Then we will not halt between two sides; between love of self and love of God, between creatures and the Creator, but we will walk on one road only, the straight road of duty, of God’s good will and pleasure.
This chapter of the book concludes with the beautiful prayer of St. John Eudes:
O divine Essence, bottomless and boundless abyss of wonders! O unfathomable ocean of greatness, O Unity of my God, O Simplicity, O Eternity without beginning and without end, to whom everything is continually present! O Immensity, which fills all things and contains all things! O Infinity, which embraces all imaginable perfections. O Immutability, O Immortality, O inaccessible Splendor! O incomprehensible Truth, O abyss of Knowledge and Wisdom, O Truth of my God … O divine Power, creating and sustaining all things! O divine Providence, governing all! O Justice, O Goodness, O Mercy, O Beauty, O Glory, O Fidelity! … O great God, in You I adore all the grandeurs and perfections which I have been contemplating, as well as all the innumerable end inconceivable others which are, and will remain, unknown to me. I adore You, praise You, glorify and love You for all that You are.
I sometimes reflect with friends on the complexities of this world: “How do you decide/know what is right?” What about this situation or that, or this intention or that? What do you do? And then I reflected on these passages and others. Truth is simple, beautiful … is God. God is love. What to do? With all intention of our being, just love. Just love.
If love is truth, and truth is simple, then it is love to seek simplicity and order from chaos. By our actions, we cannot create perfection; we cannot solve all of the world’s problems, eliminate evils. But by our actions we can create more order, less problems, more beauty, more love. We need not worry about all the complexities of the world, but act with simple love. That is uniting our will with that of God, in a Divine Intimacy, a Divine Simplicity.
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A friend recently expressed her concern about the immigration chaos affecting our country, and the unwanted children crossing our borders: “Isn’t it my Christian obligation to do something?” she asked. “Shouldn’t I make room in my house? How can we send them home, to poverty?”
My answer to her included comments about the relative unhappiness of people in the United States versus peoples in other countries: world surveys show that even people living in what we define as poverty ---- including no big screen televisions! --- are happier than we are. Are we really helping the poor from other countries by bringing them here? Then I suggested that a priority for us should be, I believe, to promote an orderly immigration process. Then we can talk about numbers of people to bring here, and ways and means. It was a quick answer and, I admit, not a very orderly one.
But, as I more recently read the above words, God has helped my eyes to see clearer. And yes, my reference to orderly immigration laws was a good basic inclination, but her question was an immediate one, calling for immediate action, and so a more actionable response is also required: If someone should knock at her door, then yes, I believe, she should shelter them as she is able. But an unasked relevant question is: should she seek them out? Look at it through another question: If she knew where the kidnapped girls in Africa were, should she fly to rescue them --- after all, she could afford the trip. Why not? Or should she demand the government do something, to “love them in her place?” Can a government love?
No, I think, as written above, beauty is orderly, is truth, is love. We give love as individuals, to individuals. A government cannot love; it CAN act in orderly ways as we direct it so that we, for our part, our role, can love. We cannot fill all roles in all situations at all times. With the internet today, we can see all sorts of needs in the world, but those are things we can seek, largely in our curiosity --- we cannot act in all of them. We must trust that God will put into our lives those who He wishes us to love. We cannot choose to be as God ---- at least not yet --- but by the love we show to those who enter our lives, we can grow in holiness, becoming more like Him, until that final Divine Intimacy.
The book, Navigating The Interior Life, by Daniel Burke, talks about the path God lays before each of us. On page 85, he comments on “the narrow path” to heaven, which is often thought of as a difficult thing. But he sees another viewpoint: “The good thing about a narrow path is that the narrowness provides clarity regarding the way we should go. … The spiritual life is one of simplicity. … When we encounter complexity regarding the choices we face, we need to be cautious. … When we walk simply and resolutely with our God, the path before us is simple, light, and marked by a predominant peace.”
I like thinking of my spiritual path in that light, a narrow road but a well-defined, well-lit one, with clarity as to when I am off the road --- a Divine Simplicity. It is a road I can walk along in peace and in joy, trusting He will show me the way.
I don’t have to turn to Google, seeking directions.