From Ascension To Pentecost: Life in The Spirit and Interior Peace
In the embrace of the indwelling Spirit, God's gift of himself which constitutes the kiss of divine and human love, is found an enduring and permeating interior peace
"Grant, we pray, almighty God, that the splendor of your glory may shine forth upon us and that, by the bright rays of the Holy Spirit, the light of your light may confirm the hearts of those born again by your grace. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever" -- Pentecost Vigil Mass Collect
Life in the Spirit constitutes the fullness of human life; it is a life filled with light and love, tenderness and compassion as we share in God's own divine nature. Through the love of the indwelling Spirit, who resides in his faithful as in a temple, the soul is infused with an enduring, real and knowable peace. It is a peace that heals, elevates and perfects our ability to live our human life in all its fullness.
It is easy to think that the modern era is more stressful than ages past. In some ways it is. And in others it is not. When about nineteen-centuries ago Nero was burning Christians as torches to light the streets of Rome at night, the shear terror at the thought of undergoing such ghastly pain makes our modern-day burdens seem little more than minor inconveniences.
Death, it would seem, is the ultimate and universal stressor. For some people it indeed is. On the other hand, there are numerous examples of Christians who faced horrific torture and impending death with calmness, walking confidently with an untroubled gait toward their earthly end, expressions of serenity on their faces and joy in their eyes. And there are Christians this moment, around the world, dying. Confounding the powerful and frustrating the worldly, these lovers of Christ bravely face their demise immersed in an inexplicable peace.
What is the origin of that type of peace? It is not something naturally occurring in man. That deep, habitual inner peace which allows us to remain calm during conditions of the greatest adversity, resistant to panic and despair as even the teeth of death close upon us, is not something generated from within ourselves. Although many often believe peace is captured through the attainment of wealth, power, and success, when catastrophe bursts through the door of their lives, they soon find they were mistaken. True and lasting inner peace is a supernatural gift. It is not won by material gain.
Seek The Spirit
Man is a peace seeker. This is self-evident in the fact that man constantly seeks after perfect happiness -- an unattainable goal in the absence of peace. And, as with perfect happiness, complete peace can only be attained in all its incomprehensible richness in God, whose love can impart in an instant an indescribably immense and penetrating spiritual peace. Such a wondrous and life-changing reality is made possible by the Spirit of God. It is through an intimate relationship with the indwelling Spirit -- God's gift of himself which constitutes a divine and human embrace of love -- that this enduring interior peace permeates our being.
But do we know this peace? Is it a familiar companion? This leads to the question, "Have I given myself over in love of God for his own sake; or have I preferred to occupy my time with evanescent, created objects and therefore trade the Spirit's gift of peace for the mundane?" The point is, there is a vast difference between having knowledge of the Spirit and knowing the Spirit. If we are not this moment embraced in the intimate kiss of the Spirit, committed in attentiveness to his love and secure in his peace, then it is time to re-examine the path we are walking. This is not to say that those who live in the Spirit always experience a spiritual sensation of absorption into his love. That is, Christians at some point encounter dryness and darkness on their journey in order that they may be further refined in faith, hope and charity according to God's perfect plan of love. Nevertheless, those who return the Spirit's gaze of love with love, are keenly aware of the depth of that relationship.
St. Teresa of Avila, the Doctor of Prayer, observed that Christ does not give of himself completely to us until he sees we are willing to give of ourselves completely to him. It is crucial, then, to foster an interior disposition of total self-gift to the Spirit. This consists in a complete "yes" to the will of God and follows the pattern of the sweet Virgin Mary's fiat. And we should not fear God's will, for whatever he wills for us is the best and most perfect outcome for which we could ever hope. Our lives are incomplete unless joined perfectly to the will of God. In free and loving obedience to God's perfect will of total love, is found the totality of human fulfillment and happiness. Those who possess God, lack nothing.
Further, St. Teresa describes a wonderful insight she obtained into the fruits of human self-gift, when she gave her "fiat" at the Convent of the Incarnation, outside the walls of Avila: "When I took the habit the Lord immediately showed me how He favours those who do violence ...
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