Lectio Divina Reading
November 5, 2005
John of the Cross loved images (he drew images of Jesus, danced with statues of the infant) is anxious that we pass through, beyond, in search of the ‘the living image within, who is Christ crucified.’ John rubbed shoulders with the workmen in Segovia as together they built the friary church; but he warns us not to be mesmerized by bricks and mortar beauty — go deeper, ‘pray’ in the ‘living temple’ of the soul. There is an unseen vitality at the heart of the human person that guarantees the possibility of prayer.
‘The living image within, who is Christ crucified.’ This is a paschal realism: one which believes in the dying, rising Jesus, as the axis of one’s own relationship with God. Dying (‘Christ crucified’) as the one who has searched out the unretrieved corners of the human spirit and sat with us there; rising (’the living image within’), as he who, finding us there, folds us into his own life. Faith appears as that: the act of Christ, claiming us from within--as he claimed Mary Magdalene on Easter morning ‘with the warmth of his presence’, or the disciples on Easter evening, ‘inflaming their hearts in faith’ on the road to Emmaus.
This immediacy of the Son of God gets translated, when one starts talking about prayer, by term ‘indwelling’. The promise goes back to Paul (‘Christ in you’) and to the Johannine Jesus (‘I in you’). He is so close as to be ‘in’ us. But ‘in’ dynamically, ‘seeking’ us, forming us to be, loving us into friendship. He is in at our ‘center’; and, where ‘one degree of love’ unites us to God at our center, to meet God in prayer means to enter in, love and be loved there.
“Enter within your heart, and work in the presence of your Bridegroom, who is always present, loving you…"
The gospel has eyes and they pierce to the soul. What John said about God’s loving gaze has its place here. That gaze guarantees the possibility of prayer. It is the risen Christ, universally available.
Simon Peter in St. Luke’s account provides an image of such prayer. He met the eyes of Jesus in Galilee and dropped to his knees:’ Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’. Jesus’ gaze, confirming his words, changed him:’ Do not be afraid’ (Luke 5:1-11).
‘Risen indeed’, and so alive in each person’s history, gazing into each one’s story, not just benignly, but effectively. As John’s own history had taught him, ‘For God, to gaze is to love and to work favors.’ His love acts. It makes us ‘worthy and capable of his love’. His gaze is his love and his love does things. ‘God’s gaze works four blessings in the soul: it cleanses her, makes her beautiful, enriches and enlightens her.
This meeting of eyes, hidden and spiritual, is what is taking place when we pray in faith and love.
The Impact of GOD, Soundings from St. John of the Cross, Iain Matthew
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