Monday, September 12, 2005

If Today You Hear His Voice

The other night while praying in the chapel, before the Tabernacle where Jesus stays present always, I kept falling asleep and then awakening to the sound of singing. Each awakening was heralded by voices singing this antiphon from the 95th Psalm: If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts!

The reading about victim souls continues. The writing has ceased, for now, while I read one of the very few books on the topic. I mean, there are few written about the actual process of being a victim soul, of growing in this vocation. Books are written about victim souls, of saints and mystics who suffered in reparation to the Sacred Heart as their primary vocation. But this book deals with the historical, moral and dogmatic, and actual process of the victim soul state. The process would be good for anyone, however, who aspires to closeness and eventual union with Jesus. It is for anyone who claims to be a Christian, as all Christians are called to go the way of the Cross, in one way or another or several, throughout life, now or later.

Mortification is necessary in the process. I have been reading and then experiencing much practice in accepting mortifications. They come unbidden; it is a matter of learning to see them for what they are: opportunities of growth and grace, of offering more to Jesus for one's sins and the sins of others, for the uplift of Holy Church, and for the priesthood--all in reparation to the Sacred Heart!

In another book read recently, the point which stands out, among many outstanding points, is that all good works are useless to the note of the last day, if they are not offered to Jesus. Intention is so important! The issue at hand, then, is to learn to recollect oneself throughout the day (and night), and to consult Jesus as He is our love, our friend, our spouse, brother, and All in all. Ask Him if the action or thought or words we are about to perform, think or say is pleasing to Him. Tell Him it is offered to His Sacred Heart. Become habitual in this practice, and let the thoughts be present: for love of Thee, O Lord; for the conversion of sinners; for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary!

The rare book on victim souls also mentions the necessity of this practice--habitual recollection and offering all to Jesus. It also mentions ejaculatory prayer as excellent training for the mind to begin praying from the heart, to practice the constant presence of Jesus. Ejaculatory prayers are those short phrases of love which can become like breathing if practiced like breathing. Examples are: All for God! For love of Thee, Dear Jesus! Heart of Jesus, Victim of Love! Or, some find great benefit in repeating the Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! One can repeat the name of Jesus, or of Mary. In fact, today is the feast day of the holy name of Mary. It is said that repeating the name of Mary, as a breath, is quite loving and leads one to her aid and protection, and she takes one's heart to Jesus, her Son. Of course, repeating the name of Jesus is always a most powerful prayer in and of itself.

So much depends upon the heart. The heart can also be considered the seat of the will. The victim soul book also emphasizes affective prayer, or praying from the heart, as the best prayer for victim souls. Yes, vocal and meditative prayer is excellent, also, and leads into the prayer of the heart. But the affective prayer is nurtured by the feelings one engenders regarding love of Jesus. Vocal prayers and meditations about Jesus, using the intellect, prepare one for going further--and leaving the mind and simply loving, loving, loving Jesus and all aspects of His life, His love, His heart, His soul!

"What is Your soul like, Jesus?" I wondered last night while praying in front of the Tabernacle. (It is the best place if one can physically go there; it is the best place if one can spiritually go there, and that everyone can do!) I found myself praying the Anima Christi which begins: Soul of Christ, sanctify me! So, what is His soul actually like? I could not describe this in words, but it is a good depth beyond His heart, deeper within His heart. Thus I asked to be taken into His Soul. I asked this from my heart, and then more so, from my soul. A human soul, which is an eternal soul, consists of the intellect and the will, and some theologians include the memory or understanding. Each of these aspects has a corresponding theological virtue. This is all reasonable and true, yet takes a different way of comprehending, for it is spiritual. The virtue of faith corresponds with the intellect; the virtue of hope corresponds with the memory, and the virtue of charity corresponds with the will. One moves through faith and hope into charity. One must know the object of its love and hope in that object, in order to fully love the Beloved with all one's will. This is where we understand to love the Lord with all the strength, mind and heart.

Also, when Jesus says that where two or three are gathered in His name, there also will He be. St. John of the Cross, inspired, explains this to be when two or three of the theological virtues are met in a soul, then that soul is in union with Christ! Yes, this is true! If one has faith, hope and love, or even faith and hope--because love comes interrelated with these two--there is Jesus in that soul. If one has faith and hope, if one moves through the intellect and memory/understanding, then the next step is that act of love: to make an act of the will to love.

So, I understand a little more what it means to pray with the heart. It means to learn to pray as automatically as to breathe or to have one's heart beat. The voluntary activity of prayer then becomes involuntary, like blood pulsing through the arteries, through the organs of being, and returning in the vessels, purified and ready to spout forth again. This prayer of the heart nourishes the body, mind, heart and soul! Praying with and in the heart is necessary for the soul's eternal life. The practice process is worth the small amount of effort. One must nourish this practice just as one eats food and exercises for a healthy physical heart.

What is a hard heart? I suppose it is a heart which is not open, which is not maleable and willing to be utilized for prayer. It is a will which does not choose to make acts of love. It is a will which chooses to ignore Jesus, to ignore the effort necessary to love Him, even though the intellect might have cognizance of His existence. But, if one makes much effort at all in getting to know Jesus, and if one begins the smallest effort in practicing His presence throughout the day and night, the heart becomes soft, longing, and even urgent in desire to love Him. To know HIm is to love Him.

I wonder about the Psalmist's wording: If today you hear His voice.... Of course, one can always hear His voice--if one is open to hearing His voice. The intellect (faith) must be willing to listen and to know that His voice is really present and speaking; the memory or understanding (hope) must be present in the comprehension of the possibility of His voice; and then, the will (charity) must choose to hear His voice. Once the voice is heard, the message can be comprehended, considered, and put into loving action.

So, when today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts. Choose not to close off the will and be willing to act from faith, with hope, in love of what Jesus wants to say, what He is saying, daily. Do what is necessary to build a healthy, soft, open, Christ-centered heart. This is all good stuff whether or not one is considering the offering as a Victim Soul of the Sacred Heart.


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