St. Paul tells us that it’s necessary to pray always (1 Th 5:17) and this sentence has mesmerized me, not unlike how the Pilgrim was mesmerized by it in The Way of a Pilgrim, where I first read about it. The Pilgrim called this prayer Prayer of the Heart. But I soon found out that I’d easily fall into mechanic repetition. It wasn’t until I made aquaintance with Br. Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God that I realized about another way of following St. Paul’s precept. Not by the Pilgrim’s vocal prayer, but by a brief contemplation of Jesus right beside us.
Many saints have warned about the danger of praying in the expectation of being caressed by Jesus, or of receiving consolations, as St. Teresa of Avila called them. Perhaps the best remedy for such a temptation is instead to pray in order to carress Him, to take a look at Him with the heart filled of love for all His graces that He bestows on us.
The Gospel readings this past week focused on the life-giving love of Jesus and I liked particularly His image as the vine with us as branches (Jn 15:1-8). I recently watched a program on PBS which shwoed one of the earliest images of Jesus found and it depicted exactly this passage, with Him in the center as the trunk of a vine which sprouted branches with children arranged along them (I wish I could find a picture or a reproduction of it). In these passages, Jesus repeated several times that we love one another just as He loves us, in a way telling us that this is how He wants His love to be responded.
St. Francis of Sales teaches us to gather a “spiritual bouquet” in his daily meditations, and I am thinking of trying to gather a daily spiritual bouquet to offer to jesus, a bouquet of blossoming charity, loving my neighbor as I love myself.