A Communion with GodWe like to look forward in imagination to life’s great moments for a chance of displaying courage and heroism, yet we let a thousand and one ordinary, everyday opportunities of doing humble, but praiseworthy, services slip by unheeded. We must learn to act big in little things, to make our lives a continual communion with God through all the different unrecorded events of our lives, throughout the humdrum existence of every day. “O my God,” wrote one spiritual writer, “if I am to love you above all things, give me a chance of loving you each day above one thing.” That’s the way it’s done. Holiness is not a matter of striking deeds. It lies in doing what is asked of us with a good heart, doing what is within reach, doing the things we pass over as insignificant or ordinary.
The language of Christian life is prose, not poetry. It is composed of the drabness of our everyday occupations. But we must get used to seeing the will of God in the most ordinary happenings. What we call a “turn of events” is the hand of God controlling and guiding things. God has many ways of making his presence felt, and Christians must make use of them all to keep in touch with him.
We are accustomed to enter into communion with God under the form of bread and wine. We know, by faith, that as soon as the sacred words: “This is my body, this is my blood” have been pronounced; Christ is present. We know that Christ is present in his entirety in the host and in each fragment of the host, however small. This is the mystery of the sacramental presence, which passes human understanding, but which we accept from the lips of God with gratitude and reverence. This is the first method of entering into communion. There are others.
When I accept the will of God with regard to myself, my life and every detail of my life, just as it comes, with all its limitations and frustrations, I am entering into communion with God: not, this time, a eucharistic communion, but a vital communion which lasts all day, all my life. What our Lord asks me to do is to unite myself with him, hour by hour, minute by minute, by doing, at every single moment, his most holy will.
What is required of a watch is that its hands should keep their appointed time, that at any particular moment they should be exactly where their maker intended them to be. In terms of us, this means obedience to the will of God, concentration on the present moment, sanctity in little things.
There is a constant temptation to live in a different period of time from the one God wants us to live in. The young live in the future; they are full of plans, all relating to tomorrow. The old look back, trying to live in the past, and the past becomes more and more present to them. Only a few live in the present, the “glorious present”. Only a few seek out the will of God in every moment of passing time, where it lies hidden as truly as in every fragment of the host on the altar. They can see and adore the divine will in its entirety in every detail of human life.
To be in touch with God in the midst of life means that the eye of faith sees beyond appearances and discovers God in the daily round. God is always ready to come to us in disguise at the most unexpected moments. We read in the life of St Gertrude that the saint used to experience ecstasies on occasions which we should not have thought solemn enough to justify it. One day, St Gertrude was late in arriving at the refectory and opened a cupboard to look for some bread. At that very moment, she was seized and penetrated by the grace of God.
The material of holiness is not some rare substance, like Carara marble, hard to come by. No, the stones we find by the wayside are good enough. But we have to ignore the effect of secondary causes and discover God beyond them. Suppose some happiness comes my way. I can look no further than the immediate cause and continue on my journey. Or I can go back to the ultimate cause, which is no less than God, God’s smile, God’s encouragement, beckoning to us to go on, urging us to do better. God lies hidden in all human joys, great or small. Heaven is revealed in any passing glimpse of the spiritual and God’s presence in man’s brief moment of contact with the divine.
We must also learn to keep in union with God through suffering. That is not so easy. The human cause of the evil which attacks and wounds us too easily absorbs our attention. Yet God lies hidden in the heart of suffering. When suffering is accepted, he works miracles of redemption at its very heart, miracles of purification and detachment which pave the way for increase of grace.
This communion with the Lord in suffering was once expressed by a soul very closely united with God in these words, which are a cry of faith and a light in the darkness: My God, let me see you at work everywhere, in every creature who wounds me, in everything which happens to upset me, as well as in everything which fills me with joy. Let me learn by experience that even if the secondary causes are infinitely varied, the first cause is always the same, and that cause, O Lord, is you.
Such is the language of faith. We must all see beyond appearances. Faith is like radar, perceiving objects through fog and darkness. Who can fail to marvel at the scientific discovery which enables a plane to go on through the darkness? Faith likewise penetrates the veils, the appearances. It is a sort of X-ray that sees what is there, in spite of the opaqueness. May faith increase in each one of us, give us eyes to see what is real and help us to make our lives a permanent state of communion with God.
Let us not live in dreams, let us not fall back on alibis, nor wait for tomorrow or the next day to make our lives worth while. Now is the time, this very moment, that the Master has fixed for our meeting; and he is waiting for us: “See where I stand at the door, knocking” (Apoc. 3. 20). That is what the Lord has to say to each one of us.
Let us ask him into our life, as into a room ready for him. Let him put everything in its proper place and keep the place of honor for him. That will be the most wonderful communion of all. It is always within our reach.
Condensed from Christian Life, Day by Day by Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens, © 1961 Desclée de Brouwer. English translation © 1963 Burns & Oates Ltd. (The Newman Press, Westminster, Maryland)