Taken from: HOLY ABANDONMENT
Rt. Rev. Dom Vitalis Lehodey, O.C.R.
Original Pub. 1934, Dublin
ON THE OBJECT OF HOLY ABANDONMENT
ON ABANDONMENT IN THE SPIRITUAL
VARIETIES OF THE COMMON WAY:
PEACE, FEARS, AND SCRUPLES
ARTICLE I. ------PEACE
PEACE of soul is a supremely desirable possession, not alone because of of the sweetness it contains, but also and much more on account of the strength it imparts and the favourable conditions in which it places us. us. It is almost indispensable to one who proposes to live an interior life. So, in Sacred Scripture the Lord wills to be called the God of peace. Our sweet Saviour, at His birth, caused the angels to sing: "Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace to men of good will." Very often, when He showed Himself to His disciples after His Resurrection, He addressed them with the touching salutation: "Peace be with you." His Apostles adopted the same practice at the beginning of their Epistles. And the Holy Spirit Himself invites us to "seek after peace and pursue it " (Ps. xxxiii, 15).
But if there is a good peace, there is also an evil peace. The true peace is the tranquillity of right order. To attain it, we must have order in our thoughts, in our affections, in our volitions, in our actions and sufferings. That is to say, our wills must be always submissive to the will of God by obedience and resignation. Otherwise there shall be disorder and the opposite of peace. For "who hath resisted the Lord and hath had peace?" (Job ix, 4), namely, holy peace.
False peace is the tranquillity found in lukewarmness or sin. "There is no peace to the wicked, saith the Lord" (Is. xlviii, 22): no true peace. God shows great mercy to sinners when He torments them with the stings of remorse in order to arouse them from their fatal lethargy. Their worst misfortune would be to remain tranquil in their sins. The same, with due proportion, can be said of the tepid soul. She can never enjoy true and profound peace; for her will is not altogether a good will and is dragged in opposite directions by too many unmortified passions. Should she make herself easy in such a sad state, it would be an alarming sign: it would mean that she is beginning to be affected with spiritual blindness, that her heart is growing hard and her conscience drowsy. True peace is only for men of good will. And it has as many degrees as good will has. The majority of Christians who observe the Divine law and submit to the appointments of Providence do so only imperfectly, and rather from the fear of Hell or the desire of Heaven than from the motive of charity. They are, consequently, not so much the children or the friends of God as hirelings and slaves. They must not, then, expect to enjoy the profound and perfect peace promised to them that love the law of God (Ps. cxviii, 166). Likewise, as says Grou, "the peace of devout souls, who have not completely abandoned themselves to God, is very feeble, unstable, and apt to be disturbed either by scruples of conscience, or by the terror of God's judgments, or by various accidents of life. When, therefore, does this intimate, solid, and in a certain sense unalterable peace take root in the soul? The very moment she gives herself unreservedly to God." 1 Scarcely has she made up her mind when her pacification begins. It develops and gathers strength in proportion as she detaches herself from all created things in order to belong to God alone. She has suffered, because whilst the love of God inclined her towards duty, self-love drew her to the pleasures of sense or to intellectual gratifications. There was a long struggle between grace and nature. But now that she despises her own will and follows the will of God alone, the trouble has ceased and order has been established. Henceforth, all disquiet, worry, and agitation must disappear, giving place to tranquillity, even to contentment. And when the soul will have progressed so far that she now possesses the complete liberty of spirit, recommended by St. Francis de Sales to St. Jane de Chantal, which attaches itself neither to what is good nor to what is consoling, nor even to spiritual exercises, but to the will of God exclusively, in order that it alone may reign in her: then she shall enjoy a peace that nothing can disturb.
This peace is an anticipated recompense for our labours, a force that sustains us under trial, an index to the progress we have made. The more intimate it becomes, and the more firm, and the more superior to all that used to trouble us in the past: so much the more evident does it appear that we have made solid progress in virtue by detaching ourselves from all things and uniting ourselves securely to God's will alone; so that the consummation of peace and the consummation of perfection go hand-in-hand and are inseparable, unless by a particular dispensation of Divine Providence. This desirable peace is a result produced by the logic of events, and consequently will continue to exist even in the midst of the most painful trials.
But in addition, when it pleases God and as it pleases Him, He infuses into the soul a superabounding and more sensible peace, a peace the like of which she has never before tasted, a peace which fills her with ineffable contentment and inspires a profound disgust for all earthly things. Nevertheless, even though she remains perfectly loyal to Him, He may, according to His good-pleasure, refuse her this superabundance of interior well-being; He may withhold from her the feeling of peace which ordinarily accompanies the practice of virtue, and leave her only a dry and unemotional peace. He is also at liberty to grant permission, as He wills, to the enemy of our souls to try and cast us into trouble, disquietude and agitation. What is to be done then? We must attach ourselves more and more to the will of God alone, and abandon ourselves fearlessly to the arms of our Father, in heaven. For He does nothing and permits nothing save for the greatest good of our souls. And so long as we remain united to His will exclusively, by faith, confidence and love, no power in the world can do us the least harm.
There are, then, two kinds even of good peace. The one is sensible, sweet and delightful. This does not depend upon us; but it is not necessary, and besides may become the secret nourishment of self-love. The second kind is almost insensible. It resides in the very centre of the soul, in the fine point of the spirit. Ordinarily, it is dry and without savour: we can possess it even in the midst of the most trying tribulations. Being purely spiritual, it is less liable to the appropriations of self-love, and leaves the field more free for the action of grace. God abides in it, as in His proper element, whilst in the depths of the heart He busies Himself with His wonderful, yet secret, and almost imperceptible operations. Indeed, these operations can be perceived only in their effects, that is to say, when under the beneficent influence of this peace we find ourselves strong enough to remain steadfast in the midst of persistent aridities, temptations, violent agitations, the most unexpected afflictions. If you discover in yourself this dry peace, this tranquillity that is proof against trial, you have reason to be grateful to God. It will suffice to support you in the discharge of your duties; it alone is necessary for your progress in virtue. Preserve it, therefore, as a treasure beyond price. Through gradual development, it will become one day your greatest happiness here below. But before you can attain to this, there will be need of many a conflict and many a triumph.
If God should permit nature or the demon to harass us with their temptations, or trials and difficulties to come upon us from all sides, let us do the best we can and not lose our peace. The thoughts and feelings which torment, weaken, and discourage a generous soul, do not come from God. It is the demon who endeavours to rob us of the tranquillity and strength which we require in order to vanquish him. Let us not commit the mistake of regarding adversity, or even the revolt of our passions, as a sign that God has forsaken us. So long as our wills remain loyal to Him, He is very near us, lovingly occupied with the work of curing us and making us better. Whilst He detaches and humbles us, He is all the time supporting us with His invisible grace; and He will continue to assist us to the end, if only we have the good-will to pray and to struggle. Had we but a right appreciation of the value of these sufferings and combats, instead of being distressed, we should be continually thanking God for sending them. For "we cannot taste the consolations of the children of God until we have first been tried by their bitter tribulations; we cannot attain to peace except through war or en joy it before the victory." 2
We have to conquer ourselves, therefore. During temptation, the excited passions are, according to the comparison of St. Teresa the Elder, like unclean animals, venemous reptiles, which rage about the courtyard of the castle of our souls. Let us not pause to look at them, let us fly with all speed, and mount to the topmost part, to the innermost sanctuary where God resides. And there before Him let us pour out our hearts in protestations of love and loyalty, repeated prayers and supplications. This wise diversion will often result in making us forget the savage reptiles, and it will always have the effect of drawing down upon us the grace of God and thus ensuring our victory.
Furthermore, in all our trials, such as temptations, sicknesses, aridities, adversities, humiliations, contempt, persecution, etc., the great means for preserving our peace is a humble and loving submission to the good-pleasure of God. "Oh, how much I desire," says De Caussade, "that you would have more confidence in God, more abandonment to His wise and omnipotent Providence! It is Providence that regulates all the events, even to the very least, of this life. It turns everything to the advantage of those who put perfect confidence in it, and abandon themselves unreservedly to its paternal control. Oh, what fruits of interior peace such confidence and abandonment yield! How quickly and thoroughly they would deliver you from the tyranny of cares, multiplied to infinity, always disquieting and tormenting! However, you cannot hope to reach at a single bound such a height of perfection, but gradually, step by step, and by almost imperceptible progress. Yet you must always aspire to this filial abandonment; you must implore it of God, and exercise acts of it. Occasions will not be lacking. Avail of them, and on each endeavour to say: 'Yes, my God, Thou willest or permittest this. Very well! I also will it for the pure love of Thee. Help and sustain my weakness.' But all should be done gently, without effort, and with the fine point of the spirit, despite interior revolts and repugnances of which you should take no account except to support them with patience, and so convert them into sacrifices." 3 We should even make an effort to mount so high as "to love our crosses, since it is God Himself Who has fashioned them for us, and Who still fashions them for us every day. Let us leave ourselves completely in His hands: He alone knows what is most suitable for each of us. If we remain thus steadfast, submissive, and humble under all the crosses He sends us, we shall find in them at last, if He judges proper, the true rest of our souls. Then shall we enjoy an imperturbable peace when, by our docility, we shall have merited that God should make us experience the altogether Divine unction attached to the cross since the hour Jesus Christ died upon it for the salvation of us sinners." 4
But should it please God to grant us, even when we are faithful to duty and humbly submissive, only a peace that is dry and invaded by manifold trials, we must abandon ourselves to His good-pleasure in this as in everything else. He loves us, and He knows much better than we do what is necessary or expedient for our souls. We have but one thing to fear: to prefer our own wills to the Divine." To avoid this danger, we must learn to will precisely what God wills at every moment and in all events. Here is the surest, the shortest, and -----I dare to say it-----the only path to perfection. All others are liable to illusions, and infested by self-love and pride." 5
1. Manuel des âmes int., Vérités fond.
2. De Caussade, Abandon, P. II, vi, 2 et 3.
3. Ibid., P. II, v, 15.
5. Id., op.cit., P. II, iv, 3.