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Prayer is stillness: To let God’s healing have its way in us

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Fr. Peter John Cameron, OP - published on 10/01/23

Our ability to turn toward God in loving stillness is a gift that "comes forth direct from the deepest heart of God himself"

A beautiful line from the Psalms — an invitation, really: Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). Why stillness?

Interior stillness is the testimony of a person living by faith who knows that they are loved. To be still is to dwell in that love. Dedication to stillness in prayer furthers our growth in faith, hope, and love.

Our ability to turn toward God in loving stillness is a gift that “comes forth direct from the deepest heart of God himself,” says Dominican mystic John Tauler (+1361). Stillness increases our knowledge of God in faith.

Into the divine obscurity the soul enters, to be there joined to God in a divine stillness. And now all sense of what is pleasant or unpleasant in life is quite lost, and the soul’s knowledge of God is so elevated that it seems as if it were not knowledge, but just a perfect union.

It comes as no surprise that to achieve this stillness requires ascesis — the holy work of self-discipline. Fr. Tauler counsels us that the believer

must behave very virtuously, be fond of a hidden life, never complain, never seek outward comfort — very different from those who have made little progress in virtue, who know little of God in their interior souls. Really good people fly from all the multiplicity of external human existence, are ever removing hindrances to virtue, offer up everything to God, and by this manner of life are brought to the Blessed Trinity.

A challenge worth the effort!

Stillness also shapes the way we face the future, heartening our expectations with holy hope. As Fr. Gerald Vann, O.P., reflects:

If we refused to live on the surface of life, if we freed ourselves, at whatever cost, from the frenzied tempo of modern life and taught ourselves to be still, to pray, then, in that prayer-stillness, we would begin to be aware of the distant horizons which give this world its meaning. And so we would begin to do the work of every day in God and with God and for God; and his companionship would vitalize our wills and liberate us from our sloth.

And through our stillness we experience the love of God to a degree not felt before. In the words of the heroic Fr. Alfred Delp, S.J.:

When all else fails we remember God and appeal for help. And in the stillness of this holy contact help assuredly comes. Sooner or later our fruitless efforts to escape from our entanglements must cease; we must realize their futility. We must grow quiet enough to realize God’s omnipresence, to feel his comforting hand and open our hearts from within, silently, letting his healing have its way. Then the waters will flow over the arid soil and things will start to grow again. If only we keep still. God permits many wounds — but there are also miracles.

~

Find Fr. Peter John Cameron’s reflection on the Sunday Gospel each week here.

And follow his series of brief reflections on prayer here.

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