Prayer Service No. 5: Ordinary Awareness

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In the previous reflection, we said that ordinary persons render to God the justice due to Him by giving “sufficient time” (that is, priority) during the day for doing spiritual exercises which foster simplicity, solitude, reverence, and shared conversation. We also said that Ryken specified exercises for his followers – silence, spiritual reading, the Mass and other forms of ecclesial worship, retreats, and examination of conscience – which are very customary, “ordinary” in every sense of the word. Ironically, what are seemingly easy exercises to follow are what our restless hearts and minds rebel from observing and staying with.

We are a generation that has benefitted from tremendous advances in technology which have made life more comfortable, information more accessible, and people more connected with each other. But these advances have also developed in us a strong craving for instant gratification, quick fixes, and immediate results in anything – including the spiritual life. We are a generation growing ever more restless, hyper-active, and compulsive. Sitting quietly before God, remaining reverent in our worships, reading patiently, examining ourselves attentively – all these are difficult for restless hearts to do.

God is present to us, but we are unable to be present to God so long as we are not restful. For us Xaverians, it is neither in exercises that are innovative or trendy that we are called to encounter God but, rather, in the simple spiritual exercises that have been passed on to us from Ryken and his early followers. They would not make us united with God instantly; they don’t promise us a quick spiritual “high.” They do demand from us patient waiting and presence of mind, an ordinary awareness, which would make us ready to turn toward God when He unexpectedly comes before us like a flash of lightning.

Most religious congregations highlight a particular season in the liturgical calendar as the period when the mystery of God becomes more evident to its members. To many it is Easter, to others Lent or Christmas. For us Xaverians, it seems, the call is to encounter God in Ordinary Time. It is a long period –  thirty “green” weeks –  that many quietly wish would be over soon so that we can enter the more “exciting” and “special” seasons. But it is in this period, the one that represents the ordinariness of our human lives, that God invites us to silently, reverently, and patiently stay with. If we consciously allow the richness of this ordinary, common, unspectacular season to form us, it just might happen that God would unexpectedly break through us and liberate our hearts from the things that make us restless.

A reading from our Xaverian tradition

If you allow yourself to be formed by God
through the common,
flow of everyday life,
you will gradually experience
a liberation and a freedom
never before imagined.

Stand ready to answer
when asked
if you are available for God
to become more present in your life
and through you to the world.

Like Mary,
may you willingly respond:

Let what you have said be done to me!

[From the Fundamental Principles]

A reading from the Middle Dutch Mystical tradition

 When a person does what he can to achieve union with God, and
if he can do no more on account of his own weakness, then it pertains to the
fathomless goodness of God to perfect the work of grace. It comes just like a
flash (blic) of sunlight. In this light, out of His free goodness and
generosity, God gives Himself…. At times, God gives some people sudden insights
into their spirit, just like lightning in the heavens. Then there comes a brief
flash of particular brightness, shining through the person simple bareness, but
elevating their spirit in the wink of an eye. Suddenly, however, the light is gone
and the person comes back to himself. God Himself produces these flashing
glimpses into their spirit. It is very noble for a person to pay attention to
these, for when they do they often become enlightened. [From “The Spiritual
Espousals” by Jan van Ruusbroec: 115-120; b485-490]

Points of Reflection

    1. Our
      inner restlessness arises out of the fears and anxieties we have about our
      lives, our sense of security , and all that we experience as a threat to our
      survival and well-being.  How do I
      experience restlessness when I attempt to give quiet, time, and space to
      attending to the presence and call of God in my life?


    1. Do
      I experience technology and forms of mass media, entertainment, and information
      as an obstacle to my having and giving time to attend to God and God’s presence
      to me?  What specific steps do I need to
      take regarding my use of media and technology to reclaim my time for God and
      for deepening in this primary relationship?


  1. To
    “stand ready to answer when asked if you are available for God to become more
    present in your life and through you to the world” requires of us to bear
    with the painful experiences  of the
    limits of our lives and the effectiveness of our works.  Do I experience my avoidance of this
    suffering of limit as an obstacle to my remaining available, that is still and
    openly receptive to God’s presence and call to me?  Do I ever sense this suffering of the limits
    of my own love, care, and action as a participation in the Cross of Christ?

Click here to download a PDF version of Prayer Service No. 5

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