“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it dawned on man what God has prepared for those that love him.” 1 Cor 2:9
No ear has ever heard, no eye has ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:3
I have just recently taken the plunge. No, I have not gotten married again. My wife and I just celebrated our 30th Wedding Anniversary last August. So, I am still very much married and happy at that. But really I am talking about being launched at a level of 4500 feet above sea level and plunged down into the mountain tops and pine tree tops of the Dahilayan Forest preserve in Bukidnon via Asia’s longest zip line. Yes, I have done it and survived it last 4 December 2011 with other brave BCBP sisters and a brother.
That zip line is a strong wire structure stretching all of 840 meters (nearly a kilometer!) from Dahilayan’s highest point down to the level where most of the resort facilities are located. The ride requires you to be strapped in a body harness with all the safety devices designed to propel a human being diving head first into a flying position into oblivion. Hanging on that wire via the harness in a prone position that must be kept straight one can experience the flight of an eagle in 22 degree Celsius weather all the way down the length of that wire in an eerie silence that makes you see the beauty of God’s creation on that mountain range. What an exhilarating adrenaline rush!
The decision of taking that plunge because we were there already (it’s a rather long trip to Dahilayan) was quite easy until we were standing on the actual platform staring down at all of that 4500 feet of height. It will really make you take a deep breath and run back to home! But as soon as you are snug in that harness in a prone position and hear all the straps click into place, you now know you are in for the ride of your life! When you hear the shout, “Release!”, you are on to great adventure!
Now you say if humans are silly enough to plunge down in such devices body and soul in seeming reckless abandon, but get away with it with such confidence and safety, what about taking a spiritual plunge into the loving hands of our Lord?
Consider this jewel from St. Ignatius of Loyola who says, ”There are very few people who realise what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into his hands, and let themselves be formed by his grace.”
I picked up that jewel in my Retreat in Daily Life (RDL) at the Center for Ignatian Spirituality. This is a 14 week open retreat which involves physically and spiritually plunging oneself into an intimate contemplative prayer relationship with the Lord of Lords for 98 consecutive days ( please refer to my October column/article “Praying Without Borders”). Sure, ever since my first BCBP days prayer has been a constant companion. But this particular RDL commitment opened a new chapter in my relationship with my loving Savior. It certainly helped that knowing there was a weekly meeting with my spiritual director, Fr. Xavier Alpasa S.J. It brought more encouragement determination for me to persist in the demands of the RDL retreat.
Allow me share more of these spiritual jewels of truth about prayer that briefly describe what were uncovered in this great journey not only framable but livable.
“Prayer is reaching out of all that is deepest within us towards all that lies infinitely beyond and around us.” –Margaret Silf
“To pray is to enter into a relationship with God and to have that relationship make a difference in my life.” – Joyce Rupp
With a living God who loves us, who, in fact, is obsessed with us God initiates and sustains the process. We are invited to be receptive to his initiative and respond to the movements that occur throughout life.
As we increasingly commit ourselves to keeping this relationship alive and thriving, not only is more of God’s essence becomes revealed; we also come to know more of our true self.
OUR PRAYER AFFECTS OUR LIFE
OUR LIFE AFFECTS OUR PRAYER
Prayer is not concerned with mere saying of prayers. It involves opening up to the Lord in all that touches us, our daily joys and pains. The day to day ordinary and extraordinary events and moods of our lives provide the substance of prayer.
No part of our existence excludes God(including our darkness and negative moods). No dichotomy between praying and living. Prayer is not part of living, a thing that is on our schedule that we “do”, but ALL OF LIVING. There is no part of our lives with which God is not concerned.
St. Ignatius affirms both prayer and life should be integrated…Ignatius aim was to discover the concrete will of God and bring it to completion.
“TO FIND GOD IN ALL THINGS.” Ignatius of Loyola
Through this great journey, which obviously cannot be contained in this short article (It is like asking an elephant to ride in the back seat of my car.) I have gained a deeper respect for the many who have embraced fully this Ignatian spirituality and furthered their relationship with the Lord towards the utmost. These include the priests, nuns, all religious, seminarians and many lay brothers and sisters with whom I had the privilege of sharing this journey. They have given me a deeper appreciation of the wonderful reservoir of love which accompanies their vocation. This was something I could not understand for all of my life, “God alone” or “Solo Dios Basta” , no matter how many times I have sung the song. Here I found why people are able to give their whole lives in loving and serving the Lord, full time. I myself am humbled as I know I am not there in terms of the lay/married vocation but I know as I continue to encounter the ever loving Lord daily my fears of surrendering my will to His will no longer be impossible.
As Christmas approaches, we cannot but miss the many examples of people who have abandoned themselves into God’s loving hands and be embraced and formed by His grace, becoming fully what God wanted to make of them. The Blessed Virgin Mary, surely through her prayerfulness, was able to make the statement and commitment of her life in saying, “ Be it done to me according to your word.” And in God’s plan became Mother of God and Queen of Heaven.
And of course, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, whose great love formed through prayer with the Father enabled him to say, “Father, not my will but your will be done.”, even with the full knowledge of the Passion before him at Gethsemane.
Friends, deep committed prayer is not only for the divine. It is really meant for us if we only keep in mind that his love will always be greater than our fear. Perfect love drives out fear as Scripture says. As we stand on that spiritual ledge not knowing what the Lord will ask of us if we plunge into knowing him deeply, let us remember that if we abandon ourselves into his grace we will be secure in our quest to be the best we can ever become with our life! What a great gift to receive! A Blessed Christmas to all!