A Simple Glance

Saint Therese of Lisieux
A Simple Glance
‘For me, prayers is:
An aspiration of the heart,
A simple glance directed to heaven,
A cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy,
Finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus.’
(SS p 242)

Therese offers us this wonderful description of prayer;
An aspiration…a desire of the heart, even the desire to pray, even if we only aspire to pray this in itself is a prayer. ‘The desire alone I have of doing God’s will gives me peace, even though I am far from practicing what I understand.’ (SS p227 paraphrased) Later she writes; ‘He has always given me what I desire or rather made me desire what He wants to give me.’ (SS p250)

Therese herself recalls that for many years she would fall asleep at prayer and while she suggests that she knows she should be desolate about this she proclaims she is not! And why? Because, ‘I remember that little children are as pleasing to their parents when they are asleep as well as when they are awake.’! (SS p165)
Therese was ever realistic and humble, she questioned; ‘Is pure love in my heart. Are my measureless desires only but a dream or folly? Ah! If this be so Jesus then enlightens me, for you know I am seeking only the truth.’ (SS p197)

A simple glance directed to heaven, for Carmelites, heaven is wherever God is and we have already noted God dwells secretly in all souls, God is present in all creation, in Therese’s words; ‘Jesus Himself is hidden in the depths of my poor little heart.’ What a beautiful simple thought, each time we glance at another, at creation and recognise the beauty of heaven, the presence of God we are praying.

‘I understand and know from experience that the Kingdom of God is within you. Jesus has no need of books or teachers to instruct souls; He teaches without the noise of words. Never have I heard Him speak, but I feel that He is within me at each moment; He is guiding and inspiring me with what I must say and do. I find just when I need them certain lights that I have not seen until then and it is not most frequently during my hours of prayer that these are most abundant but rather in the midst of my daily occupations.’

In the midst of daily life, this is where the spirit of God is at work in Saint Therese and in us, Teresa of Avila famously wrote; ‘the Lord walks among the pots and pans. Whatever makes up the pots and pans of your life, that is where the Lord works, God is at work.

A cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial and joy, notice it doesn’t say some long eloquent prayer but a cry! And everything is included in this prayer, the trials, the contradictions and the joy, the celebrations. In Therese’s words; ‘Everything is Grace.’ (SS p266 epilogue)

Finally, something great, supernatural which expands my soul, this is something beyond, bigger than us, supernatural, in other words, an act of God. Prayer in fact is not what we do but what God does. God is at work expanding our souls and ultimately as Therese notes, uniting us with Jesus.

Prayer is mutual as Thereses great guide in prayer John of the Cross (she called him Our holy father and states at the age of 17 and 18 she had no other spiritual nourishment) stated; ‘If the soul is seeking God, we can be sure that God is seeking the soul much more.’
For Therese and indeed John of the Cross, a soul united with Jesus is a soul transformed in love, into love. Now the souls will is so united with Gods will that Love is the only response.

‘Now I occupy my soul
And all my energy in His service:
I no longer tend the herd,
Nor have I any other work
Now that my every act is love.

Or rather
After I have known it
Love works so in me
That whether things go well or badly
Love turns them to one sweetness
Transforming the soul in itself.
(John of the Cross)

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