Friday, February 10, 2012

A Deeper Embrace

In the beginning of this year I had decided that I would focus on the word "embrace" as my spiritual goal and I wrote about it here. I wanted to learn to not only accept God's will in my life, but to embrace it, to embrace God. I'm coming to learn that maybe an embrace was what God wanted from me as well...

Since last October when I began formation as an Oblate Candidate of the Precious Blood working to deepen my prayers and love for the priesthood, I've been receiving a monthly lesson from Mother Marietta of the Handmaids of the Precious Blood. Each lesson draws me a bit more deeply into the knowledge and love of Christ. With the two previous lessons, Dies Domini and the Eucharist, I learned that a spiritual goal of the Oblates is to try to spend ten minutes in silent gratitude for the gift of the Eucharist each time I am blessed to receive the Body of Our Lord. I struggled with those ten minutes quite a bit and wrote about it in the posts Ten Minutes and Ten Minutes More.

Still, determined to do my best at this spiritual discipline and wanting so badly to give Jesus my all, and to offer all that I am for the sake of His priests, I have persevered in doing my best to remain after Mass for ten minutes of gratitude and to visit our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration as often as possible. Gradually I have been coming to feel the Lord shaping and forming me from a hard block of solid resistance to a soft and loving state as if I were supple clay in His hands. With each interval of ten minutes that I give to Him I can feel that He is really reaching out and embracing me while I do my best to embrace Him in return.

When I received the latest lesson from Mother Marietta, a lesson on Eucharistic Adoration, I was bowled over to read the following section:

"Pope Benedict XVI gives us a very beautiful insight into Eucharistic adoration by bringing to our attention that “[t]he Latin word for adoration is ad-oratio—mouth to mouth contact, a kiss, an embrace.” Have you ever thought of adoration as an embrace with God? If you marvel at these words and ponder them in your heart you will discover various aspects of this mystery. Let’s consider some of these by using a method Father Gerald was fond of. The letters that make up the word “embrace” can help us to remember and reflect upon the grace of being united with God when we adore Him. Our hope is that you will develop this even further during your own Holy Hours.

We will first give an overview and then consider each aspect more closely.

E: Enter into the very dynamic of Jesus’ total self-giving
M: Model yourself after Mary in adoration of Jesus
B: Bring others with you
R: Receive Jesus spiritually into your heart in preparation for your next Holy Communion
A: Allow Jesus to love you
C: Contemplate Him
E: Entreat the Lord to “stay with us”

The love that God has for each one of us personally is utterly astounding. How do we respond to Him? Prayers are good, sacrifices are pleasing to Him, and yet what He wants above all, is not our gifts, but ourselves. God desires for us to become one with Him in an embrace of love.

And so... Let us E-M-B-R-A-C-E Him!"

Could I have received a clearer sign from God that He is pleased with me and my efforts? I felt flooded with His grace upon reading this passage.

Last night my husband and I had the rare opportunity to go out to dinner alone. My friend, Fr. Matthew, had given me a gift certificate to Caterina's Italian Restaurant for my birthday last December, and Paul and I finally had the chance to use it. As we entered the restaurant I felt the hand of God to be very evident in Fr. Matthew's choice of restaurant because there, hanging on the wall behind the host station, I spotted an Apostolic Blessing, a picture of Pope John Paul II. I asked the host about how it came to be there and he told me that many years ago his mother had been ill and to comfort her, her good friend, Bishop Callahan, obtained this blessing for her. There's just something about eating in a restaurant that has an apostolic blessing hanging on the wall that is very comforting. In fact, I told Paul that I almost felt that we were on a little imaginary trip to Rome, and since the Bishops of Milwaukee are currently in Rome on their ad limina visit, I felt especially close to them on their pilgrimage. Our dinner became a prayer united to the prayers of our friends in Rome.

Paul had struggled through an especially difficult day at work so I suggested that after dinner we attend Eucharistic Adoration together at St. John the Evangelist Parish which offers adoration 24/7. In the same way that I had been reluctant to spend ten minutes in prayer after every Mass, Paul was reluctant to go to adoration and would have preferred to go straight home after dinner to relax, but I pressed the matter and he finally agreed. It felt like the most romantic experience I had ever known, to kneel side by side with my husband in a dark and silent church in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord, each of us pouring out our troubles and our love to the only One who would love us through it all. Our time in adoration truly was an embrace, but, an even deeper embrace was in the works...

This morning after daily Mass, the usual crowd cleared out more quickly than usual and I found for the first time that I was really, truly and blessedly alone with the Lord. No one remained; not the janitor, not the lady who waters the flowers, not the school parent dropping in for a quick two minute visit with the Lord. It was just Jesus and I in church. I felt a pull to come closer to the tabernacle and hesitated, worried that someone might come in and think me strange for my behavior. But the words, "don't be afraid" echoed in my mind and so I left my pew and knelt on the top step in front of the tabernacle and there I remained for much longer than ten minutes.

This truly was an embrace with the Lord for never before had I felt as if I were the only one in the world who mattered to Him, as if I were His most beloved friend and daughter, as if all the other people in the world who vie for his attention no longer existed. Right here in front of this tabernacle, I was St. John, the favored disciple, resting my head upon the Lord. I didn't want to leave!

But, the knowledge of a basketful of laundry waiting to be folded before I had to go to work intruded on my intimate moment with Jesus and I finally turned to go. Passing the baptismal font, I thought that I might just like to swim in it, that's how much I longed to remain united to Christ, but instead, I cupped the holy water in my hands and brought it to my face as in a kiss. I wanted to seal the moment with fire but found my wallet empty without any change for a votive candle, so I left vowing to repeat this ritual with my savior as soon as I could possibly do so.

And I stepped out into the unexpected snow falling in pure, fat flakes, marveling at the glorious grace of a deep and wonderful embrace with the Lord.

(Joining with Moments of Grace at Suscipio)

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