Thursday, August 1, 2013

Coming before God in Love and Truth

These are words written as spiritual direction by Thomas Traherne (c. 1637-1674), the English priest, poet, theologian, and visionary, about coming before God in prayer. They are part of a larger series of reflections on the place of the human soul in Creation and in relationship to others.

Traherne wants his reader to understand how important the estimation of our body, soul, and mind-set is when we pray. We are to see ourselves as significant, of infinite value, and called to a profound sharing with God in prayer…not simply to be observers or consumers. He frames his understanding of prayer in the language of the Lover and the Beloved, something known to us from Scripture (especially the Song of Solomon). This is part of a long line of Christian mystics and teachers who have seen prayer in terms of communion, not transaction. Anglican Christianity shares this understanding, though it remains under assault in a world dominated by economic and ideological forces adverse to such organic and spiritual traditions.

Prayer is the context for all Christian life and action. To live or act as a Christian apart from prayer—in its many forms—is to engage in a horrifying hypocrisy. Only communities and individuals grounded in prayer may truly share in the truth, wisdom, peace, and sustaining energies of God.

Since therefore Love does all it is able, to make itself accepted, both in increasing its own vehemence, and in adorning the person of the Lover: as well as in offering up the most choice and perfect gifts, with what care ought you to express your love in beautifying yourself with this wisdom, and in making your person acceptable? Especially since your person is the greatest gift your love can offer up to God Almighty. Clothe yourself with Light as with a garment, when you come before Him: put on the greatness of Heaven and Earth, adorn yourself with the excellencies of God Himself. When you prepare yourself to speak to Him, be all the knowledge and light you are able, as great, as clear, and as perfect as is possible. So at length shall you appear before God in Sion: and as God converse with God for evermore.
(From Centuries of Meditations, the Second Century, no. 86)

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