HE soul, being brought to this place, needs no other preparation than that of repose: for the presence of God during the day, which is the great result of prayer, or rather prayer itself, begins to be intuitive and almost continual. The soul is conscious of a deep inward happiness, and feels that God is in it more truly than it is in itself. It has only one thing to do in order to find God, which is to retire within itself. As soon as the eyes are closed, it finds itself in prayer.
It is astonished at this infinite happiness; there is carried on within it a conversation which outward things cannot interrupt. It might be said of this method of prayer, as was said of Wisdom, “All good things together come to me with her” (Wisdom of
Solomon vii. 11), for virtue flows naturally into the soul, and is practised so easily, that it seems to be quite natural to it. It has within it a germ of life and fruitfulness, which gives it a facility for all good, and an insensibility to all evil. Let it then remain faithful, and seek no other frame of mind than that of simple rest. It has only to suffer itself to be filled with this divine effusion.
“The Lord is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him” (Hab. ii. 20). The reason why inward silence is so necessary is, that Christ, being the eternal and essential Word, in order that He may be received into the soul, there must be a disposition corresponding with what He is. Now it is certain that in order to receive words we must listen. Hearing is the sense given to enable us to receive the words which are communicated to us. Hearing is rather a passive than an active sense, receiving, and not communicating. Christ being the Word which is to be communicated, the soul must be attentive to this Word which speaks within it.
This is why we are so often exhorted to listen to God, and to be attentive to His voice. Many
passages might be quoted. I will be content to mention a few: “Hearken unto me, O my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation” (Isa. li. 4). “Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel” (Isa. xlvi. 31). “Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house; so shall the King greatly desire thy beauty” (Ps. xlv. 10, 11).
We must listen to God, and be attentive to Him, forgetting ourselves and all self-interest. These two actions, or rather passions—for this condition is essentially a passive one—arouse in God a “desire” towards the “beauty” He has Himself communicated.
Outward silence is extremely necessary for the cultivation of inward silence, and it is impossible to acquire inward silence without having a love for silence and solitude.
God tells us by the mouth of His prophet, “I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak to her heart” (marginal reading of Hosea ii. 14).
To be inwardly occupied with God, and outwardly occupied with countless trifles, this is impossible.
It will be a small matter to pray, and to retire within ourselves for half an hour or an hour, if we do not retain the unction and the spirit of prayer during the day.