By Deacon Derick Cranston
There is a transcendental beauty in the world that humanity naturally longs for and strives to comprehend. If we look inward, we will find that the unconscious mind can paint the world in colors of a mystical loveliness that make exquisite the dull and ordinary things of this world. Musicians, writers and artists have seen it at times and make it visible through their work. Saints submerge themselves in it and show it to the world through the life they live. What about the rest of us?
Most of us are not great artists and certainly not saints. It is still possible, though, to get a taste of God’s beauty in all its glory and let it nourish our souls. To open our eyes to God’s love, we need to block out the distractions of a hyper-busy world and “go to our upper room and pray in secret, for God knows the secrets of our heart.” And therein lay the key to penetrating the heart and discovering the secrets within.
The journey to self-discovery and unlocking the secrets of our heart begins by placing ourselves in a sacred place and quieting our mind. This is done through prayer and communal worship. The internal prayer of our heart must be framed by the external act of communal worship, and the external act of communal worship must be filled with the internal prayer of our heart. Prayer and communal worship are the keys to unlocking the secrets of the heart.
If we immerse ourselves in prayer, we hand Christ the keys to our hearts, allowing the rays of his love and grace to bathe our souls in the light of his presence. Just as the rays of the sun bathe our bodies in light, so too will the rays of the Son’s love enlighten our mind and soul, observes the Christian writer Tim Keller.
But will the clouds part? Will a shaft of light shine on us, and the heavenly hymns of the angels fill our ears? No. Few people are granted this gift. But this does not mean we should totally give up on prayer and abandon Christ if we don’t feel an overpowering presence of his love for us.
In our self-centered culture and classic American emphasis on work, we often feel we must accomplish something during our times of prayer. We rate our experience by how “good” our prayer was, how heartfelt our devotion was or how focused we were during our time of prayer. This is not the way to a healthy prayer life. All we must do is put ourselves in the presence of Christ. It may feel like he is not there, but he is.
In the Gospel we read about Mary and Martha. Martha went around busily getting the house ready for Jesus’ visit, while her sister Mary just sat at the feet of Jesus. Martha wanted Jesus to rebuke Mary for not getting busy with the tasks at hand. But Jesus gently rebukes Martha and says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried about many things, but Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken away from her.”
Open your heart and let God’s love penetrate you and unlock the secrets of your heart. Choose the better part, and sit at the feet of the Lord and simply be in his presence. Pray, because it is the better part, and it will not be taken from you.
(Deacon Cranston is pastoral associate for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)