Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Day 36 - Lessons to be learned

Brother Lawrence has been my inspiration throughout Lent, as I have attempted to practise the presence of God in my life, so it is to him I turn this Tuesday of Holy Week.

I am aware that his experience was certainly very different from mine. He would have known the joy of a supportive fellowship as he joined in regular worship in the Carmelite monastery. Each day would have ended with the plainchant of the service of Compline and that moving prayer 'Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the silent hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting world may rest upon your eternal changelessness.' I compare this renewing rhythm of life to the frenetic lifestyle most of us attempt to live. Yes, Brother Lawrence had a bit of a head start!

Yet, he can teach us many truths for our own ongoing life of faith. Brother Lawrence was acutely aware of his own shortcomings, but they did not cause him to grovel before God or become introspective. Instead it drew from him songs of praise, awe and thanksgiving. Part of confession for him was to recognise that God's goodness is greater than our failings, so we need to accept his joy in loving and forgiving us.

Right up to the moment of his death Brother Lawrence was aware of the goodness of God strengthening him every step of the way. He encourages us to similarly feast on God's goodness. This he says generates faith, hope and love. All three constitute food for our journey. In his writing he makes this memorable claim:

Everything is possible to those who believe, Even more is possible to those
who hope
Still more is possible to those who love, More and more is possible to those who
practice and persevere

By his eightieth year Brother Lawrence had grown rich in faith. Such faith, he insisted germinates and grows in the hearts that are aware of the presence of God in the middle of the pressures of life. Two weeks before he died, while he was suffering considerable pain, we find rising from within him that same well-spring of confidence that cried: If only we knew how much he loves us, we should always be ready to receive from his hand both the bitter and sweet. Then we shall discover that even dark and difficult things would become sweet and pleasing.

Brother Lawrence encourages us to savour and worship God in the depths of our hearts, no matter what we are doing. He suggests that, no matter what is occupying our minds and our hands, since we know that God is with us - that he indwells us - we should pause from time to time to praise him, pray to him or offer him our heart in thanksgiving.

On his deathbed, as through life, Brother Lawrence was acutely aware of the presence of God who loved him. Even when in pain, his face and speech were filled with joy. He told those who visited him that although he was in pain, his spirit was happy and contented. After he had received the sacraments, his response when one of his brothers asked him what occupied his mind was ' I am doing what I shall do, through all eternity - blessing God, praising God, adoring God, giving him the love of my whole heart.'

So I leave Brother Lawrence with his dying words, when he wished he had known God sooner in his life. 'Believe me' he said 'you can count as lost each day you have not used in loving God.'

And for myself...I am drawn back to Psalm 27

The Lord us my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear ?
The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?

That's more than enough for me to ponder on and be challenged about today.....

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