From my prayer retreat at the monastery, post 3

July 15: Vigilance

Today at the monastery we are celebrating the feast of St. Bonaventure, a medieval theologian and monastic. Bonaventure talked about turning our affections only toward God. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us the inclination to turn toward the Triune God. Therefore, our seeking after God is a response not an initiative.

As I noted in the previous post, our response to God begins with “Here I am.” Over the years, our response includes many instances of replying to him, “Here I am.” This reply represents repentance whenever we are turning once again away from distractions and toward the Father. We have a tendency to drift, to turn away to the things of this world. Many of those things are good, but we can become too attached to them and too concerned with them. When that happens, the Holy Spirit whispers our name, and we have the opportunity once again to whisper back, “Here I am.”

Bonaventure teaches that the Spirit lights a flame of desire for God within us, and we are to ride Godward on the fuel of this flame. The secret is to remain vigilant, for the flame can easily be reduced to embers. As God calls us, we are to respond and follow continually so the flame of desire for him grows and does not go out.

Bonaventure also stresses that our affection is to be turned to God alone. If we maintain this kind of single-minded focus, the Spirit fans the flame of God-desire into an inferno. But our vigilance is required. This is what I see clearly this morning at the monastery. The entire monastic life is built around vigilance. It is vigilance to seek God in continual worship and loving contemplation. It is vigilance to retain a pace in life that knows no hurry, so the soul may be protected from needless distraction. It is vigilance to love one another in a life of mutual service so the Christ we adore can live through us (Gal 2:20). This life of vigilance is designed to keep our eyes fixed on Christ (Heb 12:2) so the need for turning back to God in repentance is kept to a minimum. If we do not turn away, there is no need to turn back.


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