The extraordinary progress of science has given humanity a false sense of independence: man has declared himself God and usurped the place of God in human life. Men will strive to extract every kind of pleasure from life.
The human spirit will be puffed up with satanical pride: man will be his own God. With his conquest of nature man will experience a joy that will replace his hopes of happiness in a future world. Humanity has begun to live from below and spurns any light from above. The trust humanity placed in God has been transferred to science and the miracles of technology have replaced the miracles of the Gospel. All this, however, is on the instrumental, existential level and there are signs that the basic problems of the meaning of life still bother man. Never has he been able to exploit the energies of nature as he can today and yet his anguish is of cosmic dimensions.
His insolence is a cover-up for the distress he refuses to acknowledge. He laughs that he may not weep. With all his blusterings he cannot stifle the incessant clamouring within.
Each time the fundamental questions are dismissed, they leap back to the forefront. The process of secularization has been accompanied by an increase in all kinds of neuroses and psychoses and of phenomena such as the consulting of horoscopes. This hunger for God is our opportunity, as Carmelites — sons and daughters of the Prophet — to present the Practice of the Presence of God to our age in such a way that it will be relevant. It is our duty to re-vitalize this old Exercise that has been the very substance of Carmelite spirituality.
The time seems to be opportune. Dalrymple, who is a man of wide experience in England, holds that young people today find the beginnings of their prayer in things about them, especially in people, and from there they rise to God. By considering the different ways we are present to a stranger, a friend and a lover, we can see how prayer develops beyond the stage of saying prayers to an abiding sense of being with God in all the multifarious activities of the day till an enduring relationship I-Thou to God is achieved.
Perhaps the best exponent of this exercise is Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection c. His little work entitled The Practice of the Presence of God  has been translated into many languages and is very popular among non-Catholics. It is found in many Protestant church racks and bookshops. The sight of a dry, leafless tree in midwinter led him to reflect on the divine power that would transform it in springtime. He left the world where he was a coachman and entered Carmel where he became cook in the convent of Paris.
The Practice of the Presence of God
We may make a chapel of our hearts whereto to escape from time to time to talk with him quietly, humbly and lovingly. Everyone is capable of such close communion with God, some more, some less; He knows what we can do. The actual practice of the Presence of God has many forms. Since it is in God, the Creator, that we live and move and have our being Acts , we can all say with St.
Our dependence on him is absolute. However, one must avoid a form of immanence unrelieved by transcendence.
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
It is in human beings that God is present in a special way for men and women are the living images of God and a revelation of him. As St. Thomas Aquinas, did not permit God to remain alone but urged him to share his life and love with us. By creation humanity is a visible projection of the invisible God: a vision of him. It is in humanity and through humanity that God has revealed himself.
Christ, the Man, is the living Image of the God we cannot see. The human heart seeks God and is hungry for him even when it is completely unconscious of the fact. However, God is present to the Christian in a special way. We who were far off have been brought near through the grace of divine adoption. He is the Vine; we are the branches. He is the Head and we are his members. We are born into Christ to reach a fullness of age in him and become his loving images. Grace, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is an assimilation to Christ in mind and heart and spirit.
And the more we strive to live in him, the more He lives in us to become the great living Reality of our lives. According to an old Roman saying friendship finds or makes equality. God has made us lovable that we may share kinship with Christ and be able to live in the sweet companionship of his love and friendship. It is that we should select some really good man whom we will constantly bear in mind, and under whose eye we will imagine ourselves to be always living and acting. For most of the faults that are committed would be prevented if a witness had been present when they were about to be perpetrated.
Therefore, let us call to mind someone we greatly respect and let the thought of him sanctify the most secret of our actions. He proved his love by dying for us and there is no greater love than this.
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And if we live in his presence He will sanctify our most secret thoughts. To attempt to play the angel on this earth is foolish.
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Ordinarily, we need a leaning-staff for our thoughts. When occupations, persecutions, pain, trouble and repose — when dryness comes to me — Jesus Christ is our very good friend. He becomes a companion for us; and when we accustom ourselves to the thought, it is very easy to find him standing close beside us … If you accustom yourselves to having him at your side, and if He sees that you love him to be there and that you are always trying to please him, you will never be able, as we put it, to send him away nor will He ever fail you … Do you think it is a small thing to have such a friend as that beside you?
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And the final Sentence He will pronounce upon humankind shows that He wishes to be found, loved and served in his fellow - men. Francis de Sales asks us to see the neighbour in the heart of Christ. It is there where he was when Christ suffered on Calvary and it is there where he still is. Faith should lead us to see the neighbour as the sacrament of Christ, and we could be everyone on whom the eyes of Christ rested. What we discovered in Day One, was that Brother Lawrence was just a simple cook with a straightforward practice.
How do we make a start in practicing the presence of God? The first step is to recognize that God is already present where we are. Remember the story of Jesus walking to Emmaus with two of his disciples? Have we recognized Him? Brother Lawrence helps us see this when he writes:. Then we may speak directly to Him every time we need to ask for help, to know His will in moments of uncertainty, and to do whatever He wants us to do in a way that pleases Him.
We should offer our work to Him before we begin and thank Him afterward for the privilege of having done it for His sake. Before we begin our next work day, perhaps we could write out the following prayer, offered by Lawrence, and place it in the path of our work. How do we spend our days? For Brother Lawrence, he spent his time in a kitchen preparing meals and cleaning pots and pans.
What are our pots and pans? Brother Lawrence writes:. It is in the details, the nuts and bolts, the ins and outs, where God truly wants to work with us. The final step is simple and at the same time difficult: we have a continuous conversation with God as we move through our day. Brother Lawrence writes,. The book includes 15 short letters written by Brother Lawrence during the last ten years of his life to a variety of long time friends.
They are the heart and soul of his ability to live in the constant presence of God. This made me resolve to give the all for the All. After having given myself wholly to God, to make all the satisfaction I could for my sins, I renounced, for the love of Him, everything that was not He, and I began to live as if there was none but He and I in the world.
Sometimes I considered myself before Him as a poor criminal at the feet of his judge. At other times I beheld Him in my heart as my Father, as my God. I worshipped Him the oftenest I could, keeping my mind in His holy presence and recalling it as often as I found it wandered from Him. I made this my business, not only at the appointed times of prayer but all the time; every hour, every minute, even in the height of my work, I drove from my mind everything that interrupted my thoughts of God.
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Brother Lawrence never advanced beyond being the cook at the Paris monastery, but he developed the unique gift of being able to pray incessantly with God throughout the entire day and regardless of whatever else he was doing. This unique gift produced such a spiritual change in Brother Lawrence that many people sought him out to learn how to practice the presence of God themselves.
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