Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Awareness of the Presence of God

1. The cultivation of a continual awareness of the presence of God is such a useful practice that many writers regard it as the fundamental principle of the spiritual life. As St. Alphonsus de' Liguori points out, it obliges us to do three things: (1) To preserve ourselves completely free from sin; (2) To practise virtue in every possible way, and (3) To seek a closer and more loving contact with God. (Al. Div. Servizio, III, 1, 3)

The realisation of the presence of God is a particularly good way of subduing our passions and conquering temptation. "If we were always aware of God's presence within us," writes St. Thomas, "we should never, or hardly ever, sin." (Opusc. 58, c. 2)

It is unlikely that a man who is committing sin adverts to the fact that God is watching him and could intervene to punish him at any moment. He has forgotten the presence of God, his Creator and Redeemer, Who has been so good to him and Who will one day be his judge. His mind has been darkened and his heart led astray by the deceptive pleasures of this world.

God is far from the sinner because the sinner ignores His inspirations and advice and has, in short, rejected Him. The unhappy man will never find peace in this world and is doomed to eternal unhappiness in the, next.

"If we remained always in the presence of God," wrote St. John Chrysostom, "we should neither conceive nor do anything evil." (Homil. 8, ad Phil., 2.)

2. The presence of God, moreover, encourages us to do our best to acquire all the virtues. When He is always before our eyes we have no difficulty in recognising that He is the supreme Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.

Let us seek to please God, therefore, by obeying His command­ments and inspirations. If we wish to be worthy of His presence, let us seek to adorn our souls with His grace, which is ours for the asking. Our awareness of God's presence should not be a passive state. It should enliven our faith and increase our love for Him.

Do we realise how poor and pitiful we are in the sight of God? Let us ask Him to make us holy. If we are troubled by temptations, let us ask Him for the strength to conquer them. If we are worn out by suffering, let us ask Him to help and console us.

3. If we remind ourselves constantly of the presence of God, we shall always be closely united to Him. Union with God should be the result of our love for Him, for it is an unfailing rule of love that it increases with the nearness of the beloved. If we live in the presence of God and contemplate Him as the perfection of beauty, truth and goodness, we shall be moved to love Him more and more. Our love, moreover, will generate in us the ardent desire of an even closer intimacy with Him.

This sacred union will bring us great peace and tranquillity in all the vicissitudes of life, a serenity which will be reflected in our personality and in our conduct for the edification of our fellow-men.