Here in the San Juans, about as far as one can be from Jerusalem or Rome, and on the threshold of the northern reaches of the earth, Autumn comes early. Already many trees are displaying their fall colors against the deep blue Salish Sea. Here it is easy to remember that, “In the winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a little time the leaves would be renewed and after that the flowers and fruit appear, Brother Lawrence received a high view of the Providence and Power of God, which has never been erased from his soul.”
The above quote, familiar to those of us who have read Brother Lawrence’s one little book (see Sources and Resources), has always spoken to me about the fact that conversion is a gift; it is God’s transformative movement in the soul, whether we have been open to such a movement with years of prayer and fasting, or whether after a lifetime of dissipation–or merely tepidity–we are suddenly crashed-in-upon through one little crack in the armor of our self-centeredness and ignorance.
Brother Lawrence experienced a revelation–and that is what is involved in any true conversion. The revelation is the opening of the eyes, heart and mind to what is in front of us and all around us, and to which we have been largely or completely blind.
There is a false kind of “revelation” which one can bring about in oneself by some enlarged view of nature. It is easy to be drawn to a false mysticism because we have been created to crave beauty and meaning. These two desires in us readily entice us away from the real, incarnated God when we refuse to see Jesus Christ as the Church has kept his Person and character intact, through Creed and Eucharist and the fullness of her sacramental life for two thousand years.
Knowing Christ in truth, not in any twisted or incomplete way, gives us real knowledge of ourselves and brings us to genuine encounter with the Person of God, fully alive (more fully than we!), absolutely wise, absolutely loving and merciful, absolutely and actively just.
That genuine encounter–its essence–is true revelation. Like Brother Lawrence, we begin fully to see what is all around us, crying out to us that God Is; and we then are given the gift to know, in hope and by faith, what we cannot see or hear or feel with our senses. And as time goes by, when we are becoming more and more receptive to his Spirit, we begin to enter in to the fullness of the very Life of God, even as we complete our journey here on earth. It is all gift, and we know we are still here in order to share it; anything less than that is unthinkable at this point.
Every day is full of pain and mourning, gratefulness and praise and little acts of love. All in God’s power–his very breath breathing in and through us, his very heartbeat keeping us alive with him, in Jesus, with Mary, even here on the distant coastlands of the world. -jc