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Christian Counsel: 25: On the Presence of God

By Francois Fenelon

      The true source of all our perfection is contained in the command of God in Abraham, "Walk before me, and be thou perfect." (Gen. xvii. 1.)

      The presence of God calms the soul, and gives it quiet and repose even during the day, and in the midst of occupation--but we must be given up to God without reserve.

      When we have once found God, we have nothing to seek among men; we must make the sacrifice of our dearest friendships; the best of friends has entered into our hearts, that jealous Bridegroom who requires the whole of it for himself.

      It takes no great time to love God, to be refreshed by his presence, to elevate our hearts to Him, or to worship Him in the depths of our soul, to offer to Him all we do and all we suffer; this is the true kingdom of God within us, which cannot be disturbed.

      When the distraction of the senses and the vivacity of the imagination hinder the soul from a sweet and peaceful state of recollection, we should at least be calm as to the state of the will: in that case, the will to be recollected is a sufficient state of recollection for the time being. We must return toward God, and do everything which He would have us do with a right intention.

      We must endeavor to awake within ourselves, from time to time, the desire of being devoted to God in all the extent of our powers; in our intellect, to know him and think on him, and in our will, to love him. We must desire too, that our outward senses may be consecrated to him in all their operations.

      Let us be careful how we voluntarily engage, either externally or internally, in matters which cause such distraction of the will and intellect, and so draw them out of themselves that they find difficulty in re-entering and finding God.

      The moment we discover that anything causes excessive pleasure or joy within us, let us separate our heart from it, and, to prevent it from seeking its repose in the creature, let us present it to God, the true object of love, the sovereign good. If we are faithful in breaking up all attachment to the creature, that is, if we prevent its entering into those depths of the soul which our Lord reserves for Himself, to dwell there and to be there respected, adored, and loved, we shall soon experience that pure joy which He never fails to give to a soul freed and detached from all human affections. [3]

      Whenever we perceive within us anxious desires for anything, whatever it may be, and find that nature is hurrying us with too much haste to do what is to be done, whether it be to say something, see something, or to do something, let us stop short, and repress the precipitancy of our thoughts and the agitation of our actions--for God has said, that his Spirit does not dwell in disquiet.

      Be careful not to take too much interest in what is going on around you, nor to be much engaged in it--it is a fruitful source of distraction. As soon as we have found what it is that God requires of us in anything that comes up, let us stop there and separate ourselves from all the rest. By that means we shall always preserve the depths of the soul free and equable, and rid ourselves of many things that embarrass our hearts, and prevent them from turning easily toward God.

      An excellent means of preserving our interior solitude and liberty of soul, is to make it a rule to put an end, at the close of every action, to all reflections upon it, all reflex acts of self-love, whether of a vain joy or sorrow. Happy is he whose mind contains only what is necessary, and who thinks of nothing except when it is time to think of it! so that it is God who excites the impression, by calling us to perform his will as soon as it is exhibited, rather than the mind laboriously foreseeing and seeking it. In short, let us be accustomed to recollect ourselves during the day and in the midst of our occupations, by a simple view of God. Let us silence by that means all the movements of our hearts, when they appear in the least agitated. Let us separate ourselves from all that does not come from God. Let us suppress our superfluous thoughts and reveries. Let us utter no useless word. Let us seek God within us, and we shall find Him without fail, and with Him, joy and peace.

      While outwardly busy, let us be more occupied with God than with everything else. To be rightly engaged, we must be in his presence and employed for Him. At the sight of the Majesty of God, our interior ought to become calm and remain tranquil. Once a single word of the Saviour suddenly calmed a furiously agitated sea: one look of his at us, and of ours toward Him, ought always to perform the same miracle within us.

      We must often raise our hearts to God. He will purify, enlighten, and direct them. Such was the daily practice of the sacred Psalmist: "I have set the Lord always before me." (Ps. xvi. 8.) Let us often employ the beautiful words of the same holy prophet, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee! God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" (Ps. lxxiii. 25.)

      We must not wait for a leisure hour, when we can bar our doors; the moment that is employed in regretting that we have no opportunity to be recollected, might be profitably spent in recollection. Let us turn our hearts toward God in a simple, familiar spirit, full of confidence in him. The most interrupted moments, even while eating or listening to others, are valuable. Tiresome and idle talk in our presence, instead of annoying, will afford us the delight of employing the interval in seeking God. Thus all things work together for good to them that love God.

      We must read according to our necessity and desire, but with frequent interruptions, for the purpose of recollection. A word or two, simple and full of the Spirit of God, will be to us as hidden manna. We forget the words, but the effect remains; they operate in secret, and the soul is fed and enriched.

      [3] The reader will not understand by this, that the soul, in a state of true abandonment, does not exhibit affection for those about it. As, by that process, it commences to see God as He is, it also begins to be like Him, and is all love. Its whole existence, like that of God, may be summed up in the single word "Love." But its love is divine, not human; its affection for all creatures of God, in their respective relations, is higher, and deeper, and holier than it ever was before.--Editor.

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See Also:
   1: Of the Little Knowledge of God there is in the World
   2: Of the Necessity of Knowing and Loving God
   3: On Pure Love
   4: On Prayer and the Principal Exercises of Piety
   5: On Conformity to the Life of Jesus Christ
   6: On Humility
   7: On Prayer
   8: On Meditation
   9: On Mortification
   10: On Self-Abandonment
   11: On Temptations
   12: On Wandering Thoughts and Dejection
   13: On Confidence in God
   14: In What Manner We are to Watch Ourselves
   15: On the Inward Teaching of the Spirit Of God
   16: On Daily Faults and the Toleration of Ourselves
   17: On Fidelity in Small Matters
   18: On Transitory Emotions, Fidelity, and Simplicity
   19: On The Advantages of Silence and Recollection
   20: Privation and Annihilation, A Terror Even to the Spiritually-Minded
   21: On The Proper Use of Crosses
   22: On the Interior Operations of God to Bring Man to the True End of His Creation
   23: On Christian Perfection
   24: The Way of Naked Faith and Pure Love is Better and More Certain than that of Illuminations and Sensible Delights
   25: On the Presence of God
   26: On Conformity to the Will of God
   27: General Directions for Attaining Inward Peace
   28: Pure Love Only Can Suffer Aright and Love its Sufferings
   29: Interested and Disinterested Love Have Each its Appropriate Season
   30: On True Liberty
   31: On the Employment of Time


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