Last week I wrote about the mystics who have had mysterious intimacy with God such that they are so deeply in His presence that it almost goes beyond words to even begin to describe the experience. For them, as Adrienne von Speyr put it, heaven opens and they have an experience of union with God. There are also those who have had a vision or have seen an apparition, such as St. Bernadette who had a series of visitations by the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes and was given messages for all the faithful. Those experiences are public revelations meant for the entire world because God is trying to get a message across to us; the authentic ones are always consistent with the Scriptures and our faith. Private revelations are those meant for an individual to help that one on his or her faith journey. Why God gives some people the gift of mystical experience or deep prayer experiences and seems not to give that to others is a mystery.
God does break through to all of us and so I would like to suggest that we can experience the presence of God in our daily lives if we trust that it is there and open ourselves to see it. The first thing we need is the gift of faith, which is given to us in Baptism. Rather than looking for heaven to open in a radical way, we need to trust that heaven opens in the little things that happen around us. When we experience something that touches our heart, an unexpected touch of love for example, heaven is opening. We simply need to recognize it as such. If we have a chance encounter on the street in which we are moved by kindness, heaven is opening in a new way. Or if we observe something very beautiful, heaven is opening to us. These encounters are brief, but our hearts are moved.
God is also present in creation, in all that is around us, which is an icon insofar as creation reflects the image of God. God says through the prophet Jeremiah: “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” (Jeremiah 23:24). God is indicating that His presence and His glory are everywhere. It is important for us to ask God for the ability to have a sense of His presence in our daily lives. He seeks us more than we seek Him, and therefore He will be happy to let us know He is there. He assures us that if we seek Him we will find Him. (Jeremiah 29:13) The key is to expect Him and to seek Him, and then to be open to God’s creativity in showing us His presence. Often the holy comes in surprising ways.
Heaven opens through the love of another person. When we give love and share love we experience a bit of the presence of God who is Love. This is heaven opening because love transforms us. Mutual love fills us with joy and fills our heart. Love also allows us to face that which is most difficult because we know we are not alone. We most often seek God’s presence when we are in suffering or in some sort of dire strait. We do not always get what we ask for when we seek a preferred outcome in such circumstances. But that does not mean that God was not present. Suffering is a mystery and so is the plan of God. But that does not mean that God is not present to us when we are in the midst of pain. Just as He was present to His own Son, Jesus, when He went through His Passion and death, and just as there was a plan in all of that, so, too, He is present with us. What is important is to trust that He is there and to accept whatever grace He gives us to persevere, as well as the comfort of His love. This is the most challenging experience we can have because when we are in pain it is difficult to be open to His presence.
Therefore we need to look for the brightness of God all around us. We do not have to wait to be in Heaven to get a glimpse of the beauty and wonder of God. All we need to do is ask for the eyes to see and the ears to hear. Every time we have an encounter with love we are seeing the brightness of God. That does not mean God is not present in the dark. Oh yes, He is there also, waiting to meet us in mystery and to bring His light to that which is without it. But in the light of day we can also encounter heaven opening to us. “I want to see the brightness of God. I want to look at Jesus.”*
©Michele L. Catanese
* I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light by Kathleen Thomerson
The photos are mine. Both were taken in South Dakota. The first is a sunset over the Badlands and the photo at the end of the entry is an aspen by a stream. The second photo made me think of the burning bush, an example of the brightness of God.
All of the icons are the work of Fr. William Hart McNichols. The first is Mother of God Light in All Darkness and it can be found at http://www.standreirublevicons.com/gallery-views/mother-of-god-gallery/product/174-mother-of-god-light-in-all-darkness
The second is Mary Most Holy Mother of All Nations and can be found at http://www.standreirublevicons.com/gallery-views/mother-of-god-gallery/product/168-mary-most-holy-mother-of-all-nations
The third is Holy Passion Bearer Mychal Judge and can be found at http://www.fatherbill.org/all-categories/product/299-holy-passion-bearer-mychal-judge
You can purchase plaques, cards, and giclee prints, as well as other icons and images from the many, many works of Fr. Bill McNichols. With Christmas coming in two months it is a good time to think about getting a special gift for someone, or maybe for yourself. You can access his webpage through any of the above links or simply go to www.fatherbill.org.
Remember, I do not get any remuneration or any other benefit from promoting the work of Fr. Bill. I simply get the joy of sharing the treasure that is his work.