On Closeness to God

In the German film Die Stille Grosse (The Great Silence), which filmed the monks of the Grand Chartreuse over a period of several years, the filmmakers interviewed the ancient abbot of the monastery.  Grey haired, blind, with bushy, overgrown eyebrows like an untrimmed vine that overreaches a dividing wall, the old man, in a weak voice, said that “happiness is being close God,” or words to that effect.

I am like most people easily distracted, and the stimuli that can disorient me are legion, and never ending.  Sometimes, I like to make being closer to God more complicated than it actually is; it is doing his will, and accepting our dependence upon him.  I hate being dependent upon anyone, and like most people I naturally crave the immediate satisfaction of my desires.  This is why ascetic practices, prayer, fasting, charitable works, are so necessary to a Christian life.  We cannot “taste and see that the Lord is good” until we have reset our palette, and rescued it from the dullness that comes from the desensitizing pursuit of immediate pleasures.  We must cultivate a certain sort of “taste”–a sensitivity to God and his presence–and a certain sort of insensitivity, to immediate stimuli (food, sex, etc.,) in order to come closer to God.  This is the painful labor of a Christian life; it requires faith, because we have certain knowledge that if we eat enticing food, or make love to someone, we will have a sense of immediate satisfaction from it. Whereas we have no knowledge of eternal life, only the faith that comes from God.  And yet, from our own experience we know that certain types of pleasures are more rewarding, even if less intense, because they can be properly fulfilled and completed. Our desires for food and sex are never completed, for their purpose is not to fulfill but to spur us on to those things that can–the highest and greatest being God, whom when (if) we come to enjoy him eternally, will fulfill us forever.  St. Augustine wrote in his Confessions that God was “nearer to me than I am to myself,” and I pray that all who seek may draw closer to him, that they may “taste and see” the One who is able to fulfill every longing of our hearts.

~ by Alypius on April 26, 2017.

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