Thursday, November 1, 2012

What is Union with God?

Happy All Saint's Day!

All Saints Day is a perfect day for this blog, to help me explain what "Carmel Hearts" is all about. I am an aspirant for the Order of Discalced Carmelites, Secular (OCDS, also known as a tertiary or third order.) What that means is that through this year, I contemplate whether or not a deeper commitment to the Carmelite way of life is right for me. Even if I discern that it is not, the spirit of Carmel has changed me forever and will never leave me. I will always have Carmel in my heart. So, this blog is for anyone who loves the Carmelite tradition, the lives and writings of the Carmelite saints, or just the amazing charism of the Carmelites, prayer and especially contemplative prayer.

The Discalced Carmelites were founded by St. Teresa of Avila, who is my confirmation saint. I chose St. Teresa because I'm in my forties and starting over with my life and St. Teresa's  life only began to flower in her forties. St. Teresa was an extroverted girl who struggled most of her life with prayer, but she matured into a master contemplative while in her forties. Near the end of her life, St. Teresa lived in union with God. She wrote that she did not know where she ended and God began, sometimes, and that she found herself quickly forgetting her own past, and even who she was. She had not become a God. She had allowed herself to dissolve into the majesty of God, to become a conduit for His Majesty to flood the world with grace and love.

I've always sought union with God, but I've gone about it in some crazy ways. Gurus in some "new age" traditions brag about "achieving" union with God, but it is to portray their power and strength in becoming God. This bravado attracts followers who reflect the guru's power back in the hopes to get a piece of it for themselves. I somehow thought that was what I was searching for, this "empowerment" to create "abundance" and "prosperity" and to become like a God. The more I became involved in it, the more I was taught that my role was to "become God," yet when I failed at that, I found myself worshiping the guru and if not him, the "ascended master of the week." My life was empty then.

All I ever REALLY wanted was sanity, peace and wholeness in myself. I never dreamed I would fall in love with God, who became incarnate as the greatest hero who ever lived, and that He would become my best friend. I never imagined I would find such a deep sense of purpose and fulfillment in learning to do His will.

Earlier this month, I went to the Secular Carmelite weekend retreat in Beaverton. The topic for the weekend was "obedience." At the retreat, I learned that the first step in union with God was to be in unity with His will. St. Teresa had many intuitions that her spiritual director did not agree with, so she followed his direction instead, without hesitation. In most of the situations, the decision was less important than the opportunity St. Teresa had to let go of pride and her need to be right and in control. St. Teresa made a vast array of decisions and was given great responsibility by the Church, but in those few times she was directed, she did not even argue. I learned at the retreat that St. Teresa said, "The Devil ceases attacking IF we are truly resigned.” 

Obedience is key to surrender to God's will.  Sometimes, that obedience is to superiors, but more often, for lay people obedience is about accepting life on life's terms. Give up. Wave the white flag. I did. I had no energy to fight anymore and I had no question or doubt in my mind that every other route I had taken in my life led nowhere. My first terror was that I would still be led astray because evil is incredibly subtle and tricky. St. Teresa helped me to remember to just let go, to God's care. That's the way to truly be free.

(Added Note: I am only at the very beginning- nowhere near "in union" with God, just working towards it really hard. Thank God for the saints that give us hope and show us the way!)

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