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SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Hearing the Call of the Bridegroom

December 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Anthony Lilles, Prayer, Silence

“Let me see you, let me hear your voice.” These final days of Advent lift our hearts to the coming of Christ and are for post on hearing the call of the Bridegroommeant to move us to pray. How can we not make prayer part of our lives when we consider what it means that the Word of the Father came in history and what it means that Jesus continues to come to us in mystery? To help us feel this in our souls, to help us raise our hearts before this great truth, to nourish us with the sweetness of what God has revealed, our liturgy includes readings from the great love poem – the Canticle of Canticles. In this poem, the Bride calls us to listen to the Bridegroom and to feel the joy of seeing Him gazing at us. And for his part, the Bridegroom of Advent longs to find us, to see us and to hear our voices. God longs for us to pray.

“Arise my beloved!” This is what God asks of us to prepare for Christmas. Who is it who calls us his beloved and who commands us in love to rise up? We cannot know until we enter the silence of prayer for our own self. Have you allowed silence to be part of your Advent Season? Do you hear Him calling to you? Do you see Him gazing at you? Why not seek him now? Why not take this moment to listen for his voice?

He is the one who comes to us in our poverty, in dark stillness, in sacred silence. As vulnerable as a baby, He descends into our hostile world so that we might ascend with Him into heaven's eternal love. He who cannot find a place to lay his head, He for whom there is no room in this world, this Pilgrim God longs to lead us to the place prepared for us from all eternity, our true heavenly homeland, the bosom of the Holy Trinity.

This Child who comes to us does not come as an avatar who merely appears in our likeness – the Image of the Invisible God embraces our life, drinks in our existence and makes it His very own. His first cries in the manger reached their climax on the Cross: cries of prayer, cries in the face of our distress and misery, cries for love. Have you allowed this holy cry to reverberate in the hollows of your heart? By His cry into our world–this Son of Man and the only begotten Son of God, this Son of Mary and Son of the Father, He empties himself into our existence, empties Himself of His Divine Life. Why does He empty Himself and humble Himself? He pours Himself out in love into our lives holding nothing back to show us our dignity, what it means to be fully human and fully alive, what it means to live by love, to live like God, and, at the same time, gives Himself in love to fill us with the fullness of life so that we might embrace His very being, drink His very existence and make His life our very own.

His love for us is passionate, stronger than death: a love nothing but love alone can quench. More than any bridegroom this world has ever known, He yearns for our love and longs to enter our world anew – but He through whom the heavens and earth were brought forth waits for us. He holds his divine breath like He held His breath waiting the fiat of the Virgin. He longs to fill the world with His Holy Spirit and to renew His whole mystery anew in our lives, in our time, in our families, in our culture, in our society, today. Yet He has made his plan dependent on our saying “yes”, on our feeble “fiat.” He counts on our prayers more than we allow our prayers count on Him. The Word listens attentively for our quiet voice, even as the heavens and the earth resound with the cries of the Divine Infant.

What does our true Bridegroom cry out and what does He yearn for this Christmas? He cries for heartfelt prayer washed in tears of contrition and gratitude, bowed in humble adoration, ready to boldly say yes to His presence, generous and eager to welcome his love. The words of the Word of God reveal this cry, “Let me see you, let me hear your voice” (Song of Songs 2:14).

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Art: The second leaf of ”Canticum Canticorum”, ca 1430, author unknown probably German, from “A Brief History of Wood-engraving from its Invention” by Joseph Cundall, 1895, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.

Editor’s Note: For more of Anthony’s insights on prayer, don’t miss his book, Hidden Mountain Secret Garden, an experience like no other. Anthony has an unusually profound understanding of mystical theology and lives a life of deep prayer. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute.

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About Anthony Lilles

Anthony Lilles, a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, completed his graduate and post-graduate studies in Rome at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas. He and his lovely wife, Agnes, are blessed with three children and live in California, where he is the Academic Dean, and Associate Professor of Theology, St. John's Seminary, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and Academic Advisor at Juan Diego House, House of Formation for Seminarians. For over twenty years, Dr. Lilles worked for the Denver Archdiocese directing parish religious education, R.C.I.A. and youth ministry, as well as serving as Director of the Office of Liturgy for the Archdiocese and as Coordinator of Spiritual Formation for the permanent diaconate. In 1999, he became a founding faculty member of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary where he was Academic Dean for nine years and Associate Professor of Theology. He is a Board Member for the Society of Catholic Liturgy. Dr. Lilles has provided graduate level courses on a variety of topics including the Eucharist, the Sacraments of Healing, Church History, Spiritual Theology, Spiritual Direction and on various classics of Catholic Spirituality. His expertise is in the spiritual doctrine of Saint Elisabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelite Doctors of the Church: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. In 2012, Discerning Hearts published his book "Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden: A Theological Contemplation on Prayer," a compilation of discussions with seminarians, students, and contemplatives about the spiritual life. He collaborated with Dan Burke on the books "30 Days with Teresa of Avila" and "Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux". And, his book "Fire from Above" was published in 2016. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute. He blogs at BeginningtoPray.blogspot.com

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  • Theresa George

    This was an amazing meditation…I will be returning to it many times.

  • DianeVa

    Thank you for this beautiful reflection Dr. Lilles. The words of Jesus, “I thirst” and repeated by Mother Teresa capture this essence. In today’s world my heart breaks and it brings tears as I spend quiet time with Jesus for He longs to have an intimate relationship with each of us, yet so many turn away or are oblivious to his Presence (as I once was). How patient and loving is Our Trinitarian God! I pray my feeble “fiat” consoles Him as He reveals more of Himself to me each step of my journey.

    • Anthony_Lilles

      You are very welcome – and this is a beautiful connection you have made with “I thirst”

  • RobinJeanne

    Thank you anthony so much for writing this. It is a prayer, one I desire to pray and pray often!!!

  • Camila

    Thanks Dr. Lilles for this reflection.

  • Suzi dutro

    As the tears are flowing I thank you Dr Lilles for that beautiful reflection.

  • Jeanette

    How wonderful if this could be our loving response: Psalm 42: 2, 3:
    “As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When can I enter and see the face of God?”

    • Anthony_Lilles

      A beautiful psalm – thank for this!

  • tom

    Awesome post and meditation on the cries of Jesus from baby through adult. As Christians we have the Immanuel God with us who meets us in our suffering and cries out! Only a Trinitarian God can identify with our humanity.

    John 11:34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept.

    Luke 19:41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,

    • Anthony_Lilles

      I did not think of these other passages – but thank you – it extends the meditation.

  • Amy

    Don’t ever stop writing! Your reflections draw the heart deep into lovesickness with the beautiful God-man, Jesus!

  • Diane

    I heard this poem at Mass this morning and was moved by the beauty of it. Now as I’m ending my day I read your reflections, you have drawn me even deeper to His amazing love for us. Thank you!

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