This morning, as I pondered a recent conversation with a friend, I had an image of a child in a playpen. The child was holding up his or her hands to the father. The father was reaching down to pick up the child. What did this image say to me?
First, I should start with a little background on the conversation with my friend. We were comparing definitions of spirituality. For me, spirituality is about living out faith in a way that builds a relationship with God. Part of living the faith is practicing acts of virtue.
Does one practice virtue to make oneself holy? No. God is the one who perfects the person, not the person. At the same time, God will not overrun our will. Therefore, there are things that the person must do to surrender to God’s will; to cooperate in the process by being open to change. What is this that we do? We practice virtue. In the practice of virtue, we are doing our imperfect best to avoid occasions of sin. Through the virtues, we put others first, and thus die to self. The practice of virtue and a deep prayer life are our main contributions to the process of becoming holy.
So, why a child in a playpen? I see the event of reaching up hands to the father as equating to the practice of virtue and prayer. In so doing, we grant God permission to enter into the process. As a result of this, God reaches down, and lifts us up to the heights of holiness. We become one with the Father as Jesus was one with him. I like the way Fr. Jordan Aumman, O.P. said it, it is about becoming through grace what Jesus was by nature. Christian Spirituality in the Catholic Tradition p 12.
This raises the question – what is holiness? Holiness is God. Thus, in becoming holy, we become less, and God becomes more. We are more and more joined to the divine life as we practice virtue as a way of raising our hands to the father, and allowing him to perform his trascendent process within us.
Spend some time today picturing yourself lifting your hands to God. Imagine him working in you a deep conversion. Imagine surrendering to his power and might, and allowing him to bring you to a more fulfilling life. Think of ways in which you can practice virtue. For those of you who have not studied virtue, I’ll say there are a few different types. In short, the virtues I am talking about are acts of dying to self and of being service to others. Don’t forget to invite the Holy Spirit into your imagination, and ask him to show you how to provide him with more room within you in which to work his miracles of change.