Bridge of Meditation Into His Heart
There are stretches of time in a person’s life in which God deepens the capacity to love. During these seasons, a soul often feels like a wasteland. There is a sense of hollowness, a darkness that could be swallowed by the impossibility of plumbing whatever mysterious depths exist in oneself.
I’ve heard it said, too, that sometimes God chooses to sleep in us. This slumber is not unlike the dark silence we feel as God opens up the spaces within us to love more fully. The image Bishop Luis M. Martinez offers in his book, When God Is Silent, is of Jesus asleep on the boat with His apostles at night. Suddenly, a violent squall comes upon them, yet Jesus remains asleep while His apostles are terrified and frantically trying to awaken Him.
When Jesus finally stirs, He calms the storm and turns to the men with Him, saying, “Do not be afraid. I am with you.”
I thought of this as I read Cora Evans’ meditation aptly called “The Bridge of Sighs.” Her eloquence in expressing mystical concepts is unveiled beautifully.
“Thy sublime gifts seem like mere fantasies. Yet I know in the world of meditation, fantasy in earthly terms is beauty…They – beauty in Thy thoughts – become the steps in meditation’s delights for souls better to climb in their quest for Thee in Thy Humanity.”
I wonder if our imagination is a world unto itself for God to plant His images and words and colors into our minds. As a child, my inner world was rich and deep, my thoughts filled with detailed stories that came alive as I wondered what might happen in this place or that. I’d look at a painting and get lost in it, seeing pictures of myself walking toward the cottage or pitching a tent in the forest.
In meditation, we imagine ourselves in a biblical story, perhaps participating in some aspect of Jesus’ life or ministry. When we reach the heights of meditation, it is difficult to decipher where fantasy ends and reality begins. Many mystical saints were caught in ecstasies and raptures. God captivates the soul ready to meet Him wherever He wishes to be found.
“Souls thus engaged on the bridge of sighs walk on and on until they feel lost, as if they were nothing in Thy immensities.”
The pilgrimage toward Jesus in one’s interior life often feels endless. We enter ourselves, searching for Jesus, only to realize we have to keep seeking Him. He is not easily found. In that restless tension, we become lost without the clarity and guidance from our Good Shepherd.
Those who are in their spiritual infancy easily find God. He beckons them often, granting them morsels of sweetness and consolation in order to build a love of constancy in them. But once a soul has advanced a little, it feels as if it has, in fact, regressed in some ways or perhaps in everything.
The soul that seems a wayfarer, yet remains faithful to God, is often on this bridge of sighs. The sighs are of a heaviness in its longing for union with its Beloved. The yearning for God is never fully ameliorated in this life, as we know. So we carry on, moving forward in what appears a winding path leading to what we can’t possibly foresee. This movement is where the soul’s emptiness meets God’s greatness nearly always.
“…I breathe My gifts as I venture upon the bridge which leads Me into their hearts.”
Once I attended a retreat on a typical Indiana farm that had been converted into a Marian pilgrimage site. A quaint bridge connected the Rosary walk to a hill, where the chapel sat at its peak. As I walked along the path in silence, moving upwards toward the chapel, I thought of the bridge as Jesus.
Jesus bridges everything for us, beginning with the connection between humanity and divinity. He closes the gap between Heaven and Earth, so that we might be granted a foretaste of Heaven while still on Earth, yet an intense desire to reach Heaven while we travel through this life and all of its many sorrows.
Jesus is the bridge between mercy and justice, appealing to His Father for the former when the latter is always, always deserved. He meets us in our humanity. He knows what it is like to think like us, feel as we do, taste the things we ate, enjoy and laugh and weep and feel crushed by the limitations of an unbearable cross.
Perhaps that is why He is so gratuitous towards our brokenness, filling us with Himself when we earnestly and sincerely search for Him.
“I give them the sleep of souls’ repose where for a moment or perhaps hours I find personal rest and comfort as you often experience in the calm, quiet rest in a church alone with Me as your silent Guest. Upon souls in the sleep of repose where only love is understood, I pour My greatest graces.”
When Jesus chooses to sleep in our hearts, it hurts. At first, it feels like a terrible betrayal, the worst sort of abandonment. This is when we turn to Him, as we always have, yet He remains silent. He does not respond in the ways we were once familiar with. Still, we persist in what we know. His silence does not budge.
Over time, a soul learns to be content when Jesus chooses to hide Himself. Though still painful, the soul has grown in wisdom and allows Jesus to do whatever He pleases within it. Terrible desolations often befall a soul in this purgative place of life, which can be likened to the temptation of Jesus in the desert.
Grace is not always felt or experienced. It is evident, however, to others. After a soul has known Jesus to remain hidden and silent for long periods of time, it welcomes these and often will rest alongside Jesus. This is how a soul knows it has grown in trust – when it is able to sleep alongside Jesus even as the storms howl around them.
“The embrace of nothingness of self or partial dissolve into God is complete nothingness for a moment; that moment cannot be understood nor remembered in the slightest degree after repose of sleep in God.”
I thought the other day of how greatness can never be born in us when we are successful or happy or following our own pursuits. Greatness only happens when we have nothing at all, when we become completely empty of self and selfishness. This is an impossible feat, if not for grace.
It is when our nothingness encounters God’s perfection that we are truly transformed. Miracles are labeled as such only when all appears hopeless. God chooses to demonstrate His power when we choose to humble ourselves to the extreme and allow Him to do whatever He wishes, for however long He chooses. Once this occurs, we find ourselves dissolve into Him, so that His will finally, at long last, becomes ours, too.
Read the whole meditation, "Bridge of Meditation Into His Heart", and more in Cora Evans' collection of writings, Gems: Knowing Christ in the Light of Modern Wisdom.