(Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de la Motte-Guyon)
(1648 - 1717)
"To seek aright is easier and more natural to us than breathing."
God permitted a religious person, of the Order of St Francis, to pass by my father's house....Having just emerged from a five years' solitude, he was surprised that I was the first to address him. He said nothing for a while. I did not know how to interpret his silence. But I did not hesitate to speak to him, and to tell him in a few words my difficulties about prayer. Presently he replied, "It is because you seek outside what you have within. Accustom yourself to seeking God in your heart and you will find Him there." Having said these words, he left me. They were to me like the stroke of a dart, which penetrated through my heart....
These words brought into my heart what I had been seeking for so many years. Or rather they revealed to me what was there, and which I had not enjoyed because I did not know it. O my Lord, you were in my heart, and demanded only a simple turning of my mind inwards, to make me perceive your presence. O Infinite Goodness! How I had been running hither and thither to seek you! My life had been a burden to me, even though my happiness was there within me. I was poor in the midst of wealth, dying of hunger near a table plentifully spread. "O Beauty, so ancient and so new, too late have I loved you!" Alas! I sought you where you were not, and did not seek you where you were. It was because I had failed to understand these words of the Gospel, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation . . . The kingdom of God is within you." This I now experienced....
I was swallowed up in a profound silence and an inexpressible peace.... I passed whole hours this way, without being able either to open my eyes or know what passed; but I had nothing to wish for, nor yet to be afraid of. Everywhere I found my proper centre, because everywhere I found God..... My heart could then desire nothing but what it had. This disposition extinguished all its desires; and I sometimes said to myself, "What do you want? What do you fear?" When I investigated I was surprised to find that I had nothing to fear. Every place I was in was my place."
Some persons, when they hear of the prayer of silence, falsely imagine that the soul remains stupid, dead and inactive. But it is certainly active - more nobly and more extensively so than it has ever been before; for God Himself is the mover, and the soul now acts by the power of His Spirit…. When St Paul speaks of our being "led by the Spirit of God," he does not mean that we should cease from action; but that we should act through the internal agency of the Spirit's grace.
[The act of contemplation], though an action, is yet so noble, so peaceful, so full of tranquillity, so natural and spontaneous, that it appears to the soul as if it did not act at all…. When a wheel rolls slowly we can easily distinguish its parts; but when its motion is rapid we can distinguish nothing. So the soul, which rests in God, has an activity exceedingly noble and elevated, yet altogether peaceful: and the more peaceful it is, the swifter is its course; because it is proportionately given up to that Spirit by which it is moved and directed. This attracting spirit is none other than God Himself, who, in drawing us, causes us to run to Him. How well did the spouse understand this when she said, "Draw me, and we will run after you" (Song of Songs 1:4). Draw me to You, O my Divine centre, by the secret springs of my existence, and all my senses and faculties will follow your powerful magnetism…!
This action of the soul is attended with the utmost tranquillity. When the soul acts of its own accord, the act is forced and constrained; and, therefore one can easily perceive and distinguish it: but when it acts under the influence of the Spirit of Grace, its action is so free, so easy, and so natural, that it almost seems as if it did not act at all: "He brought me forth into freedom, he saved me because he loved me" (Psalm 17:20)….
Instead then of promoting idleness, we promote the highest activity by teaching a total dependence on the Spirit of God as our moving principle; for it is "in him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). This meek dependence on the Spirit of God is indispensably necessary to reinstate the soul in its original unity and simplicity, that it may thereby attain the purpose of its creation.