We have been told that prayer is one of the most intimate ways to talk to God, and that there are many different categories of prayer, such as prayer of praise, of thanks, and of supplication. Certainly these forms of prayer are beautiful and worthy but, if one reads the works of such saints as St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori and St. Gertrude, one realizes that, ultimately, these prayer forms emanate from the same source, which is God’s Divine Will. Whether we realize this truth or not depends on our detachment from our own will, from the selfish superficiality of this world, and from our own latent arrogance.
The Ultimate Motive and Aim of Praise
If we think about it, the ultimate motive and aim of praise is to acknowledge God Almighty’s sovereignty, and to honor that absolute place in creation and in our lives. Given this truth, then what better way to so acknowledge and so honor that reality than by willingly and even happily submitting our lives, our future, our fate to the very Master we proclaim as our only King? Hence, we can go on and on praising God, but it is only by placing our lives and our fate before Him as an offering of all we have, are, and will be that we put our actions of praise where our words of praise end.
The Ultimate Motive and Aim of Gratitude
If the higher order ultimately falls to the nature of abandonment, then one would surely expect that a lesser order would follow suit. An honest, reasonable, and realistic observer would surely conclude that prayers of praise are of a higher order than prayers of gratitude since praise directs itself solely at honoring while gratitude concerns itself with acknowledging a blessing conferred. In other words, one can and should praise God independent of any need one may have because He is most worthy of such praise. Prayers of gratitude, by definition, most often come in response to some blessing or favor received or acknowledged and therefore by their very essence are of a lesser order since they have a scent of self-focus. I am grateful because I acknowledge or perceive having received some answer to my request or need. In contrast, I can and should praise God regardless of whether I have or have not received any favor or need. Simply put, it is one thing to give thanks to God for doing us some perceived favor, but it is quite another thing, quite a higher thing, to give thanks to God for creating us so as to have the opportunity to serve and please Him in all we do!
The Ultimate Motive and Aim of Supplication
If one concludes that prayers of praise and gratitude submit to the supremacy of abandonment to the Divine Will then, without much difficulty, it would seem reasonable to conclude that prayers of supplication, which by their very nature are grounded in self, in need, and even in want, and are thus of the lowest gradient, would likewise submit, and they easily do. The true servant of God, one would believe, would prefer to push aside his or her own wants, wishes, and even needs to more effectively serve God and, one would assume, would prefer to sacrifice wants and self and be nearer to God than to obtain those wants and serve that self while moving farther from The Almighty. In fact, if one believes that God is all good and all just then one must logically conclude that anything He wants for and of us, and anything he brings upon us, is ultimately for our good, whether we realize it or not. It is precisely this last point which brings us to realize the relationship between Divine Abandonment and the sources of true holiness.
Divine Abandonment and Holiness
One need only look at the example of Christ, The Blessed Mother, and the scores of saints to see the elements of holiness. Obedience, trust, faith, humility, service, and love are a good starting point for that holiness, and Divine Abandonment stands as a clear source and symptom of those virtues. This is not to say that the saints were immune to frustrations and doubts in their pursuit of holiness. Rather, one concludes that the saints’ ability to ultimately prevail in their quest for holiness was the ultimate and prevailing desire to not only “serve the greater glory of God” as St. Ignatius said but, rather, to serve “the greater pleasure of God”, in the words of St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori. This motivation naturally leads the soul to obey God’s Will, with the foremost example being Our Lord in the Garden and Our Lady at The Annunciation. In order to so fully believe, one must believe and trust even when understanding is not necessarily complete, as was likely the case with Our Blessed Mother’s fiat. The latter example, of course, is often cited as a demonstration, not only of Our Lady’s obedience but, just as well, of her profound humility even in the acceptance of such a transcendent and singular honor of being selected to be the Mother of God.
If Divine Abandonment illustrates the sort of obedience, trust, faith, and humility which are the seeds of holiness, and likewise typifies a total acquiescence to God’s Will symptomatic of a profound focus in the supernatural over the earthly, one might rightly ask what such abandonment has to do with the kind of service and love of others which is the balance of this basic menu for holiness. Simply put, Divine Abandonment to God’s Will is total consecration to serve The Almighty out of a deep love for the Creator, and the soul that truly serves and loves God cannot do so without an eager desire to likewise serve and love others as Christ has instructed us to do. In other words, when we place ourselves entirely in God’s Hands, when we willingly and even gladly accept His Will by totally abandoning ourselves to that Will, we mirror and practice likewise placing ourselves in the service of others out of love for others, remembering that, in the words of Mother Teresa, ” Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.” If, at first, that relentless service borne of relentless love is a hardship, then that sacrifice will be that much more valuable. However, let us not be surprised that, with practice and persistence, we may come to see, once again in the words of Mother Teresa, that “the miracle is not that we do this work, but that we are happy to do it.” The irony, then, is that total abandonment to the Divine Will of God is both a symptom and a source of the kind of holiness which results in making lost souls feel less abandoned.
Divine Abandonment and Divine Mercy
The ABC of Divine Mercy which Our Lord presented to St. Faustina is yet another illustration of Divine Abandonment. We are told to Ask for God’s mercy, Be merciful to others as He is merciful to us, and Trust in God’s mercy. Despite being sinners, we will indeed approach Our Lord in search of mercy to the extent that we desire so strongly to be closer to Him that we will literally throw ourselves before His Divine Mercy, in total abandonment to His plans for us. Likewise, as noted above, we serve and love God by serving and loving others, which includes being merciful to others as well. Finally, as also discussed earlier, Divine Abandonment is founded in total trust of God, which obviously includes complete faith in His Divine Mercy.
Divine Abandonment as Resignation Perfected
There is talk in the literature on the Divine Will of “perfect resignation”. It is my belief that when resignation is perfected, it transforms into Divine Abandonment, for the term resignation itself implies a willing, but reluctant, obedience and, thus, by this imperfection of reluctance, cannot be truly perfect. Our Lord spoke of willing but reluctant obedience being superior to disobedience, but one would hardly measure perfection in any endeavor by comparing that one supposes to be perfect with precisely that which is the very epitome of imperfection. Rather, most naturally, perfection is rightly measured as superior to that which is already a step above imperfection. Thus, while the son who reluctantly obeys his parents is closer to God’s Will than the son who disobeys, ignores, or even mocks his parents, the son who gladly and eagerly seeks opportunities to obey and serve his parents is truly practicing what Our Lord preaches.
In view of the above, let us not look upon Divine Abandonment to God’s Will as simply a more perfect form of resignation to His Will. Rather, let us look at this Abandonment as far beyond such resignation, where serving and obeying that Will becomes a joyful opportunity to grow closer to The Almighty, and where union with God’s Will becomes the purest and clearest evidence of a perfect love of God.
The Wisdom of Divine Abandonment
If Divine Abandonment approximates a perfect love God, then it stands to reason that restless resentment of our fate, fortune, and turns in our life journey stands as the very antithesis of that perfect love. In fact, such resentment and its predilection toward sin may well be borne from its focus on self as the supposedly all-knowing judge, jury, and measure of what is best in our lives. The soul in restless resentment of God’s Will is in open revolt against His sovereignty, His Wisdom, His Justice and, ultimately, His Goodness. Such a soul is not unlike the passenger lecturing the driver on the best path to take, the hungry patron preaching to the cook on how to prepare the meal, or the patient demanding the right to dictate to the doctor on the best treatment to apply or the best medicine to prescribe.
We propose and pretend that we know what is best for our souls, for our future, and for our destiny but, handicapped by our humanity and our imperfections, our telescope makes us no better a judge of the path before us than a blind guide would be. In fact, blinded by our arrogance and pride, we are often in more danger of stumbling than that very blind guide, who would at least recognize and accept his limitations and thus be cautious of error. At the end of the day, and at the end of our lives for that matter, we are better off putting all in God’s Hands and thus relieving ourselves of the pathetic practice of stressing over business we do not begin to fully appreciate. God helps those who help themselves, but those who are wise enough to leave things in God’s Hands when the situation dictates that approach are precisely the ones that God helps the most.
We have all prayed, often fervently, for things we want. Hopefully, we have likewise prayed thanking God for what we receive. Better still, we should often pray praising and honoring God. If we truly want to take our prayer, our lives, and our relationship with God to another level, however, our prayer should express an offering, a sacrifice of our lives, of what we are and hope to be, all in the service of God’s Will. If this offering is at first a reluctant resignation to that Will, we must strive to eventually and ultimately transform that offering into a perfect, Divine Abandonment to The Almighty’s Will. That Abandonment is divine, not in the sense that we are pretending to be God but, rather, in that it stems from a desire to serve God. If we truly want to follow Our Lord and emulate Our Lady as best we can, we must abandon ourselves to God’s Holy Will as They did.
Copyright 2012 Gabriel Garnica