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A more intimate knowledge of God

A more intimate knowledge of God

Wednesday, May 2, 2012 — Week of 4 Easter

Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, 373

Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 961)

Psalms 119:49-72 (morning) // 49, [53] (evening)

Exodus 33:1-23

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Matthew 5:17-20

[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s reading from Exodus speaks of Moses’ practice of communion with God in the tent of meeting. We hear the dialogue. God charges Moses to take the people into the promised land. But Moses seeks assurance that God will actually be with him and with the people. Moses seeks a more intimate knowledge of God. He speaks to God, saying “Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight.”

I remember being on retreat at an Ignatian monastery many years ago. I had withdrawn into my own tent of meeting in my cell, reading scripture and practicing the particular kind of meditation taught in the Ignatian tradition. I was reading Isaiah. As my heart and mind went into the reading, I had a deep longing, not unlike Moses’. I sensed God’s love and care for me. But I yearned for something else. What does it feel like to know you deeply, God? Show me your presence, I asked.

I’ve never been able to describe what happened next. But I sensed a presence in the room, behind and above me. It was like I could see, but not see, a faint color in the ceiling corner to my left. The atmosphere was charged and tingling with energy. My heart quickened with an anticipation, and then with some fullness that I can’t describe. Simultaneous with my unspoken question, “Is this? Is this what God feels like?” the presence/energy moved across the back of the room, and I felt something like a cosmic laugh saying, “YES!! Yes, this is what God feels like!” The benevolent joy seemed to laugh at and with me over my little longings, and to fill them with something so immense that it was as if the stars were laughing with God at the joke and were twinkling with a happiness shared by us all.

Then it was over, except for a tingling sense of peace and aliveness that shared something with Dame Julian’s vision that all is well, that “all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” I felt a joy and fullness that seemed so comprehensive that it left nothing but gratefulness and peace.

God said to Moses, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Moses asked for a bit of evidence. God promised to place Moses in the cleft of a rock and cover Moses with the divine hand. “Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.” Tomorrow we will read of this theophany. With the assurance of this deeper revelation, a distraught Moses — who has just endured the rebellion of the golden calf, the breaking of the tablets of stone, and the violent deaths of three thousand — will remake the stone tablets, return renewed to Mount Sinai, and hear the Name of God spoken to him — “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…” In the energy of that presence, Moses will be healed and empowered to continue his journey.

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Eugene Pagano

What is an "Ignatian monastery," a Jesuit retreat house?

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