Our spiritual life often consists of simply opening ourselves to receive the good things that God wants to give us. If this is the key to growing more in our union with God, how can we open ourselves to more fully receive Him?
To attune our hearts to become more attentive to the Lord’s presence in our life, spiritual direction can help foster our awareness of God and ready us for what the Lord desires to give us.
Elijah and Mary
Two images from the Scriptures that help us understand what this attentiveness and awareness look like are the image of Elijah standing at the entrance of the cave at Mt. Horeb and Mary at the Annunciation.
While Elijah experienced an earthquake, wind, and fire, the Lord spoke to him in the quiet voice of the breeze. He hid his face in his cloak and stood at the cave with a spiritual attentiveness. It was in the stillness, the sheer silence, that he was able to perceive the whisper of the Lord. Here, we learn that our inner sense needs to be calmed and quieted to hear and perceive the voice of the Lord. This is what in the Catholic spiritual tradition has often been called “interior silence.”
Like Elijah, Mary demonstrates to us what this readiness and attunement look like. When the angel Gabriel announced to her that she will be the Mother of Jesus, she was “troubled” at what the angel said and wondered what sort of greeting it may be. The notion of being “troubled” has to do with her spiritual sensitivity. Because she possessed such peace of soul, she could perceive the gravity of Gabriel’s announcement. Nothing “troubled” or moved the interiority of Our Lady, except that which comes from the Lord, which she always stands ready to receive, turn over in her heart, and keep from being lost. From Mary’s rootedness, being herself and listening to the Lord, she becomes the greatest in the plan of God, after Christ Himself.
It is this stillness of soul and deep listening that we are called to cultivate within our hearts.
One concrete way to do so is to make time for silence in our lives. Whether it be actual physical silence or silence of heart, we prepare our hearts for prayer and begin to attune the ears of our heart to the voice of the Lord.
In a word of great agitation and anxiety, this silence helps us to find that interior quiet and space of solitude. Another part of our spiritual attentiveness is to take care of what we hear. What we take in can easily affect how we hear God.
The Lord comes
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20).
This spiritual attunement is what allows us to receive the Lord when He comes to us. He knocks at the doors of our hearts so that we may encounter Him and grow in union with Him.
And the more we listen and respond to Him, the more we are grafted on to the Body of Christ as living and contributing members of the communion of the Church.
As we grow in prayer and interior silence, we create space for this profound union with Christ.
Spiritual direction helps us go deeper into this interior silence and encounter Christ. It fosters accountability in prayer and gives a greater capacity to access our own experience of the present. Within the context of spiritual direction, we learn to listen – not just on the surface, but deeply within the heart.
It can be difficult to enter deeply into ourselves without being accompanied, and a spiritual director can walk with us in that process of reading our lives within God’s narrative.
Additionally, spiritual direction fosters the purification of our intelligence by faith, our memory by hope and our will by charity. It brings the locus of our lives and personal existence from controlling the world and its events (where we are often tempted to find security) to the offering of our lives and our heart to the Lord (where true peace and security exist)
By providing a forum to articulate our experience, we can hear and listen to the inner movements of our hearts and learn to receive the Lord more fully and respond to His promptings.
If you are interested in helping others better listen to the voice of the Lord in their lives, learn more about the Spiritual Direction Certificate Program at Divine Mercy University.