“Go into your room” (Matt. 6:6) — that is, into the most private part of your home, or rather, go into the most intimate place in your heart. Recollect yourself completely. “Shut the door” (Matt. 6:6). Shut your senses, and let no foreign thoughts enter. “Pray in secret.” Open your heart to God alone. Let him be the keeper of your innermost sorrows.
“Do not heap up empty phrases” (Matt. 6:7). It is unnecessary to tell God your needs in lengthy speeches, for he knows all of them before you say a word. Tell him interiorly about what will profit you, and recollect yourself in God. The prayers of the pagans, who do not know God, are only a heap of senseless phrases. Say little with your lips and much in your heart. Do not multiply your thoughts, for doing so will only confuse and tire you.
Bring your attention to rest upon some important truth that captures your mind and heart. Consider, weigh, and taste it; ruminate upon it; enjoy it. Truth is the bread of the soul. You do not need to swallow each morsel whole. Nor do you need always to be passing from one truth to another. Hold on to one, embracing it until it becomes a part of you. Attach your heart to it even more than your mind. Draw forth all of its juices by pressing it with your attention.
God sees you in secret. Know that he sees into your very depths, infinitely farther than you do yourself. Make a simple, lively act of faith in his presence. Christian soul, place yourself entirely under his gaze. He is very near. He is present, for he gives being and motion to all things. Yet you must believe more; you must believe with a lively faith that he is present to you by giving you all of your good thoughts from within, as holding in his hand the source from which they come, and not only the good thoughts, but also whatever good desires, good resolutions, and every good act of the will, from its very first beginning and birth to its final perfection.
Believe, too, that he is in the souls of the just, and that he makes his dwelling there within, according to these words of the Lord: “We will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). He is there in a stable and permanent way: he makes his home there. Desire that he should be in you in this way. Offer yourself to him as his dwelling and temple.
Now come out, and with the same faith that enables you to see him within you, look upon him in Heaven, where he manifests himself to his beloved. It is there that he awaits you. Run. Fly. Break your chains; break all the bonds that tie you down to flesh and blood. O God, when shall I see you? When will I have that pure heart that enables you to be seen, in yourself, outside of yourself, everywhere? O Light that enlightens the world! O Life that gives life to all the living! O Truth that feeds us all! O Good that satisfies us all! O Love that binds all together! I praise you, my heavenly Father, who sees me in secret.
Our Life, a Journey to God
Let us read the words of St. John. “Before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1).
We know that the word Passover signifies a journey. One of the reasons for this name is that the feast of Passover was instituted when the chosen people had to come out of Egypt in order to go to the land that had been promised to their fathers. This was a prefigurement of the journey that the new chosen people would have to make to their home in Heaven. The whole of the Christian life consists in making this journey well, and it was to that end that our Lord directed all of his deeds, as St. John seems to be telling us here.
The first thing that we should notice is that we must make this Passover, this journey, with Jesus Christ. For this reason, the evangelist begins the account of this Passover of our Lord with these words: “Before the feast of Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father.”
O Jesus! I present myself to you to make my journey in your company. I wish to depart from this world with you to your Father, whom you have wished to be my own. “The world passes away,” says your apostle (1 John 2:17). “The form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31), but I do not wish to pass away with this world; I wish to pass over to your Father. This is the journey that I have to make, and I want to make it with you. In the old Passover, the Jews who were to leave Egypt for the Promised Land had to present themselves in traveler’s garb, with staff in hand and loins girt and sandals on their feet, and they had to “eat in haste,” ready to march at any moment (Exod. 12:11). This is the image of the condition in which the Christian should place himself in order to make his Passover with Jesus, in order to pass to his Father with him. O my Savior, receive your traveler! Here I am ready, holding on to nothing. I want to leave this world with you and go to the Father.
Why do I hesitate to leave? Am I still attached to this life? What error pins me to this place of exile? You are going to depart, my Savior, and resolved though I am to go with you, yet I am troubled when I am told that all good things must be left behind.
Cowardly traveler: what do you fear? The journey that you have to make is that same one that our Savior will make in our Gospel: are you afraid to go with him? Listen: “Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world.” What is there that is so lovable in this world that you are unwilling to leave it with your Savior Jesus? Would he have left it, if it were good to remain in? Listen, once again, Christian: “Jesus departs out of this world to go to the Father.” If it were necessary to leave this world without going to a better place — even if this world be a small thing and we lose little in losing it — we could regret it because we would not have anything better. Yet this is not the kind of journey you must make. Jesus leaves this world to go to his Father. Christian, you depart for a Father. The place you are leaving is one of exile, and you will return to the paternal home.
Let us then depart from this world with joy, but let us not wait until our final moments to begin the journey. When the Israelites went forth from Egypt, they did not immediately arrive in the Promised Land. Although they had forty years still to wander in the desert, they celebrated their Passover because they were leaving Egypt and beginning their journey.
Let us learn to celebrate our Passover from the very first step. Let our journey be a perpetual one. Let us never stop, let us never remain in one place, but let us always make our camp according to the example of the Israelites. May everything be a desert to us, as it was to them. Let us like them always live beneath a tent, for our house is everywhere. Let us march, march, march, and make our journey with Jesus. Let us die to the world daily. Let us say with the apostle, “I die every day” (1 Cor. 15:31). I am not of the world. I am passing through, holding on to nothing.
Editor’s note: This article is taken from two meditations in Bp Bossuet’s Meditations for Lent, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.