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Thérèse of Lisieux

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Day 37: Love stronger than death

Bernard of Clairvaux speaks of a depth of prayer that can properly be called "death" - not a death to life, but a death to what holds us back from true life and union with God.

How I long often to be the victim of this death that I may escape the snares of death, that I may not feel the deadening blandishments of a sensual life, that I may be steeled against evil desire, against the surge of cupidity, against the goads of anger and impatience, against the anguish of worry and the miseries of care... How good the death that does not take away life but makes it better; good in that the body does not perish but the soul is exalted. - Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard calls this deeper prayer of "death" contemplation.

This kind of ecstasy, in my opinion, is alone or principally called contemplation. Not to be gripped during life by material desires is a mark of human virtue; but to gaze without the use of bodily likenesses is the sign of angelic purity. Each, however, is a divine gift, each is a going out of oneself, each a transcending of self, but in one one goes much farther than in the other.

One of the main ways we open ourselves for this greater love to posses us is through prayer. We need to remember thought that the spiritual life is not primarily about certain practices of piety and techniques of prayer, but about a relationship. It's about responding to the One who has created and redeemed us, and who loves us with a love stronger than death, a love that desires to raise us from the dead. Much that is true of human relationships is also true of our relationship with God. Human relationships of friendship or marriage need time, attention, and care for them to continue and to grow. The same is true of our relationship with God. We have been called to union but we need to respond. As we turn to God in conversion or in a deeper awakening, besides turning away from deliberate sin - which deforms the soul, blocks the relationship and offends the Person who has sacrificed His life for us - we need to positively build the relationship by paying attention to God.

How great is the power of PRAYER!... I say very simply to God what I wish to say, without composing beautiful sentences, and He always understands me. For me, prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance directed to heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus. - St. Thérèse of Lisieux

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Day 27: St. Thérèse of Lisieux describing her first Communion

Ah! how sweet was that first kiss of Jesus! It was a kiss of love; I felt, that I was loved, and I said: "I love You, and I give myself to You forever!" There were no demands made, no struggles, no sacrifices; for a long time now Jesus and poor little Therese looked at and understood each other. That day, it was no longer simply a look, it was a fusion; they were no longer two, Therese had vanished as a dop of water is lost in the immensity of the ocean. Jesus alone remained; He was the Master, the King. Had not Thereses asked Him to take away her liberty, for her liberty frightened her? She felt so feeble and fragile that she wanted to be united forever to the Divine Strength!

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

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Day 26: Poor in spirit - St. Thérèse of Lisieux

God gave me the grace of knowing the world just enough to despise it and separate myself from it... I must admit this type of life had its charms for me... The friends we had there [at Alencon] were too worldly; they knew too well how to ally the joys of this earth to the joys of this earth to the service of God. They didn't think about death enough, and yet death had paid its visit to a great number of those whom I know, the young, the rich, the happy!... And I see that all is vanity and vexation of spirit under the sun, that the only good is to love God with all one's heart and to be poor in spirit here on earth. Perhaps Jesus wanted to show me the world before His first visit [her upcoming first Communion] to me in order that I may choose freely the way I was to follow.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

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