We all have a yearning in our hearts to be united with God. Whatever we may own or enjoy in this world, to be joined with God exceeds them all. No one who seeks God has to feel that they are missing out on the least thing, or are settling for second prize. First of all, the presence of God includes all good things within itself, raised to perfection and made eternal. Secondly, God so completely fills our souls that there is nothing we can possibly want.
No matter what you wish for, be it money, goods, power, fame, or even the affection of your spouse and children, the desire is taken up into, purified, and transformed by the Love of God. This means that all good desires are vindicated, and are fulfilled beyond anything we can imagine.
St Paul teaches us that: “… the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). The more we approach God in reality, the more all our cares and sorrows simply disappear, because His peace is so full and complete that our hearts and minds are made safe and secure in the certainty of faith and the fulfilment of every hope.
The saints in heaven receive “the beatific vision,” experiencing the presence of God with an ecstasy beyond any other joy. We cannot have that now, but we can be assured of it, and have glimpses. These come to us by the grace of God. Sometimes they just appear when we are least expecting it. People have told me stories such as the following: they were crying with grief when suddenly they felt that God was present and their loved one was somehow with Him and full of joy; or they were going outside to get the mail when their hearts overflowed with an infinite joy, and they knew God was watching.
We can, perhaps, say that glimpses of the presence and reality of God are always accompanied by His goodness, truth, and beauty. We can take these as signs of the presence of God in our world, although in God they all form one, just as He is One. Where God is, these three are. Even in this world we can sometimes see that where there is goodness there is also truth and beauty; where there is truth there is also goodness and beauty; and where there is beauty there is also goodness and truth.
If you think, for example, of an act of kindness done to you when you were not expecting it, you knew at once that it was good. Also, we see a beauty in the soul of the person who performed the act. Kindness is an act of virtue, a good in itself; and every act of charity and patience pleases God, and brings us closer to Him.
Similarly, consider the beauty of nature, mountains, sea, earth, skies, sun, moon and stars. The face of God is behind them, so to speak. It is His presence which fills them with the power to touch our feelings. Look at the wind sweeping through the trees, making music, or listen to the sound of the kookaburra. You know that they are good, and that they point to their infinite Creator.
The English priest G.M. Hopkins wrote: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” and that He “fathers-forth” the beauties of nature, while His own beauty is “past change.” His main theme was that if we are quiet, and look for God with eyes of faith, we shall learn to find him wherever we look. From the beauty of this passing world, our souls can be led to the contemplation of the eternal beauty of God.
The same can be said of truth: it is good to speak the truth in charity. The truth expresses reality, and reality is both good and beautiful. Falsehood is a denial of God.
The Uniting Power Is Love
Goodness, truth, and beauty are joined to our souls through the uniting power of love: that is its chief work. Love is a divine impulse. It comes from Him in its perfect form, and as it reaches us, draws us higher, uniting us to all which is united with God (and so frees us from all which is separated from Him).
If I want the glory of God in my life, then I have to make the appropriate effort: prayer and prayerful action. We know that we need more than the forty hour week to achieve a major job, and may have to put in weekends and late nights. Yet how little time do we devote totally to God? How often do we forget Him completely while engaged in other things?
The search for the presence of God is such that I need to find a way to be both mindful of God, andengaged in my daily life. Love can join the two lives into one.
The Divine Liturgy is the perfect of example of a life in which God is sought for, is found, and we are united to Him. The Maronite Liturgy is called the qurbono, in Syriac, the offering, because we come to God to make a sacrificial offering, and to receive in return the most perfect Gift: Himself.
To offer is to draw near with something I wish to place before or give to someone. I want, in other words, that what was mine becomes someone else’s. In the Divine Liturgy above all, I bring the whole of myself, and offer myself to Him. In fact, the priest offers to God His Only-Begotten Son on our behalf, hence we say aloho nqabel qurbonokh ou nitraham alayyin, “May God accept your offering, and have mercy on us.” Each liturgy is a humbling exchange of the earthly for the divine, and a receipt of His mercy.
We cannot spend all day in the Divine Liturgy. Part of its meaning is that we come together for that sacrifice, and then go back to live what we have spoken of. I can do no better than to offer my entire day to God, and to remind myself time and again of this. It is not enough to say it once and then forget it. But if I make the effort, if I make a practice out of seeking the goodness, truth, and beauty of God, then I will be called by every success and by every failure. But for this, I have to make the connection. So, make it your aim to seek the goodness, truth, and beauty of God, and be joined to it by His Grace and Love.
When you feel remote from Him, why not sit down before an icon or statue, light candle, make the Sign of the Cross, and ask Him to help you remember a pure love, e.g. for a grandparent. Stay with that love. Don’t seek anything except to connect with God at that moment, and in that love. If you like, take a definite time such as three minutes. Be honest with yourself, but see if you do not feel some sort of connection with God, even if only of desire.