‘Your face Lord, I desire’

Advent is a time for deepening our spiritual life. It is an opportunity for becoming more aware of our interior life. Most of the time, our attention is on our external life. Our jobs, our parental responsibilities, our marital challenges, our health and our hopes consume us. As we mature we find that our external life falters when we neglect our inner life. Advent is an ideal occasion for recovering the treasury of meditative prayer, the peaceful potential of an inner dialogue with the Holy Spirit who fulfills the reality of our heart’s desire for a relationship with Jesus.

Every Advent I look forward to readings from the Proslogion of St. Anselm as reported in the Liturgy of the Hours for Friday in the first week of Advent. Anselm draws me back to the duties of my interior life in his words: “Escape from your everyday business for a short while. Break off from your cares and troubles. Make a little time for God and rest a while in him. Enter into your mind’s inner chamber. Shut out everything but God. Speak now to God and say with your whole heart, ‘I seek your face. Your face Lord, I desire.’”

I have learned about the role of my heart in returning to my inner life. I have also learned about the link between the Holy Spirit and the activity of my heart at prayer. St. Paul writes that “God’s love pours into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom 5:7) I had always concentrated on Christ’s advice to love God, but paid little attention to Paul’s insight. I eventually realized that God has poured his love into my heart so I could use his powerful love to love him as well as people.

The secret is the Holy Spirit who was also sent into my heart. The Holy Spirit is divine love at our service in the world of loving. This becomes more real when we feel comfort with our innner life and the dramas that we will enjoy there. Such love can also move our souls, energize our wills and fill the sails of needed virtues. I am, very fond of the hymn in honor of the Holy Spirit, “Come Thou, O Lord Divine.”

Early every morning, before praying the Office of Readings, I sing, “ Come thou O Lord Divine. Seek thou this soul of mine, and visit it with your own ardor glowing. O comforter, draw near, within my heart appear, and kindle it, your holy flame bestowing.” These words teach me the link between God’s gift of the Holy Spirit in my heart – his holy flame of love bestowing.

This Advent calls us to enrich, with God’s graces, the quality of our inner life. The result will be a noticeable improvement of our outer life and an attractive gift for the Christ Child.

Norbertine Fr. McBride is a popular lecturer and author of more than 40 books.