My heart says of you, “Seek his face.” Your face O Lord, will I seek. Psalm 27:8
If your heart in any way longs for unity with God then you are certainly in the company of many saints who, throughout history, have also yearned for this same end. Our desire, in the words of St. John of the Cross, “to be united with the Object of our love” represents the most foundational human need for which metaphors of home, of belonging and of rest are often used. Below is a litany of quotes from many saints who have articulated their own understanding of what this longing implies.
Jeanne Guyon, a 17th century spiritual director speaks, for instance, of the birth of our spiritual life when we first begin to respond to the love of God, as David did, saying, “Your face O Lord, will I seek.” She writes,
The experience of union begins very simply when there is born in you a desire for God. When the soul begins to turn inward to the life of the Spirit; when the soul begins to fall under the powerful, attraction of the Spirit. At this point, an earnest desire for union with God is born.
This desire is understood as the initial seed, planted by God, that then urges us to seek greater intimacy with the goodness that we have tasted. Guyon adds, “The desire for God becomes more refined and profound. This desire for God is the preparation for union with him.”
Another metaphor that many spiritual writers use to describe this unity is that of the marriage of our wills with God’s. Jesus, as the firstfruit of many brothers and sisters, modeled this new creation for us—the unity of the human will with that of the Divine. It is the disposition we hear in Mary’s consent to, “Let it be unto me according to Your word.” It is the obedience perfected by Jesus at Gethsemane, “Nevertheless Your will be done.” It is the hope of the Lord’s prayer by which we petition, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Teresa of Avila recognized as well that, “the union of our wills to God’s is the only type of union essential to holiness—the union of the will of God with a dynamic, passionate, fully alive human will.” Such compliance is simply the appropriate posture of the creature in relationship to its Creator. And the recovery of this right relationship is the goal of our sanctification. In other words, the more we submit to God in the posture of prayer the more we participate with our ultimate destiny. As Thomas Dubray writes,
Prayer is God’s perpetual call within us, drawing us toward the fulfillment of the ultimate purpose of our creation—our union with God. The farther we advance in the life of prayer, the more we will relish this sense of union with God.
And finally, the 12th century Cistercian Bernard de Clairvaux, a man well acquainted with the vocabulary of life-long desire for God, celebrates the fruit of such a consecrated life when he writes,
Blessed is the soul with whom God takes up His residence and makes it the place of His rest. Blessed is he who can say, “He that formed me has lodged, and now dwells, in my tabernacle.”
As we see, we are in good company whenever we recognize and respond to the Holy Spirit-prompted desire for unity with God. The communion of saints, both past and present, invites us to join then in seeking the profound intimacy of God that our hearts so long to embrace.