prayer of the love of complacency



(John 13:23: “Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved”)

The Creator is the creature’s home. Neither spirit of  angel nor soul of man can rest short of God. They can anchor nowhere save in the capacious harbor of HIS Infinite perfections. All things teach us this beautiful truth. All things that find us wandering lead us home again to the Bosom of the Eternal Father…. God is our Last End as well as our First Cause. O that the day were come when we shall be securely at His Feet forever!”  (F.W. Faber, The Creator and the Creature, p.343).

If you have read Father Michael Gaitley’s well-regarded book, Consoling the Heart of Jesus, then you are keenly aware that Father Gailtley emphasizes in that book a special mode of love which involves consoling Jesus and sharing in His sorrow. This mode of love is called by Saint Francis de Sales the love of condolence. There are other ways in which we express our personal love for God, and this note explores one of those ways, namely, what Saint Francis de Sales calls the love of complacency (what I have called resting in God). With the love of complacency we are simply content, as Saint Francis tells us, “to be with the beloved.”     

Psalm 23 seems to be an invitation to rest in God. “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastureshe leads me beside still watersHe restores my soul.”

When is the last time you rested in God the Father’s love? When is the last time you sat, so to speak, on His lap (to use an image from Saint Therese of Lisieux she drew from Isaiah 66:12) just soaking in His eternal love for you? It is in the Father’s Heart that we find green pastures and still waters: it is in Him that we renew our soul. God is the Eternally Good Shepherd.

Like me, you’ve probably prayed the Our Father a gazillion times, but have you ever stopped just for a moment to rest in the wonderful truth that God really is your Father? He made you. He has known and loved you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3); and He loves you with the full might of a God Who Is Love (1 John 4:8). We are truly His children (1 John 3:2).  Amazing, but true!

It is a breakthrough in the spiritual journey, as Father Faber points out, when we first begin to allow ourselves to be loved by God. God is Infinite love. We sometimes run from Him, or fear that we are not worthy of His love. But since He allows us to call Him Father, we can rest assured that He loves us with an “indescribable” love. As Saint Augustine said, “God made us for Himself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.” Jesus has brought us home to the Father.

Saint Francis de Sales calls this resting in God the love of complacency. Since God is Infinite Goodness and Infinite Love, our true rest and delight is in Him. Father Faber defines the love of complacency as “being content with God. It not only wants nothing more, but it only wants Him as He is….Complacency fixes its eyes upon what it knows of God with intense delight and with intense tranquility. It rejoices that HE is what HE is. It tells Him so. It tells [Him so] over and over again. Whole hours of prayer pass, and it has done nothing else but tell Him this” (p.183).

In his Treatise on the Love of God, Saint Francis de Sales says, “He is the God of our heart by this complacency, since by it our heart embraces Him and makes Him its own: He is our inheritance, because by this act we enjoy the goods which are in God, and, as from an inheritance, we draw from it all the pleasure and content: by means of this complacency we spiritually drink and eat the perfections of the Divinity, for we make them our own and draw them into our hearts” (Chapter 5). “Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

Saint Paul exclaims at Romans 11:33,36 (TLB translation):

“Oh, What a wonderful God we have! How great are His wisdom and knowledge and riches!  For everything comes from God alone. Everything lives by His power, and everything is for His glory. To Him be glory evermore.”

And at Philippians 4:4 (AMP translation) Paul tells us to renew ourselves in God. He says, “Rejoice in the Lord always – delight, gladden yourselves in Him –  again I say, Rejoice!”

Prayer is an invitation to rest in God. In prayer, God allows us to take refuge in His “incomprehensible goodness”. And if it is true what the spiritual writers say, that we become more and more like that which we love, what a thought!: to become more like God!  What joy we will experience resting in the “incredible sweetness” of God the Father’s love for us! When we rest in Him, will we not be tempted to say, like the King  in The Song of Songs“How beautiful you are, my beloved, how beautiful you are” (1:15).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

SourcesSaint Francis De Sales, Treatise on the Love of God; F.W. Faber, The Creator and the Creature; Beverly Courrege, Because of the Cross. Saint Therese of Lisieux saw in Isaiah 66:12 an invitation for a little child to be rocked upon the lap of God (see The Way of Trust and Love, Page 10, by Father Jacques Philippe).

Key idea: Methods used by the saints to increase their love of God. The method discussed here is the love of complacency. We should remember that God dwells within our baptized souls as long as we are in sanctifying grace.

Image: Damiane. “Jesus Christ and St. John the Apostle”. A detail of the Last Supper fresco from Ubisi, Georgia. 14th century. At Wikipedia. Public Domain, U.S.A.

Book Recommendations: A short and instructive book on interior prayer is Time for God by Father Jacques Philippe.

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