Key to the Kingdom:



(Selection from)

Progress Through Mental Prayer
by Edward Leen



It is to be observed that the Savior in tracing for men the path they were to tread in order to enter into this union with Him, did not point to Himself saying, “Behold in me the pattern of, and the living object lesson in every human virtue, prudence, justice, courage, kindliness, truth and the rest.”  He did not say, “Seek to acquire all these virtues which you see in their perfection in me and then you will become my intimate friends.”  His instruction was much more direct and simple.  He said, “Learn of Me, that I am meek and humble of heart.” (Matt. 11:29)  One has only to be humble after the model of Jesus and all else will follow.  How this is so is not immediately apparent; for the full implications of the virtue of humility are not readily seized.  Humility consists in making God all and oneself nothing in one’s life.  It is, “God over all.”  It is the practical acceptance of St. Michael’s battle cry:  “Quis ut Deus!”  “Who is like unto God!”  It is the complete obliteration of all the false claims of self, in face of the all-pervading sovereignty of God.  All that is required on the part of the Christian to make perfect his calling, is to efface himself before God.  Hence it is that the whole burden of the Savior’s teaching to men is the practice of self-abnegation.  Self-abnegation is something much larger than either suffering or mortification.  (It is self-annihilation or death to the “old man.”)  The instructions on prayer that follow are an exposition of the mode by which this conquest of self is carried to a final and successful issue.  Prayer, properly carried out, will have as its effect the gradual revelation to the soul of this disease of self-love which so intimately penetrates the very fibers of its being as to pass unobserved by the person that does not lead an interior life.  In prayer the soul gradually draws into the radiant purity and truth of the soul of Jesus.  It becomes bathed in and penetrated through and through with that radiance; and in this splendor all in it that is of self (the “old self” or “old man”) and not of God, all that is in it unlike Jesus, stands clearly revealed to that soul’s own gaze.  When this unlikeness is purged away by the action of suffering and the sacrament of the Eucharist, then the close union of the soul with God takes place.

Prayer, (Confession,) mortification and silence prepare the soul for the action of the Blessed Eucharist.  Once the obstacles are cleared away from the soul this great Sacrament of union (Holy Communion) accomplishes in its perfection that which is its special effect, namely the creation of a union of spirit between the soul and Jesus.  Prayer prepares the way for this, for prayer that is good must have as its effect the gradual growth in self-abnegation.  The presence of self-love (pride or self-centeredness) in the soul is the great obstacle to the action of grace.  Prayer reveals the presence of this self-love and secures the aid of God to its extermination.  The grace of Jesus flowing to the soul through prayer and the Sacraments carries out this process of extermination.  As the Christian soul empties of self, it fills up with God, not merely with some thought of God as revealed in created reflections, but with God as He is in Himself and as He reveals Himself to “little ones.” (Matt. 11:25)  To be filled with God is to be perfect with the very perfection of our heavenly Father, but this happy result is conditioned by the soul’s practical application of the means explicitly stated by Our Divine Guide and Exemplar:  “Learn of Me, that I am meek and humble of heart.”

It is in no narrow or particular sense that God is said “to resist the proud and to give grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)  In these words of the Apostle is revealed the connection, not logically immediate, between humility and spiritual perfection.  Humility is not fortitude nor temperance nor yet charity.  But where it exists all these will exist.  For the Christian supernatural virtues, the only ones that avail for union with God in this life and in the next, are not acquired but infused.  God gives them.  They are communicated with grace.  They grow with grace and are proportioned in their perfection to the measure of grace.  God gives grace generously to the humble.  The perfectly humble man (therefore,) will flourish in all virtues.  He will be fearless, temperate, kind, loving, and all the rest.  He has not to accomplish acts of temperance to have the virtue of temperance.  He has it already in virtue of grace and in a strength proportioned to that grace.  The acts merely give a greater facility in the exercise of the virtue and dispose the soul for a further increase of grace.