Oculi mei semper ad Dominum, says the psalmist in today’s introit. My eyes are always turned towards the Lord, for He it is who will deliver me from the snares of my enemies. I am alone and poor, but the Lord is with me.
It is through the eyes that images are received into our minds and that thoughts are generated. What we see influences the way we think, and the way we think influences the way we act.
The first step then in making good use of the eyes is to avoid looking at anything that could lead us into sin. The second step is to develop the reflex of not only turning away from evil, but also from ourselves. For the habit of the interior life leads to a life in which one examines oneself, and one should. But such self-examination can only have effect on our lives if we consistently turn the eyes of our soul to the Lord. Looking at ourselves will not get us anywhere. But forgetting ourselves, looking at the Lord, gazing lovingly upon Jesus, especially in His Passion, will give us the light, the strength, the courage to live according to God’s commandments and save our soul and the souls of others.
This was beautifully expressed in a letter written by St Elisabeth of the Trinity:
To forget yourself, for what concerns your health, does not mean to neglect taking care of yourself, for it is your duty and your best penance, but do it with great abandonment, saying to God “Thank you”, whatever may happen. When the weight of the body is felt and fatigues your soul, don’t be discouraged, but go in faith and love to the One who said: “Come to me and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). For your morale, don’t ever let the thought of your wretchedness get you down. The great Saint Paul says: “Where sin abounded, grace has abounded even more” (Rom 5:20). It seems to me that the weakest soul, even the most guilty one, is the one who has most reason to hope, and by this act of forgetting herself and throwing herself into the arms of God she glorifies Him and gives Him more joy than all the looking back at herself and all the examens that make her live with her infirmities, whereas she possesses at the centre of her own heart a Saviour who wants to purify her at every moment.
Do you remember that beautiful passage where Jesus says of His Father that “He has given Him power over all flesh, so that He might give it eternal life” (Jn 17:2)? That is what He wants to do in you: at every minute He wants you to go out of yourself, to leave every preoccupation, to retire to that solitude He has chosen for Himself at the bottom of your heart. He, He is always there, even though you don’t feel Him; He is waiting for you and wants to establish with you a “wondrous exchange” (first antiphon from Vespers of 1st January), as we chant in the beautiful liturgy, intimacy of Bridegroom to Bride; your weaknesses, your faults, all that troubles you, it is He who, through this continual contact, wants to deliver your from it. Did He not say: “I came not to judge, but to save” (Jn 12:47)? Nothing must appear to you an obstacle to going to Him. Don’t take so much notice as to whether you are inflamed or discouraged; it’s the law of exile to pass thus from one state to another. Believe then that He, He never changes, that in His goodness He is always bent over you to take you and establish you in Himself. If, in spite of all, emptiness and sadness overcome you, unite this agony with the Master’s in the Garden of Olives, when He said to the Father: “If it is possible, let this chalice pass from me” (Mt 26:39). Perhaps it seems to you difficult to forget yourself. Don’t be concerned; if you knew how simple it is… I’m going to give you my “secret”: think of this God who lives in you, whose temple you are (cf. 1 Cor 3:16); Saint Paul is the one who speaks thus, we can believe him. Little by little, the soul gets used to living in His sweet presence, she understands that she bears in herself a little Heaven where the God of love has settled himself. Then it’s as it were a divine atmosphere in which she breathes, I would even say there is nothing else but her body on the earth, her soul dwells beyond the clouds and the veils, in the One who is Unchanging. Do not say that it is not for you, that you are too miserable, for that is on the contrary an extra reason for going to the One who saves. It is not by looking at this misery that we will be purified, but by looking at the One who is all purity and holiness. Saint Paul says that “He has predestined us to be conformed to His own image” (Rom 8:29). In the most painful hours, think that the Divine Artist, in order to make his work more beautiful, uses scissors, and remain in peace under that Hand that is working on you. This great apostle of whom I am speaking, after having been taken up to the third Heaven (cf. 2 Cor 12:2), felt his weakness and complained of it to God who answered: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Isn’t that consoling?…
My eyes are always turned towards the Lord…