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Perceiving God's Will

    Adam was able to understand the words the Creator addressed to him; in fact, they were clear and unambiguous. He did not have to pour over them in order to get more out of them than he had initially understood. But when sin arose between man and God, Adam was forced to learn how to make excuses. These excuses were words of untruth, of distance and alienation, words reflecting a desire no longer to understand�.It was no longer the un-mediated relationship between God and the man who had just sprung forth from the Creator in his original innocence; instead, the relationship was sullied by all the detours and subterfuges of untruth. The vision of the highest truth was moreover so obscured that man preferred to associate with other men as a way toward this truth, rather than immediately with God�.

    �then God's Word, who had been with him from all eternity and who was the Son, allowed himself to become man, so that the Father would have a man who could perceive his will and accept it in a proper way, without the need for mediation or translation.

    When the apostle begs the Lord, "Show us the Father!" and the Son answers, "Whoever sees me sees the Father", it becomes immediately clear that his existence has given rise to a point of intersection between the Father and man, a point wherein they can encounter one another in an immediate way�.the Son also teaches man a new way to pray. He showed him how to say the Father's prayer. He also showed him his own prayer as a Son, a prayer that grows out of his vision and perfectly grasps the Father's will, a prayer that has appropriated this will and call thus become the praying man's model for how the triune God's will ought to be understood in the world. Here man can be raised up beyond his own level and brought onto God's level, and he can even acquire a grasp of God's eternal will. He does not grasp this with his natural reason, but with his prayer-reason. Prayer carries him beyond himself and places him in this grasp, without him becoming aware of it. He is placed on the path of obedience, and obedience allows him to receive a share of God's omniscience. In a certain respect, "Thy will be done" means also that man receives a sense for this will, even if he is unable to express it in words; he is brought over into this will, even if he does not understand how to interpret it; he carries out this will, even if he does not know where it is taking him. And yet not everything remains obscure to his understanding, because this will leads him ever deeper into the will.

    Being led into the will is something that happens through love. Even if man does not know what it means, he nevertheless understands that his obedience is a response to God's love and that this love embraces him all along the way. He is led by love into the mystery of God's triune love. And it may happen that inconceivable marvels become revealed to him in this, there may be moments in which he comes to see himself as one chosen and loved�.this is not something he can understand in earthly terms, because two spheres come together here which cannot be brought into a fixed and unambiguous relationship.

    Man passes beyond limitations; indeed, he is even lifted over walls�some that he knows but also some that he does not know�so that the share that was intended for him not be diminished, so that he need not do the measuring himself; he need not draw his own border limits; he need not have the responsibility of tracing out his own path. He passes unencumbered, because he is being led. Thus, a small child finds his way through the most difficult stray paths when he is able to walk holding his father's hand. From his own perspective, he may be aware only that there is a house here, and that there are other houses further on, and that at this corner or the next there is something familiar; but that is as far as he can make out, because the distances and the pathways and the connections are not clear to him. The child thus learns to have more trust in the father and his guidance. The man who prays has a similar experience, which is often difficult to put into words but is no less real, an experience that brings him to a stricter obedience, to an increase of prayer, an experience that lends him new strength, which clearly does not come from himself, and a certainty in faith, which is indispensable for his self-gift and his service. Before, he had no idea how necessary this certainty was. It is only now that he experiences it, only now that it has become clear to him in this sense.

    But once man has obeyed, he now knows something new: he knows that a human being can become aware of God's will; that this particular following of God is part of his will. And he thereby also learns what matters to God above all other things: that more love be given to him and more love be given to one's neighbors. Every will of God that man is permitted to experience in some way can be brought back to love.


    Condensed from Chapter 2 of Light and Images: Elements of Contemplation by Adrienne von Speyr, a 20th century Swiss mystic, wife, doctor and author of numerous books on spirituality.

    Perceiving God�s Will