Soul Searching – Going Deeper

by Sister Timothy Marie, O.C.D.
Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles


 

Photography © by Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Memory, understanding, will – discovering what they are, where they reside, and how to surrender them to God is what this article is all about – Soul Searching.

The “Suscipe” is a radical prayer of total self-giving composed by St. Ignatius of Loyola in the 1500s. It is the theme of retreats and the text of musical compositions. Translated into a myriad of languages, it has come to be known as the all-embracing prayer of surrender to God. It is timeless.

“Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will – all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.”

At the dawn of creation, Adam and Eve were fashioned by God. This moment is recorded in Genesis 2:7 in the following words, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”

A living soul – what exactly does that mean?

Human beings are composed of body and soul, of matter and spirit. Catholics believe that the higher faculties of each human being reside in the soul. One way to understand this theological concept is this: “there are three rooms in the temple of our souls – Memory, Intellect and Will.”

This is an interesting point. At the dawn of creation, Adam and Eve did not need to say the Suscipe. Our first parents absolutely did not need to pray a prayer of surrender asking God to receive their liberty, memory, understanding and will. They already belonged to God.

Before Adam and Eve sinned, when they were still in the state of original justice, as it is called, they were totally at one. Interiorly within themselves and exteriorly with the rest of creation, they were at peace. They and the world they lived in were in harmony, in sync, in God’s will. Nature and all it contained was in balance.

After Adam and Eve said no to God – sinned – the consequences of sin changed the life of Adam and Eve and all of creation. Disharmony arrived. Nature was no longer in its original balance, and coming now to the Suscipe Prayer, Adam and Eve experienced for the first time things like sickness, ignorance, and ultimately death. Within themselves, they were no longer at one. They were divided. Body, soul, mind and spirit were fragmented, no longer in union with each other. After the original sin, Adam and Eve needed to say the Suscipe.

So do we.

Memory, understanding, will – discovering what they are, where they reside, and how to surrender them to God is what this article is all about – Soul Searching.

When reading Sacred Scripture, the scholars recommend that we look up the meaning of core words in their original language to enrich our understanding of what the passage says. This helps us to delve more deeply into the message of the text. In learning about the soul, there are two words in the bible: “heart” and “soul” – each word is used approximately 800 times in the bible.

“Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and with your whole soul, and with your whole strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)

The Hebrew word for the heart, includes also the love that it represents, and means a totality in connection – a mind to mind, face to face, eye to eye, body to body, soul to soul connection. “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart…”

Other Hebrew terms, nephesh, ruach (literally “wind”), and neshama (literally “breath”), are used to describe the soul or spirit. The soul is believed to be given by God to a person by his/her first breath, as mentioned in Genesis, “And the Lord God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).

The Greek word for heart in this passage is Καρδιά or kardias. The earliest bibles were in Greek so it is important to also look at the Greek meaning. This Greek word is defined as “the seat and center of human life” including one’s “desires, feelings, affections, passions, impulses.”

In sacred scripture, when the word kardias shows up, we need to think “the center” of the human person – the deepest part, the still point where God dwells. It does not mean the heart as a physical organ.

After looking at this definition for a while and meditating on it, we begin to understand this scripture in a deeper and more personal way. The living God desires and asks us to love Him extraordinarily deeply with a love from the deepest part of us.

In order to love God with a “whole heart,” we need to have a whole heart. If the truth be told, not many of us have a whole heart. Why? There are many reasons. We live in a broken world. We become enslaved to sin. Events in our lives crush our hope, steal away our desire to go on, or kill the life within us. Through time, our Father allows these issues to the surface, and as we yield our brokenness to the Master Healer, Jesus heals us. He restores our soul and saves us from the death that is in our flesh, and gives us life to the full.

Going deeper in our spirituality – in our life of prayer – means to become integrated; to allow the brokenness to heal and become whole. Catholics do this by availing themselves of God’s grace through the sacraments.

Holy Communion heals. The Sacrament of Reconciliation heals. A simple, sincere prayer heals. We need to pray that we may again become at-one, in harmony both interiorly and exteriorly. Our thoughts, words and actions should again be in sync with God’s will. As Dante wrote, “In His will is our peace.”

At the conclusion of the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a 30-day retreat, there is a prayer waiting to be said…

“Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will – all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.”

Is it still waiting to be said in your life… and in mine?


Sister Timothy Marie, O.C.D. is co-editor of Spirit of Carmel magazine.


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About the Author

Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: - A life of prayer and union with God - A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - Devotion to our Blessed Mother - Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church - Praying for priests - Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service

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