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Delight in God


“I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up. The house was full of His glory. Around Him stood seraphim; each one had six wings; with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory’” (Isaiah 6:1-3).


The first two-thirds of the Book of Isaiah are about woe and doom. God pours out His sorrow for the brokenness in the world. Reading through it is a bit like picking up a newspaper nowadays, and you cannot help but feel weighed down by it all. But right when things seem most unbearable, Isaiah is lifted up out of the darkness and into heaven. It feels like the sun bursting out through the clouds after a rainy day. Christ the King sits in his throne, splendor and power radiate around him, six-winged seraphims, larger than life, and all the hosts of heaven, are caught up in worship, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” This is a message to us about where to fix our hearts. In the midst of our sadness, anger, and chaos, heaven looms above, totally undisturbed, totally at peace, beautiful, and radiant.


“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).


Deep in the hill country of Country Clare, Ireland, beneath trees and damp moss, is the sacred well of St. Colman Mac Duagh. The contemplative fled the noise of worldly life to live in a cave, where he remained constant in prayer and adoration, all in the quiet bubbling noise of a spring. Hundreds of such holy wells and hermitages are scattered across Ireland, where generations of men and women have retreated for quiet and contemplation. The Irish have been known to travel ten to twenty miles barefoot in order to crawl on their knees around these sacred sites, for penance, healing, safe childbirth, or at times, to appease the mischief of woodland fairies.


This old piety is not unique to Ireland, nor is it superstitious or vain. An earthy reverence has been at the heart of Orthodox Christianity in every part of the world. St. Dionysius of Olympus, Greece, also wandered the mountains, always stopping to pray by springs and streams. He believed that the sound of water is the best music for prayer. To the very day, villagers at the base of Mt. Olympus hike up the mountain to dip their fingers in the blessed well and ask a favor.


Why have Christians always found such value in the quiet of nature? Why have so many saints gone out into caves and burrows to pray?


Christ gives us two commandments.


“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-38).


Love God. Love your neighbor.


But we are so distracted. We have a thousand tugs and pulls from every direction, and a buzzing noise underlies everything man touches. Wars, natural disasters, political wrestling matches, everything down here is so bombastic and consuming. How can we love God and neighbor? So the scriptures invite us to step back.


“Come away by yourselves to a desolate place,” Jesus Christ tells us, “and a rest a while” (Mark 6:31).


"Come out from [the world] and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17).


The desert fathers were emphatic: retreat and look up.


Here is a word by St. Evagrius.


“Do not let your eyes be distracted during prayer, but detach yourself from concern with body and soul, and give all your attention to the [heart] . . . Detach yourself from concern for the body when you pray: do not let the sting of a flea or a fly, the bite of a louse or a mosquito, deprive you of the fruits of your prayer . . . Do you have a longing for prayer? Then leave the things of this world and live your life in heaven . . . If you seek prayer attentively you will find it.”



The saints in the wilderness are not mere escapists. They are pursuing something. They found a pearl so bright and beautiful that they were willing to give up everything to admire it. They have discovered what Prophet Isaiah discovered, when caught up to heaven — away, above, always there in the midst of all our noise and frustration, is the peace and beauty of God.


How can we love God with all our heart, soul, and mind?


Love is a kind of holy madness. When you fall in love, you are willing to give up everything just to be in the presence of your beloved. Climbing out windows, breaking curfew, risky behavior, the young lover gives it all up. Is that not true? All you see is her face. The way she talks. The clothes she wears. The path she walks on. Everything becomes enchanted with your mad adoration.


Now imagine if your beloved were an artist. You would savor every work of art. Even the paintbrushes the artist uses become sacred relics. Imagine if your beloved painted the sunrise. Every sunrise would move you in the bones. Imagine if your beloved put the stars in the sky. You would stay up late to watch them twinkle. Imagine if your beloved inspired the melody of bubbling streams and roaring oceans, you would long to listen to the streams and swim in the oceans, just to touch your beloved.


“I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up. The house was full of His glory. Around Him stood seraphim; each one had six wings . . . and one cried to another and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory’” (Isaiah 6:1-3).


Truly, the whole earth is full of God’s glory. It buzzes with the joy and splendor of our heavenly Artist.


The life Christ calls us to is a life of wonder and worship. All our frustrations and accomplishments, what do they matter, in comparison to God’s grandeur, His words, desires, and will. Man’s troubles are a just a shadow beneath the greater reality. We are called to live away from the noise, and to join the seraphim in that neverending delight in God.


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