What are the means of union with God? I think they can be broken down into at least two groups: those which arise from a contemplative life-state and those which arise from an active life-state. By this I do not mean that we can pass up either one. Each of us has active and contemplative elements in our life. One type of life-state predominates, for sure. But both of them are present to our living.
Now, the contemplative means of union with God are obvious. We need silence. We need physical removal. We need to read and meditate on the Scriptures (especially the Gospels). We need, insofar as our time and abilities allow, to study theology.
But what of the active means of union or the means of union with God which arise from activity?
René Voillaume has a wonderful page about this. He tells us that our ordinary and daily actions and occupations
can choke little by little the spirit, can distance us from Christ, when they take the first place in our preoccupations, because then they do not take their place in him. But they can also, in contrast, nourish the purity of our charity and, by that very fact, dispose us more and more to prayer and indeed deliver us to the same.
But how can one attain to that?
I think that, nowadays, what is perhaps missing in religious life is the ability to go about, in the midst of daily activities of a very modern type, in such a manner that we can save and guard the possibility of the spiritual life. I mean that there is a certain number of religious brothers and religious sisters – and laypeople, too – who have not yet discovered the appropriate asceticism which allows for mastery of self and recollection.
What kind of asceticism could this be? I suppose that we might need to restrain ourselves from more things. We might need to purge our lives of unnecessary images, imbued as they are with values counter to our life and witness. But more importantly, there is the following:
I think that what would define this asceticism is the aptitude to maintain a psychological, nervous, and physical state which opens us to the presence of the present moment. I believe that this capacity to be in the present moment is a great secret of the spiritual life… If we cannot live in the present moment because we are carried out of it, because we are subject to passions, because we are not sufficiently detached, because we want to do three or four things at a time – then we have lost because we have lost control of ourselves.
To run about like chickens with our heads cut off gives us nothing. It advances nothing of the Kingdom. It is with a contemplative gaze, ascetic and cut off from the inessential, that things get done even in activity.