Thy Will Be Done on Earth as It Is in Heaven
from St. Teresa of Avila
So great is the gift that our good Master has asked for us and has taught us to beg for ourselves, that it includes all we can desire in this life. He has done us the immense favour of making us His brethren: let us now learn what Christ offers God on our behalf and what He wishes us to give His Father in return. We must first see what our Lord requests of us, for it is only right that we should do Him some service in acknowledgement of such supreme blessings. O good Jesus! whilst demanding so much for us, how little dost Thou give in return — how little, I mean, on our part — for it is as nothing compared with the debt we owe this mighty Monarch. And yet, my Lord, Thou hast not left us without means of repaying Him, for we give all we can if when we say the words, ‘I wish that as Thy will is done in heaven so it may be done on earth,’ we yield Him our wills.
Thou has done well, O our good Master! in making this petition come last, so that we may be able to accomplish what thou dost promise for us here. For truly, O Lord! hadst Thou not done so our task would have seemed hopeless; yet, since Thy Father bestows His kingdom on us at Thy prayer, I know that we can fulfil Thy promise by giving what Thou didst offer in our name. For since my ‘earth’ is now made ‘heaven’ it is possible for Thy will to be done in me; otherwise, in ‘earth’ so barren and so wretched, I know not how it could have come to pass. For Thou askest so great a thing.
I wish you, daughters, to realize its importance. I am amused at the thought of people fearing to ask for crosses from God. Some say it would be a want of humility to pray for crosses. I have met with other people who, without even this pretext, have not the courage to beg for the sufferings they think would be sent at once. Persons who refrain, out of humility, from demanding them, believe that they would not be able to bear such trials. For my part, I believe that He Who gives the love that longs for such a hard way of proving its sincerity would also give love enough to suffer. I would ask souls who will not sue for the crosses they fancy would be sent them immediately, whether they know what they are asking for when they beg that the will of God may be done in them? Do they simply repeat the words in imitation of other people? This, my daughters, would be exceedingly wrong. The good Jesus is here our Ambassador, Who at no small cost to Himself seeks to mediate for us with His Father, and it would be unfair for us to refuse to give what He pledges on our behalf — it would be better that we should never proffer it. I will put the case in a different way. Inevitably the will of God must be done — whether we wish it or no, it will prevail both in heaven and earth. Then take my advice; trust what I say and make a virtue of necessity.
O my God! well is it for me that Thou didst not leave such a wretch as myself at liberty to fulfil or to frustrate Thy will! What should I have done had it depended upon me whether Thy will should be done in heaven or on earth? Yet, although it is not purged from all self-seeking, freely do I yield my will to Thee, for experience has taught me what I gain by resigning my own will to Thine. Mayest Thou be blessed for ever, and may all creation praise Thee: may Thy name be evermore glorified!
O my friends, what benefits this brings us! What do we not lose by withholding from God that which we offer Him in the Pater Noster! Before explaining all its advantages, I will show you all that you are offering here, lest you might afterwards say that you had been cheated and inveigled into it without understanding it. Do not copy certain nuns who make their vows but never fulfil them, pleading that they did not know what they undertook when they made their profession. This may well have been the case, for words are easy but deeds are hard, and if any one thought there was no difference between them, she was much mistaken. We can promise lightly enough to give up our will to somebody else, but when it comes to the test we shall find it the most difficult thing in the world to do thoroughly. By means of a long probation, you should make persons who enter here clearly understand that they are bound to give deeds as well as words. Superiors are not always so strict, because they see our weakness; sometimes they treat both weak and strong in the same way. But God does not do this: He knows what each can bear, and when He finds a valiant soul He accomplishes His will in it.
I wish to remind you what is the will of God, so that you may know with Whom you have to deal, as the saying goes, and may realize what the good Jesus is offering to the Father on your behalf. Know that when you say: ‘Thy will be done’ you are begging that God’s will may be carried out in you, for it is
Then, sisters, if you have this love, think of what you are doing: let not the promises you made to so great a God be only words of empty compliment, but force yourselves to suffer whatever God wishes. Any other way of yielding Him our will is like offering some one a jewel, begging him to accept it, and holding it fast when he puts out his hand to take it. It is shameful to trifle thus with One Who has done so much for us. Were there no other reason, it would be wrong to mock Him thus, again and again, whenever we repeat the Pater Noster. Let us give Him once for all the gem we have so often proffered Him — although He first gave us what we now tender to His Father. Ah, how well does Jesus understand us! He does not surrender our will to God in our name until we have already been amply repaid for this trivial service. This shows us what great benefits it will obtain for us from His Father, Who begins to recompense us for it in this life, as I will explain t you later on. People who live in the world do much if they sincerely resolve to submit their will to God, but you, daughters, must both say and act, must both vow and fulfil your vows, as indeed religious may truly be said to do. Yet sometimes, not only do we offer God our jewel, but we actually put it into His hand — then we turn round and take it back again. We are so generous at first, and so miserly afterwards, that it would almost have been better to have shown more caution in giving.
My whole aim in writing this book has been to incite us to yield ourselves entirely to our Creator, to submit our will to His, and to detach ourselves from all created things. As you already understand how important this is I will say no more on the subject, but will explain to you why our good Master makes us say this petition. He well knows how we shall benefit by accomplishing the promise made to His eternal Father. In a very short time we shall find ourselves at the end of our journey and shall drink of the fountain of living water of which I spoke. But unless we resign and conform our will entirely to the Divine will, we shall never obtain that water. This is the perfect contemplation that you wished me to write about. Here, as I have shown you, we can do nothing on our part. Here we neither work nor plan for ourselves, nor is it necessary, for everything, except the prayer ‘Thy will be done,’ would only hinder and disturb us.
In every wya and in every matter, do Thy will in me, O Lord! as Thou pleasest. If Thou desirest to give me crosses, grant me strength and let them come: if Thou wouldst send me persecutions, shame, poverty, illness — I stand ready, nor will I turn away from them, O my Father! I have no right to flee from them, O my Father! I have no right to flee from them, since Thy Son has offered Thee my will with the rest in the name of us all. Let Thy kingdom come to me as Thy Son has asked of Thee, so that I may fulfil Thy will. Dispose of me as of Thine own, according as Thou willest.
What power, sisters, lies in this gift of the will! Made with full determination, it is able to draw the Almighty to become one with our baseness and to transform us into Himself, thus uniting the creature with its Creator. Are you not well repaid? See how good your Master is! He knows how to do the same. The more resolute we are and the mroe clearly our actions testify that ours are no empty vows, the closer does God draw us to Him. He raises us far above all earthly things and even above ourselves, that He may prepare us to receive heavenly favours. Even in this life He rewards us unceasingly for this service which He values exceedingly.
While we do not know for what more we could ask, His Majesty never wearies of giving us fresh favours. Not contended with having united such a soul to Himself, He begins to caress it and reveals His secrets to it. He is pleased at its understanding what it has gained and that it knows something of what He has in store for it. He deprives such a person of her exterior senses lest they should disturb her. This produces what is called ‘rapture.’ His friendship with her becomes so intimate that not only does He restore her will to her but He gives her His own as well. For having made a close friend of her, God is pleased to take the command with her ‘by turns’, as we may say, and just as she obeys His commands, so He in return does what she asks of Him, only in a far more complete manner, for being almighty He can do what He wills and He always wills to do this, while the poor soul cannot carry out all His wishes, however strong its desire may be. Neither has it power to do anything unless the grace is first given it, and yet it grows richer although the more it serves God the heavier grows its debt. It often becomes weary of being subject to so many drawbacks, obstacles, and bonds while imprisoned in the flesh, for it longs to pay God something of what it owes Him. This is very foolish, for when we have done all we can, what repayment can we make Him, since He has given us all we possess except self-knowledge?
The one thing which by the grace of God we can do is to utterly resign our will to His; all else only hinders the soul that He has raised to this state: humility alone can help us here, and that not a humility won by means of our intellect but one gained by a pure intuition of the truth by which we perceive, in an instant, our own nothingness and the greatness of God with greater clearness than we could have learnt in many years by the use of our reason. But as I have already explained in another book what contemplation is and how the soul should conduct itself in that state, and have described in detail the spirit’s experiences and the knowledge it gains of the Divinity, I will only allude to it here, so that you may learn how to recite the Pater Noster. One piece of advice I will give you, however — do not fancy that any efforts or actions of your own can raise you to contemplation, for you would be mistaken, they would only cool any devotion you already felt — but with the simplicity and humility which obtain all things you must simply say: ‘Thy will be done.’
Thy Will Be Done on Earth as It Is in Heaven
from St. Louis De Montfort
As Tertullian says, this sentence does not in the least mean that we are afraid of people thwarting God’s designs, because nothing whatsoever can happen without Divine Providence having forseen it and having made it fit into His plans beforehand. No obstruction in the whole world can possibly prevent the will of God from being carried out.
Rather, when we say Thy will be done, we ask god to make us humbly resigned to all that He has seen fit to send us in this life. We also ask Him to help us to do, in all things and at all times, His Holy will, made known to us by the commandments, promptly, lovingly, and faithfully as the saints and angels do it in Heaven.