The third of Brother Lawrence’s Spiritual Maxims discusses 3 kinds of spiritual union- habitual, virtual, and actual (accomplished in the present).
1. Habitual union– We are united to God by grace.
2. Virtual union– Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have started to unite ourselves with God, but remain united with Him only as long as we consciously continue our efforts. Practicing the presence of God hasn’t yet become second-nature to us.
3. Actual union– The most perfect of the three types of union, it is a present, sustained, ongoing union. Since actual union is wholly spiritual, it can be felt within our soul because our soul is vibrant and awake, not asleep as it is in habitual and virtual union with God. Brother Lawrence describes the actions of the soul in actual union with God as “livelier than those of a fire, more luminous that a sun obscured by clouds.” He goes on the emphasize that actual union is not simply expressing that we love God with all our heart. Rather, it is “something indefinable that is found in a gentle, peaceable, spiritual, reverent, humble, loving, and utterly simple heart.”
Finally, in order to be united with God, Brother Lawrence states that we need to distinguish between feelings and operation of the will:
” . . . feelings of the will come to an end in the soul, whereas the operation of the will, which is the expression of true love, ends up at God.”
Tomorrow’s blog: “Benefits of practicing the presence of God”