In La Verna, where St. Francis received the stigmata, there is a beautiful sculpture by the Italian sculptor, Della Robbia. The scene is of the angel, Gabriel, asking Mary if she will become the mother of Jesus.

With amazing skill the artist has captured the moment of decision, just before she agrees. Her gaze is downward and her mind inward. In another second she will look up and accept the blessings and the responsibility of being a channel for God.

The story of every saint

The essence that Della Robbia caught in ceramic, of a soul agreeing to do the will of God, is the story of every saint. All great souls echo this theme, since doing the will of God without reservation is how one becomes a saint.

We too, each of us, have countless opportunities to do God’s will. Not, perhaps, being asked by a glorious angel, but in little ways that ask us to discard the negative and choose to act with kindness and patience and self-sacrifice. As Jesus put it, “Whatsoever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.”

Here is an interesting challenge: Try, during the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season to spend a little time realizing that God is playing the role of everyone with whom you interact. See Jesus masquerading as the store clerk, as your co-worker, and the members of your family.

How to know God’s will

It is not always easy to know the will of God, nor, even if we know it, to follow it if it goes against our desires. Here are a few key principles that will help.

Pray with non-attachment. In order to know the will of God, we must be open to hearing what He has to say. We will miss His whispers if the storm of our desires is too loud. When you pray to know His will, first open your heart in readiness to accept whatever comes. Don’t expect His guidance to always feel easy—God is interested in waking us from the sleep of delusion, not in rearranging this dream world so that it feels slightly more comfortable.

Project your question clearly and powerfully from the spiritual eye. Then feel for the answer in your heart center. The answer should come with a calm certainty. Don’t trust answers that make the heart excited or restless. Also, God’s answers often come through our conscience. Pay attention when your higher Self is trying to tell you something.

Tune into Yogananda or another great knower of God. See what his writings have to say on the subject of your question. Mentally ask him for advice, guidance, and blessings. If you have a photograph of him on your altar, gaze into his eyes—often they will communicate an answer to you. If you can visualize his eyes clearly in meditation, the communication may be even more direct. The more often and deeply you ask for his guidance, the more clearly you will feel it.

Follow the guidance you receive. Test it a step at a time and watch carefully for the results. This may take faith and courage.

Finally, know that the will of God is always an extension of His qualities: love, joy, peace and compassion. Never trust “guidance” that does harm to another soul. Ultimately, He wants us to know that we are all His children and that He loves us and wants only our true happiness.

A special grace

The holy season of Christmas carries with it a special grace, with the thoughts of men and women more attuned to the Christ consciousness. This mass consciousness can help us in our individual efforts. God’s blessings are more tangible now, like the warmth of the sun as spring approaches. If you take the opportunity to tune into those blessings it will transform the Christmas hubbub into a truly holy season.

Jyotish and Devi are acharyas (spiritual directors) of Ananda Sangha Worldwide. Jyotish is also  acharya of the Ananda Sevaka Order, worldwide. Other Clarity articles by Jyotish and Devi Novak are listed under "Nayaswami Jyotish and Nayaswami Devi."

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