Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"The Way of Perfection" of St Teresa of Ávila

Thy kingdom come

What person, however careless, who had to address someone of importance, would not spend time in thinking how to approach him so as to please him and not be considered tedious? He would also think what he was going to ask for and what use he would make of it, especially if his petition were for some particular thing, as our good Jesus tells us our petitions must be. This point seems to me very important. Could you not, my Lord, have ended this prayer in a single sentence, by saying: “Give us, Father, whatever is good for us”? For, in addressing One Who knows everything, there would seem to be no need to say any more.

Eternal Wisdom! Between you and your Father this was quite sufficient. This is how you made your request of him in the garden of Gethsemane. You showed him what you wished for and what you feared, but left it all in his hands. But you know us, my Lord, and you know that we have not given ourselves up to the will of your Father as completely as you did. For us, it is best to pray for specific things, so that as each of them comes to mind we can pause to consider whether it is something good that we are asking for; so that if it is not, we should refrain from asking for it. Otherwise (being what we are, free will and all) we will not accept what God chooses to give us even if it is far better than what we asked for, simply because it is not exactly what we asked for. We are the sort of people who cannot feel rich unless we feel the weight of the actual coins in our hand.

Now the good Jesus bids us say these words, in which we pray that the Kingdom may come in us: Hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come. See how great our Master’s wisdom is! I am thinking of what it is we are asking for when we ask for the Kingdom: it is important that we should understand this. His Majesty saw that because of our weakness we could not hallow or praise or magnify or glorify the holy name of the Eternal Father in a way adequate to its greatness. We could not, that is, do it by ourselves, if His Majesty did not help us by giving us his kingdom here on earth. And so the good Jesus places these two petitions – Hallowed be thy name and Thy kingdom come next to each other, so that we can understand what we are asking for and why it is important to beg for it and to do all we can to please the one who is able to give it to us. Let me explain how I understand it.

Now, then. The greatest joy in the kingdom of heaven (the greatest among many) seems to me to be that we will no longer be tied up with earthly concerns but will have rest and glory within us – rejoicing that gives joy to everyone, peace that lasts for ever – satisfaction in ourselves, a satisfaction that comes from seeing how everyone is praising the Lord and blessing and hallowing his name, while no-one offends him. Everyone loves him. Each soul has no wish other than to love him: it cannot stop loving him because it knows him truly.

If only we knew him like that even here on earth, we would love him in the same way – not with that degree of perfection, of course, but in a very different way from the way we love him now.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

From a sermon by Saint Augustine

The martyrs had seen what they proclaimed

This day has been consecrated for us by the martyrdom of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul. It is not some obscure martyrs we are talking about. Their sound has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. These martyrs had seen what they proclaimed, they pursued justice by confessing the truth, by dying for the truth.

The blessed Peter, the first of the Apostles, the ardent lover of Christ, who was found worthy to hear, And I say to you, that you are Peter. He himself, you see, had just said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Christ said to him, And I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church. Upon this rock I will build the faith you have just confessed. Upon your words, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, I will build my Church; because you are Peter. Peter comes from petra, meaning a rock. Peter, “Rocky,” from “rock”; not “rock” from “Rocky.” Peter comes from the word for a rock in exactly the same way as the name Christian comes from Christ.

Before his passion the Lord Jesus, as you know, chose those disciples of his whom he called apostles. Among these it was only Peter who almost everywhere was given the privilege of representing the whole Church. It was in the person of the whole Church, which he alone represented, that he was privileged to hear, To you will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. After all, it is not just one man that received these keys, but the Church in its unity. So this is the reason for Peter’s acknowledged pre-eminence, that he stood for the Church’s universality and unity, when he was told, To you I am entrusting, what has in fact been entrusted to all. To show you that it is the Church which has received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, listen to what the Lord says in another place to all his apostles: Receive the Holy Spirit; and immediately afterwards, Whose sins you forgive, they will be forgiven them; whose sins you retain, they will be retained.

Quite rightly, too, did the Lord after his resurrection entrust his sheep to Peter to be fed. It is not, you see, that he alone among the disciples was fit to feed the Lord’s sheep; but when Christ speaks to one man, unity is being commended to us. And he first speaks to Peter, because Peter is the first among the apostles. Do not be sad, Apostle. Answer once, answer again, answer a third time. Let confession conquer three times with love, because self-assurance was conquered three times by fear. What you had bound three times must be loosed three times. Loose through love what you had bound through fear. And for all that, the Lord once, and again, and a third time, entrusted his sheep to Peter.

There is one day for the passion of two apostles. But these two also were as one; although they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, Paul followed. We are celebrating a feast day, consecrated for us by the blood of the apostles. Let us love their faith, their lives, their labours, their sufferings, their confession of faith, their preaching.

Monday, June 28, 2010

From the treatise Against Heresies by Saint Irenaeus, bishop

Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God

The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason God, who cannot be grasped, comprehended or seen, allows himself to be seen, comprehended and grasped by men, that he may give life to those who see and receive him. It is impossible to live without life, and the actualisation of life comes from participation in God, while participation in God is to see God and enjoy his goodness.

Men will therefore see God if they are to live; through the vision of God they will become immortal and attain to God himself. As I have said, this was shown in symbols by the prophets: God will be seen by men who bear his Spirit and are always waiting for his coming. As Moses said in the Book of Deuteronomy: On that day we shall see, for God will speak to man, and man will live.

God is the source of all activity throughout creation. He cannot be seen or described in his own nature and in all his greatness by any of his creatures. Yet he is certainly not unknown. Through his Word the whole creation learns that there is one God the Father, who holds all things together and gives them their being. As it is written in the Gospel: No man has ever seen God, except the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; he has revealed him.

From the beginning the Son is the one who teaches us about the Father; he is with the Father from the beginning. He was to reveal to the human race visions of prophecy, the diversity of spiritual gifts, his own ways of ministry, the glorification of the Father, all in due order and harmony, at the appointed time and for our instruction. where there is order, there is also harmony; where there is harmony, there is also correct timing; where there is correct timing, there is also advantage.

The Word became the steward of the Father’s grace for the advantage of men, for whose benefit he made such wonderful arrangements. He revealed God to men and presented men to God. He safeguarded the invisibility of the Father to prevent man from treating God with contempt and to set before him a constant goal toward which to make progress. On the other hand, he revealed God to men and made him visible in many ways to prevent man from being totally separated from God and so cease to be. Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation gives life to all who live upon the earth, much more does the manifestation of the Father through the Word give life to those who see God.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

From a homily by Pope Paul VI

We proclaim Christ to the whole world

Not to preach the Gospel would be my undoing, for Christ himself sent me as his apostle and witness. The more remote, the more difficult the assignment, the more my love of God spurs me on. I am bound to proclaim that Jesus is Christ, the Son of the living God. Because of him we come to know the God we cannot see. He is the firstborn of all creation; in him all things find their being. Man’s teacher and redeemer, he was born for us, died for us, and for us he rose from the dead.

All things, all history converges in Christ. A man of sorrow and hope, he knows us and loves us. As our friend he stays by us throughout our lives; at the end of time he will come to be our judge; but we also know that he will be the complete fulfilment of our lives and our great happiness for all eternity.

I can never cease to speak of Christ for he is our truth and our light; he is the way, the truth and the life. He is our bread, our source of living water who allays our hunger and satisfies our thirst. He is our shepherd, our leader, our ideal, our comforter and our brother.

He is like us but more perfectly human, simple, poor, humble, and yet, while burdened with work, he is more patient. He spoke on our behalf; he worked miracles; and he founded a new kingdom: in it the poor are happy; peace is the foundation of a life in common; where the pure of heart and those who mourn are uplifted and comforted; the hungry find justice; sinners are forgiven; and all discover that they are brothers.

The image I present to you is the image of Jesus Christ. As Christians you share his name; he has already made most of you his own. So once again I repeat his name to you Christians and I proclaim to all men: Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, Lord of the new universe, the great hidden key to human history and the part we play in it. He is the mediator – the bridge, if you will – between heaven and earth. Above all he is the Son of man, more perfect than any man, being also the Son of God, eternal and infinite. He is the son of Mary his mother on earth, more blessed than any woman. She is also our mother in the spiritual communion of the mystical body.

Remember: it is Jesus Christ I preach day in and day out. His name I would see echo and re-echo for all time even to the ends of the earth.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

St Gregory of Nyssa on the Beatitudes

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God

Bodily health is a good thing, but what is truly blessed is not only to know how to keep one’s health but actually to be healthy. If someone praises health but then goes and eats food that makes him ill, what is the use to him, in his illness, of all his praise of health?

We need to look at the text we are considering in just the same way. It does not say that it is blessed to know something about the Lord God, but that it is blessed to have God within oneself. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

I do not think that this is simply intended to promise a direct vision of God if one purifies one’s soul. On the other hand, perhaps the magnificence of this saying is hinting at the same thing that is said more clearly to another audience: The kingdom of God is within you. That is, we are to understand that when we have purged our souls of every illusion and every disordered affection, we will see our own beauty as an image of the divine nature.

And it seems to me that the Word of God, in these few words, was saying something like this: In you there is a certain desire to contemplate what is truly good. But when you hear that God’s majesty is exalted high above the heavens, that his glory beyond comprehension, that his beauty is beyond description, that his very nature can neither be perceived nor be understood, do not fall into despair or think you can never have the sight that you desire.

So if, by love and right living, you wash off the filth that has become stuck to your heart, the divine beauty will shine forth in you. Think of iron, which at one moment is dark and tarnished and the next, once the rust has been scraped off, shines and glistens brightly in the sun. It is the same with the inner core of man, which the Lord calls the heart. It has been in damp and foul places and is covered in patches of rust; but once the rust has been scraped off, it will recover itself and once more resemble its archetype. And so it will be good, since what resembles the good must be good itself.

Therefore, whoever looks at himself sees in himself what he desires. And whoever is pure in heart is blessed because, seeing his own purity, he sees the archetype reflected in the image. If you see the sun in a mirror then you are not looking directly at the sky, but still you are seeing the sun just as much as someone who looks directly at it. In the same way, the Lord is saying, although you do not have the strength to withstand the direct sight of the great and inaccessible light of God, if you look within yourselves once you have returned to the grace of the image that was placed in you from the beginning, you will find in yourselves all that you seek.

For to be God is to be pure, to be free from weakness and passion, to be separated from all evil. If these things are all true of you then God is within you. If your thought is kept pure from evil habits, free from passion and weakness, separated from all stain, you are blessed because your vision is sharp and clear. You are able to see what is invisible to those who have not been purified. The eyes of your soul have been cleansed of material filth and through the purity of your heart you have a clear sight of the vision of blessedness. What is that vision? It is purity, sanctity, simplicity, and other reflections of the brightness of the Divine nature. It is the sight of God.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A homily on the Beatitudes by St Gregory of Nyssa

The hope of seeing God

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. God’s promise is so great that it passes the furthest limits of happiness. Given such a blessing, who could desire more, having already received all things by the fact of seeing God? Remember that in Scriptural usage ‘seeing’ means ‘having.’ May you see the good things of Jerusalem means ‘may you find them.’ Let the ungodly be taken away and not see the glory of the Lord means, in the prophet’s words, ‘not share in the glory of the Lord.’

So whoever ‘sees God’ receives, in this act of seeing, possession of everything that is good: incorruptible life without end, blessedness that cannot fail, a kingdom without end, happiness without limit, true light, the true voice of the Spirit, glory never before reached, perpetual rejoicing, and all else that is good.

The promise of this Beatitude gives us the right to hope for these great things. All this sight of God is conditional on having a pure heart – and thinking of this, my mind is once more teetering on a dizzy peak. What if purity of heart is one of those unattainable things that are simply beyond our human nature? If, on the one hand, it is by purity of heart that God can be seen, and if, on the other hand, Moses and Paul did not see God and said that he could never be seen, it follows logically that purity of heart must be impossible, so that in pronouncing this Beatitude, the Word is putting forward something that simply cannot be.

How can we benefit from knowing the means by which God can be seen, if that means is impossible for us?

Suppose, for instance, that someone told us it was good to find oneself in heaven because there one would see things that cannot be seen in this world. Now if he also told us how a journey to heaven might be undertaken, there might be some use in telling us about its delights. But as long as the journey is impossible, what use is it to think about the happiness that might lie at the end of it? We would simply suffer and be sad at the thought of the things that await us somewhere where we cannot go.

Does the Lord really encourage us to do something that is beyond our nature and our powers to accomplish? Surely not. Look at the birds: God has not created them without wings. Look at sea creatures: God has not designed them as land animals. Wherever we look, the law of each creature’s being does not demand that it should do something that it is beyond its own nature to do.

Let us reflect on this and realise that we should not despair of the purity of heart that the Beatitude speaks of. John, Paul and Moses did not, in the end, lack the sublime blessing of seeing God. Paul said There is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just judge, will render to me; John lay on Jesus’ breast; and Moses heard God say to him, I have known you above all. It is certain that those who said that the contemplation of God was beyond human power were themselves blessed. But blessedness comes from the contemplation of God, and seeing God is something that comes to those who are pure of heart. It follows logically that purity of heart cannot be an unattainable thing.

So if some, with Paul, truly say that the contemplation of God is beyond human power, yet the Lord himself contradicts them by promising the sight of God to those who are pure of heart.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

From a sermon by Saint Augustine

The voice of one crying in the wilderness

The Church observes the birth of John as in some way sacred; and you will not find any other of the great men of old whose birth we celebrate officially. We celebrate John’s, as we celebrate Christ’s. This point cannot be passed over in silence, and if I may not perhaps be able to explain it in the way that such an important matter deserves, it is still worth thinking about it a little more deeply and fruitfully than usual.

John is born of an old woman who is barren; Christ is born of a young woman who is a virgin. That John will be born is not believed, and his father is struck dumb; that Christ will be born is believed, and he is conceived by faith.

I have proposed some matters for inquiry, and listed in advance some things that need to be discussed. I have introduced these points even if we are not up to examining all the twists and turns of such a great mystery, either for lack of capacity or for lack of time. You will be taught much better by the one who speaks in you even when I am not here; the one about whom you think loving thoughts, the one whom you have taken into your hearts and whose temple you have become.

John, it seems, has been inserted as a kind of boundary between the two Testaments, the Old and the New. That he is somehow or other a boundary is something that the Lord himself indicates when he says, The Law and the prophets were until John. So he represents the old and heralds the new. Because he represents the old, he is born of an elderly couple; because he represents the new, he is revealed as a prophet in his mother’s womb. You will remember that, before he was born, at Mary’s arrival he leapt in his mother’s womb. Already he had been marked out there, designated before he was born; it was already shown whose forerunner he would be, even before he saw him. These are divine matters, and exceed the measure of human frailty. Finally, he is born, he receives a name, and his father’s tongue is loosed.

Zachary is struck dumb and loses his voice, until John, the Lord’s forerunner, is born and releases his voice for him. What does Zachary’s silence mean, but that prophecy was obscure and, before the proclamation of Christ, somehow concealed and shut up? It is released and opened up by his arrival, it becomes clear when the one who was being prophesied is about to come. The releasing of Zachary’s voice at the birth of John has the same significance as the tearing of the veil of the Temple at the crucifixion of Christ. If John were meant to proclaim himself, he would not be opening Zachary’s mouth. The tongue is released because a voice is being born – for when John was already heralding the Lord, he was asked, Who are you and he replied I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

John is the voice, but the Lord in the beginning was the Word. John is a voice for a time, but Christ is the eternal Word from the beginning.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

St Aelred's treatise on spiritual friendship

True, perfect, and eternal friendship

That outstanding youth, Jonathan, son of King Saul, made an alliance with David, but it was not in the hope of obtaining the royal crown or winning the kingdom. For the sake of their friendship, he set David above himself as if he had been his master and not his own father’s servant, expelled, hiding in the desert, sentenced to death, destined for execution – he abased himself and raised David up: You will be king, he said, and I will be next below you in rank.

What an excellent example of true friendship! What a wonder! The king was raging against his servant and stirring up the whole country as if against a pretender to the throne. He accuses priests of treachery and has them killed on the mere suspicion – he has the forests and the valleys searched – he posts armed guards on cliffs and mountains. Everyone swears to punish the object of the king’s anger; but Jonathan, who alone has the right to envy the designated successor to the throne – Jonathan chose to resist his father, keep his friend supplied with news, give him counsel in his adversity. Thinking it better to be a friend than a king: You will be king, he said, and I will be next below you in rank.

See how the father tried to make the young man envy his friend, how he goaded him with insults, threatened him with dispossession, and warned him of the honours he would lose. But even when Saul had condemned David to death, Jonathan did not fail his friend. “Why should David die? What has he done wrong? What has he done? It was he who took his life in his hands and struck down the Philistine – you rejoiced, then. So why should he die?”

At these words the king was beside himself with rage and tried to pin Jonathan to the wall with his spear, pouring out new insults and threats. “Son of a wanton and lascivious woman! I know that you love him, to your own shame and the shame of your shameless mother!” Then he poured out on the young man all the venom he had in him. He tried to stir up ambition and envy, bitterness and jealousy in Jonathan’s breast: As long as the son of Jesse lives, your kingdom cannot be established.

Who would not have been moved to jealousy by these words? Whose love would not have been corrupted, grace diminished, friendship wiped out? But this most loving youth held fast to the oaths of friendship he had sworn, stood up to the threats, endured the insults, and disdained the kingdom for the sake of friendship, careless of the glory he would miss but mindful of the integrity he would keep. You will be king, he said, and I will be next below you in rank.

Here is a true and perfect friendship, solid and eternal: a friendship that envy does not corrupt, suspicion does not diminish or ambition wipe out. It does not cease even under such a trial; even under such a battering it does not collapse. Assailed with abuse, it stands firm; beaten with insults, it does not bend. Go thou, and do likewise.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A treatise on Christian Perfection by St Gregory of Nyssa

Christ should be manifest in our whole life

The life of the Christian has three distinguishing aspects: deeds, words and thought. Thought comes first, then words, since our words express openly the interior conclusions of the mind. Finally, after thoughts and words, comes action, for our deeds carry out what the mind has conceived. So when one of these results in our acting or speaking or thinking, we must make sure that all our thoughts, words and deeds are controlled by the divine ideal, the revelation of Christ. For then our thoughts, words and deeds will not fall short of the nobility of their implications.

What then must we do, we who have been found worthy of the name of Christ? Each of us must examine his thoughts, words and deeds, to see whether they are directed toward Christ or are turned away from him. This examination is carried out in various ways. Our deeds or our thoughts or our words are not in harmony with Christ if they issue from passion. They then bear the mark of the enemy who smears the pearl of the heart with the slime of passion, dimming and even destroying the lustre of the precious stone.

On the other hand, if they are free from and untainted by every passionate inclination, they are directed toward Christ, the author and source of peace. He is like a pure, untainted stream. If you draw from him the thoughts in your mind and the inclinations of your heart, you will show a likeness to Christ, your source and origin, as the gleaming water in a jar resembles the flowing water from which it was obtained.

For the purity of Christ and the purity that is manifest in our hearts are identical. Christ’s purity, however, is the fountainhead; ours has its source in him and flows out of him. Our life is stamped with the beauty of his thought. The inner and the outer man are harmonised in a kind of music. The mind of Christ is the controlling influence that inspires us to moderation and goodness in our behaviour. As I see it, Christian perfection consists in this: sharing the titles which express the meaning of Christ’s name, we bring out this meaning in our minds, our prayers and our way of life.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A letter from St Aloysius Gonzaga to his mother

God's mercies shall be my song for ever

May the comfort and grace of the Holy Spirit be yours for ever, most honoured lady. Your letter found me lingering still in this region of the dead, but now I must rouse myself to make my way on to heaven at last and to praise God for ever in the land of the living; indeed I had hoped that before this time my journey there would have been over. If charity, as Saint Paul says, means to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who are glad, then, dearest mother, you shall rejoice exceedingly that God in his grace and his love for you is showing me the path to true happiness, and assuring me that I shall never lose him.

The divine goodness, most honoured lady, is a fathomless and shoreless ocean, and I confess that when I plunge my mind into thought of this it is carried away by the immensity and feels quite lost and bewildered there. In return for my short and feeble labours, God is calling me to eternal rest; his voice from heaven invites me to the infinite bliss I have sought so languidly, and promises me this reward for the tears I have so seldom shed.

Take care above all things, most honoured lady, not to insult God’s boundless loving kindness; you would certainly do this if you mourned as dead one living face to face with God, one whose prayers can bring you in your troubles more powerful aid than they ever could on earth. And our parting will not be for long; we shall see each other again in heaven; we shall be united with our Saviour; there we shall praise him with heart and soul, sing of his mercies for ever, and enjoy eternal happiness. When he takes away what he once lent us, his purpose is to store our treasure elsewhere more safely and bestow on us those very blessings that we ourselves would most choose to have.

I write all this with the one desire that you and all my family may consider my departure a joy and favour and that you especially may speed with a mother’s blessing my passage across the waters till I reach the shore to which all hopes belong. I write the more willingly because I have no clearer way of expressing the love and respect I owe you as your son.

St Aloysius Gonzaga

Due to his short lifespan, a look at the life of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga deals mainly with his childhood and seminarial life. He was born Luigi Gonzaga, the eldest son of Farrante, the Marquis of Castiglione, on the 9th of March, 1568. From the earliest age, the young saint was given to prayer, including the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the seven Penitential Psalms and other devotions.
Being eldest son, Aloysius was expected to carry on the family name, and would fulfill this by his father's wish for him to become a soldier. The hand of God would not allow this fate.
In 1577, his father took Luigi and his brother to Florence to study and improve their Latin and Italian. As it would happen, young man would develop an affinity for study of the saints even more than his regular studies. In 1579, he father moved the brothers into the court of the Duke of Mantua. There the Saint decided to abjure his claim to his father's title and place, passing it to his brother Ridolpho. The Saint then suffered a malady that allowed him to stay out of the public eye, withdrawn in prayer and study of the Saints.
At this time Aloysius read of the Jesuit missionaries in India, and he resolved to join the Society of Jesus. He began this direction in life by instructing the boys of Castiglione in the catechism. At Casale-Monferat, where he spent winters, he assumed the discipline of a monk, fasting three days a week, scourging himself, and praying at midnight on the stone floor of his unheated room.
Over the next two years, Aloysius would fight with his father, mother, regals and delegates over his impending Jesuit vocation. They disagreed with it adamently on the grounds he should follow in his father's stead. Finally, they relented after most of the family title and responsibilities fell to his younger brother Ridolpho, thus allowing Aloysius to enter his novitiate in November, 1585.
In the third year of study, he came to the revelation he would not live long. The plague struck in 1591, and he was sent to aid the ill in the Jesuit hospital of Rome. He performed the lowliest of duties, but contracted the disease in time. He was sure this was the cause of his eventual demise, and once asked his confessor, St. Robert Bellarmine, if it was poosible to avoid Purgatory after death. St. Robert assured it was possible, and Aloysius aspired to this end.
Aloysius' health was so poor that he received Holy Viaticum and Extreme Unction on several occasions. It was revealed to him that he would pass on the Octave of Corpus Christi, and though he appeared much better in the days preceeding the Feast, Saint Aloysius Gonzaga did in fact turn and die on the Octave of Corpus Christi, June 21st, 1591.
Saint Aloysius Gonzaga is the Patron of Catholic youth.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A treatise on the Trinity by St Faustinus

Christ, king and priest for ever

Our Saviour received a bodily anointing and so became a true king and a true priest. Both king and priest he was of his very self; a saviour could be nothing less. Hear in his own words how he himself became a king: I have been appointed king by God on Zion his holy mountain. Hear in the Father’s words that he was a priest: You are a priest for ever in the line of Melchizedek. Aaron was the first under the law to be made a priest by being anointed with chrism, yet the Father does not say, “in the line of Aaron,” lest it be believed that the Saviour’s priesthood could be passed on by inheritance, for at that time Aaron’s priesthood was transmitted by lineal descent. But the Saviour’s priesthood is not inherited because this priest lives on for ever. Therefore Scripture says: You are a priest for ever in the line of Melchizedek.
There is, therefore, a saviour in the flesh who is both a king and a priest, though his anointing was not physical but spiritual. Among the Israelites, those kings and priests who were actually anointed with oil were either kings or priests. No man could be both king and priest; he had to be one or the other. Only Christ was both king and priest; because he had come to fulfil the law, he alone possessed the twofold perfection of kingship and priesthood.
Those who had been anointed with the oil of kingship or priesthood, although they received only one of these anointings, were called messiahs. Our Saviour, however, who is the Christ, was anointed by the Holy Spirit so that the passage in Scripture might be fulfilled: God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness and raised you above your companions. The difference, then, between the one Christ and the many christs is in the anointing, since he was anointed with the oil of gladness, which signifies nothing other than the Holy Spirit.
This we know to be true from the Saviour himself. When he took the book of Isaiah, he opened it and read: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me. He then said that the prophecy was fulfilled in the hearing of those listening.
Peter, the prince of the apostles, also taught that the chrism which made the Saviour a christ was the Holy Spirit; that is to say, the power of God. When in the Acts of the Apostles Peter spoke to that faithful and merciful man, the centurion, he said among other things: After the baptism which John preached, Jesus of Nazareth, whom God anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power, started out in Galilee and travelled about performing powerful miracles, and freeing all who were possessed by the devil.
So you see that Peter too said that Jesus in his humanity was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power. Thus Jesus in his humanity truly became the Christ. By the anointing of the Holy Spirit, he was made both king and priest for ever

Saturday, June 19, 2010

St Cyprian's treatise on the Lord's Prayer

We must not pray in words only, but with deeds.

Why should we be surprised, beloved brethren, that this is the nature of the prayer that God taught, seeing that he condensed all our prayer into one saving sentence of his teaching? This had already been foretold by the prophet Isaiah, who, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke of the majesty and loving kindness of God: completing and shortening his word in righteousness, because God will make a shortened word in the whole earth. For when the word of God, that is, our Lord Jesus Christ, came to all of us, bringing together the learned and the unlearned, and gave the precepts of salvation to those of every age and sex, he made a compendium of his precepts, so that his pupils’ memories should not be burdened by the heavenly teaching but might quickly learn what was necessary for a simple faith.
Thus, when he taught what eternal life was, he wrapped up the sacrament of life in an all-embracing and divine brevity, saying: This is eternal life, to know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. And also, when he had to gather from the law and the prophets the first and greatest commandments, he said: Hear, O Israel: the Lord your God is one God, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment; and the second is like it: you shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and all the prophets. And again: Whatever good you wish men to do to you, do it to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
It was not only in words that God taught us to pray, but in actions as well, for he himself prayed frequently and imploringly, showing us his example so that we should follow it, as it is written: But he himself went off to a solitary place and prayed; or, He went out onto the mountain to pray, and continued all night praying to God.
The Lord prayed and beseeched not for himself – for what reason has the guiltless one pray for himself? – but for our sins, as he made clear when he said to Peter, See, Satan wants to sift you as if you were wheat: but I have prayed for you so that your faith should not fail. Later, too, he beseeches the Father for all people, saying: I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their words: may they all be one. As you, Father, are in me, and I in you, so may they also be one in us. God’s mercy and desire for our salvation are so great that he is not content to redeem us with his blood, but also prays for us over and over again. And now you should see what it was he was praying for: that just as the Father and the Son are one, so too we should be part of that same unity.

SAINT ROMUALD Founder and Abbot(906-1027)

In the tenth century Sergius, a nobleman of Ravenna, quarreled with a relative over an estate and, in a duel to which his son Romuald was witness, slew him. The young man of twenty years was horrified at his father’s crime, and entered a Benedictine monastery at Classe to do a forty days’ penance for him. This penance led to his entry into religion as a Benedictine monk.

After seven years at Classe, Romuald went to live as a hermit near Venice, under the guidance of a holy man who had him recite the Psalter from memory every day. When he stumbled, the hermit struck his left ear with a rod. Romuald suffered with patience, but one day, noting that he was losing his hearing in that ear, asked the old man to strike him on his right ear. This episode supposes great progress in virtue. The two religious were joined by Peter Urseolus, Duke of Venice, who desired to do penance also, and together they led a most austere life in the midst of assaults from the evil spirits.
Saint Romuald, whose aim was to restore the primitive rule to the Order of Saint Benedict, succeeded in founding some hundred monasteries in both Italy and France, and he filled the solitudes with hermitages. The principal monastery was that at Camaldoli, a wild, deserted region, where he built a church, surrounded by a number of separate cells for the solitaries who lived under his rule; his disciples were thus called Camaldolese. For five years the fervent founder was tormented by furious attacks by the demon. He repulsed him, saying, “O enemy! Driven out of heaven, you come to the desert? Depart, ugly serpent, already you have what is due you.” And the shamed adversary would leave him. Saint Romuald’s father, Sergius, was moved by the examples of his son, and entered religion near Ravenna; there he, too, was attacked by hell and thought of abandoning his design. Romuald went to visit him; he showed him the error of the devil’s ruses, and his father died in the monastery, in the odor of sanctity.
Among his first disciples were Saints Adalbert and Boniface, apostles of Russia, and Saints John and Benedict of Poland, martyrs for the faith. He was an intimate friend of the Emperor Saint Henry, and was reverenced and consulted by many great men of his time. He once passed seven years in solitude and total silence. He died, as he had foretold twenty years in advance, alone in his monastery of Val Castro, on the 19th of June, 1027, in an advanced and abundantly fruitful old age.
By the life of Saint Romuald, we see how God brings good out of evil. In his youth Saint Romuald was much troubled by temptations of the flesh; to escape them he had recourse to hunting, and it was in the woods that he first conceived his love for solitude. His father’s sin prompted him to undertake a forty days’ penance in the monastery, which he then made his permanent home. Some bad examples of his fellow-monks induced him to leave them and adopt the solitary mode of life; the repentance of a Venetian Duke brought him his first disciple. The temptations of the devil compelled him to lead his severe life of expiation; and finally, the persecutions of others were the occasion of his settlement at Camaldoli, mother house of his Order.

Friday, June 18, 2010

St Cyprian's treatise on the Lord's Prayer

As God's children, let us remain in the peace of God.
Christ has clearly added a law here, binding us to a definite condition, that we should ask for our debts to be forgiven us only as much as we ourselves forgive our debtors, knowing that we cannot obtain what we seek in respect of our own sins unless we ourselves have acted in exactly the same way to those who have sinned against us. This is why he says in another place: By whatever standard you measure, by that standard will you too be measured. And the servant who had all his debt forgiven him by his master but would not forgive his fellow-servant was cast into prison: because he would not forgive his fellow-servant, he lost the indulgence that his master had granted him.

And Christ makes this point even more strongly in his teaching: When you stand up to pray, he says, if you have anything against anyone, forgive it, so that your Father who is in heaven may forgive your sins. But if you do not forgive, nor will your Father in heaven forgive you. On the day of judgement there are no possible excuses: you will be judged according to your own sentence, and whatever you have inflicted, that is what you will suffer.
For God commands us to be peacemakers, and to agree, and to be of one mind in his house. What he has made us by the second birth he wishes us to continue during our infancy, that we who have begun to be children of God may abide in his peace, and that having one spirit we should also have one heart and one mind. Thus God does not accept the sacrifice of one who is in disagreement but commands him to go back from the altar and first be reconciled with his brother, so that God may be placated by the prayers of a peacemaker. Our peace and concord are the greatest possible sacrifice to God – a people united in the unity of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Not even when Abel and Cain were making the first sacrifice – not even then did God pay attention to their gifts. He looked into their hearts, and the gift that was acceptable was the one offered by the one who was acceptable in his heart. Abel, peaceable and righteous in sacrificing in innocence to God, taught the rest of us that when we bring our gift to the altar we should come, like him, with the fear of God, with a heart free of deceit, with the law of righteousness, with the peace of concord. He sacrificed in such a way, and so he was worthy to become, afterwards, himself a sacrifice to God: he who bore witness through the first martyrdom, who initiated the Lord’s passion by the glory of his blood, had both the Lord’s righteousness and the Lord’s peace. Such are those who are crowned by the Lord at the end; such are those who will sit and judge with him on the day of judgement.
But he who quarrels and stirs up discord, he who is not at peace with his brethren – the Apostle and holy Scripture together testify that even if he meets death for the sake of Christ’s name, he will still be held guilty of fraternal dissension, for it is written, whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and the murderer cannot attain the kingdom of heaven or abide with God. No-one can be with Christ who preferred to imitate Judas rather than Christ.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

St Cyprian's treatise on the Lord's Prayer

After the support of bread, we ask for the forgiveness of sins

As the prayer continues, we ask Give us this day our daily bread. This can be understood both spiritually and literally, because either way of understanding is rich in divine usefulness to our salvation. For Christ is the bread of life, and this bread does not belong to anyone at all, but to us. And so, just as we say Our Father, because he is the father of those who understand and believe, so also we call it our bread, because Christ is the bread of us who come into contact with his body.
We ask that this bread should be given to us daily, that we who are in Christ and daily receive the Eucharist as the food of salvation may not be prevented, by the interposition of some heinous sin, from partaking of the heavenly bread and be separated from Christ’s body, for as he says: I am the bread of life which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of my bread, he will live for ever; and the bread I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.
So when he says that whoever eats of his bread will live for ever; and as it is clear that those are indeed living who partake of his body and, having the right of communion, receive the Eucharist, so, on the other hand, we must fear and pray lest anyone should be kept at a distance from salvation who, being withheld from communion, remains separate from Christ’s body. For he has given us this warning: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you will have no life in you. And therefore we ask that our bread – that is, Christ – may be given to us daily, so that we who live in Christ may not depart from his sanctification and his body.
After this we entreat for our sins, saying Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. After the supply of food, pardon of sin is also asked for.
How necessary, how provident, how salutary are we reminded that we are sinners, since we have to beg for forgiveness, and while we ask for God’s pardon, we are reminded of our own consciousness of guilt! Just in case anyone should think himself innocent and, by thus exalting himself, should more utterly perish, he is taught and instructed that he sins every day, since he is commanded to pray daily for forgiveness.
This is what John warns us in his epistle: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us; but if we confess our sins, the Lord is faithful and just and will forgive us. In his epistle he combines two things, both that we ought to beg for mercy because of our sins and that we will receive forgiveness when we ask for it. This is why he says that the Lord is faithful to forgive sins, keeping faith with what he promised; because he who taught us to pray for our debts and sins has promised that his fatherly mercy and pardon will follow.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

St Cyprian's treatise on the Lord's Prayer

Thy kingdom come

The prayer continues: Thy kingdom come. We ask that the kingdom of God may appear to us, just as we ask that his name may be sanctified in us. For when does God not reign, or when does his kingdom begin, for it always has been and never ceases to be? We are praying that our kingdom, which has been promised to us by God, may come, the kingdom that was acquired by the blood and passion of Christ; and that we who started off as his subjects in this world may hereafter reign with Christ when he reigns, as he himself promised when he said: Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take up the kingdom which has been prepared for you from the beginning of the world.
But it may be, dearest brethren, that Christ himself is the kingdom of God, for whose coming we daily ask. For since he himself is our resurrection, since in him we rise again, so also the kingdom of God may be understood to be himself, since it is in him that we shall reign. We do well to ask for the coming of the kingdom of God – that is, the heavenly kingdom – for there is also an earthly kingdom, and he who has already renounced this world is greater than any of its honours or powers.
We add: Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. This is not that God should do what he wills, but so that we may be able to do what God wills. For who could resist God in such a way as to prevent him doing what he wills? But since the devil hinders us from obeying, by thought and by deed, God’s will in all things, we pray and ask that God’s will may be done in us. For this to happen, we need God’s good will – that is, his help and protection, since no-one is strong in and of himself but is kept safe by the grace and mercy of God. Moreover, the Lord, showing the weakness of the humanity which he bore, said Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, and showing his disciples an example, that they should do not their own will but God’s, he went on to say nevertheless, let it not be my will, but yours.
But it is the will of God that Christ both did and taught. Humility in dealings with others; steadfastness in faith; modesty in words; justice in deeds; mercifulness in works; discipline in morals. To be unable to do a wrong, and to be able to bear a wrong when it is done; to keep peace with the brethren; to love God with all one’s heart; to love God because he is a Father but fear him because he is God; to prefer nothing whatever to Christ because he preferred nothing to us; to adhere inseparably to his love; to stand faithfully and bravely by his cross; when there is any conflict over his name and honour, to exhibit in discourse that steadfastness in which we proclaim him; in torture, to show that confidence in which we unite; in death, that patience in which we are crowned – this is what it means to want to be co-heirs with Christ, this is what it means to do what God commands, this is what it is to fulfil the will of the Father

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A treatiseof St Cyprian on the Lord's Prayer

Hallowed be thy name

How great is the Lord’s indulgence! How kindly he bends down to us, how he overflows with goodness towards us! For he wishes us to pray in the sight of God in such a way as to call God Father and to call ourselves sons of God, just as Christ is the Son of God. No-one would have dared to claim such a name in prayer, unless he himself had given us permission to pray this. And so, beloved brethren, we should know and remember that when we call God our Father, we must behave as children of God, so that whatever pleasure we take in having God for our Father, he may take the same pleasure in us.
Let us behave like temples of God, so that it may be clear that God dwells in us. Let our doings not fall away from the Spirit, but let us, who have begun to be heavenly and spiritual, consider and do nothing but heavenly and spiritual things. As the Lord God himself has said: Those who honour me, I will honour them; but those who despise me will be despised. And the blessed apostle has also said in his letters: You are not your own property: you have been bought at a great price. Glorify God and carry him in your bodies.
After this we say Hallowed be thy name. This is not because we want God to be made holy by our prayers: what we are asking God is that his name should be hallowed within us. After all, how can anything be needed to sanctify God, who himself is the source of sanctity? But because he says be holy, as I am holy, we ask and beg of him that we, who have been sanctified in baptism, may continue in that which we have begun to be. And this we pray daily, for our need is for daily sanctification so that we who daily fall away may wash away our crimes by continual sanctification.
As for the nature of the sanctification that comes to us from God, the Apostle tells us when he says: They will not inherit the kingdom of God, who fornicate, or worship idols, or commit adultery; catamites or sodomites, thieves, cheats, drunkards, slanderers or extortioners. You were like this once, but you were washed, you were justified, you were made holy in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. He says that we are sanctified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. We pray that this sanctification may remain with us; and because our Lord and Judge warns the man who was healed and given life by him not to sin again, lest something worse happen to him, we make this prayer without ceasing, we beg for it day and night, that the sanctification and life that comes from God may be preserved by his protection.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A sermon of St Laurence Justinian

Mary kept all these things in her heart

As Mary pondered all she had learned from reading and from what she had heard and seen, how greatly did she increase in faith, advance in merit and become enlightened with wisdom! More and more she was consumed with burning love. Drawing life and inspiration from the heavenly mysteries which were being unlocked for her, she was filled with joy; she became alive with the Spirit, she was guided towards God and was kept humble in herself. The effects of divine grace are such indeed that they raise one from the depths to the heights, and transform one in an ever greater degree of glory. Entirely blessed was the mind of the Virgin which, through the direction of the Spirit dwelling in her, ever obeyed the command of the Word of God in all things. She was governed not by her own judgment or opinions, but she outwardly performed through her body whatever wisdom had indicated inwardly to her faith. It was surely fitting that divine Wisdom, which had built the house of the Church for its abode, should use most holy Mary as its instrument, where the observance of the law, purification of the heart, the doctrine of humility and spiritual offering were concerned.
Imitate her, O faithful soul. Enter into the temple of your heart that you may be purified in spirit and cleansed of the pollution of your sins. In everything we do God considers our disposition rather than our actions. And so, whether we retire mentally to God in earnest contemplation and remain at rest or whether we are intent on being of service to those around us with good works and worthy undertakings, let our object be that we are motivated only by love of Christ. So the really acceptable offering of purification of the spirit is that which is rendered not in a man-made temple but in the temple of the heart, where Christ the Lord is pleased to enter.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Reading from St Bonaventure

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque adoring the Heart of Jesus

With you is the source of life

Take thought now, redeemed man, and consider how great and worthy is he who hangs on the cross for you. His death brings the dead to life, but at his passing heaven and earth are plunged into mourning and hard rocks are split asunder.
It was a divine decree that permitted one of the soldiers to open his sacred side with a lance. This was done so that the Church might be formed from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death on the cross, and so that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘They shall look on him whom they pierced’. The blood and water which poured out at that moment were the price of our salvation. Flowing from the secret abyss of our Lord’s heart as from a fountain, this stream gave the sacraments of the Church the power to confer the life of grace, while for those already living in Christ it became a spring of living water welling up to life everlasting.
Arise, then, beloved of Christ! Imitate the dove ‘that nests in a hole in the cliff’, keeping watch at the entrance ‘like the sparrow that finds a home’. There like the turtledove hide your little ones, the fruit of your chaste love. Press your lips to the fountain, ‘draw water from the wells of your Saviour; for this is the spring flowing out of the middle of paradise, dividing into four rivers’, inundating devout hearts, watering the whole earth and making it fertile.
Run with eager desire to this source of life and light, all you who are vowed to God’s service. Come, whoever you may be, and cry out to him with all the strength of your heart. “O indescribable beauty of the most high God and purest radiance of eternal light! Life that gives all life, light that is the source of every other light, preserving in everlasting splendour the myriad flames that have shone before the throne of your divinity from the dawn of time! Eternal and inaccessible fountain, clear and sweet stream flowing from a hidden spring, unseen by mortal eye! None can fathom your depths nor survey your boundaries, none can measure your breadth, nothing can sully your purity. From you flows ‘the river which gladdens the city of God’ and makes us cry out with joy and thanksgiving in hymns of praise to you, for we know by our own experience that ‘with you is the source of life, and in your light we see light’.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A sermon from Origen


The conquest of Jericho

Jericho is besieged and surrounded but has yet to fall. How is it to be conquered? Not with arrows or swords or battering-ram. Nothing is deployed but the priests’ trumpets, and the walls of Jericho crumble.
In Scripture we often find Jericho used as a symbol of the world. Even in the Gospel, when the traveller from Jerusalem to Jericho is set upon by robbers, is he not an image of Adam, thrown out of paradise into exile in this world? And again, those blind men who were in Jericho, when Jesus came to them to give them sight, are they not an example of those who live in this world, oppressed by the blindness of ignorance until the Son of God enlightens them?
And so this Jericho – this world – must fall. The consummation of this present age has long been prophesied by the sacred books.
How will this consummation come about? By what means? Scripture tells us, at the sound of the trumpet. What trumpet is that? Paul gives you the key to this secret. Listen to him: The trumpet will sound, and the dead who are in Christ will be raised, imperishable. At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven. Then, therefore, our Lord Jesus will come with trumpets to conquer Jericho and throw it down, so that out of all its people there will survive only the prostitute and her household. Our Lord Jesus will come down, come down with the sound of the trumpet.
May he save that one woman who gave succour to his spies, who received his Apostles in trust and obedience and hid them in her roof. May he take that prostitute and give her a share with the house of Israel. But let us not go over this story again and label her with the name of her past sin. She may have been a prostitute once but now she is a chaste virgin, joined to her chaste spouse, who is Christ. Listen to what St Paul says about her: I arranged for you to marry Christ so that I might give you away as a chaste virgin to this one husband. And he was still speaking of her when he said: There was a time when we too were ignorant, disobedient and misled and enslaved by different passions and luxuries.
Do you want to know more about how the prostitute ceased to be a prostitute? Listen again to Paul: These are the sort of people you were once, but now you have been washed clean, and sanctified, and justified through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of our God. To enable to escape the destruction of Jericho she received from the spies a powerful sign of safety, the scarlet rope. For it is through the blood of Christ that the whole Church is saved, in Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom belong glory and power throughout all the ages. Amen.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A sermon by Origen

The crossing of the Jordan

The ark of the covenant led the people of God across the Jordan. The priests and the Levites halted, and the waters, as though out of reverence to the ministers of God, stopped flowing. They piled up in a single mass, thus allowing the people of God to cross in safety. As a Christian, you should not be amazed to hear of these wonders performed for men of the past. The divine Word promises much greater and more lofty things to you who have passed through Jordan’s stream by the sacrament of baptism: he promises you a passage even through the sky. Listen to what Paul says concerning the just: We shall be caught up in the clouds to meet Christ in heaven, and so we shall always be with the Lord. There is absolutely nothing for the just man to fear; the whole of creation serves him. Listen to another promise that God makes him through the prophet: If you pass through fire, the flame shall not burn you, for I am the Lord your God. The just man is everywhere welcome, and everything renders him due service.
So you must not think that these events belong only to the past, and that you who now hear the account of them do not experience anything of the kind. It is in you that they all find their spiritual fulfilment. You have recently abandoned the darkness of idolatry, and you now desire to come and hear the divine law. This is your departure from Egypt. When you became a catechumen and began to obey the laws of the Church, you passed through the Red Sea; now at the various stops in the desert, you give time every day to hear the law of God and to see the face of Moses unveiled by the glory of God. But once you come to the baptismal font and, in the presence of the priests and deacons, are initiated into those sacred and august mysteries which only those know who should, then, through the ministry of the priests, you will cross the Jordan and enter the promised land. There Moses will hand you over to Jesus, and He himself will be your guide on your new journey.
Mindful, then, of all the mighty works of God, remembering that he divided the sea for you and held back the waters of the river, you will turn to them and say: Why was it, sea, that you fled? Jordan, why did you turn back? Mountains, why did you skip like rams, and you hills, like young sheep? And the word of the Lord will reply: The earth is shaken at the face of the Lord, at the face of the God of Jacob, who turns stones into a pool and rock into springs of water.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

St Ignatius of Antioch's letter to the Romans

My bodily desires have been crucified

All the kingdoms of this world are worth nothing to me. It is better for me to die in Christ Jesus than to be king over the ends of the earth. I seek him who died for our sake, I desire him who rose for us.
The pains of birth are upon me. Be understanding, my brethren: do not hinder me from coming to life, do not wish me to die. I desire to belong to God: do not give me to the world, do not try to deceive me with material things. Allow me to receive the pure light: when I have reached it I shall become a man. Allow me to follow the example of the Passion of my God. If any man have God within himself, let him understand what I wish, and let him sympathize with me, knowing the things which constrain me.
The Prince of this world wishes to tear me in pieces and twist my mind away from God. Let none of you who are present help him, but be on my side: that is, on God’s. Do not speak of Jesus Christ but still desire the world. Let no envy dwell among you.
Perhaps when I arrive I will ask you to save my life. Ignore what I say then, but give me what I am writing to ask you now. In the midst of life I write to you desiring death. My bodily desires have been crucified, and there is in me no fire of love for material things. Within me there is no fire, but only water living and speaking in me, and saying to me from within, “Come to the Father.” I have no pleasure in the food of corruption or in the delights of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David, and for drink I desire his blood, which is incorruptible love.
I want no more of what men call life. And I can receive what I want, if that is your desire. Desire it, so that you also may be desired. I beg you by this short letter; believe me. And Jesus Christ shall make this plain to you, that I am speaking the truth. He is the mouth which cannot lie, by which the Father has spoken truly. Pray for me that I may attain my goal. I am writing to you not according to the flesh, but according to the mind of God. If I am given suffering, it will be proof of your goodwill; if it is denied to me, that will be a proof of your disfavour.
Remember in your prayers the Church in Syria. God has now taken my place as its shepherd. Its bishop shall be Jesus Christ — Jesus Christ and your love. For myself I am ashamed to be called a member of that church, for I am not worthy. I am the least of them, a foetus born before its time. Yet, if I succeed in reaching God, then I shall have received true mercy, and I shall have become a human being.
My spirit greets you, and the love of the Churches which have received me in the name of Jesus Christ, not as a mere passer by. Even those which did not lie on my path (as the world measures it) have escorted me from one city to the next.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A treatise of Bishop Baldwin of Canterbury

The Lord sees our thoughts and the intentions of our hearts

The Lord knows the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. Without a doubt, every one of them is known to him, while we know only those which he lets us read by the grace of discernment. The spirit of man does not know all that is in man, nor all of the thoughts which he has, willingly or unwillingly. Man does not always perceive his thoughts as they really are. Having clouded vision, he does not discern them clearly with his mind’s eye.
Often under the guise of devotion a suggestion occurs to our mind – coming from our own thoughts or from another person or from the tempter – and in God’s eyes we do not deserve any reward for our virtue. For there are certain imitations of true virtues as also of vices which play tricks with the heart and bedazzle the mind’s vision. As a result, the appearance of goodness often seems to be in something which is evil, and equally the appearance of evil seems to be in something good. This is part of our wretchedness and ignorance, causing us anguish and anxiety.
It has been written: There are paths which seem to man to be right, but which in the end lead him to hell. To avoid this peril, Saint John gives us these words of advice: Test the spirits to see if they are from God. Now no one can test the spirits to see if they are from God unless God has given him discernment of spirits to enable him to investigate spiritual thoughts, inclinations and intentions with honest and true judgement. Discernment is the mother of all the virtues; everyone needs it either to guide the lives of others or to direct and reform his own life.
In the sphere of action, a right thought is one ruled by the will of God, and intentions are holy when directed single-mindedly toward him. In a word, we could see clearly through any action of ours, or into our entire lives, if we had a simple eye. A simple eye is an eye, and it is simple. This means that we see by right thinking what is to be done, and by our good intention we carry it out with simple honesty, because deceitful action is wrong. Right thinking does not permit mistakes; a good intention rules out pretence. This then is true discernment, a combination of right thinking and good intention.
Therefore, we must do all our actions in the light of discernment as if in God and in his presence.