Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Marvellous mixture of well-being and woe

    During our lifetime here we have in us a marvelous mixture of both well-being and woe.  We have in us our risen Lord Jesus Christ, and we have in us the wretchedness and the harm of Adam's falling. Dying, we are constantly protected by Christ, and by the touching of his grace we are raised to true trust in salvation.  And we are so afflicted in our feelings by Adam's falling in various ways, by sin and by different pains, and in this we are made dark and so blind that we can scarcely accept any comfort.  But in our intention we wait for God, and trust faithfully to have mercy and grace; and this is his own working in us, and in his goodness he opens the eye of our understanding, by which we have sight, sometimes more and sometimes less, according to the ability God gives us to receive.  And now we are raised to the one, and now we are permitted to fall to the other.  And so that mixture is so marvellous in us that we scarcely know, about ourselves or about our fellow Christians, what condition we are in, these conflicting feelings are so extraordinary, except for each holy act of assent to God which we make when we feel him, truly willing with all our heart to be with him, and with all our soul and with all our might.  And then we hate and despise our evil inclinations, and everything which could be an occasion of spiritual and bodily sin.  And even so, when this sweetness is hidden, we fall again into blindness, and so in various ways into woe and tribulation.  But then this is our comfort, that we know in our faith that by the power of Christ who is our protector we never assent to that, but we complain about it, and endure in pain and in woe, praying until the time that he shows himself again to us.  And so we remain in this mixture all the days of our life; but he wants us to trust that he is constantly with us, and that in three ways.
    He is with us in heaven, true man in his own person, drawing us up....And he is with us on earth, leading us....And he is with us in our soul, endlessly dwelling, ruling and guarding...."

                             - Julian of Norwich, Showings (long text), 14 Revelation, Ch. 52

Saturday, 14 October 2017

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well...

On one occasion our good Lord said: Every kind of thing will be well; and on another occasion he said: You will see yourself that every kind of thing will be well.  And from these two the soul gained different kinds of understanding.  One was this: that he wants us to know that he takes heed not only of things which are noble and great, but also of those which are little and small, of humble men and simple, of this man and that man.  And this is what he means when he says: Every kind of thing will be well.  For he wants us to know that the smallest thing will not be forgotten.  Another understanding is this: that there are many deeds which in our eyes are so evilly done and lead to such great harms that it seems to us impossible that any good result could ever come of them.  And we contemplate this and sorrow and mourn for it so that we cannot rest in the blessed contemplation of God as we ought to do.  And the cause is this: that the reason which we use is now so blind, so abject and so stupid that we cannot recognize God's exalted, wonderful wisdom, or the power and the goodness of the blessed Trinity.  And this is his intention when he says: You will see yourself that every kind of thing will be well, as if he said: Accept it now in faith and trust, and in the very end you will see truly, in fullness of joy.

                              - Julian of Norwich, Showings (long text), 32nd Chapter

Friday, 6 October 2017

The shape of Christ's life is the shape of the Christian's life - St. Augustine

All the events, then, of Christ's crucifixion, of His burial, of His resurrection the third day, of His ascension into heaven, of His sitting down at the right hand of the Father, were so ordered, that the life which the Christian leads here might be modeled upon them, not merely in a mystical sense, but in reality.  For in reference to His crucifixion it is said: "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts" (Gal. 5:24). And in reference to His burial: "We are buried with Him by baptism into death" (Rom. 6:4). In reference to His resurrection: "That, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:5). And in reference to His ascension into heaven and sitting down at the right hand of the Father: "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your live is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:1-3).

                                     - St. Augustine, Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Love, LIII.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Bernard of Claivaux on 'present day' lukewarmness about Christ...

"When I reflect, as I often do, on the ardor with which the patriarchs longed for the incarnation of Christ, I am pierced with sorrow and shame.  And now I can scarcely contain my tears, so ashamed am I of the lukewarmness and lethargy of the present times.  For which of us is filled with joy at the realization of this grace as the holy men of old were moved to desire by the promise of it?"

                                    - Bernard of Clairvaux,  
                                      Sermons on the Song of Songs, 2.I.1,
                                      preached between 1135 -1153 AD

Friday, 29 September 2017

Two things accomplished by Christ's sacrifice

"For by the sacrifice of His own body [Christ] did two things: He put an end to the law of death which barred our way; and He made a new beginning of life for us, by giving us the hope of resurrection.  By man death has gained its power over men; by the Word made Man death has been destroyed and life raised up anew.  That is what Paul says, that true servant of Christ: 'For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.  Just as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive' [1 Cor. 15:21ff], and so forth.  Now, therefore, when we die we no longer do so as men condemned to death, but as those who are even now in process of rising we await the general resurrection of all, 'which in its own times He shall show' [1 Tim. 6:15], even God Who wrought it and bestowed it on us."

                          - St. Athanasius, On The Incarnation, II.10

Friday, 15 September 2017

Irenaeus on Patient Maturing

Irenaeus, writing to refute the Gnostics who sought perfection and godhood through secret "knowledge" based on their false myths and false interpretations of Scripture, encourages instead that the clay allow itself to be shaped by the Potter into a form which displays the character of the Potter:
"How can you be a god when you have not yet become a man?  How can you be perfect when you have only just been made?  How can you be immortal when, in your mortal nature, you do not obey your Maker?  You must hold the rank of man before you partake of the glory of God.  You did not make God; God made you.  If you are the handiwork of God, await the Craftsman's hand patiently; He does everything at a favourable time, favourable, that is, to you, whom He made.  Offer him your heart, pliant and unresisting.  Preserve the form in which the Craftsman fashioned you.  Keep within you the Water which comes from Him; without it, you harden and lose the imprint of His fingers.  By preserving the structure, you will ascend to perfection; God's artistry will conceal the clay within you.  His hand formed your substance; He will coat you, within and without, in pure gold and silver; He will adorn you so well that 'the King himself will delight in your beauty' (Ps. 44:12).  But if you harden and reject his artistry, if you show Him your displeasure at being made a man, your ingratitude to God will lose you both His artistry and His life.  Making is a property of God's generosity; being made is a property of man's nature.  If, therefore, you hand over to Him what is yours, faith in Him and subjection to Him, you will receive the benefit of His artistry and be God's perfect work of art.  If, on the other hand, you resist Him and flee from His hands, the cause of your imperfection will lie in you...The light does not fail because of those who have blinded themselves; it remains the same, while the blinded are plunged in darkness by their own fault.  Light never forces itself on anyone, nor does God use compulsion on anyone who refuses to accept His artistry."
                                                            - The Scandal of the Incarnation, IV 39, 2-3

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

God can only be known through God

Irenaeus (b. circa 130 AD), writing to refute the Gnostic heretics in The Scandal of the Incarnation, says:
"No one can know the Father without the Word of God, that is to say, unless the Son reveals Him, nor can one know the Son without the good pleasure of the Father (cf Matt. 11:26ff).    IV 6,3
"The Son leads men to the Father, but the Father reveals to them the Son."    III 13,2
"...Lavishly, ungrudgingly, He has granted men to know God the Father through adoption and to love Him wholeheartedly..."  IV 16,5
"Read the prophets carefully, and you will find that all the actions, all the teaching, all the sufferings of the Lord have been foretold by them.  Now it may be that the question will come into your mind: Did the Lord bring us anything new by His coming?  The answer is this: He brought us all newness by bringing Himself, who had been foretold."    IV 34,1
"Everything became new when the Word, in a new dispensation, came in the flesh to win back to God man who had gone off from God.  Thus men were taught to worship, not a different God, but the same God in a new way."    III 10,2