We are soon to celebrate the passion of our crucified Lord. It is therefore in keeping with our commitment to him that we should crucify ourselves by restraining the desires of the flesh. As the apostle says: You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all your self-indulgent passions and desires. Such is the cross upon which we Christians must continually hang, since our whole lives are beset by trials and temptations. Not for us, as long as we live, to be rid of those nails we read of in the psalm: Pierce my flesh with the nails of your fear.
Flesh means the desires of our lower nature; nails, the demands of God's justice and holiness. With these the fear of the Lord pierces our flesh and fastens us to the cross as an acceptable sacrifice to him. In a similar passage the apostle Paul appeals to us by the mercy of God to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.
(Sermon 205, 1.)
As bishop of Hippo, Augustine became the most influential person of the Western Church and left many writings to posterity, ultimately being honored as the "Doctor of Grace".
ST PETER DAMIAN (1007–1072): The communion of saints
If those who believe in Christ are one, then through the mystery of the [eucharistic] sacrament the entire body is present where bodily eyes see but a single member. Solitude prevents no one from speaking in the plural; nor is it inappropriate for the multitude of believers to speak in the singular, for through the power of the Holy Spirit, who is present in each and fills all, it is clear that the solitude is full of people and the multitude forms a unity.
Our holy Fathers regarded this intimate relationship and communion of believers in Christ as so certain that they included it in the creed stating the Catholic faith, and commanded us frequently to call it to mind along with the other basic elements of Christian belief. For immediately after we say: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Church," we add: "the communion of saints." Thus in the very act by which we bear witness to the God in whom we believe, we also affirm the communion that marks the Church which is one with him. For this communion of saints in the unity of faith is such that, because they believe in one God, are reborn in one baptism, and are strengthened by the one Holy Spirit, they are admitted, through the grace of adoption, into the one everlasting life.
(Sermo 9 de passione 2: PL 54, 343.)
As bishop of Ostia, Peter worked closely with eight popes as diplomat and legate. The number and range of his writings was considerable.
Hold Fast to the Love of God
Real love of God will not be in you if the love of the world prevails in you. Hold fast rather to the love of God, so that as God is eternal you too will live forever. For each of us is such as our love is. Do you love the world? Then you will be the earth. Do you love God? What shall I say? That you will be a god? I dare not say this on my own authority, and so let us hear Holy Scripture: "I have said: you are gods and all of you children of the Most High."
-- Sermon on John 2, 8
[We become what we worship. At the center of man's heart is not actually a throne for his own ego, but rather an empty throne for something, anything, perceivably higher than himself to which he may commit himself. The heart of man, as Calvin said, is a factory of idols. Or, as Bob Dylan put it, "You gotta serve somebody." It is true enough, of course, that one of our idols may be an image we project of ourselves, a superego to which we wish we could commit our normal ego, but this only reinforces the fact that there is an intrinsic gap between man's identity and his "teleological" submission to various idols. Self-mortification is, then, largely a matter of destroying the idols that clutter our hearts and lives. Humility is the ax that obliterates the ego of our own "better self" fabricated apart from the cruciform pattern of Christ Himself.
In any event here is a nice look at Dylan's influence in gospel music…based on the influence of the Gospel in Dylan.]
Prayer. Lord, teach me what I should teach, teach me what I should hold fast.
-- Letter 166, 10
Let the Better Love Take Over
There are two loves, the love of God and the love of the world. If the love of the world takes possession of you, there is no way for the love of God to enter into you. Let the love of the world take the second place, and let the love of God dwell in you. Let the better love take over.
-- Sermon on 1 John 2, 8
Prayer. O to love! to go and be lost to self! to reach God!
-- Sermon 159, 8
ST FRANCIS DE SALES:
"Happy the man who knows how to control zeal," says Saint Ambrose. Saint Bernard adds, "the devil will easily delude you if you neglect knowledge. Therefore, let your zeal be inflamed with charity, adorned with knowledge and established in constancy." True zeal is the child of charity, since it is its ardor. Therefore, like charity, it is patient and kind. It is without quarrelling, without hatred, without envy; it rejoices in the truth, The ardor of true zeal is like the hunter's: diligent, careful, active industrious, eager in pursuit, but without passion, anger, bad temper or vexation. Otherwise, hunting would not be such a popular sport. In like manner, the ardor of zeal must be stable, industrious, untiring and likeable. Completely different is false zeal: it is turbulent, troubled, insolent, arrogant, choleric, impetuous and unstable.
(T.L.G. Book 10, Ch. 16, pp. 189-190)
[As St. James says, "Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity. And the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:13–18)]
The Holy Spirit gives us His advice through the words of the prince of the apostles, "Take great care to use your time well and make sure of your vocation through good works." [cf. 2 Pt 1:10] This warning must make us live in great fear and humility in whatever state we find ourselves, but at the same time we must raise our heart to the divine Goodness invoking His grace and His help and keeping our affection fixed on Him by means of frequent and fervent ejaculations.
(Sermons 58; O.X, pp. 259-260)
NOW the reason why our fathers did not make marriage, in the middle-aged and static sense, the subject of their plays was a very simple one; it was that a play is a very bad place for discussing that topic. You cannot easily make a good drama out of the success or failure of a marriage, just as you could not make a good drama out of the growth of an oak-tree or the decay of an empire. As Polonius very reasonably observed, it is too long. A happy love-affair will make a drama simply because it is dramatic; it depends on an ultimate yes or no. But a happy marriage is not dramatic; perhaps it would be less happy if it were. The essence of a romantic heroine is that she asks herself an intense question; but the essence of a sensible wife is that she is much too sensible to ask herself any questions at all. All the things that make monogamy a success are in their nature undramatic things, the silent growth of an instinctive confidence, the common wounds and victories, the accumulation of customs, the rich maturing of old jokes. Sane marriage is an untheatrical thing; it is therefore not surprising that most modern dramatists have devoted themselves to insane marriage.
('George Bernard Shaw.')
IF Americans can be divorced for 'incompatibility of temper,' I cannot conceive why they are not all divorced. I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible.
('What's Wrong with the World.')