Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Wisdom from… [1–4 Mar 08]

[I am posting only extracts from the past few days, since it would be too much at once and it's just better to move on than retread lost days.]

The act of kindness
[Jesus] related the parable of the steward to make us realize that nothing in this world really belongs to us. We have been entrusted with the administration of our Lord's property to use what we need with thanksgiving, and to distribute the rest among our fellow servants according to the needs of each one. … these same poor people will befriend you by assuring your salvation, for Christ, the giver of eternal rewards, will declare that he himself received the acts of kindness done to them.
(Gaudentius of Brescia, Sermo 18: PL 20, 973.)

…to be perfect we must look beyond even the hoped-for blessings which we have been promised are stored up for us. Our only fear should be the loss of God's friendship, and the only honor or pleasure we covet should be that of becoming God's friend.
(Gregory of Nyssa, Life of Moses Theoria II: SC 1, 131-135.)

[C]an people find the truth in their neighbor if they refuse to support their brothers and sisters in this way—if on the contrary they either scoff at their tears or disparage their joys, being insensitive to all feelings but their own? There is a popular saying which well suits them: A healthy person cannot feel the pains of sickness, nor can one who is well-fed feel the pangs of hunger. The more familiar we are with sickness or hunger, the greater will be our compassion for others who are sick or hungry. … However, we cannot sympathize with the wretchedness of others until we first recognize our own. … Such was the example shown by our Savior, who desired to suffer himself in order that he might learn to feel compassion, and to be afflicted in order that he might learn how to show mercy.
(Bernard of Clairvaux, Degrees of Humiliy and Pride 3, 6: Edit. Critica (Rome, 1963) 3, 20-21.)

Christ's temptations and our temptations
When our first parents were tempted by the forbidden fruit, they were tempted by the desire of the flesh. When they were told, you will be like gods, they were tempted by the pride of life. And from what was added, knowing good and evil, they were tempted by greed, taking greed generally as the desire for having any desirable thing. Likewise Christ was tempted by gluttony or the desire of the flesh … by greed or the desire of the eyes … [and ] by the pride of life when the devil led him onto a pinnacle of the temple…. In like manner we ourselves are tempted daily either by the desire of the flesh in regard to pleasurable good, or by the desire of the eyes in regard to a utilitarian good, or by the pride of life in regard to an honorable good.
(Giles of Rome, O.S.A., Sermon on the Three Vices of the World.)


The Promised Gift
Christ grants justification to those who believe in him, simply because they have faith and not because they serve the law. … In other words, the promised gift to believers is not a spirit of outward observance but one of inward devotion inspired by love.
-- Commentary on Galatians 22

Life Entails Change
Right reason demands a change in what was right to do at some earlier time if the time or circumstance is changed. Therefore, when objectors say it is not right to make a change, truth answers with a shout that it is not right not to make a change.
-- Letter 138

Prayer. Lord, you are always preparing things. You prepare us for yourself, and yourself for us. You prepare a place for yourself in us, and for us in yourself.
-- Sermon on John 68, 3

Bear One Another's Burdens
The responsibility of love is that we bear one another's burdens. But this responsibility, which is not an eternal one, leads doubtless to an eternal blessedness in which there will be no burdens for us that we will be required to bear for one another.
-- Eighty-three Diverse Questions, 71

Causes of Punishment
You who boast of the punishment you endure, do you fail to see that there were three crosses when our Lord suffered? The Lord suffered between two thieves. It is not the punishment that distinguished them, but the cause for which they were punished.
-- Sermon 325, 2


The obligations that we have toward the Eternal Father for creation, we have likewise toward Jesus Christ, Who, by the redemption, has acquired every right of sovereignty over all redeemed creatures.
(Meditations for Solitude, p. 50)

Recall to mind how long it is since you began to sin; note how greatly sins have multiplied in your heart since that first beginning and how every day you have increased them against God, yourself and your neighbor by deed, word, desire and thought. … By these two points you will discover that your sins are more numerous than the sands of the sea. Cast yourself at the feet of the Lord and say to Him, "Lord, with the help of your grace, I will never again abandon myself to sin."
(INT. Part I, Ch. 12; O. III, p. 41)

We must accommodate our heart to the condition of life in which we are, because life goes quickly and we are mortal, and death follows no set rules. It chooses here and there, without any pattern of selection and without method, taking the good and the bad, the young and the old. Happy are those who live in continual, vigilant watch!
(Letters 132; O. XVIII, p. 25)

Watch the bees on the thyme; they find a very bitter juice, but, by sucking it, convert it into honey. O worldly people! At times devout souls encounter great bitterness in their works of mortification, but by performing them they change them into something most sweet and delicious.
(INT. Part I, Ch. 2; O. III, p. 117)


IT may be a very limited aim in morality to shoot a 'many-faced and fickle traitor,' but at least it is a better aim than to be a many-faced and fickle traitor, which is a simple summary of a good many modern systems from Mr. d'Annunzio's downwards.
('The Defendant.')

A MAN may easily be forgiven for not doing this or that incidental act of charity, especially when the question is as genuinely difficult and dubious as is the case of mendicity. But there is something quite pestilently Pecksniffian about shrinking from a hard task on the plea that it is not hard enough. If a man will really try talking to the ten beggars who come to his door he will soon find out whether it is really so much easier than the labour of writing a cheque for a hospital.
('What's Wrong with the World.')

BUT the man we see every day––the worker in Mr. Gradgrind's factory, the little clerk in Mr. Gradgrind's office––he is too mentally worried to believe in freedom. He is kept quiet with revolutionary literature. He is calmed and kept in his place by a constant succession of wild philosophies. He is a Marxian one day, a Nietzscheite the next day, a Superman (probably) the next day, and a slave every day. The only thing that remains after all the philosophies is the factory. The only man who gains by all the philosophies is Gradgrind. It would be worth his while to keep his commercial helotry supplied with sceptical literature. … As long as the vision of heaven is always changing, the vision of earth will be exactly the same. No ideal will remain long enough to be realized, or even partly realized. The modern young man will never change his environment, for he will always change his mind.

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