Sunday, June 22, 2008

Wisdom from…

LUIS DE LEÓN, O.S.A. (1527–1591): Carrying Our Own Cross

In the gospel Christ commands us all to take up our cross. He does not tell us to take up another's, but bids us to carry our own. He does not wish a nun to neglect her duties as a religious and burden herself with the cares of a married woman; nor does it please him for a married woman to neglect her household duties and turn into a nun. The married man pleases God by being a good husband; the friar by being a good religious; the merchant by running his business properly. Even the soldier serves God by showing courage when circumstances demand it, and by being content with his pay, as Saint John says. And the cross which each of us has to bear, and by means of which we are to attain union with Christ, is the very duty and obligation imposed on each one of us by our state of life. Those who fulfill the duties of their condition do God's will and accomplish his purpose. They win an unblemished name and reputation and, as though by the labor of the cross, reach the rest they have merited. On the other hand, those who neglect their obligations, however hard they may labor to fulfill others which they have taken upon themselves, waste their efforts and forfeit their reward.
(La Perfecta Casada, 7-8.)

An Augustinian friar, Luis was also a poet, mystic, scriptural scholar, and theologian. Above all he was a holy man who suffered much for his beliefs. He was the editor of the works of Saint Teresa of Jesus of Avila.

A lesson I learned in my last couple years at university, but still keep having to learn and learn, is expressed in two metaphors: "tend your plot" and "play your zone". It is tempting, especially for A-Personality people like me, to dart hither and thither to "help" or "get involved in" the many "needs" and "problems" and "opportunities" that constantly fill our existential horizon. But I learned, partially from exhaustion and partially from reflection and prayer, that the human person just isn't made to function like that––or rather, is made to dysfunction by functioning like that. More and more I am, despite the wisdom of the management gurus, inclined to say multi-tasking is really non-tasking. A good farmer is one who humbly and faithfully, hopefully also lovingly, tends his little share of land. All too often a farmer who wants to tend more than that tends to become a sharecrop lord, the only sort of life in which one can share in name only while every one cropped beneath you is forced to share, and share, with you in fact. And just as a good basketball player learns to conserve his energy and force the ball by playing solid zone defense, so I have learned that I "play life" best when I just stick to my zone, and not run around the court like a wannabe MVP. Do you really think you can do more when what you do is already mediocre? Isn't not even enough enough? Memento mori: in a flash, in a twinkling of the stars, you will be ashes, ashes which can either be an eternal fragrant incense offering before God or a sooty trail of despair behind Him.

ST AUGUSTINE: The Eucharist Forgives Sins

Accordingly, eat the bread of heaven in a spiritual way. Come to it freed from sin. Even though your sins occur daily, at least see to it that they be not mortal. Moreover, before you approach the altar note well what you say: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." If you forgive others, God will forgive you.
-- Sermon on John 26, 11

Prayer. Forgive us, Lord, all these things in which we have been led astray. Help us to resist being led away.
-- Punishment and the Forgiveness of Sins 2, 4

Life, which is to say the spiritual life, since there is no life without spirit––much as 'society' is just a shorter way of saying 'religious society' since there has never been a secular society––is a treadmill. There is no such thing as a holding pattern in virtue and vice, the approach to God or the retreat. If you go back, you fly back. If you stand still, you recede. Only by walking, and perhaps even being lifted at times by your betters when the pace outdoes you, can you maintain your status and, in time, make progress. Or course, probably the key element in 'making progress' is to acknowledge humbly that you have to walk in the first place; for only a man not at his goal, not in his home, not on his throne, will need to walk in the first place.


Love of God does not consist either in consolations or displays of tender affection; otherwise, Our Lord would not have loved His Father when, sad even unto death, He cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" [Mk 15:34] Yet it was then that He exercised the greatest act of love that you could imagine! We want to have a spoonful of sugar in our spiritual food; namely, the experience of love and even more so of consolation. In the same way, we want to be free of all imperfections, but we have to put up with our human nature and not imagine that we have an angelic one.
(Letters 1402; O. XVIII, pp. 171-172)


ONLY the Christian Church can offer any rational objection to a complete confidence in the rich. For she has maintained from the beginning that the danger was not in man's environment, but in man. Further, she has maintained that if we come to talk of a dangerous environment, the most dangerous of all is the commodious environment. I know that the most modern manufacture has been really occupied in trying to produce an abnormally large needle. I know that the most recent biologists have been chiefly anxious to discover a very small camel. But if we diminish the camel to his smallest, or open the eye of the needle to its largest: if, in short, we assume the words of Christ to have meant the very least that they could mean, His words must at the very least mean this––that rich men are not very likely to be morally trustworthy.

No comments: