Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Purity of Heart

EVERYTHING should be done and sought after by us for the sake of this [purity of heart]. For this we must seek for solitude, for this we know that we ought to submit to fastings, vigils, toils, bodily nakedness, reading, and all other virtues that through them we may be enabled to prepare our heart and to keep it unharmed by all evil passions, and resting on these steps to mount to the perfection of charity, and with regard to these observances, if by accident we have been employed in some good and useful occupation and have been unable to carry out our customary discipline, we should not be overcome by vexation or anger, or passion, with the object of overcoming which, we were going to do that which we have omitted. For the gain from fasting will not balance the loss from anger, nor is the profit from reading so great as the harm which results from despising a brother. Those things which are of secondary importance, such as fastings, vigils, withdrawal from the world, meditation on Scripture, we ought to practise with a view to our main object, i.e., purity of heart, which is charity, and we ought not on their account to drive away this main virtue, for as long as it is still found in us intact and unharmed, we shall not be hurt if any of the things which are of secondary importance are necessarily omitted; since it will not be of the slightest use to have done everything, if this main reason of which we have spoken be removed, for the sake of which everything is to be done. For on this account one is anxious to secure and provide for one's self the implements for any branch of work, not simply to possess them to no purpose, nor as if one made the profit and advantage, which is looked for from them, to consist in the bare fact of possession but that by using them, one may effectually secure practical knowledge and the end of that particular art of which they are auxiliaries. Therefore fastings, vigils, meditation on the Scriptures, self-denial, and the abnegation of all possessions are not perfection, but aids to perfection: because the end of that science does not lie in these, but by means of these we arrive at the end. He then will practise these exercises to no purpose, who is contented with these as if they were the highest good, and has fixed the purpose of his heart simply on them, and does not extend his efforts towards reaching the end, on account of which these should be sought: for he possesses indeed the implements of his art, but is ignorant of the end, in which all that is valuable resides. Whatever then can disturb that purity and peace of mind--even though it may seem useful and valuable--should be shunned as really hurtful, for by this rule we shall succeed in escaping harm from mistakes and vagaries, and make straight for the desired end and reach it.

John Cassian, Conferences, Chapter 7

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Some Monastic Wisdom on Lectio

At fixed hours time should be given to certain definite reading.  Haphazard reading, constantly varied and lighted on by chance does not edify but makes the mind unstable.  Taken into the memory lightly, it leaves it even more lightly.  You should concentrate on certain authors and let your mind grow used to them . . .

Some part of your daily reading should be committed to memory every day, taken as it were into the stomach, to be more carefully digested and brought up again for frequent rumination – something in keeping with your vocation and helpful to concentration, something that will take hold of the mind and save it from distraction.

The reading should also stir you affections and give rise to prayer, which should interrupt you reading – an interruption which should not so much impede the reading as to restore to it a mind ever more purified for understanding.

For reading serves the purpose of the intention with which it is done.  If a reader truly seeks God in the reading, everything he reads tends to promote that end, making the mind surrender in the course of the reading and bringing all that is understood into Christ’s service.

William of St. Thierry

The Golden Epistle 1.120-124

Saturday, August 8, 2009

What’s You’re Heart Rate?

I’ve taken, inadvertently, an extended holiday from posting here and on my photo blog, Colorado Shots mostly due to lack of time.  I’ve been hooked up to a heart rate monitor.  No, not the medical kind, the exercise kind. 

It’s been pretty obvious to me that over the last year or two I’ve let myself get severely out of shape.  I put on weight, had no energy and survived on a poor diet.  On top of that, the shoulder that I dislocated and fractured a couple of years ago was becoming increasingly immobile.  The kicker was, on the John Fielder workshop, I was having trouble carrying the camera gear and getting to a couple of the locations where we were taking pictures.  I decided, enough was enough.  I knew that I had to try to turn this around.  So, I engaged a personal trainer, dusted off the old mountain bike, and started eating better and getting more exercise, a lot more. 

 The only problem is this regimen takes a lot of time.  If I’m not doing strength training, aerobics, or stretches, I have to make time for work and sleep.  Blogging, or even much reading, has gone by the board.  The time crunch, though, surfaced another issue for me to deal with, a real time consumer.  Simply put, too much time spent watching stupid television shows and surfing the Internet.  All that has to stop.  So, I view that as a positive too.

 Anyway, this is just an update.  I hope to get back to regular posting over the next week or so.  In the meantime, what have you gotten your heart rate up to lately?