Sunday, November 29, 2009

Simplicity


"For properly speaking simplicity is a will that is wholly turned toward God, seeking one thing from the Lord with all earnestness, without any desire to disperse its energies in the world. Or again simplicity is true humility in conversion, more concerned with the inner reality of virtue than with a reputation for it. The simple man does not mind seeming to be foolish in the eyes of the world that he may be wise in the sight of God."
William of St. Thiery - The Golden Epistle #49.

“One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.”
 Psalm 27:4 (RSV)

I post these quotes because, having read them a few days ago, I can’t seem to get away from them. How difficult it is to keep focused on one thing, it seems our culture today is directed only toward creating distractions. All we see, anywhere we turn, the energy is directed to forcing us, beyond our will, to “disperse our energies in the world.”

So, as Advent begins, I offer these words of ancient wisdom as an aid in remaining focused on this season of hope.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Missing in Action

I’ve been missing in action the last two or three weeks due to a variety of factors. About three weeks ago, I came down with a mild sinus infection. However, it traveled to the drain tube in the corner of my right eye and the lingering infection created a blockage. It was a very unpleasant experience, with watery, messy drainage, which should have gone down into my sinuses and obstructed vision at best, nearly blinded me on the right side at worst. However, with a course of Keflex, it seemed to clear up. Then on Monday, I had to travel to Huntsville, AL, which for several reasons, was both a very worthwhile trip and a trip from hell. I returned home Thursday worn out, with a raging cold and my eye infection back in full force. That’s been the story of my life for the last month or so.


Anyway, as much as possible, to keep my mind off my troubles, I’ve been working on reading and understanding The Golden Epistle, by William of St. Thierry. I have learned to appreciate the faith and wisdom with which William writes. I find, although this was written to a group of Carthusian novices living in a monastery circa the 12th century as a book on monastic life, William is giving a pretty good description of what the experience of conversion really means in the life of any Christian. Too, like any good monastic, William never forgets the practical necessities of every day life. For example, there’s this from the first chapter.

 Sometimes, it’s hard to remember what we're here on this earth for. We get wrapped up in the pressures of building a career, keeping a home together despite so many pressures aiming to fragment family life, that these become all consuming. How seldom do we stop and take a step back to look at ourselves and what’s going on in life; where we are and where we are going. We forget simply because we become too busy.
XXIII 87. “However, the serious and prudent soul is ready to undertake all work and is not distracted by it but rather finds it a means to greater recollection. It always keeps in sight not so much what it is doing as the purpose of its activity and so aims at the summit of all perfection. The more truly such an effort is made, the more fervently and the more faithfully is manual work done and all the energies of the body are brought into play.”


William calls us to prudence, to avoid distraction from the real purpose of our lives, not to build a successful career, but to “aim at the summit of all perfection.” He realizes it’s a task involving, even in a Carthusian monastery in the 12th century, effort, but he calls for fervent effort to keep our real purpose always before our eyes. The irony is, if we do this, if we put our effort in the right place, everything else becomes easier: “All the energies of the body are brought into play.” Take a few minutes today and get your bearings, you might be surprised at the results.