Monday, June 15, 2020

May the Most Holy Sacrament be Praised Forever

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

We must let the love of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament become a source of strength for us in the spiritual battle within our hearts, in the struggle with our passions.  In particular, Mother Mectilde draws our attention to strong feelings that lead us to rebuke others harshly.  Through our daily struggles she encourages us to bring to mind Our Lord's gift of Himself in the Eucharist and even to cry out "May the Most Holy Sacrament be praised forever."  When the passions have us in their grip, the mere turning of the mind and heart toward the Lord, especially as He makes Himself most present to us, can help us overcome and quell our thoughts.

All our troubles are from a lack of attention, and I exhort you - every time you feel stirred up and you want to express your feelings or speak some word of rebuke - that you say beforehand, "May the Most Holy Sacrament be praised forever."  I assure you that you will not fall into so many faults, for the first impulse will have passed.  One "Jesus, Mary" is enough to recollect your mind.  I have said it to you before, and I repeat it often, but you make nothing of it; my words have more effect outside the house than within.  I said the same thing some time ago to a person who was completely filled with and possessed by very violent passions.  He complained of this to me, and I said to him, "Sir, try to make a good Confession and Communion, and when you feel this passion arise, say, "May the Most Holy Sacrament be praised forever."  He resolved to do this, and he put it into practice so well that he does not experience these passions anymore, not even knowing what has become of them, and he lives very happily at present.  It is your prayers which brought about this change, for I strongly recommended him to you, but we must attribute it all to the Mother of God, who is the Mother of mercy.  She shares this precious quality with her divine Son, interceding ceaselessly for sinners.

The Mystery of Incomprehensible Love
The Eucharistic Message of Mother Mectilde of the Blessed Sacrament

Monday, June 8, 2020

A God humbled and Ennothinged for Love of You

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

Mother Mectilde asked her daughters how they spend their hours before the Lord.  The circumstances of our day compel us to reflect upon this from the position of painful lack! The very fact that He has been removed from you, at times entirely, no doubt reveals how far your hearts have come in desiring the Beloved.  The heart cries out with Mary Magdalene, "They have take my Lord away and I do not know where they have put Him." Yet, despite this anguish, Mother Mectilde's words still offer comfort: "neither the malice of the wicked with all their rage, nor the insolence of libertines, has ever been able to make Him leave our tabernacles, so great is the love of Jesus Christ for us." He will never abandon you.

I would like to know how you spend your hours of adoration before the Most Holy Sacrament . . .  . For you go before a God humbled and ennothinged for love of you, and who is not content to be adored in the Eucharist, but even more, who desires to be consumed.  And as bread is the most nourishing food we have for the life of the body, and the one which we take most often, Jesus Christ my savior gives Himself under the appearance of bread to be our food, and His desire is to be eaten by us, that may live for his life as He lives from that of His Father.  You have the happiness to receive Communion so often; live from this divine life.

Jesus my Savior is in this adorable Sacrament not only to be adored there, but still more to be eaten.  it is a dogma of faith that we eat the body of the God-Man, whom love holds captive under the species of bread and wine.  And neither the malice of the wicked with all their rage, nor the insolence of libertines, has ever been able to make Him leave our tabernacles, so great is the love of Jesus Christ for us.  Moreover, He says to us in the Gospel: "I will be with you till the end of the ages."  Here are, once more, the lengths to which my God's love for His creature goes.

The Mystery of Incomprensible Love
The Eucharistic Message of Mother Mectilde of the Blessed Sacrament
Conference to novices, December 1687

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

O infinite happiness, how rare you are!

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

Behold Lent draws near and so a time for you to renew, ever more deeply, your desire to unite yourself to the Beloved in His redemptive work. Your love for Him must lead you to unabashedly desire to share in all that is uniquely His. You must desire to be with Him in every way and in accord with His pleasure.  This requires heroic courage but promises infinite happiness. You must learn to allow holy abandonment to sustain you.  This complete gift of yourself to Him must be your strength, life, and support. In the beginning, such abandonment is experienced as darkness but light shall come as God makes you a single thing with Him. It is in this - this single-heartedness - that you will experience infinite happiness.

The Lord will draw you into his cross - now in one way and now in another.  It is a dance of love in which you will experience the Beloved's gaze ever upon you. Let go of worldly fears and worldly logic that seek to lead you away from what can only be comprehended in the Love of the cross.

This is spiritual motherhood and greatest guide for you and those under your care is the Mother of God and the Mother of the Redeemed. She who held suffering Love in her arms will not let your courage be shaken and will hold you steady.  She whose heart was pierced will be your aid as the sword of sorrow tests your mettle.    

Courage, courage!  Be the victim of His pure love, and live for Him alone.  It is your intention and my desire to see you  completely His and for this reason you must dwell in Him: THE ONE WHO IS NOT WITH ME IS AGAINST ME.  These are His divine words. Therefore, let us be completely in Him.  Let us only move and act by His spirit and for His pleasure and we will have a wonderful peace, which is understood only by how who possess it.

O infinite happiness, how rare you are!  Why is this? It is because the creature does not know how to entrust herself entirely in holy abandonment to God, because she does not have enough confidence in His goodness,, or patience to wait for it.  Blessed abandonment, in which the soul is divinely sustained! God is her life, her strength, and her support without her knowing it.  If the beginning of this state is dark, what follow becomes wholly luminous.  God gives Himself to the soul and drawing this soul entirely to Himself, she becomes one single thing with Him: I have reason to say therefore that she has an infinite happiness.

God desires to sanctify you, to make you share in the cross, now in one way, now in another.  He plays with the elect, and one writer said that, "Sufferings are the games of divine love," and that "God delights in a soul who suffered and never turns away His gaze from that lovable object."  See the benefit the cross gives you.  It purifies you, it makes you worthy of God's approaches, and it opens paradise for you.  Blessed sufferings which produce such effects!

Let us always have recourse to the august Mother of God: she is the queen of your Dominions, and she will not allow them to be destroyed.  Hand them over entirely to her care, and you, hide in her most holy and sacred Heart with your dear children.  This is a refuge which will always be very favorable to you and you will obtain from that holy place all that you ask in Jesus Christ, and this precious solitude will be for you a place of repose and delight.  There divine love will be your strength, and nothing will be able to shake your courage while you are under the wings of that gracious Mother.  But allow me to beg you that we renew our devotion to her, so that you may declare your confidence again.  God gives to us according to our faith and since He has granted you the grace to prefer His most Holy Will through everything, it will take care of all that affects you.  However, do what you can to not be cast dow about events contrary to your desires.  Be firm on your cross to which good pleasure fixes you; there His love should be your consummation just as His grace will be your support.  In this continual sacrifice you will be sanctified and you will become one and the same victim with Jesus Christ.

Mother Mectilde of the Blessed Sacrament
My Kingdom is in Your Heart

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Unbeautiful Tapestry of My Life

She who reconciles the ill-matched threads of her life,
                 and weaves them gratefully
                 into a single cloth – 
                 it’s she who drives the loudmouths from the hall
                 and clears it for a different celebration

                 where the one guest is you.
                 In the softness of evening
                 it’s you she receives.

                 You are the partner of her loneliness,
                 the unspeaking center of her monologues.
                 With each disclosure you encompass more
                 and she stretches beyond what limits her,
                 to hold you. 

-      Rilke

Every moment of my life begins a new thread that extends throughout the whole of my existence in this world until my very last moment comes to an end. With every moment comes an increase of the material that makes up my life as new threads are added. The threads themselves do not stretch on in uniform color; they extend in varying shades as they age and mature, until each thread is a spectrum in itself, reflecting all the pain, pleasure, sadness, joy, hope, despair, peace and desperation that is contained in each one. I sit down to my work and am distressed to find that not only are the threads ill-matched amongst themselves, but that each thread is itself a kind of contradiction. The threads of my life are a mess; a disaster. Certainly, I can weave them together, but they will not amount to anything beautiful. In the end, the tapestry that is my life will be like each single thread: chaotic, ugly, ill-matched. Why bother with the work of weaving? Of reconciliation between the threads? Why bother when I cannot possibly make anything beautiful from these rough and ugly moments?

Why bother? Because this tapestry – this single cloth – is my gift to You. 

This single cloth that is my life - not beautiful, but whole - will be the gift I bring to You, Christ Child. I will place it in the hands of Your Blessed Mother that she might wrap You in it on the cold night of Your birth into our world. It will be a small and poor sign of the thanksgiving and reparation that I desire to give to you. 

I will place this cloth in Your hands, O High Priest of New Covenant, that You might use it to wash the feet of your beloved priests. With it You will purify and sanctify them, warm them, and prepare them to be worthy and holy ministers of Your most sacred mysteries. 

One more time I will bring this cloth to You, Crucified Lord, and I will press it to Your torn and bloodied face as You endure Your passion. In Your abundant mercy and love You will leave the image of Your own most holy face upon it; You will bless it, sanctify it, and make it holy. Men shall look upon the imprint of Your face, left on this poor and unworthy life and they will see Your glory in it – in my deepest wounds they will see Your glory and be dazzled.

So, I will take up the loom of prayer and will weave these ill-matched threads gratefully into a single cloth. I will give it to you - my poor and unbeautiful life - and You will make it holy. 

Now I begin to understand the purpose of my life: every moment is part of a single whole that is meant to be a gift for You. It is all for You. So, I set about the work of driving out from my heart all the voices and companions of this world – the chaos and pandemonium I have hitherto welcomed. I clear it that You might enter in . . .

. . . Now I am empty and alone. How desolate I feel. I am empty, reduced to silence, lonely, and holding in my hands, as a gift for You, the ugly and ill-matched tapestry that is my life. How small and miserable I feel. Will You not enter my heart? I have emptied it for You, O Heavenly Bridegroom, that the celebration of Love and Adoration might begin. Enter, Honored and Only Guest, into this heart that has been emptied in search of You. 

My heart has been swept clean, and the poor gift that is my life is ready. Where are You? Why do You not reveal Yourself? Why do I spend my days in Adoration of this Eucharist that both is You and hides You? You are here, but I am brought to my knees under the weight of this crushing loneliness. You are here, but I begin to think myself mad as I speak into the deafening silence. Do I speak these absurd monologues only to myself? Perhaps I have gone mad . . . 

. . . Should I not fling open the doors of my heart to let back in that which I have cast out? The companions and noises that I can see and hear? . . . I can wait a little longer . . . 

. . . In glimmers and whispers I begin to find You. You are the pearl at the center of a great loneliness – a treasure that is found when the doors of solitude have been shut tight. You are the great Word, heard only in the silence of an empty heart . . . 

. . . With each glimmer and whisper You enamor me more and more. I forget all about the loudmouths outside; I forget that I am lonely and isolated; I even forget about this unbeautiful tapestry that has brought me so much sorrow and shame. I am no longer living within the limits of my own self. You encompass me and live within me. I am caught up in You. At last, when I am no longer I, I am large enough to hold You.

- Anonymous

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Hard Road of the Beggar

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

The following reflection invites us to search our hearts to see if we find therein the abiding sorrow of those who experienced our Lord's agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.  For this sorrow, unlike other forms, brings on spring and awakens new life.  Such sorrow, the author tells us, "is a holy possession and a special gift of God"; the grief known by those most intimate with the Lord's Passion - the Mother of Sorrows, St. John and Mary Magdalen.  As those few who remained with the Lord, "what a wonderful sun of redemptive love arose out of this sea of sorrow and remained ever afterwards as a commanding power and source of happiness in their lives!"  Likewise if we were to linger among the few ancient olive trees in the Garden they should whisper to us of the first few steps of the Silent Beggar on the sorrowful way of the Cross.  We should make ourselves beggars before them and the other faithful witnesses; that they would bestow alms upon us that we too might know the grace of sharing in their compassion for the Lord and in some small way too may sweeten His bitter chalice.

If we take hold of the grace they possess we can find ourselves in that Garden - gazing upon the Silent Anchorite of the Tabernacle.  He stands before us not as God possessed of untold wealth but alone, despised and scorned - with a broken heart.  How will you respond? "Here your Redeemer stands before you, lifts up His broken Heart, and begs for the gift of love. What will you do?"
“My heart hath expected reproach and misery; and I looked for one that would grieve together with me, but there was none: and for one that would comfort me, and I found none” (Ps. 68, 21). 

IN the Garden of Gethsemane where Christ began His Passion, it is said there are still eight of the ancient olive trees left. They are weak and brittle with age, and need props to keep them straight. In the late hours of the evening, when the wind comes from the Red Sea, a mysterious whispering is heard in their crowns, quite different from that of the other trees. Their whispering is merely an unintelligible sound, whereas that of these ancient olives resembles the words which men speak to one another. Often there is mixed with it a peculiar painful groaning, such as might issue from a sorrowful, grief-laden heart. It has been thus for two thousand years. The event which makes these venerable trees so sad and sorrowful must be a true fact which engraved itself deeply into their nature. Otherwise time, which heals all wounds, would have gradually abated their sorrow, and they would no longer keep lonely vigil in the garden and utter heart-rending sighs while men are asleep. 

Perhaps it will do them good if we sit down beneath them for a while and compassionately ask them to share their grief with us. Everyone who is sick or sorrowful like sympathy. Grief which is shared by others is easier to bear. But perhaps this rule does not apply here. There is another kind of sorrow, which has only the outward form of sorrow, but in reality is like beneficent sunshine, which brings on spring and awakens new life. Such sorrow is a holy possession and a special gift of God. Of this kind was the grief of the Mother of Sorrows, as well as that of St. John and Mary Magdalen. They were allowed to witness the death of Jesus on the Cross. Truly their hearts were torn and their grief was great. Yet what a wonderful sun of redemptive love arose out of this sea of sorrow and remained ever afterwards as a commanding power and source of happiness in their lives! All the thoughts, deeds, meditations, feelings of these chosen servants of God were from that hour concerned only with the Redeemer. And whoever meditates deeply and strives upward, looks on these chosen friends of Jesus with a sort of holy envy and would gladly exchange all earthly happiness for their grief. Yet they bear up as best they can, and send a joyful magnificat to Heaven in thanksgiving for this profound, yet fruitful grief. 

It is thus with those ancient olive trees in Gethsemane. By a special grace from above they were allowed to witness the first steps of the silent Beggar on the sorrowful way of the Cross. No doubt they were possessed by that strange something which weak-sighted mortals call grief, but which manifests itself to the initiated as the highest of graces. And when we ask them to tell us of their sorrow, it is by no means a benefit that we generously offer, as if we could lessen their grief, but rather an alms which we ask of them. They gladly bestow this alms on us, for it is their ardent wish that our hearts should be filled with compassion for the sorrowful Lord and that we should be inspired to lessen His grief by acts of love and atonement. But because Jesus was omniscient and knew all this in advance, they did their share of sweetening His bitter chalice and in kindling the light of a little joy in His agonizing face. This is their thanks for being chosen. 

How hard and deeply affecting was the beggar’s errand of the silent Anchorite. Look at the sun! Every morning he rises to gladden and refresh man. And when he sets in the evening, after a day spent in hard labor, what glorious hours he can look back upon! So many million drops of dew he has turned into diamonds; so many germs which lay in the cold bosom of the earth he has made fruitful, and so many flowers he has caressed ad endowed with beautiful colours! And to how many human beings has he brought joy and comfort! After such a survey he can say with satisfaction: “I went by and did nothing but good.” Certainly that was not a difficult thing, owing to the sun’s abundance of light and warmth; even if he were to send down oceans of sunshine every hour, he would be none the poorer. 

Unexpectedly a fearful catastrophe happens, and we see the same sun, hitherto the greatest comforter of humanity, compelled to remove his shining garments and leave his path of light above. An untoward fate has deprived him of his riches. Now he lives on earth and wanders through dusty, dirty streets, breathing gloom and fog. Wretched rags cover his shoulders, and frost and cold cause his limbs to tremble. Thus he wanders about, knocking at every door, appealing to every flower and to every man, and begging for a little light and warmth. Who would not be moved to pity by such a sight! No eye would remain dry and no one would turn the poor beggar away from his doorstep. 

Was Jesus not a sun, of a much higher kind? Out of the dark night He once rose, as it were, in the stable of Bethlehem, stood over the heads of mankind, and poured forth His light and warmth. That light was truth, and that warmth was grace. The poor shepherds experienced it, and the wise men from the East, old Simeon and Anna, the prophetess. This Sun displayed its full brilliance when Jesus was thirty years old. He dried the tears of men and healed their sorrows. He taught the blind to see and the dumb to speak. He expelled devils and broke the fetters of sin. In short, wherever He went, blessings poured from His lips, and His hands worked miracles for the benefit of men. What the prophet writes of the sun in the firmament: “And there is no one that can hide himself from his heat” (Ps. 18, 7), applied with even great truth to that Sun of love and justice. “Of his fullness we have all received” (John 1, 16). Hence, when the people united in a great procession on Palm Sunday, cut branches from the trees and spread their clothes on the street for Jesus to walk on, and exclaimed: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Hail to him who cometh in the name of God!” – we must exclaim “Euge, Euge! ‘tis well, ‘tis will!” (Ps. 69, 4). 

Yet scarcely five days later, on Holy Thursday, the eight ancient trees in Gethsemane were witnesses how the much fĂȘted Messias in a few hours became the poorest of the poor and was forced to take up the beggars staff and beg for alms. Hos this picture must have horrified them! In their own way, no doubt, they earnestly entreated the moon: “Lose your light! Leave your place in the heavens, so that this horrible sight may no longer torment us!” Yet this could not happen without a command from above, and so they saw the Son of God in unutterable agony, His face was deadly wan, his brow covered with bloody sweat, His heart and mind filled with the horror of desolation, anxiety, and grief. Thus He went staggering to the disciples and begged them for a drop of comfort. But they were asleep! Poor Jesus! Accustomed from eternity to sit at the richest table, and now lying like poor Lazarus in the entrance hall, begging for crumbs, and even these are denied Him. “Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and ye gates thereof, be very deolate.” (Jer. 2, 12). 

Immense misfortune, unexpectedly viewed, makes the spirit of mortals stiffen. Feeling for everything else disappears, and only one thing remains: the stark view of misfortune, and everything one says, thinks, and speaks, centres round that one idea. So it happened with those ancient olive trees in that dread hour. Hence they still stand in their old place; life and progress go on around them, but they heed it not, and only converse together about that fearful scene of Holy Thursday. 

The prophet Micheas once upon a time proclaimed to the Jews a fearful judgement: “O my people, what have I done to thee, or in what have I molested thee? Answer thou me. For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and delivered thee out of the house of slaves: and I sent before thy face Moses, and Aaron, and Mary. O my people, remember, I pray thee, what Balach the King of Moab purposed: and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him…That thou mightiest know the justices of the Lord! And I therefore began to strike thee with desolation for thy sins. Thou shalt eat, but shalt not be filled: and thy humiliation shall be in the midst of thee: and thou shalt take hold, but shalt not save: and those whom thou shalt save, I will give up to the sword. Thou shalt sow, but shalt not reap: thou shalt tread the olives, but shalt not be anointed with the oil: and the new wine, but shalt not drink the wine. For thou hast kept the statues of Amri, and all the works of the house of Achab: and thou hast walked according to their wills, that I should make thee a desolation, and the inhabitants thereof a hissing, and you shall bear the reproach of my people!” (Mich. 6, 3 sqq., 13sqq.). 

Might not the silent Anchorite in the tabernacle have proclaimed an even sterner judgement? Certainly Yahweh’s love and compassion had been poured out lavishly over the people of Israel. But the silent Anchorite in the nineteen centuries that have passed since His death, has given humanity infinitely more. Every tabernacle in the wide world—and their number is thousands—was like a sun, sending ever new floods of light and life into towns and villages. He had a right to expect men to be grateful, to bend their knees before the holy tent, with incense in their hands and songs of jubilation on their lips, and to give Him thanks, and more thanks, and ever more thanks. But, alas, they did not come! The holy places were deserted and empty, and when with great difficulty the bells had gathered a few worshippers, they stood there as unthinking and cold as if they were made of stone and had no feelings. Their lips were silent, and their hearts were diverted from the tabernacle by idle trifles. Worse than that! They laughed, and chattered in the presence of Him before whom the heavens bow low and tremble. Sacrilegious hands even broke open the tabernacle, and scattered the sacred hosts on the ground, while they took the lifeless gold as booty. How much more reason had the Divine Anchorite than Yahweh for sitting in judgement on this wicked people and inflicting a severe punishment on them! and instead of that? … He takes His beggar’s staff and asks for an alms of love! 

My dear reader! The Silent Anchorite stands before you, not as a God possessed of untold wealth, no, as on despised and scorned, with a broken heart, like a mother sneered at by her own children and turned out on the streets. Often, as you walk along the street, you meet a cripple or a blind man who holds out his hat. Are you not moved by pity to throw him a gift? And here your Redeemer stands before you, lifts up His broken Heart, and begs for the gift of love. What will you do? Will you act as did the Levite and the priest? Or will you be the Good Samaritan! 

You must try by means of your presence to pour a little oil and wine in that most painful of all wounds, hoping that it may heal. Do thou, O silent Anchorite in the tabernacle, remember this pious intention when we stand before Thee one day as our eternal Judge! 

The Silent Anchorite of the Tabernacle
Rev. F.X. Esser, S.J.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Christ is the Bridegroom of the Soul

Not nearly enough do we consider the image of Christ, the Bridegroom of the Soul, despite the fact that this mystery is at the heart of our deepest desires as human beings and an expression of the nature of Divine Love.  Many might not be familiar with Elder Porphyrios, a Greek monk and priest who died inn 1991, yet he stands in a long tradition of spiritual guides as one who in simple, deeply reflected and profoundly wise words expounds upon the Christian faith for today.  
The reflection below will likely speak poignantly to the heart of the Daughter of St. Philip Neri who seeks to cultivate a passionate love and adoration for the Heavenly Bridegroom as she gazes unceasingly upon His Eucharistic face.  "Fix your gaze unwaveringly" towards Christ, Porphryrios counsels.  Your Beloved will respond by stooping over you and pervading your soul.  Speak to Him of your desire and longing for him unabashedly.  There is nothing greater for which your hearts could long.  He is joy.  He is Paradise.  Adore Him with your whole heart and soul. What does this look like? "Your only thought must be God. But the thought of God is unlike other thoughts. It is different. It is a kind of worship of Christ. This is the thought the beguiles and delights."  
There is a distinct and unique pain attached to such longing.  The heart strains and agonizes - as a woman in labor giving birth to something both part of her and greater than her.  So beautiful is this holy desire that Porphyrios tells us that before one becomes a Christian she most become a poet.  For who can describe what it is for the soul to take flight amidst the glory of God and enter into the silence that is also the fullness of Love and Meaning.  
But are we inflamed Daughters by the love of Christ?  Do we run to the Beloved when He draws near?

The Song of Songs by Solomon the Wise grew out of this adoration for Christ. This book cultivates divine craving, divine love, adoration and vigilance in relation to the heavenly Bridegroom. What wonderful words – erotic, full of love and passion, divine eros! They appear like human words but they are divine. ‘For I have been wounded by your love’ says one of the hymns. That is, ‘I suffer, I am pained, my soul desires You, she longs for You who are my light, my life, my God, my Lord and my God.’ 
            More than anywhere else, in the Song of Songs we see Christ as the Bridegroom. Christ is the Bridegroom of our soul. Our soul is His bride, and follows Him in everything – even to martyrdom, to Golgotha and the Crucifixion, but also to the Resurrection. When we attain to this love, Christ will stoop over us and pervade our soul. 
            Fix your gaze unwaveringly upwards towards Christ. Become familiar with Christ. Work with Christ. Live with Christ. Breathe with Christ. Suffer with Christ. Rejoice with Christ. Let Christ be everything for you. Let your soul long for and cry out to her Bridegroom, ‘I crave for You, O my Bridegroom…’ Christ is the Bridegroom, He is the Father, He is everything. There is nothing higher in life than love for Christ. Whatever we desire we find in Christ. Christ is everything: all joy, all gladness, all Paradise. When we have Christ within us, we possess all magnificence. The soul that is in love with Christ is always joyful and happy, however much pain and sacrifice this may cost. 
            No one can deny that Christ is the fullness of life. Those who deny this truth are soul-sick and possessed by an evil spirit. They deny that which they are lacking. And so the devil finds their soul empty and enters in. And just as a child is deeply traumatized if he is deprived of his father and mother in his life, so too, and much more so, is the person who is deprived of Christ and His Holy Mother. 
            In the Song of Songs the bride says of Christ the Bridegroom, I sleep, but my heart awakes. The voice of my beloved knocks at the door.
            The bride stays awake and dreams of Him. Even if she sleeps, her soul turns towards Him. Thus she expresses her love and complete devotion. She has Him constantly in her mind and in her heart, even when she is asleep. She adores and worships Him. Do you understand? Worship must spring from the whole soul and whole heart. What does that mean? Your only thought must be God. But the thought of God is unlike other thoughts. It is different. It is a kind of worship of Christ. This is the thought the beguiles and delights. It is not something that is done under duress. You feel a spiritual delight and pleasure. It’s not like the homework a child does for school. It is like the passionate love between two people, but higher and spiritual. 
            And as a woman in childbirth draws near the time of delivery and in her pain cries out, so have we been towards Your Beloved on account of Your fear, O Lord. We have conceived, we have been in travail and we have brought forth, says the Prophet Isaiah. 
            This our soul cries out to God on account of the pain she feels when she craves for Him. And she makes an effort; she strains herself. What do the effort and tears of the ‘woman in childbirth’ mean? Is it not the pain and travail until Christ enters us. This pain is the greatest of all. Those who have experienced it know what it is. It is an unbearable torment… 

            Whoever want to become a Christian must first become a poet

The soul if the Christian needs to be refined and sensitive, to have sensibility and wings, to be constantly in flight and to live in dreams, to fly through infinity, among the stars, amidst the greatness of God, amid silence. 
            Whoever wants to become a Christian must first become a poet. That’s what it is! You must suffer. You must love and suffer – suffer for the one you love. Love makes effort for the loved one. She runs all through the night; she stays awake; she stains her feet with blood in order to meet her beloved. She makes sacrifices and disregards all impediments, threats and difficulties for the sake of the loved one. Love towards Christ is something even higher, infinitely higher. 
            And when we say ‘love’, we don’t mean the virtues that we will acquire, but the heart that is pervaded by love towards Christ and others. We need to turn everything in this direction. Do we see a mother with her child in her arms and bending to give the child a kiss, her heart overflowing with emotion? Do we notice how her face light up as she holds her little angel? These things do not escape a person with love of God. He sees them and is impressed by them and he says, ‘If only I had those emotions towards my God, towards my Holy Lady and our saints!’ Look, that’s how we must love Christ our God. You desire it, you want it, and with the grace of God you acquire it. 

Elder Porphyrios
Wounded by Love

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Thy Whole Heart, Thy Whole Soul, Thy Whole Strength

For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, 'Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?' Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, 'Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?' No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out. (Deut 30:14)

The Carthusian tells us: “We have all we need to enter immediately upon a life of the greatest intimacy with God.” Do we believe this? What is more, do we have the will to act on it? Do we permit ourselves to imagine that the kingdom is without us and thus squander our time searching far and wide for what is all the while immediately at hand, thus putting off our promised conversion? Do we even realize the value of that which we profess to seek?

Our Lord tell us that the kingdom of God is within us; and not only within us, but in the very depths of our being. If anyone love me, he says, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him; and we will come to him and make our abode with him (John 14:23).

Unfortunately, we are so apt to forget these truths. There are, of course, many faithful souls who endeavor to lead good lives, and strive to attain to a certain ideal of moral virtue. But how few know how to live a life of real faith, sustained by hope and aflame with the love of God, in order to participate fully in the life that Jesus longs to share with us. We are surrounded and enfolded with the loving care of divine Providence; we have all we need to enter immediately upon a life of the greatest intimacy with God, but we lack the will to live the supernatural life. We know the principles: the way lies open before us. If anything prevents us from embarking upon it, then the fault lies in ourselves. We must admit that the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light (Luke 16:8). We have, indeed, received an infinite treasure, but we do not realize its true worth. And the very fact of our ignorance of its value prevents us from making the good use of it that we should. Our Lord surely had our heedlessness in mind when he recounted the parable of the wasted talent, which the foolish servant hid, to no purpose, in the ground.

What is outside of us is something other than ourselves, and thus it can only be entered into for a time and constitutes only a part of our lives. But the kingdom, God himself, is within us; His commandments, His kingdom, and His very self – they dwell in the very depths of our beings and thus are a part of our whole life. We either exist integrated within ourselves, and thus one with the God who is within us, or we exist disintegrated and thus alienated from our own selves and from God.

We must not rest content with a few devotional exercises at the beginning and in the course of the day: that does not constitute a life. The word life denotes a constant, persevering activity: and Our Lord wants to be our life. He said: I am the Life (John 11:25). And so we must not only follow in his steps but continue to do so. It is not just this or that particular devotion that he asks of us, but our whole life, our whole strength and our whole soul; so that we may with his help begin, even
now, our eternal life. In a word, we must respond to the call of Christ, if we would breathe the pure and radiant air of eternal truth and love.

Saint Charbel writes: “Do not weary yourself looking for other keys with which to open the gate of heaven, or fabricating others. Many are those who spend their life trying to design their own keys, believing that they would be capable of opening the gate for them; and many too are those who ridicule the cross of Christ. In front of the gate the truth shines forth, and they notice then that all their keys are in vain... There is only one true key: the cross of Christ..” Here the Carthusian tells: “There is only one door by which we can enter into our spiritual heritage . . . This one door is Christ.” All our actions, all our asceticism must be carried out for Christ and through Christ, and for and through Him alone.

Looking back in all sincerity over our spiritual life, we are surprised, if not disheartened, at our slowness, not to say complete lack of progress. How is it that there has been so much effort with so little to show for it? Why, after so many years, it may be, of a life of asceticism, must we own to the same weaknesses, admit the same faults? Is it not possible that from the very beginning we have missed the essential point of it all, and have been following the wrong road?

For there is only one door by which we can enter into our spiritual heritage. In our vain attempts to enter by some other way, it is obvious that we are bound to meet with insuperable difficulties. Have we not been rather like a foolish robber who seeks by some ruse to effect an entrance into a place only too well defended? He that entereth not by the door, but climbeth up another way, says Our Lord, is a thief and a robber (John 10:1). This one door is Christ: faith in Christ; a faith quickened by love, which by fortifying our heart makes us capable of loving in return with a love which burns more intensely and radiates more widely, thus resembling more and more the love of Jesus.

But first of all we must make one thing perfectly clear. Any kind of asceticism which has for its sole object the perfecting of self ––an asceticism which is egocentric–– is utterly worthless. Such a way of life pays very poor dividends, and the profits it yields are very disappointing. He who sows human seed can only expect to reap a human harvest.

Christian asceticism is based absolutely upon a divine principle, and this same principle inspires and animates it, and guides it to its end. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength (Deut 6:5). Here we have the summing-up and essence of the Old Law: the New Law has done no more than repeat this first and greatest commandment, making it clearer for all to understand, and promulgating it universally in all its divine simplicity and force. From the very beginning of our spiritual life we must keep our soul set towards this plenitude of love, towards God alone. To act otherwise is to fail to recognize the profound purpose of Christianity; to return to the notion of a self-centered perfection, to that delusive egoism of certain pagan moralists––in a word, to Stoicism, ancient and new––which is so exacting a culture of so miserable a pride. If only we could convince ourselves once and for all of the truth of the words of our divine Master:Without me, you can do nothing (John 15:5), how changes our whole outlook would be. If only our minds were penetrated with the doctrine of life contained in those few words, we would concentrate on practicing, not just one or two virtues, but all without exception, knowing so well that it is God himself who must be both the term and source of our actions.

Then, having done all we can (as though success depended solely upon our own efforts) we would remain humble in our progress and confident after our falls. Knowing that of ourselves we can do nothing but that in Christ we can do all things, we should no more be discouraged by our faults than proud of the virtuous acts his grace has made possible.

And not only that. Once we are convinced that we are nothing and that God is all, our very weaknesses and failings need no longer be obstacles. Indeed, they are changed into means: they are an occasion for our faith to grow by the exercise of heroic acts, and for our trust to triumph before the manifest rout of all that draws us away from God. Gladly will I glory in my infirmities,says the Apostle, that the power of Christ may dwell in me (2 Cor 12:9). Once, then, we have learned to trust in God and mistrust our own strength, we shall run like giants in the way of love. More and more will love motivate our actions and purify our intentions, until before long its influence will penetrate every corner of our lives.

And so, if we would be faithful to the teaching of the Gospel, we must spare no effort until we have arrived at acting solely from motives of faith and love. And since a purely natural principle can never produce supernatural results, we shall never reach our goal unless from the outset we endeavor to act solely from specifically Christian motives. For if, as Saint Paul says, we cannot pronounce our Lord’s name save by his grace, how can we hope, by our own efforts, to arrive at our supernatural ends.

The kingdom of Christ lies open before us. Not only so, but it is Our Lord’s express desire that we should make that kingdom ours. Abide in me, and I in you (John 15:4). Why not respond to his call, and begin to live by faith now?

The Prayer of Love and Silence
A Carthusian