“The creator of the heavens obeys a carpenter; the God of eternal glory listens to a poor virgin. Has anyone ever witnessed anything comparable to this? Let the philosopher no longer disdain from listening to the common laborer; the wise, to the simple; the educated, to the illiterate; a child of a prince, to a peasant.”
~St. Anthony of Padua
Just when I think I’ve entered my rest
the dull glare of the office two blocks behind me,
a woman under the Wells Street tracks
opens her arms and shouts, Lord, I thank you!
Her massive breasts quake in a gray T-shirt;
a sprig of hair trembles in a rubber band. You made me! I’m here! I’m here!
The metallic rumble of the Green Line
can’t drown her voice. She swings her hips,
clapping to the rhythm. I cross through a line of taxis
to avoid her. Now she is turning in grand circles,
her face lifted toward the tracks. Thank you, thank you, Lord of mine.
I hum to myself, count sidewalk squares, anything
to escape the eye of her swirl. I quicken my stride
around the corner of Madison, until her voice is nothing
but a drift in the storm of buses and horns.
Yet at night, in the cool hour of unrest,
I feel her words rumbling through me
in a constant loop—I thank you, Lord; I thank you, Lord— sparks flickering along my bones,
singeing the edges of my silent life.
I praise you because
you are artist and scientist
in one. When I am somewhat
fearful of your power,
your ability to work miracles
with a set-square. I hear
you murmuring to yourself
in a notation Beethoven
dreamed of but never achieved.
You run off your scales of
rain water and sea water, play
the chords of the morning
and evening light, sculpture
with shadow, join together leaf
by leaf, when spring
comes, the stanzas of
an immense poem. You speak
all languages and none,
answering our most complex
prayers with the simplicity
of a flower, confronting
us, when we would domesticate you
to our uses, with the rioting
viruses under our lens.
“This, in short, is the difference between us and others who know not God, that in misfortune they complain and murmur, while the adversity does not call us away from the truth of virtue and faith, but strengthens us by its suffering.”
“The mystery of Christ is at work in all human events,
and our comprehension of secular events works itself
out and expresses itself in that sacred history, the
history of salvation, which the Holy Spirit teaches us
to perceive in events that appear to be purely secular.”
“The intellect in its contemplation of the mysteries of
divine life of the Blessed Trinity in Heaven or of the Incarnate Son of God on
earth, even when elevated by the gift of faith, is prone to vitiate its
considerations by the introduction into them of reasonings, judgments and
appreciations, which are the fruit of its human spirit. In this sense faith
must undergo a purification and its operations must have these corrupting
elements eliminated from them if man is to know God as a friend knows his
friend. The whole process of sanctity ... depends on this progressive elimination
of the purely human elements from the operations of the virtue of Faith. In the
case of Christians who take but little interest in the supernatural life, the
faith contains a large alloy of the natural. They see God it is true, but they
see Him badly. Their spiritual vision is defective. They suffer from a
supernatural myopia. They resemble persons who, because of their defective
eyesight, cannot see objects clearly in distinct outline and in all their
detail—but only dimly, obscurely and in a confused and uncertain manner. As
their misunderstanding of God depends on their spiritual sight of Him, they
know Him very imperfectly and easily hold false notions concerning Him. That is
the reason why so many who are said ‘to have the faith’ are so frequently
without virtue. Their faith is very superficial; it takes but the feeblest
share in the soul’s activity, which is dominated by human impulse, passions,
and affections. In such souls the knowledge of God is darkened and dragged down
to earth by the human considerations and views that mingle with and tarnish the
purity of the knowledge of faith. As long as these conditions prevail, the soul’s
activity will be largely human, unsupernatural and, to a great extent,
uninfluenced by grace and withdrawn from the direction of the Holy Ghost. It is
lamentable that so many baptized souls are thus neglectful of the gift of Faith
which they possess and allow to remain latent—almost atrophied—for want of
exercise. The claims of the visible world clamor powerfully in a too successful
rivalry with the claims of ‘things unseen’; and yet, we know that the hidden
world of the supernatural life is the world of Reality; and each baptized soul
bears responsibility for the development of that supernatural life within. The
Divine Virtue of Faith is exercised in prayer. Thus it is that prayer is an
ideal means of developing faith and an ideal preparation of the soul for the
reception, and increase, of that Divine gift.
‘And the Apostles said to the Lord: Increase our Faith.’ Our prayer of petition will be very perfect
when it attains their earnestness and is directed towards the same thing for
which they prayed with such longing and such childlike simplicity, namely, an
increase of Faith. Such a prayer of petition is eminently pleasing to the
“Faith—what does it mean? You don’t see Christ or even feel
him very much, but you carry on anyway, you still go forward. Is that faith? Or
you notice that something is terribly wrong with the world and with your own
life. But you go on anyway, even though something is wrong. Is that faith? I
like the clear and objective definition of faith from my theological training,
which takes St. Paul’s expression ‘the obedience of faith’ (Rom. 16:26) and
explains it then as a submission of the intellect and will to God who reveals
himself. This is an elegant proposal if given half a chance. It proposes a risk
in unpopular words, especially in the word submission.
Yet it remains my choice to submit or not, and it is a choice to conform my
mind and heart to something bigger. That’s not a bad risk, not a stupid one.
But how do I know what it is that God is revealing? Well, I find it in the
witnesses, those who tell the story; and I put my trust in this. I put my trust
in what the Bible tells. I try it out to see if it fits the world I experience.
The content of the revelation is amazing. It is too good, and I am too small. I
cannot come up to it. So, in the end my faith is the uttering of a question
that is also the invocation of a name. Under my mood—God? Beneath my heart—God?
After the reach of my eyes—God? Before or after the stars—God?”
Your kingdom come Your will be done on earth As it is in heaven. (Mt. 6:10)
“Two things are immediately clear from the words of this petition: God has a will with and for us and it must become the measure of our willing and being; and the essence of ‘heaven’ is that it is where God’s will is unnervingly done.
Or, to put it in somewhat different terms, where God’s will is done is heaven. The essence of heaven is oneness with God’s will, the oneness of will and truth.
Earth becomes ‘heaven’ when and insofar as God’s will is done there; and it is merely ‘earth’, the opposite of heaven, when and insofar as it withdraws from the will of God. This is why we pray that it may be done on earth as it is in heaven-that earth may become ‘heaven’.”
“...In the beginning our vision of the supernatural is almost
totally, though not quite, obscured by the presence of the natural. Our soul is
enveloped in a mist. The process of self-renouncement is the gradual removal of
this curtain of darkness, and as this process proceeds our intuition of the
things of God becomes clearer. These are revealed to us in the humanity of
Jesus Christ. True self-revelation has always as it counterpart a growth in
knowledge of God. For it is only in the light of God that we see ourselves for
what we are. ... Accordingly as the soul ceases to be ‘self-regarding’ in its
activities, it becomes ‘God-regarding.’ As the soul is being emptied of what is
material, transient and perishable, it is being filled with what is spiritual,
enduring and incorruptible. The soul in itself is, as it were, a void—but an
infinite one. It is a capacity for the unlimited. Its characteristic actuality
is a yearning and a longing for satisfaction that nothing finite can gratify.
Having no resources of its own on which to draw, it cannot find in itself what
will supply its native nothingness. It is, therefore, obliged to reach out, to
seize something external to itself, in order to satisfy its needs. It is an
...The capacity of the soul cannot be filled up except by what
can be received into it; and, by sensible satisfaction, we can reach only the
surface of any created thing.
...Nothing can fill up the infinite capacity in the human soul
except what can physically enter into it and take possession of it—and this privilege
belongs to the Creator alone, and to that participation of His life which is
given in grace and in glory.
...‘But he that shall drink of the water that I will give him,’
says Our Lord, ‘shall not thirst for ever.’ It is true that the soul shall
always feel a longing to enter more and more into the possession of God—or rather
to be more and more possessed by God—and this longing is a kind of thirst. But
still it is thirst that is being ever satisfied, and as such, is a pleasure
rather than a pain.”
“Eastern Orthodoxy has, almost from the beginning, had the clearest aesthetic of all of Christianity about religious art, whether the art be in stone or paint or music or words. The Orthodox Church teaches its artist/believers that holy art must always be informed by and saturated with a certain and ‘bright sadness.’ Divine art must always be pervaded by a sweet mixture—deep, compassionate sorrow for the sin and sorrows of this present life commingled with a luminous joy over the promised salvation and relief, which are promised by the one who can never promise in vain.”
“The loss of the religious understanding of the human condition—that Man is a fallen creature for whom virtue is necessary but never fully attainable—is a loss, not a gain, in true sophistication. The secular substitute—the belief in the perfection of life on earth by the endless extension of a choice of pleasures—is not merely callow by comparison but much less realistic in its understanding of human nature.”
“Our body has this defect that, the more it is provided care and comforts, the more needs and desires it finds.”
~St. Teresa of Avila
Commenting on Christ’s words “My yoke is easy and my burden
light,” St. Augustine said:
“Any other burden oppresses and crushes you, but Christ’s
actually takes weight off you. Any other burden weighs you down, but Christ’s
gives you wings.
If you take a bird’s wings away, you might seem to be taking
weight off it. But the more weight you take off, the more you tie it down to
the earth. There it is on the ground, and you wanted to relieve it of a weight.
Give it back the weight of its wings and you will see how it
“...C. S. Lewis had some fascinating thoughts on this, and he
himself appeared in one of the most celebrated and redemptive recorded ghost
sightings ever: Moments after his death at Cambridge, he appeared in the
bedroom of J. B. Phillips at Oxford [a dear friend of his, the one who
translated the Bible in the Phillips translation...].
At the time, J. B. Phillips was in a deep depression that
threatened his life. He refused to leave his chambers, refused proper food or
exercise, and seriously questioned the love and election of God [in his life].
It was in this state of detachment and depression, leading to his early
death…that suddenly, a ruddy and glowing Lewis stood before him, entering his room
through closed doors -- a ‘healthy Lewis, hearty and glowing’ as Phillips was
later to record.
In this vision, Lewis only spoke only one sentence to
Phillips: ‘J.B., it’s not as hard as you think.’ One solitary sentence, the
meaning of which is debated! But what is not debated is the effect of that
sentence. It snapped Phillips out of his depression, and set him again
following God. After Lewis spoke that cryptic sentence, he disappeared.
Phillips came out of his chambers only to find that Lewis
had died moments before the appearance, miles away. He pondered this in his
heart, with wonder, and never returned to his depression. Now, was this a case
of God giving a detour of a soul on the way to heaven to a special friend, to
save him? Who knows? But again, it is recorded evidence of the highest order,
by persons of the highest order: Lewis and Phillips. It is a ghost story, a
benevolent one, to all appearances – actually, not only benevolent, but redemptive...
Again, we must allow for the freedom of God. This is His
world, after all. He set up the physical and moral laws, and yet rules over
these sovereignly, in love. What is needed for His children, He spares no
“Christian church has often been bad at encouraging
imagination. People have been worried, Christian teachers have been worried,
about letting people imagine things, in case their imagination runs riot and
they start imagining the wrong things, and so we’ve squelched it and squashed
it and we’ve built buildings that are inherently ugly, lest anyone think that
the buildings are somehow divine. And we’ve done all kinds of things, even in
our worship, to prevent the glory getting out.”
~N. T. Wright
“Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does
breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do…Poetry is
sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the
infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion…To accept
everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain…The poet only asks
to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the
heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”
~G. K. Chesterton
“Theology, therefore, must be concerned much less with
showing man that Christ offers him what he wants and much more concerned with
showing man that he cannot help but worship the splendor of what he sees.”
19 I am speaking in the language of common life, because nature is still strong in you. Just as you once made over your natural powers as slaves to impurity and wickedness, till all was wickedness, you must now make over your natural powers as slaves to right-doing, till all is sanctified.
20 At the time when you were the slaves of sin, right-doing had no claim upon you.
21 And what harvest were you then reaping, from acts which now make you blush? Their reward is death.
22 Now that you are free from the claims of sin, and have become God’s slaves instead, you have a harvest in your sanctification, and your reward is eternal life.
23 Sin offers death, for wages; God offers us eternal life as a free gift, through Christ Jesus our Lord. (KNOX)
The Pharisees study the scriptures whose fulfillment is
right before their eyes, but they cannot see in him the messiah. They “are
those who in God’s presence still cling to their earthly point of view, their
earthly knowledge, earthly conception of justice, naively attempting to measure
even the divine by their own standards. When the Son of God himself stands
before them, they see only a rebel and proceed against all who believe in him
with the heavy indignation of the righteous. And when the long awaited Christ
performs his miracles before their eyes, they either refuse to see them or
brand them works of Satan! Because they do not wish to see, demonstrations of
God’s power and love only seem to make them incapable of seeing. They become
increasingly short-sighted and ultimately blind.”
Come, Holy Spirit, Divine Creator,
true source of light and fountain of wisdom!
Pour forth your brilliance upon my dense intellect,
Thy great deliverance is a greater thing
Than purest imagination can foregrasp;
A thing beyond all conscious hungering,
Beyond all hope that makes the poet sing.
It takes the clinging world, undoes its clasp,
Floats it afar upon a mighty sea,
And leaves us quiet with love and liberty and thee.