January 2009 Archives

Listening to Tradition, Tuesday, January 27, 2009


COME now, thou poor child of man, turn awhile from thy business, hide thyself for a little time from restless thoughts, cast away thy troublesome cares, put aside thy wearisome distractions. Give thyself a little leisure to converse with God, and take thy rest awhile in Him. Enter into the secret chamber of thy heart: leave everything without but God and what may help thee to seek after Him, and when thou hast shut the door, then do thou seek Him. Say now, O my whole heart, say now to God, I seek Thy face; Thy face, Lord, do I seek.


St. Anselm, Devotions

Listening to Tradition, Sunday, January 25, 2009


Now in dealing with these matters it is necessary first to recall what has already been said. You must understand why it is that the Word of the Father, so great and so high, has been made manifest in bodily form. He has not assumed a body as proper to His own nature, far from it, for as the Word He is without body. He has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of us men. We will begin, then, with the creation of the world and with God its Maker, for the first fact that you must grasp is this: the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning. There is thus no inconsistency between creation and salvation for the One Father has employed the same Agent for both works, effecting the salvation of the world through the same Word Who made it in the beginning.

ST. Athanasius, On the Incarnation



I went to Reconciliation on Wednesday at the Cathedral downtown.  As I walked into the Sanctuary, there was a man on his knees on the bare wood floor in front of the altar.  The area to wait in line for confession is, sadly, almost right next to the altar and as I sat he was right in front of me.  He was a small man, not over 160 pounds, and vaguely oriental looking.  He may have been from Viet Nam or Thailand, not China or Japan.  He was older, his hair going to gray, and wore clean but well worn clothing, very plain and simple.  He held his hands together in a prayer posture and had a Rosary wrapped around his fingers.  As he prayed he periodically made deep bows to the altar in front of him.  After a few minutes he came and sat next to me, hardly filling the hard wood chair, with his knees together, still praying softly under his breath, still gesturing a bow periodically. 


          As I watched him I could only think he was a man overcome by the weight of his sin or, perhaps, some deeply fathomless sorrow.  I don't think I have ever seen a more perfect display of penitence in my life.  Then I looked at the two men ahead of me in line, both middle-aged, one dressed for work as a laborer, the other in sweat pants and shirt.  Neither man prayed that I could tell.  Their times in the confessional were short and it was, in typically American fashion, very business like.  I fit right in with them.


          But as I thought it over, it occurred to me that the man on his knees, rather than being born down by sin and sorrow, was perhaps the product of a culture that understood the majesty and the mystery of what we all were about as we sat there waiting for the priest.  Perhaps his culture had not yet learned to take God for granted, but stood in fear and trembling before the Creator of the universe. 


          I don't know if any of my conjectures are true, but, for one of the few times in my life, I believe I saw exactly what true worship looked like.  It was a humbling experience.

Listening to Tradition, Thursday, January 22, 2009


Great art Thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Thy power, and Thy wisdom infinite. And Thee would man praise; man, but a particle of Thy creation; man, that bears about him his mortality, the witness of his sin, the witness that Thou resistest the proud: yet would man praise Thee; he, but a particle of Thy creation. Thou awakest us to delight in Thy praise; for Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee.

ST. Augustine, Confessions

Listening To Tradition, Tuesday, January 20, 2009



It was only infinite goodness that moved Almighty God to create the world of nothing, and particularly in this inferior visible world, to create man after His own image and similitude, consisting of a frail earthly body, which is the prison of an immortal, intellectual spirit, to the end that by his understanding, which is capable of an unlimited knowledge, and by his will, which cannot be replenished with any object of goodness less than infinite, he might so govern and order himself, and all other visible creatures, as thereby to arrive unto the end for which he was made, to wit, eternal beatitude both in soul and body in heaven, the which consists in a returning to the divine principle from whom he flowed, and an inconceivably happy union with Him, both in mind, contemplating eternally His infinite perfections, and in will and affections eternally loving, admiring, and enjoying the said perfections.


Venerable Augustine Baker, OSB

Listening to Tradition, Sunday, January 18, 2009


Our creation to the Image and Likeness of God. Awake, my soul, awake; bestir thy energies, arouse thy apprehension; banish the sluggishness of thy deadly sloth, and take to thee solicitude for thy salvation. Be the rambling of unprofitable fancies put to flight; let indolence retire, and diligence be retained. Apply thyself to sacred studies, and fix thy thoughts on the blessings that are of God. Leave temporal things be hind, and make for the eternal.

What, then, in so divine an occupation of the mind, canst thou conceive more useful or more salutary than to recall in delighted musing thy Creator's boundless benefits to thee? Consider what grandeur and what dignity He bestowed on thee in the very beginning of thy creation, and ponder well what loving and what adoring worship thou shouldest therefore pay Him.


St. Anselm, Prayers and Meditations

Reflections on the Rule, Friday, January 16, 2009



For the care of the monastery's property in tools, clothing and other articles let the Abbott appoint brothers on whose manner of life and character he can rely; and let him, as he shall judge to be expedient, consign the various articles to them, to be looked after and to be collected again. The Abbott shall keep a list of these articles, so that as the brothers succeed one another in their assignments he may know what he gives and what he receives back.  RB Chap 32



          Is the use of equipment a spiritual matter?  In this chapter in the Rule, Benedict lays out some guidelines for the care of the monastery's property and tools, so it's clear he thinks it is.  It is so important to Benedict that he lays the responsibility for these items at the feet of the Abbot, the head man.  The Abbot may delegate the responsibility but only to brothers on whose manner of life and character he can rely.  Why would Benedict include matters that seem to have little or nothing to do with the prayer and growth in Christ of the monks of the community? 


          I think the underlying reason is that he doesn't see life as divided between "holy" activities such as prayer and meditation, and everything else.  He isn't one to compartmentalize our work, play and prayer lives; for Benedict, they are not separate and distinct, but one.  Given that, Benedict is saying that if any aspect of our lives is holy, then the tools, as well as the talents we use to carry out those activities are also, in a sense, holy.  They are also gifts from God.  That makes us stewards of those gifts; we owe God the duty to use them and take care of them. 


          Benedict, then, is preaching an "attitude of gratitude."  Our daily routines many times seem wearisome, stressful, frustrating, and sometimes pointless.  It's hard to see our work as a gift.  It's even harder, when these times come, to stop to thank God for grace he has given us in the job itself, as well as the talents and tools we need to do it so that we can support ourselves and our families.  Yet Benedict thinks these things are gifts and wants us to show gratitude for them by valuing them and taking care of them.  He wants us to be good stewards.  This little chapter of the Rule is a reminder to be attentive to God's grace, even in the little things.


Listening to Tradition, Thursday, January 15, 2009


ALL the arts and sciences, said he, have some goal or mark; and end or aim of their own, on which the diligent pursuer of each art has his eye, and so endures all sorts of toils and dangers and losses, cheerfully and with equanimity, e.g., the farmer, shunning neither at one time the scorching heat of the sun, nor at another the frost and cold, cleaves the earth unweariedly, and again and again subjects the clods of his field to his ploughshare, while he keeps before him his goal; viz., by diligent labour to break it up small like fine sand, and to clear it of all briers, and free it from all weeds, as he believes that in no other way can he gain his ultimate end, which is to secure a good harvest, and a large crop; on which he can either live himself free from care, or can increase his possessions. Again, when his barn is well stocked he is quite ready to empty it, and with incessant labour to commit the seed to the crumbling furrow, thinking nothing of the present lessening of his stores in view of the future harvest. Those men too who are engaged in mercantile pursuits, have no dread of the uncertainties and chances of the ocean, and fear no risks, while an eager hope urges them forward to their aim of gain. Moreover those who are inflamed with the ambition of military life, while they look forward to their aim of honours and power take no notice of danger and destruction in their wanderings, and are not crushed by present losses and wars, while they are eager to obtain the end of some honour held out to them. And our profession too has its own goal and end, for which we undergo all sorts of toils not merely without weariness but actually with delight; on account of which the want of food in fasting is no trial to us, the weariness of our vigils becomes a delight; reading and constant meditation on the Scriptures does not pall upon us; and further incessant toil, and self-denial, and the privation of all things, and the horrors also of this vast desert have no terrors for us. And doubtless for this it was that you yourselves despised the love of kinsfolk, and scorned your fatherland, and the delights of this world, and passed through so many countries, in order that you might come to us, plain and simple folk as we are, living in this wretched state in the desert. Wherefore, said he, answer and tell me what is the goal and end, which incite you to endure all these things so cheerfully.


AND when he insisted on eliciting an opinion from us on this question, we replied that we endured all this for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.


John Cassian, Conferences

Listening to Tradition, Friday, January 9, 2009


The evil one cannot comprehend the joy we receive from the spiritual life; for this reason he is jealous of us, he envies us and sets traps for us, and we become grieved and fall. We must struggle, because without struggles we do not obtain virtues. 

Elder Ieronymos of Aegina 

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