There is no greater proof in the world of our spiritual danger than the reluctance which most people always have and all people sometimes have to pray; so weary of their length, so glad when they are done, so clever to excuse and neglect their opportunity. Yet prayer is nothing but desiring God to give us the greatest and best things we can have and that can make us happy. It is a work so easy, so honorable, and to so great a purpose, that (except in the incarnation of His Son) God has never given us a greater argument of His willingness to have us saved and our unwillingness to accept it, of His goodness and our gracelessness, of His infinite condescension and our folly, than by rewarding so easy a duty with such great blessings.Jeremy Taylor
So I was reading some Meister Eckhart yesterday morning. If you’re not familiar with him, he lived 1260-1328, and was a German theologian, philosopher, professor, and mystic. He became professor of theology at the University of Paris and took a leading pastoral and organizational role in the Dominican Order. I came across a section of a sermon that has been kind of haunting me, in a holy way. A Holy Spirit haunting, if you will. Here’s the section from his sermon entitled Nothing Above The Soul with Proverbs 31:27 as the text:
“I have said often that those who fast much, and watch much and do great things, but fail to correct their faults or improve their ways–which alone is true progress–deceive themselves and are the devil’s laughingstock. A man once had a hedgehog by which he got rich. He lived by the sea. When the hedgehog sensed a change of wind, he tapped his hide and turned his back to that direction. Then the man went to the sea and said to them [i.e., the people who lived there]: ‘What will you give me to show you how the wind is going to turn?’ And he sold them [the means of foretelling changes of] wind and got rich on it. Thus too a person may grow rich in virtue by discovering the point at which he is weakest and correcting it, and by turning his chief care to overcoming his weakness.”
I’ve heard it said that if you just eliminate one bad habit (be it a physical one or a habit of thought) per year, then you are growing at a very fine rate. The same goes for obtaining a good habit every year. I do believe we are designed to grow, to mature as human beings throughout our short time here. To stagnate and flounder in the same old habits does not ring of abundant life.
I hope this gives you something meaningful to ponder as it did for me!
Perhaps there is no finer ministry than just to be in meetings or crowds, whispering “Jesus,” and then helping people whenever you see an opportunity.
It is through prayer that God works directly on your soul, and not through theological rumination.
Possession by the Spirit and life under his constant personal guidance constitute the highest conceivable spiritual state.
~The Interpreter’s Bible
In deep prayer God’s Presence becomes the reality and experience of our lives.
There are many disciples of Christ who can justly claim that they are indifferent to material possessions. They happily live in simple huts, wear rough woolen clothes, eat frugally, and give away the bulk of their fortunes. These same people can justly claim that they are indifferent to worldly power. They happily work in the most humble capacities, performing menial tasks, with no desire for high rank. But there may still be one earthly attribute to which they cling: reputation. They may wish to be regarded by others as virtuous. They may want to be admired for their charity, their honesty, their integrity, their self-denial. They may not actually draw people’s attention to these qualities, but they are pleased to know that others respect them. Thus when someone falsely accuses them of some wrongdoing, they react with furious indignation. They protect their reputation with the same ferocity as the rich people protect their gold. Giving up material possessions and worldly power is easy compared with giving up reputation. To be falsely accused and remain spiritually serene is the ultimate test of faith.
The brothers asked Agatho, “Abba, which virtue in our way of life needs most effort to acquire?” He said to them, “I may be wrong but I think nothing needs so much effort as prayer to God. If anyone wants to pray, the demons try to interrupt the prayer, for they know that prayer is the only thing that hinders them. All the other efforts in a religious life, whether they are made vehemently or gently, have room for a measure of rest. But we need to pray till our dying breath. That is the great struggle.”
-from The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks
Remember that if the mighty ones of this world are honored with noisy eulogies and public fanfare, I am honored by the silent and attentive heart, by a delicate sacrifice known to no one, by a secret surrender, a tender inner glance.
~from He And I by Gabrielle Bossis
There’s this quote I read in May that will not leave me alone. It keeps haunting me and following me around:
In order for humility to mature it must blossom into self-forgetfulness.