Bishop Claude Rault, Bishop Emeritus of the Sahara, shared this prayer by an early Muslim mystic, Rabi’a al Adawiyya, (717-801). It is a prayer that anyone could make their own. Bishop Claude has devoted his life to being present in dialogue and neighbourliness with the Muslims of Algeria, and to the study of Islam.
Oh my God,
if it is through fear of hell fire that I adore You,
then burn me in hell fire.
And if it is through hope of Paradise that I adore You,
then chase me out of Paradise.
But if I adore You simply for Yourself,
Do not deprive me of Your eternal beauty.
Oh my God,
all my desire in this world is to remember You
and all my desire for the world to come
is to encounter You.
That is how it is for me
but You: do whatever You will.
+ Claude Rault, Jesus, l’Homme de la Rencontre, Marseille, Publications Chemins de Dialogue, 2020, p31.
God of Love,
show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who have power and money,
that they may love the common good,
advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.
seize us with your power and light,
help us protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you! AMEN.
Three extracts from Chesterton’s account of Saint Francis.
It is commonly in a somewhat cynical sense that men have said, “Blessed is he that expecteth nothing, for he shall not be disappointed.” It was in a wholly happy and enthusiastic sense that St. Francis said, “Blessed is he who expecteth nothing, for he shall enjoy everything.” It was by this deliberate idea of starting from zero, from the dark nothingness of his own deserts, that he did come to enjoy even earthly things as few people have enjoyed them; and they are in themselves the best working example of the idea. For there is no way in which a man can earn a star or deserve a sunset.
But there is more than this involved, and more indeed than is easily to be expressed in words. It is not only true that the less a man thinks of himself, the more he thinks of his good luck and of all the gifts of God. It is also true that he sees more of the things themselves when he sees more of their origin; for their origin is a part of them and indeed the most important part of them. Thus they become more extraordinary by being explained. He has more wonder at them but less fear of them; for a thing is really wonderful when it is significant and not when it is insignificant.
From “Saint Francis of Assisi: The Life and Times of St. Francis” by G. K. Chesterton.
As imperceptibly as grief The summer lapsed away, — Too imperceptible, at last, To seem like perfidy.
A quietness distilled, As twilight long begun, Or Nature, spending with herself Sequestered afternoon.
The dusk drew earlier in, The morning foreign shone, — A courteous, yet harrowing grace, As guest who would be gone.
And thus, without a wing, Or service of a keel, Our summer made her light escape Into the beautiful.”
We should perhaps have posted this earlier in Autumn, when Summer was still perceptible in the afternoon, but we were then in the season of Creation and listening to Pope Francis. But here it is now, a remembrance of the beauty of summer and a challenge to seek the different beauties of the present season. Emily is in a less fraught state than yesterday, inviting us to spend time in quietness, looking over Nature’s shoulder.
(from “Poems by Emily Dickinson, Three Series, Complete” by Emily Dickinson)
Today we share a passage from Saint Augustine of Hippo’s City of God, 11.8. It is Saint Augustine’s feast day, and it is holiday time, so when better to ask,
What we are to understand of God’s resting on the seventh day, after the six days’ work?
Augustine’s answer to this question may surprise us, coming from a man of the 4th and 5th Centuries. God does not need to rest from toil, as we humans do, for he created all things by his Word – he spake and it was done. So God’s rest is the rest he created for us – and other parts of his creation – and it is part of his plan of creation, even before the Fall. As Augustine says in The Confessions:
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
When it is said that God rested on the seventh day from all His works, and hallowed it, we are not to conceive of it in a childish fashion, as if work were a toil to God, who “spake and it was done,”—spake by the spiritual and eternal, not audible and transitory word. But God’s rest signifies the rest of those who rest in God, as the joy of a house means the joy of those in the house who rejoice, though not the house, but something else, causes the joy.
How much more intelligible is such phraseology, then, if the house itself, by its own beauty, makes the inhabitants joyful! For in this case we not only call it joyful by that figure of speech in which the thing containing is used for the thing contained (as when we say, “The theatres applaud,” “The meadows low,” meaning that the men in the one applaud, and the oxen in the other low), but also by that figure in which the cause is spoken of as if it were the effect, as when a letter is said to be joyful, because it makes its readers so. Most appropriately, therefore, the sacred narrative states that God rested, meaning thereby that those rest who are in Him, and whom He makes to rest.
And this the prophetic narrative promises also to the men to whom it speaks, and for whom it was written, that they themselves, after those good works which God does in and by them, if they have managed by faith to get near to God in this life, shall enjoy in Him eternal rest. This was prefigured to the ancient people of God by the rest enjoined in their sabbath law.
But rest is not idleness: it comes after ‘those good works which God does in and by them’. As we read recently, Thomas Traherne reminds us that, ‘The soul is made for action, and cannot rest till it be employed.’
Let’s pray for the grace to get on with our task in life, and to observe a Sabbath for our soul’s sake, however and whenever circumstances allow.
This passage from A Christmas Sermon by Robert Louis Stevenson was written in 1888, when he was convalescing in the Adirondack mountains. We’ve put it here because it is his honest look at himself when he was aware of his own fragility, and it follows on from the honest answer given by the trapper in yesterday’s reflection.
To look back upon the past year, and see how little we have striven and to what small purpose: and how often we have been cowardly and hung back, or temerarious and rushed unwisely in; and how every day and all day long we have transgressed the law of kindness;—it may seem a paradox, but in the bitterness of these discoveries, a certain consolation resides.
Life is not designed to minister to a man’s vanity. He goes upon his long business most of the time with a hanging head, and all the time like a blind child. Full of rewards and pleasures as it is—so that to see the day break or the moon rise, or to meet a friend, or to hear the dinner-call when he is hungry, fills him with surprising joys—this world is yet for him no abiding city. Friendships fall through, health fails, weariness assails him; year after year, he must thumb the hardly varying record of his own weakness and folly. It is a friendly process of detachment.
When the time comes that he should go, there need be few illusions left about himself. Here lies one who meant well, tried a little, failed much:—surely that may be his epitaph, of which he need not be ashamed. Nor will he complain at the summons which calls a defeated soldier from the field: defeated, ay, if he were Paul or Marcus Aurelius!—but if there is still one inch of fight in his old spirit, undishonoured.
The faith which sustained him in his life-long blindness and life-long disappointment will scarce even be required in this last formality of laying down his arms. Give him a march with his old bones; there, out of the glorious sun-coloured earth, out of the day and the dust and the ecstasy—there goes another Faithful Failure!
This reflection of Thomas Traherne follows well on WH Davies’ poetic heels, this May morning.
When Amasis the King of Egypt sent to the wise men of Greece, to know, Quid Pulcherrimum?* upon due and mature consideration they answered, The World. The world certainly being so beautiful that nothing visible is capable of more. Were we to see it only once, the first appearance would amaze us. But being daily seen, we observe it not.
Ancient philosophers have thought God to be the Soul of the World. Since therefore this visible World is the body of God, not His natural body, but which He hath assumed; let us see how glorious His wisdom is in manifesting Himself thereby. It hath not only represented His infinity and eternity which we thought impossible to be represented by a body, but His beauty also, His wisdom, goodness, power, life and glory; His righteousness, love, and blessedness: all which as out of a plentiful treasury, may be taken and collected out of this world.
Yesterday, Tim; today his mother, Sheila, brings a poet’s eye to the face mask and what it might teach us, now and when we can discard them (and please, not on the street!) Thank you again, Sheila for your artist’s wisdom.
Will we remember that we're beautiful?
When, masks discarded, hands once more held out,
Will we remember - beauty born - oh! Beauty born,
Made by Beauty to be beautiful.
Will we recall when the wrinkles show once more, how smiles light up that beauty,
When mouths now visible
May kiss and speak in beauty?
In tenderness, you made it so, in praise, in song?
Will we have forgotten the gentleness of touch?
The scent of the winter's buried spring,
Still masked, but waiting.
Beauty being a thing consisting of variety, that body could not be one simple being, but must be sweetly tempered of a manifold and delightful mixture of figures and colours: and be some such thing as Ezekiel saw in his vision.
For uniform beauty the Sun is the most delightful, yet … a body more beautiful than it may be made.
Suppose therefore the most beautiful that is possible were created. What would follow? Being a silent and quiet object of the eye, would be no more noted than if it had not a being, The most beautiful object being always present, grows common and despised. Even as a picture is at first admired, but at length no more regarded than the bare wall.
Since therefore the most beautiful thing that is possible, being always continued, would grow into contempt; how do we know, but the world is that body, which the Deity bath assumed to manifest His Beauty and by which He maketh Himself as visible, as it is possible He should?
Let’s return to our early ecological Christian, Thomas Traherne, meditating on God’s love for each one of us, individually created to enjoy and rejoice in all creation, but also to love and to be loved by our sisters and brothers.
The world serves you, as in serving those cattle which you feed upon, so in serving those men, that build and plough, and plant, and govern for you.
It serves you in those that pray and adore, and praise for you, that fill the world with beauty and virtue; that are made to love and honour you, to please and advance you with all the services that the art of man can devise.
So that you are alone in the world, though there are millions in it beside. You are alone to enjoy and rejoice in all, being the adequate object of His eternal love, and the end of all.