“Hating as I do from the roots of my heart all that rending of the garment of Christ, which Christians are so apt to make the daily week-day of this Christianity so called—and caring very little for most dogmas and doxies in themselves—too little, as people say to me sometimes, (when they send me ‘New Testaments’ to learn from, with very kind intentions)—and believing that there is only one church in heaven and earth, with one divine High Priest to it; let exclusive religionists build what walls they please and bring out what chrisms.But I used to go with my father always, when I was able, to the nearest dissenting chapel of the Congregationalists—from liking the simplicity of that praying and speaking without books—and a little too from disliking the theory of state churches.There is a narrowness among the dissenters which is wonderful; an arid, grey Puritanism in the clefts of their souls: but it seems to me clear that they know what the ‘liberty of Christ’ means, far better than those do who call themselves ‘churchmen’; and stand altogether, as a body, on higher ground.”
Tag Archives: Christ
Delight has empty hands.
These four words come from the Welsh poet Vernon Watkins, a friend of Dylan Thomas who rated him highly.
In our heart we know they are true. Watkins’s poem tells us that even a miser ‘knows delight has empty hands.’ Here we see Jesus taking Adam by the hand, and Adam clasping Eve’s: the triumph on the Lord’s face, Adam’s clear delight and Eve’s quiet acceptance of her redemption.
Delight has empty hands;
hands that can give, receive, take another’s hand, leading amid th’encircling gloom.
What must I drop in order to delight in being God’s redeemed creature?
See: The Collected Poems of Vernon Watkins, Ipswich, Golgonooza Press, 2000, p9.
And when that they were come about halfway up the mountain, as the heat was very great and the ascent was weary, the peasant became very thirsty, in such sort that he began to cry aloud behind Saint Francis, saying : “ Woe is me, for I die of thirst; if I find not something to drink, I shall choke outright.” Wherefore Saint Francis got down off the ass and fell on his knees in prayer and remained so long kneeling with his hands lifted up to heaven, until he knew by revelation that God had heard his prayer. Then said Saint Francis to the peasant; “Run quickly to that rock, and there shalt thou find the living water, which Jesu Christ in this hour, of His mercy, hath made to come forth from out that rock.” So he ran to the place that Saint Francis had shown him, and found a fair spring that had been brought out of the hard rock by virtue of the prayer of Saint Francis: and he drank his fill thereof and was comforted.
And it doth well appear that this spring was brought out by God in miraculous fashion at the prayers of Saint Francis, seeing that neither before nor after was there ever seen in that place a spring of water, nor any living water near to that place for a great space round. This done, Saint Francis with his companions and the peasant gave thanks unto God for the miracle shown forth to them, and then went they on their way.
And as they drew near to the foot of the rock of Alvernia itself, it pleased Saint Francis to rest a little under the oak that was by the way, and is there to this day; and as he stood under it, Saint Francis began to take note of the situation of the place and of the country round. And as he was thus gazing, lo! there came a great multitude of birds from divers parts, the which, with singing and flapping of their wings, all showed joy and gladness exceeding great, and came about Saint Francis in such fashion that some settled on his head, some on his shoulders, and some on his arms, some in his lap, and some around his feet.
When his companions and the peasant marvelled, beholding this, Saint Francis, joyful in spirit, spake thus unto them: “I believe, brothers most dear, that it is pleasing unto our Lord Jesu Christ that we should dwell in this lonely mountain, seeing that our little Sisters and brothers the birds show such joy at our coming. And said these words, they arose, and went on their way and came at last to the place that his companions had first chosen. And this is the first reflection, to wit, how Saint Francis came to the holy mount of Alvernia.
Francis was not the first to ride humbly, on an ass.
On that night within the wood, his companions, sith they were awake and were come to hear and mark what he did, saw and heard him, with tears and cries, devoutly beseeching God to have mercy upon sinners. Then was he seen and heard to weep with a loud voice over the Passion of Christ, as though he saw it with his own eyes. On that self same night they beheld him praying with his arms stretched out in the form of a cross, for a great space uplifted and floating above the earth, and surrounded by a cloud of glory, And so in such holy exercises he passed the whole night through without sleep.
And thereafter in the morning, his companions, being ware that through the fatigues of the night, which he had passed without sleep, Saint Francis was much weakened in body and could but ill go on his way afoot, went to a poor peasant of those parts, and begged him, for the love of God, to lend his ass for Brother Francis, their Father, that could not go afoot. Hearing them make mention of Brother Francis, he asked them: “Are ye of the brethren of that brother of Assisi, of whom so much good is spoken?” The brothers answered: “Yes.”
Then the good man, with great diligence and humble devotion, made ready the ass, and brought it to Saint Francis, and with great reverence let him mount thereon, and they went on their way; and he with them, behind his ass. And when they had gone on a little way, the peasant said to Saint Francis: “Tell me, art thou Brother Francis of Assisi?” Replied Saint Francis: “ Yea.” “Try then,” said the peasant, “to be as good as thou art of all folk held to be, seeing that many have great faith in thee; and therefore, I admonish thee that in thee there be naught save what men hope to find therein.”
Hearing these words, Saint Francis thought no scorn to be admonished by a peasant, nor said within himself: “What beast is this doth admonish me?” as many would say now-a-days, that wear the cowl ; but straightway he threw himself from off the ass upon the ground, and kneeled him down before him, and kissed his feet, and thus humbly thanked him for that he had deigned thus lovingly to admonish him. Then the peasant, together with the companions of Saint Francis, with great devotion lifted him from the ground and set him on the ass again, and they went on their way.
When Saint Francis had returned to Saint Mary of the Angels, he sent two of his companions to the said Orlando; who when they were come to him, were received of him with exceeding great joy and charity. And desiring to show them the mount of Alvernia, he sent with them full fifty men-at-arms to defend them from the wild beasts of. the wood, and thus accompanied these brothers climbed up the mountain and searched diligently and at last they came to a part of the mountain that was well fitted for devotion and contemplation; for in that part there was some level ground; and this place they chose out for them and for Saint Francis to dwell therein; and with the help of the men-at-arms that bore them company, they made a little cell of branches of trees: and so they accepted in the name of God, and took possession of the Mount of Alvernia and of the dwelling-place of the brothers on the mountain, and departed, and returned to Saint Francis.
And when they were come unto him, they told him how and in what maimer they had taken a place on the mount of Alvernia, most fitted for prayer and meditation. Hearing these tidings, Saint Francis was right glad, and praising and giving thanks to God, he spake to those brothers with joyful countenance, and said, “My sons, our forty days’ fast of Saint Michael the Archangel draweth near; I firmly believe that it is the will of God that we keep this fast on the mount of Alvernia, which by divine decree hath been made ready for us, to the end that to the honour and glory of God and of His Mother, the glorious Virgin Mary, and of the holy Angels, we may, through penance, merit at the hands of Christ the consolation of consecrating this blessed mountain.”
Today is the Feast of Saint Michael.
Continuing Saint Augustine’s sermon on 1John 4:4-12. The image of the ass running away from the safety offered by its rider bears further reflection.
May that virtue which ought never to depart from the heart, never depart from the tongue.
Jesus had no need to come except charity: and the charity we are commending is that which the Lord Himself commends in the Gospel:
Greater love than this can no man have, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13. How was it possible for the Son of God to lay down His life for us without putting on flesh in which He might die? Whosoever therefore violates charity, let him say what he will with his tongue, his life denies that Christ has come in the flesh; and this is an antichrist, wherever he may be, wherever he have come in. But the Apostle says, y
ou have overcome him. And whereby have they overcome?
Because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in this world.
Every man now, at hearing this saying,
You have overcome, lifts up the head, lifts up the neck, wishes himself to be praised. Do not extol yourself; see who it is that in you has overcome. Why have you overcome?
Because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world. Be humble, bear your Lord; be the beast for Him to sit on. Good is it for you that He should rule, and He guide. For if you have not Him to sit on you, you may lift up the neck, may strike out the heels: but woe to you without a ruler, for this liberty sends you among the wild beasts to be devoured!
For more reflections on a donkey, not directly relevant to this post, see here: and see tomorrow’s post.
30 June, Little Flowers of Saint Francis XLVI: How Brother Masseo obtained from Christ the virtue of humility and the gift of tongues.
The forest seems to have been a good place for the early brothers of Saint Francis to find God and their own true selves.
The first companions of St Francis set themselves with all their might to follow holy poverty with regard to earthly things, and to acquire every other virtue, as the sure means of obtaining celestial and eternal riches. Brother Masseo, hearing wonderful things of humility, and knowing it to be one of the greatest treasures of life eternal, was so inflamed with a love and desire of this virtue of humility, that he lifted his eyes to heaven with much fervour, and made a vow and firm resolution never again to rejoice until he should feel the said virtue to be firmly established in his soul.
From that moment he was constantly shut up in his cell, macerating his body with fasts and vigils and prayers, weeping before the Lord, and earnestly imploring him to grant him this virtue, without which he felt that he was only worthy of hell.
Brother Masseo having passed several days in this state of mind, as he was entering the forest and asking the Lord, who willingly listens to the prayers of the humble, with cries and tears to grant him this divine virtue, he heard a voice from heaven, which called him twice: “Brother Masseo! Brother Masseo!” And he, knowing in his spirit that it was the voice of Christ, answered: “My Lord.” Then Christ answered: “What wilt thou give in exchange for this virtue which thou askest for?” And Brother Masseo answered: “Lord, I will willingly give the eyes out of my head.” Christ answered: “I grant thee the virtue, and command at the same time that thou keep thine eyes.”
And having said these words, the voice was silent; and Brother Masseo was so filled with the grace of humility, that from thenceforward he was constantly rejoicing. And often when he was in prayer he was heard to utter a joyful sound, like the song of a bird, resembling “U-u-u”, and his face bore a most holy and happy expression. With this he grew so humble that he esteemed himself less than all other men in the world. And Brother James of Fallerone having asked him why in his joy he used always the same sound, he replied gaily, that when in one way he found all good he saw no reason to change it.
As well as our Scripture readings I have chosen a verse for each day to help our prayer.
Day 1 began at Dover Beach, with this prayer for a blessing on our feet. It comes from our old friend Fr Andrew.
O dearest Lord, thy sacred feet
with nails were pierced for me;
O pour thy blessing on my feet
that they may follow thee.
Father Andrew SDC
Day 2 led us not through desert but through England’s green and pleasant Land, though we had our dark Satanic mills in the shape of the coal mines at Betteshanger, Tilmanstone and Snowdown, all close by, not to mention the unsuccessful ones we went by yesterday. This verse is from the war poet, Robert Graves.
May we speak words of grace today, as our late friend and miner George did. Today’s walk ends in his home village of Aylesham.
Christ of His gentleness
Thirsting and hungering,
Walked in the wilderness;
Soft words of grace He spoke
Unto lost desert-folk
That listened wondering.
We know that Christian missionary saints believed God would commit to the flames of hell those not baptised into the Church, even when living in good faith. They were saints – but they were mistaken. Christian missionaries forced converts to renounce all their previous ways of striving after God, making them adopt Western ways that had nothing to do with religion. Much cruelty was inflicted through the inability to distinguish between cultural and social customs, and religious convictions.
Modern Social Sciences make it easier for us to accept this as missionaries sought to try to understand the different cultures and ways of thought of non-Christian folk, and they began to understand non-Christian religious convictions from the way the people saw them. Like being less than impressed looking at stained glass windows from outside – so different when seen from inside.
The patristic scholar Jean Daniélou proposed seeing the great Eastern Religions as being pre-Christian but leading to Christ. Their followers are saved by their commitment, the hope that seeks a future fulfilment. The fact that these people live after Christ [today] is not important, because their experience is before Christ as long as they have not heard the Gospel in a form that makes sense to them. While there is one Hindu living the Hindu tradition in good faith and with conviction, we cannot speak of the Hindu religion as false.
It is not only through their sincerity in striving after God as best they know how, that God comes to meet them; it is also because their striving is true. Our religious language is symbolic in a special way. It describes realities we have hardly glimpsed, and cannot comprehend. In the Jewish tradition it was important not to make images of God – because all images are false, the only image of God is the human person. So they speak as though God is a human person – masculine gender, a father-figure, who can get angry and change his mind. These characteristics are not literally true of God – but are true in another sense – they are true of our experience of God.
Other faith communities also know that language about God cannot be literally true. They express their experience of God. Asian faiths tend to be more contemplative than those of the Western world; they leave symbols in their symbolic form rather than seek explanations. Hindus say when you have images you understand you are making only a remote comparison, but when you have explanations you might be misled into thinking you understand much more than you do. God cannot be understood.
When morning gilds the skies,
My heart awaking cries:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
This short verse from a hymn translated by Edward Caswall is a good morning offering in Easter Week, when hearts are awaking as morning gilds the skies.
Christ is risen, Alleluia! May Jesus Christ be praised!
Picture from SJC. The full hymn can be found here.